Rebecca Lillian Cooper

Rebecca Lillian Cooper

c1888 - 1984

Mrs Cooper was introduced to the late Al Rosenstrauss in September 1979.  She was then in her early 90s and was a little, bent old woman living under very poor conditions.

Al was asked to collect rents for Mrs Cooper in his capacity as a real estate agent and discovered that she owned numerous strings of terrace houses, throughout Paddington, Woollahra and Bondi, all of which were badly run down, and many were completely derelict and vacant. 

Mrs Cooper met with an accident that left her hospitalised with third degree burns to her buttock.  She made a long, slow recovery and for the first time in many years she was properly fed and given a balanced diet with vitamin supplements.  As a result, the improvement in her intellect and physical condition was quite amazing.

At about this time, Al and his wife, Val Rosenstrauss began to take Mrs Cooper out for day trips on most Sundays. They began to learn something of her early history during those outings.

Mrs Cooper was born in Florida, U.S.A. but did not know in what year.  As a young woman she ran away from home with a man to New Zealand and then to Australia and apparently lost all contact with her family, although she did once say that some of her relations had been killed in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Rebecca met Harry Cooper, forming a de-facto relationship which was to last for 51 years.  The fact that they had never married only came to light when, after Harry's death, she was asked for her marriage certificate to assist in settling his estate.  She was extremely coy about it and then reluctantly admitted that she and Harry had never married. 

Rebecca and Harry had various business enterprises in their early years.  They had a second-hand shoe store in Cleveland Street, Surry Hills for instance, where they sold factory seconds.  They also had a shoe stall at Paddy's Markets.

When the Second World War came, seconds were in demand.  Mrs Cooper once told Al that she would work at night repairing and “tizzing” up the shoes to sell at the markets the next day. 

During this time, the Coopers acquired considerable property, mostly rows of terrace houses and some shops in the inner city suburbs, particularly in Paddington.

Generally, Mr and Mrs Cooper repaired their houses themselves and until Harry's death on 13 January 1979, it is reported that Mrs Cooper was often seen up on the roof of one of their houses, bent as she was, with a tin of blackjack repairing a leak, whilst Harry held the ladder for her. 

The Coopers’ Oxford Street, Bondi Junction home was robbed on more than one occasion, as it was widely believed that they kept large sums of money hidden in the house.

After Harry's death, Mrs Cooper moved from the house, which was later repeatedly broken into and ransacked.

Mrs Cooper had no children.  She was asked what she wished to do with her estate when she died and she said she wanted to do something “for the Doctors".  She discussed various possibilities with Al and her solicitor, the late Kevin Cahill and she finally decided to establish a medical research foundation in her name.

The Rebecca L Cooper Medical Research Foundation was established by deed of trust on 13 January 1984 with Al Rosenstrauss, Kevin Cahill and our current chairman, Dr Tom Cromer, being amongst those appointed to the original board of directors.

Mrs Cooper died on 29 April 1984 only three months after the Foundation was established, when she was aged about 96 years.  Under the terms of her Will, Mrs Coopers' entire estate was given to the Foundation.  It was this gift of more than 100 individual properties which has enabled the Foundation to become the significant donor for medical research purposes that it is today.

Al Rosenstrauss OAM

Al Rosenstrauss

1925 - 2012

Al Rosenstrauss OAM, was instrumental in establishing the Rebecca L Cooper Medical Research Foundation, first suggesting the concept to Mrs Cooper and then implementing it as a Founding Director and Secretary of the Foundation. Al with the assistance of his wife Valerie put great energy and time into managing the Foundation’s property portfolio, administering the grant applications and the presentation dinner for the next 28 years, until his retirement in March 2012.  Al Rosenstrauss passed away peacefully in a Gold Coast hospital on 21 September 2012. 

From the outset, Al applied his own unique style to the operation of the Foundation, championing the concept of the Foundation; taking a genuine interest in the activities of the grantees; acknowledging the contribution of junior researchers by encouraging the chief investigators to bring their “team” to the presentation dinner and of course the informality of the presentation dinners themselves. 

Al also sought to ensure that the Foundation would target research in fields that did not attract the same level of public support as some high profile charities.  His dedication and passion to the Foundation and its cause was recognised by the awarding of a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2008 Australia Day Honours list.

Throughout all this, Al’s wife Val, worked tirelessly in support of the Foundation, performing all of the “back room” tasks that though unseen, were necessary for the smooth conduct of the Foundation’s business.  This work included the collation of the grant applications, record keeping and of course, the planning and organisation of the annual presentation dinner.

The work performed by Al and Val in connection with the administration of the Foundation (as distinct from the management of its property portfolio) was done on a voluntary basis, so that the amount available for grants could be maximised each year. 

In 2011, on his 86th birthday, Al finally retired from his business and in doing so, signalled that he would inevitably be retiring from the Foundation, which occurred on 8 March 2012.  In recognition of the contribution of both Al and Val to the establishment and operation of the Foundation, the Directors announced at the 2011 Presentation Dinner the creation of a new Fellowship named in their honour.

It was always expected that this award would attract a number of high calibre applicants, but the Directors were both thrilled and overwhelmed by both the number and quality of the candidates.  With the assistance of a number of independent academics, the applications were carefully reviewed and the successful applicant was chosen from the short listed finalists.

Leopold Dintenfass

1921 - 1990

Dr Leopold Dintenfass was born in Poland, where he trained as a chemical engineer. He came to Australia in 1950, gaining a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of NSW.  Most of his research career was spent at the Kanematsu Memorial Institute in Sydney, where he was director of haemorheology and bioheology.

His work was prolific, including several scientific books and hundreds of papers. After retirement, Leo continued to work at his research projects by courtesy of the Rachel Foster Hospital, who provided space and secretarial assistance.

He specialised in the study of the properties of blood and was a world pioneer in blood viscosity.  He was honoured for his work throughout the world, having innumerable honorary professorships and the like: but typically, was least recognised in his adopted country, Australia.

In 1977, Dr Dintenfass was named as a principal research investigator by NASA, and in 1985 was the first Australian invited to have an experiment conducted in space. Blood samples were flown on NASA's space shuttle and processed automatically during the space flight. A second experiment won a coveted berth on another shuttle flight in 1988.

He was not funded by NHMRC and consequently used a great deal of his time in raising funds privately for his research.  He first applied to the Cooper Foundation in 1984, and received an annual grant until his untimely death in 1990.

In December 1990, the Directors of the Foundation resolved to perpetuate the memory of Leo Dintenfass by presenting an annual memorial plaque to the most interesting or innovative research grant recipient of the year.

In 2010 a monetary sum was presented for the first time in connection with this award. Today, the recipient of the Leo Dintenfass Award is given $5,000 to be used at the discretion of the recipient for the advancement of his or her career.

John (Jack) Frederick Haddon

1911 - 2004

Born on 28 December 1911, he died at the age of 92 years on 13 October 2004 after a brief illness. He served in the Regular Australian Army, joining in 1936 and during the Second World War in the 13th Heavy Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, being discharged in 1946.  He was an active member of the local RSL.

Jack, as he was universally known, became a Freemason in 1944, being raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.  He belonged to the Merrylands Lodge until the time of his death. Both the RSL and the Lodge sent representatives who participated in Jack’s Funeral.

Jack was by profession a fitter and turner, and did almost all but the brickwork in the building of his home. He undertook some improvements in the house in his old age, but sadly was unable to complete them.

His connection with the Foundation came about through his membership of the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Camera Club, of which Al Rosenstrauss was President for many years.  Jack and his wife Eileen participated in many of the activities of the Club, in particular the annual Easter photographic excursions. In 2001, Jack approached Al regarding the possibility of bequeathing his property to the Foundation.

Jack had recently lost his wife Eileen from complications arising from leg ulcers.

At the Presentation Dinner in 2002, Jack was invited to present the grant cheque to Professor Zeinab Khalil, Head of the National Ageing Research Institute in Melbourne, who was researching the use of low frequency electrical stimulation to accelerate wound healing and improve sensory nerve function.  

John made his Will bequeathing his entire Estate to the Foundation.  He directed that the rents from the property, or the interest derived from any future sale of the property, be applied towards research grants into geriatric diseases (with particular interest in leg ulcers) to be known as the “John and Eileen Haddon Grant”.  The Foundation presents an annual plaque to the recipient.

Since 2010, the recipient of the John and Eileen Haddon Memorial Plaque in Geriatric Research also receives a $2,000 Travel Award, to be used to fund attendance at a meeting of relevance to the application.

W K (Kevin) Cahill

1921 - 2013

The late W K (Kevin) Cahill was Mrs Cooper’s long-time solicitor and confidant.  When Mrs Cooper was hospitalised in the late 1970s he became more involved in the day-to-day management of Mrs Cooper’s affairs which brought about the close working relationship between Kevin and Al Rosenstrauss. 

Kevin was a natural choice to be the Foundation’s inaugural Chairman and for 24 years performed that task with diligence and dignity and his calm leadership helped shape the Foundation into what it is now. 

Kevin was a co-executor of Mrs Cooper’s estate and also had to deal with the affairs of Harry Cooper, who had died intestate or without a will.  The scale of the Coopers’ property holdings, the fact that not all of them were registered in their own names, issues with protected tenancies and the difficulties of proving title to properties held under old system of title ownership presented Kevin with many legal challenges. 

Advancing years and failing health forced Kevin to resign first as Chairman and then later from the Board of the Foundation. Kevin died on 19 January 2013. His contribution to the work of the Foundation has been invaluable and continues to be honoured with our annual vision sciences award being named after him. He requested that the award in his name should go to the highest ranked application in the Visual Sciences field, as deteriorating eyesight had afflicted Kevin for some time.

In 2013 the Kevin Cahill Award was presented with an additional prize of $2,000 to be spent on furthering the career of the recipient, for the first time.