Brothers Clarence and Kenneth Cooper were born in Kalispell, Montana, in the northern part of the state. Their mother, Cordelia Terry Cooper, was a homemaker and their father, Ralph Cooper, a laborer. She was a Canadian immigrant.
Clarence Eugene was born June 15, 1918, and Kenneth on Feb. 2, 1920. His middle name is spelled as Irvin on his birth certificate but Erven in all his Navy records except one in early 1942 in which the name is Ervon.
The family moved about 1922 to Casmalia, California, a town in Santa Barbara County too small to be counted separately in the federal Census. The father took a job with the Pan-American Petroleum Co.
He died in 1925, leaving his widow with seven children nine and younger.
Clarence, Kenneth and their older brother Raymond graduated in 1933 from the Casmalia grammar school, where they sang and performed in a play during commencement exercises. All then attended Santa Maria Union High School, though it’s unclear whether they graduated.
A brief news article in December 1935 said Clarence got a knockout in the first 30 seconds of an amateur fight at Pismo. “Cooper claimed he had never been in a ring before and had not even attended a prize fight.”
Their mother remarried Frank Firanzi, a Navy veteran and Southern Pacific Railroad employee, in 1936.
Son Clarence married in 1938 and divorced two years later. When he completed his military registration in 1940 he was living in Casmalia and working for an oil refining business. Son Kenneth, meanwhile, was a ranch hand about 100 miles north at Cholame. He worked 38 weeks in 1939 and earned $700 — equal to about $13,000 in 2020.
The brothers enlisted in the Navy together on Nov. 1, 1940, and went aboard the U.S.S. Arizona on Dec. 30.
The battleship spent most of the next six months at Pearl Harbor before visiting its home port at San Pedro, California, for two weeks in June 1941. During that time Clarence and Kenneth got leave to travel home. All seven siblings and other relatives and friends held a barbecue reunion at a park. It was the first time they’d been together in two years, and it was to be the last.
Clarence and Kenneth, firemen second class on the Arizona, were killed on Dec. 7 in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Twenty-six pairs of brothers died on the ship.
Brother Raymond Cooper served in the Army from 1944 through 1946.