Wilson Emergency Management Training Division Chief Shannon Cooper is a paramedic, firefighter, hazmat specialist, swiftwater technician and emergency vehicle operations instructor - to name a few areas of specialty. However, it is evident she cherishes her other titles - of wife and mother.
Cooper, who was raised in Watertown, has been married to WEMA Director Joey Cooper for 10 years. When they met, Joey had two children, Kelsey Nicole, 19, and Ryan, 16, from his previous marriage. Cooper had one daughter, Kelsey Madison.
"We are a blended family... Joey and I have a wonderful friendship with his ex-wife, Tischa, and her husband, Shannon Speck. We hang out every weekend together, we go on vacation together and we handle all the kiddos together," she explained of their co-parenting and comradery. Together she and Joey have one child, Kinsey, 7.
"This relationship has made raising four kids much easier on us, not so much the kids - because they have four parents instead of two," she laughed.
Cooper said sharing her professional life, as well as her personal one, with Joey has made their relationship easier. "We understand the stress of the job and we lean on each other for support," she said. "Joey and I are both very passionate about our profession as well as our views on family life."
At WEMA, Cooper is responsible for coordinating training for all areas of the department, minus dispatch communications. "We have 150 personnel that must be trained in all aspects of the profession. The difference in our department from many others is we do not just do Fire or EMS - we do it all," she explained. "All of our responders must be firefighters, advanced EMT or paramedics and trained in vehicle extrication."
Cooper admitted she "obviously cannot do all of this myself" - therefore, she relies on the personnel in the department.
"Many of them hold instructor certifications in these areas and I utilize them to help me with the department training. This is great for them, and me as well, as it keeps the cost of sending personnel somewhere or paying someone else to do it," she said. "If it was not for these personnel, I would not be able to accomplish anything. My calendar is a constant mess of many trainings, but we must always be prepared."
Cooper still loves her profession as much as when she started 16 years ago.
"We are there on someone's worst day and we get to hopefully make it better or at least make it easier. This has never been a job. It has always been a calling. It is what I was made to do, and I am so lucky God picked me to be a part of it."
In her spare time, Cooper enjoys the outdoors - the beach in particular. "We love to fish, camp, canoe and hang out with good friends and family," Cooper said, noting that she also enjoys watching their youngest child play softball. "It was my passion when I was younger. Now I live through my 7 year old."
The woman Cooper most admires is her mother, Judy Creekmore.
"She raised me and my brother as a single mom, she gave us everything we needed and sometimes things we just wanted. This woman has always been my rock, and, no matter how bad it could get, she always had a positive outlook for us," she said. "Her passion for the positive was infectious and is always my inspiration."
Cooper said she only saw her mother stumble once, when her brother died at the young age of 15.
"She picked herself right back up to comfort me and to let me know that we will get through this and it will be okay. Life can be very hard, but she always told me the sun will come up tomorrow and we get another chance, so make it your day."
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at email@example.com.