Edith Henrietta Cooper, a retired Baltimore city public school crossing guard who was once voted the city's most popular safety officer in a newspaper contest, died of a respiratory ailment Aug 20 at Saint Agnes Medical Center. The Irvington resident was 92.
Born Edith Henrietta Jackson in Blackstone, Va., she was the daughter of Purcell Jackson and Gertrude Yates Jackson, who were farmers. She moved to Baltimore with her family when she was 6 years old and lived on West Lee Street in a home near Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"We were a poor family, and my mother would have walked to classes at the old Frederick Douglass High School on Carey Street, where she graduated in 1939," said her daughter, Barbara Cooper Lee of Brooklyn, N.Y. "She was the product of a religious South Baltimore family and she received her early Christian nurturing in Leadenhall Baptist Church."
Family members said that in 1940, she married Earl Cooper, a longshoreman whom she described as "the great love of my life."
"She and Earl were known for their collaborative humor," said Marco K. Merrick, a longtime friend. "They often entertained friends and family at their parties. There was endless laughter at them. After Earl's death in 1975 Edie honored his memory the rest of her life. She remained his widow for nearly 40 years."
Mrs. Cooper was hired in 1954 by the Baltimore City Police Department as a crossing guard. She was assigned to her old neighborhood, a section of Southwest Baltimore along Russell Street, the busy highway leading in and out of the city. She was first posted to the Joshua Diggs School, later Diggs-Johnson School, at Barre and Warner streets, where she assisted children to get across the six lanes of Russell Street.
"The intersection is considered one of the most dangerous in the city because it is on a main thoroughfare," said the Baltimore Afro-American's 1971 story, which also detailed that she received thousands of votes and was the top voter getter among 142 contestants.
"The [intersection] is bad but I've never lost a child yet and I've been there for 17 years," she said in the newspaper article.
She arrived a little late to the ceremony on the day she collected a $500 prize at the newspaper office.
"I am working summer school and we don't make our hours. I don't think the Police Department would have liked it too much if I had taken the day off to receive my prize," she said in the Afro in July 1971.
After she retired from the city in the mid-1970s, she became a maintenance worker at Baltimore County Public Schools and at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
After living on Lee Street, she and her husband bought a home on Monastery Avenue. She then joined the Saint Joseph-Monastery Improvement Association, the Allendale Improvement Association and the Edmondson-Frederick Community Coalition.
"My mother learned to drive as an adult. Her first car was a 1949 stick-shift Packard," Mrs. Lee said. "She then bought an Oldsmobile. She worked hard and was just wise with a dollar."
She later owned a succession of Buicks, including a Buick Special, Skylark and Century.
Friends recalled she was meticulous housekeeper, gardener and accomplished cook. In 1990, Bob Turk, the WJZ-TV weatherman, hosted a live broadcast from her garden.
"Holidays were a special time for her," said Mr. Merrick, who knew her for more than 50 years. "She hosted a lavish Christmas brunch. She made everything from scratch and made it with lots of love. She had an egg casserole, eggnog, homemade rolls and fried potatoes. It began as a brunch and people came all day. ... She had a strong work ethic and a lot of panache too."
Mrs. Cooper was member of Shiloh Christian Community Church and was active in its Courtesy Circle. In 1983 she was honored as a "pioneer member" of the circle. In 1967 she was her congregation's Women's Day chairwoman. In 1991 she was named a church Women's Day Legacy.
"Fashion was no foreign notion to Edie," said Mr. Merrick, a Mount Washington resident. "She had good taste and a dignified style. She emerged from her home well dressed. She often wore one of her beautiful designer hats and the appropriate leather gloves. She enjoyed her New York shopping trips and liked hats made by Jack McConnell."
Family members said that when she could not find a mink stole in Baltimore to suit her, she went to John Wanamaker in Philadelphia. She often appeared in that stole.
Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Open Church of Maryland, 5010 Briarcliff Road.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include two other daughters, Earlene Cooper of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Gloria Cooper Robertson of Randallstown; two granddaughters; and two great-grandchildren. Her husband of 45 years died in 1975.
An earlier version misstated how long Marco K. Merrick and Edith Henrietta Cooper were friends and the year Mrs. Cooper was honored as a "pioneer member" of the Courtesy Circle. The Sun regrets the errors.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun