Jesse Cooper dies of natural causes related to his cerebral palsy

By Marla Lehner
Updated January 06, 2005 03:00 PM

Jesse Cooper, the 17-year-old son of Oscar winner Chris Cooper, has died of natural causes related to his cerebral palsy.

Jesse passed away Monday at the family’s home in Kingston, Mass., spokeswoman Cara Tripicchio tells the Associated Press.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday.

Chris Cooper and his wife, actress Marianne Leone, became champions for kids with special needs, raising funds for a host of programs. Jesse went to a public high school and was a mainstreamed special education student at Silver Lake Regional High School where he was an honor student. He was the couple’s only child.

In October 1987, when Leone was six months pregnant, she became violently ill with the flu and delivered the 3-lb. Jesse prematurely. At first the baby seemed healthy. But after three days he suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

“They totally revised their prognosis from ‘He’s gonna be cool’ to ‘He’s not going to last the week.'” Leone told PEOPLE in 1996.

“I feel like Jesse’s a little teacher – he teaches everybody around him about unconditional love, what it is to strive, what it is to believe, what it is to have faith,” Leone said at the time.

Leone has penned a film titled Conquistadora, which is the true story of Mary Somoza, a feisty mother of twins with cerebral palsy who fought to get her children the best possible education. Patricia Clarkson has been cast to play Somoza, while Chris Cooper, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Adaptation in 2003, will play a small part as an attorney.