PAUL COOLEY WAS AMONG SMALL GROUP THAT FLEW DURING WWI
ISHPEMING — Paul Cooley was born in Ishpeming on the 8th of January 1896, the fourth of five children.
Unlike most of his classmates, Paul graduated from Ishpeming High School in 1914. His father, Edward Cooley was a real estate agent and his maternal grandfather, William Sedgwick had been a mining captain for the Cliffs Shaft mine and was one of the incorporators of the Peninsula Bank.
After graduation, Paul took a job in Chicago with an electrical concern. In 1917, Paul visited family and friends in Ishpeming and then went out to California to visit his parents. While in California, he enlisted in the aviation branch of the army. He was sent to Park Aviation Field, Memphis Tennessee to learn how to fly.
The 1918 yearbook published letters from a number of its alumni who were fighting in the war, and they published excerpts of several from Paul.
“We flew every day this week and it was dandy flying although the visibility was low, and we couldn’t go over 4,000 feet high. I have about 8 hours solo in now.”
“I had a nice trip alone in my plane today. Went up 4,000 feet and was in the clouds. Gee, but it is some sensation! I then spiraled down and made a good landing.”
“Just read about the transport being sunk and am anxious to know how the Ishpeming boys fared as they were on it, but I suppose it is war”
“I have nearly eight hours in the air now, of which three hours are solo work, and enjoy it better every day. A few of the other boys are soloing also, but you will be proud to know that I had the honor to be the first one of the students to fly alone. It sure had got any other sport beat that I know of”
On the 12th of February 1918, Paul was flying alone in his plane when he either crashed with another plane or dived to avoid colliding with a plane, but the end result was his death when his plane hit the ground. Although his parents lived in California at the time, his body was brought to Ishpeming.
“The announcement of Mr. Cooley’s death came to his relatives here Tuesday night at 10:30 when his uncle, George B. Sedgwick, of Columbus, Ohio, called up his sister, Miss Beatrice Sedgwick, by long distance telephone and told her he was leaving for Memphis to get the body and bring it to Ishpeming for burial.” (Mining Journal, February 14, 1918)
“Mr. and Mrs. Cooley gave their three sons to Uncle Sam and they were among the first parents of the country to receive a service flag indicating such an offering. The boys, Will, Paul and Sedgwick, all enlisted about the same time. Will, the oldest son, was working in Bisbee when he enlisted and is now in France.
It was expected that Paul, who was making fine headway in the aviation work, would have departed for France very soon, and Sedgewick, the younger son, also expected to go over at an early date.” (Mining Journal, February 14, 1918)
The funeral was held in the Grace Episcopal church and many people attended. George Newett had this to say about Paul’s death. “It brings to us all the fact that we are in the war and that sorrows of this kind will be greatly multiplied before it is over. It ought to serve as an incentive for everyone to do his best in giving our boys the very best support and protection possible. It is most regrettable to have a young man killed before he has had a fair chance in the field against the foe. Our country is going to be tortured by just such sad calamities until this cruel war is over. (Iron Ore, February 16, 1918)
Paul was one of at least three Ishpeming citizens to enlist in the aviation branch of the army and the only one of the three to be killed during the war.
Shortly after Paul was buried, a letter was received by a friend of Bill Cooley, which was reprinted in part by the Mining Journal.
“In his letter Bill stated that he expected to meet both of his brothers, Paul and Sedgwick, in France. He said he understood that Sedgwick was already over there and that he was on the lookout for him. He referred to Paul having passed all his examinations with honors.” (Mining Journal, March 1, 1918).