Loss of beloved bakery driver in early morning crash reverberates through Northland community

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NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The man behind the wheel who died on an East Kansas City street Wednesday morning leaves a huge void in the Northland.

The North Kansas City bakery driver worked at Aunt Mary's off Armour Road. 60-year-old Keith Cooper walked in and out of the doors of the cozy bakery for the last 7 years, impacting just about everyone around him.

Bakery owner Janice Marie Henry said, "He always walked in and clocked in and said good morning to everybody before anybody even had a chance to say hello to him."

Described as "a bright light to the people around him," Cooper was alone just before 4 a.m. Wednesday. Kansas City Police said he was driving his black Oldsmobile westbound on Truman Road when he crossed over into the eastbound lanes and hit a utility pole. Cooper's sister, who lives in Texas, said police told her he suffered a heart attack behind the wheel.

Cooper's friend Jamie Bascue said, through tears, that she'll miss his laugh the most. She said he loved his job at the bakery.

"He told me he was one of the luckiest guys in the world because he loved his job. He said, 'How can you enjoy life if you go to work every day and don't like it?'," Bascue said.

She said Cooper just celebrated his birthday two days ago, and the pair spent some quality time together Tuesday night.

"I got to enjoy that because we had some good laughs last night. I just wish I would've known that was the last time."

Henry said Cooper was "amazing, a really really kind soul." She took Fox 4 outside to illustrate one of the most endearing things about Cooper. She said the bakery would save the ends of bread loaves because Cooper would go out the back door to feed the old bread to the squirrels. Henry said the squirrels were so comfortable with him, they'd eat right out of his hand.

"He had an amazing laugh. He'll certainly be missed by the greater North Kansas City community. I think that there are a lot of people that are really going to miss him for a long, long time," said Henry.

She said many people from his delivery route called all day Wednesday to offer condolences.

She hopes to plan a community celebration of life to honor the employee she said was loved by so many in the area.