By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun
11:28 PM EDT, April 11, 2014
Philip C. Cooper, a retired design executive who had been president of a New York fabric and furniture house, ended his life in Baltimore on April 3. He was 78 and had lived on Mount Royal Avenue.
Born in Denton, he was the son of Gail F. Cooper, a furniture merchant, and Margaret C. Cooper, an artist and musician. A 1953 graduate of Caroline High School, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Swarthmore College. He also attended the University of Oslo in Norway for a summer. He served in the Army from 1957 to 1959.
"Phil was one of the strongest mentors in my life. … He was infinitely curious," said a friend, John Roman, who lives in Lewes, Del. "I could listen to him talk for hours and take in his analytical abilities. I can see why he was successful as a manager. He was a people person, a listener and a consummate gentleman."
Mr. Cooper worked in commercial and residential design administration during his lengthy career. He began at his father's store and won awards for his window designs. He moved to Baltimore and became a vice president at Bagby Furniture in what is now Harbor East. He was later an executive vice president at the H. Chambers on Charles Street in Mount Vernon.
He went on to be a vice president of sales and marketing and president of the David Edward Co. in Halethorpe and later became president of an outdoor furniture firm, Weatherend Estate Furniture in Rockland, Maine, where he lived for several years.
He moved to New York City and became president of Jack Lenor Larsen, a fine fabrics company. He held the post from 1994 until 1997. The firm then merged with the British business Cowtan & Tout.
"He was my president and he was a good one," said Mr. Larsen, who lives in New York. "Phil was a popular man, a handsome man and he was his own boss. He was remarkably good and a lot better at heading the company than I was. When he left, he could have gone anywhere — he was that good — but he chose to return to Baltimore."
After he retired a few years ago, he became a consultant to USM, a Swiss manufacturer of contract furniture.
"He was a brilliant writer who would send out a lengthy letter to friends every two or three months," said Cal Strawhand, a Baltimore friend. "He loved the hustle and bustle of New York and he loved to write about it."
For many years Mr. Cooper lived in a Bolton Hill townhouse where he enjoyed giving dinner parties.
"He had a fantasy dining room," said Mr. Roman. "The walls were a dark green, almost black and there were floor-length mirrors. He had a round, green, marble-topped table. It was so dramatic. The centerpiece was a porcelain camellia, lighted perfectly."
Mr. Cooper produced a set of recipe books, which he distributed to friends. He credited the source of the recipes and wrote introductions to them. One of his specialties was a salted roast chicken served on a bed of vegetables.
"Whatever Phil wanted to do, he did it well," said a friend, Barbara Taylor, who lives in Baltimore. "He had a keen eye. He could throw a party at the drop of a hat. His guests were always interesting. He just liked food and he knew what was tasty."
She recalled him as a "fabulous dancer" and a "great raconteur." Family members said he had been an Arthur Murray dance instructor in his college years.
Mr. Cooper had been a board member of the AIDS Interfaith Residential Services and Movable Feast. He was also a founding member of FANS, a support organization for the Baltimore School for the Arts, where a memorial has been established in his name.
"Phil was a talented designer and was supportive of all that I counted on him to be," said Leslie Kayne, the former AIDS Interfaith Residential Services director, who lives in Towson.
He traveled widely and then created books of his own photography. He had his photos from Peru and China, among other destinations, bound in volumes.
"Many people were entertained by his insightful messages and experiences on the road," said another friend, William Gilmore of Baltimore. "He began the day by photographing the sunrise and then later, the sunset. He would chronicle each day."
Several years ago he published an autobiography, "Thursday's Child," which he described as a "gay man's memoir told entirely in sessions of his psychotherapy." Mr. Copper also exhibited his photography at Baltimore galleries.
Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m. April 26 at Denton Cemetery, 24865 Meeting House Road in Denton.
Survivors include his sister, Dr. Susan Cooper Caruthers of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and nieces and nephews.
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