Mrs. Ethel H. Cooley, long-time Minot radio station official and former first lady of Republican politics in North Dakota, died last night at the home of a daughter in Minneapolis.
Mrs. Cooley, 82, affiliated with radio station KLPM in Minot for 40 years and who for 13 years was the GOP national committeewoman from North Dakota, had been in declining health in recent months and earlier this year she had undergone surgery.
A native of Dakota Territory, the Minot woman had retired from her national committeewoman post in 1961 but since had remained active in Republican circles.
She said at the time of her retirement, “I am not leaving the party, not any more than I would resign from my church.”
Arrangements call for a memorial service to be held in Minot Saturday at 11 a.m. at Vincent United Methodist Church of which she was a longtime member. Thomas Funeral Home is handling local arrangements. The body will be taken from Minneapolis to Grand Forks where burial will take place at 11 a.m. Friday in a family plot where her husband and a daughter are interred.
Rev. Chris F. Miller will officiate at both services. Pallbearers will be Donald, Charles, Raymond, Gordon and John Halcrow and George Moses. There will be no reviewal. The family prefers memorials to the American Cancer Society for research.
Mrs. Cooley was active in many state and local projects.
She reported to her office daily at KLPM serving as president of the Minot Broadcasting Company. For years she was known for her interviews at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot.
In 1962 the Minot Junior Chamber of Commerce named her “Boss of the Year” in Minot.
She was listed in Who’s Who of American Women.
She was a life member of the Ward County Agricultural Improvement Association.
She was a life member of Mouse River Cattlemen’s Association.
She also had served as a member of the board of directors of the Minot Association of Commerce, at one time headed the city’s cancer fund drive, played a major role in fund raising and planning for the present Vincent Methodist Church building, was a Minot Women’s Club member and headed the Minot Welcome Club at one time.
She won many honors and awards for her work with the Republican Party. Her name is on the plaque in the Hall of Presidents at Gettysburg, Pa., commemorating the nomination of Dwight D. Eisenhower for president. She was a delegate at the National GOP convention in 1952 at which Eisenhower was first nominated. She was a good friend of his and met with him many times.
Ethel Halcrow Cooley was the widow of John Booth Cooley and took over as president of KLPM after his death in 1958. They had purchased the station in 1930.
The GOP held a recognition dinner for her in 1961 when she stepped down as national committeewoman, a post she had held since 1948.
At the time of her retirement, an editorial in The News noted, “Mrs. Cooley has done a most effective job with women’s organizations and women voters in general. She has carried the GOP gospel far and wide, always making a creditable presentation. She has smoothed out points of friction and developed effective teamwork.”
Mrs. Cooley was born June 22, 1888, in Newest, a rural community near Bowesmont. As a girl she worked in the fields with her father and brothers. Her parents were Mr. and Mrs. John Halcrow. They came to Pembina, Dakota Territory, from the Shetland Islands, north of Scotland, via Canada.
Mrs. Cooley attended Bowesmont grade school, graduated from Drayton High School in 1906 and taught school long enough to get money to get money to enroll at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks in 1908.
She was the state women’s speed skating champion her freshman year, fell and hurt her head playing basketball and dropped out of UND for two years to teach school and recuperate. She reentered and received a B.A. degree in English in 1914, graduating at the same time from Wesley College in Grand Forks, where she had taken a course in expression. She had given dramatic readings and taught painting to help herself through school.
After graduation she taught expression at Wesley and worked at the UND extension division, promoting concert tours and speaking engagements. It was while arranging publicity on one of the tours that she met her husband who was working at the Grand Forks Herald. She later filled in for a time at the Herald in 1916 as society editor.
The Cooleys were married May 12, 1917, at Grand Forks, while he was in military service.
She continued to work at the university, joined him in 1919 at an Iowa camp and gave dramatic readings for the troops while awaiting his discharge. He returned that year to the Herald as managing editor.
Mrs. Cooley became farm editor of the Herald in 1921. She was instrumental through her articles on sugar beet growing in starting an interest in that area and finally the Red River Valley sugar beet industry. In 1928 she was chairman of the Independent Women Voters Association and in connection with that work got to help draft a bill establishing the State Seed Department. She also sponsored legislation for the N.D. Poultry Improvement Board.
Mr. Cooley had become one of the Herald’s owners in the late 1920s and when that paper was sold, he purchased KLPM in 1930, the first radio station in Minot.
Money was tight in Minot in the 1930s so the Cooleys moved to Watertown where they both worked on the paper there owned by Julius Bacon who had been general manager of the Herald from 1933 to 1936, sending money back to keep the station running. After returning to Minot in 1939, she continued to write farm stories for Grand Forks and Watertown until the 1940s. Her interest in agriculture continued in Minot and she helped develop the National Columbia Sheep Show and Sale. She also owned and exhibited sheep.
In her 13 years of national GOP service, she had noted that the travel involved at least a distance equivalent to going around the world every year and in election years considerably more.
Her daughter, Mrs. Dorothy Massee of Minneapolis, was named a national committeewoman by the N. D. Young Republicans in 1953 and they became the only mother-daughter team of national committeewomen.
Survivors include another daughter, Mrs. W. O. S. (Madeline) Sutherland of Austin, Tex., and a sister, Mrs. J. B. Shingler of Bowesmont. Besides her husband, a daughter, Mary Beth, and two brothers and five sisters preceded her in death.
Source: Minot Daily News, September 1, 1970
The collection holds materials focused around Ethel's time as a Republican National Committeewoman, which lasted from 1948 to 1961. Ethel worked with major political figures from this time, including Representative Otto Krueger, Senator Milton Young, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Ethel was deeply concerned about the people of North Dakota, writing vociferously in defense of rural mail routes and their importance for North Dakotans. She also occasionally made use of her political connections to help people in her community, such as the case of Miss Vassiliki Angeloupolou, her "little Greek Freind [sic]."
The collection is mainly made up of the large amount of Postal Service appointments, though included are several folders of political correspondence, personal correspondence, and North Dakota Republican Party media. Also included are items that come from the end of her tenure as a Republican National Committeewoman, including scrapbooks and well-wishing letters. Also included is a photo from a dinner she had with President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he visited Minot, North Dakota in 1953.