Abraham "Abe" Koop, who spent more than half his life as a missionary working deep in the Amazon jungle with the primitive Pacaas Novas tribe, died Tuesday of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 77.
Koop was a pastor with the New Tribes Mission in Sanford, where he resided since 1996.
In 1954, Koop and two other missionaries made contact with the Pacaas Novas in the Amazon River valley. At that time, tribesmen were in a struggle with Brazilian workers for control of land and the indigenous rubber trees.
To earn their trust, Koop and the other missionaries left gifts -- such as ax heads and bush knives -- for the Pacaas Novas.
Two years later, the missionaries moved in with the tribes people and taught them how to read and write in their native language.
"We made story books, and then we told them Bible stories. They were naked, and we sewed clothes for them. They went from being a savage group to a pacified tribe," said his wife, Delores Koop, who worked with her husband since the late 1950s. The couple were married for 49 years.
The Koops spent 45 years living in the Amazon jungle.
"The Indians became part of our lives. One of their schools is named after my husband," she said. "They would not be alive today if not for our work. The rubber workers would have killed them all."
Born and reared in Manitoba, Canada, Koop enrolled in Bible school soon after high school.
Tall and slender, Koop was known for his gentle manner and affable personality, his wife said.
Survivors also include sons, Phillip, McNeal, Ariz., Bruce, Suwanee, Ga., Donald, Lawrenceville, Ga.; daughter, Sharon Gustafson, Lilburn, Ga.; brothers, Peter, Henry, both of Manitoba; sisters, Elizabeth, Katherine Loewen, Margaret Banman, Sara Doerksen, Mary Goertzen, all of Manitoba; nine grandchildren.
Arrangements are being handled by Gramkow Funeral Home, Sanford. uary in Orlando, Florida, Sentinel paper.