What kind of weirdo takes his wife and 11-year-old daughter into a burnt-out Victorian mansion to stand in windows that have no panes? Gary Cooper, that’s who. Or as LIFE magazine referred to him, “the embodiment of the solid, easy-going, tough-fibered American male.”
It seems he and his family were on vacation in Aspen, Colorado when they spotted said house corpse and decided to enter the spooky remains. These days, of course, that would be trespassing. There would be bars in those windows, preventing any would-be suicidal maniac from perch-pouncing. Or the place simply would have been razed to the ground.
But not for the Coopers, clad in goggles and free of smiles. Not by a longshot.
Here he sits with wife Rocky and daughter Maria in a room with cinder covering the floor. Watch your step!
Twelve years later, the family would take their final vacation to Sun Valley, due to an aggressive form of prostate cancer that had spread throughout his body. On April 17, 1961, Cooper watched pal James Stewart accept (on his behalf) an honorary award for lifetime achievement at the Academy Awards. The emotional Stewart said, “Coop, I want you to know I’ll get it to you right away. With it, goes all the friendship and affection and the admiration and deep respect of all of us. We’re very, very proud of you, Coop.”
In his last public statement on May 4, Cooper said, “I know that what is happening is God’s will. I am not afraid of the future.” He passed on May 13, 1961, six days after his sixtieth birthday.