Veteran support groups help Navy vet who lost wife on Valentine's Day

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

NEW RIVER, Ariz. --- Veterans' support groups are helping a retired United States Navy veteran rebuild his home.

They plan to start work on Valentine's Day, which is a day 76-year-old Jack Cooper normally dreads.

"It's not a good day for me. It's a sad day for me. I miss (my wife)," Cooper told 3TV.

His wife, Estella, passed away on Valentine's Day three years ago.

The home they shared, which Cooper and his sons built themselves, was destroyed in a fire this summer.  An electrical problem in the garage sparked the flames.

Cooper lost his dog, Bubba, in the fire. Bubba is buried in the garden Cooper's wife used to tend.

After the fire, Cooper moved into a small camper on his property. His homeowner's insurance lapsed, and he planned to rebuild over time.

Extreme summer heat and monsoon storms took a toll.

"It was a tough summer. I don't want to do that again," he said.

Thanks to several veteran groups, Cooper, who served more than 20 years and spent time in Vietnam, won't have to.

"He started talking about how his well went dry, his dog died, his wife died, and his home burned. He listed all these things, and my problems seemed so insignificant," Matt Augee told 3TV.

Augee runs the RecFX Foundation, which serves veterans. RecFX is joining with Operation Enduring Gratitude, Team Rubicon and Blue Star Moms of the Southwest Valley to rebuild Cooper's home.

They plan to finish demolition work this weekend, and rebuild over the next few months.

The teams need more volunteers. They also still need donations of everything from kitchen cabinets to counters to furniture.

"Valentine's Day is not just about cards and candy.  This is a different kind of love story.  It's a love story to a veteran who served 20 years for the country.   It's a story of loving on a man who lost his wife on Valentines Day," Augee said.

They hope to have Cooper back in his new home before the summer heat and monsoon storms hit.

Volunteer and donation information can be found on the RecFX website: