Sandra M. Almond-Cooper, president of the Mondawmin Neighborhood Improvement Association for 20 years and former interim president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP, died Aug. 11 at the University of Maryland Midtown Medical Center Midtown Campus. The Gwynns Falls resident was 75.
“Baltimore has lost a giant,” City Council President Nick Mosby said in a statement.
“For many years Sandra Almond-Cooper served as the president of the Mondawmin Neighborhood Improvement Association and was a board member of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council. She was a strong advocate for West Baltimore and those who lived in the community. Her passing is a huge loss for our city,” Mr. Mosby said. “Our hearts and prayers are with her family and all of those who knew and loved her.”
The Rev. Kobi Little, current president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP, became acquainted with Ms. Almond-Cooper when he was a college student in the early 1990s.
“She was so loved in her community and as a result of that did all she could to advance and help people,” the Rev. Little said. “She was active in calling an end to the violence that plagued our community. She was committed to people getting registered to vote. She was committed and gave it her all. She was an encourager.”
In recent years, when she was suffering ill health, she didn’t let it slow her.
“She’d be in the hospital and be sending messages of encouragement,” the Rev. Little said.
Barbara Anderson-Dandy, president emeritus of the New Auchentoroly Terrace Association, described Ms. Almond-Cooper as a “great warrior.”
“She was my special friend for approximately35 years. We served together on the board of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council,” she wrote in an email. “She was kind, loving, had a beautiful spirit, and Sandra worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life, public safety and sanitation issues in our community. Also, Sandra touched so many lives, leaving lasting memories.”
Alison Velez Lane, a Baltimore attorney and government and community relations director for the association, was a longtime close friend.
“Sandra always brought me with her and pushed me to do things. She never left me hanging. She supported my ideas and cared about my personal health,” Ms. Lane said. “She brought creativity and encouraged people. She looked out for people from children to adults. She always kept me abreast of what was going on.”
The former Sandra Mae Almond, daughter of Tioler Almond, a filling station owner, and his wife, Marie Almond, a homemaker, was born and raised in Suffolk, Virginia, where she graduated from high school, and became active in the civil rights movement during the 1960s.
After leaving high school, she was 18 when she moved to New York City to live with a sister.While living in New York she became associated with the NAACP, and moved to Baltimore in 1986 when it established its national headquarters here, said her son, Darryl Jay Almond, of Gwynns Falls.
“When I was having hard times, she never turned her back on me. She saw things in me,” her son said. “I now work in the addiction field and my mom prepared me to help people. She was always helping somebody and then got me involved. While she had no formal training in social work, she became a case manager, and helped people get what they needed.”
He added: “She felt strongly about what she advocated and did everything it took to get it done. She loved her community and when something got set in her mind, she was willing to work it out until she could get it done.”
“The NAACP and the city of Baltimore owe a debt of gratitude to Ms. Almond-Cooper for her years of work as a member of the national office staff, as a tireless leader in the Baltimore City branch and as the veritable and venerable mayor of Mondawmin,” the Rev. Little said in an NAACP statement on her death.
When two local NAACP officials were removed in 2018, Ms. Cooper-Almond, who was second vice president, was named interim president, until a special election was held that fall for president.
“It was an honor to receive her support for my candidacy and to have her continue to serve as an officer during my first time,” the Rev. Little said in the statement. “She was a champion for voter registration and voting rights, a defender against mass incarceration, a proponent of equity in neighborhood and community development, and a voice for peace and safety.”
During riots in Baltimore in 2015 after Freddie Gray died of injuries suffered while in police custody, Ms. Cooper-Almond took to the streets.
“She saw the police coming with their shields and helmets and she wanted to get the children to go home. She was afraid of what might happen to them. She was scared for them,” her son said. “She even appeared on TV with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.”
It was Mayor Rawlings-Blake who named Ms. Almond-Cooper a “Mother of Baltimore.”
Inez Robb, a West Baltimore community activist, worked closely with Ms. Almond-Cooper through the years, through her work with the Western District Community Relations Council.
“She was involved with our work for years,” Ms. Robb said. “She was committed and engaging. We did community walks together, Citizens on Patrol together and leadership training classes together. She was friendly, approachable and loved to laugh.”
“And she didn’t like people discrediting young leaders,” Ms. Lane said. “She believed, supported and advised young leaders.”
In her private life, Ms. Almond-Cooper was an avid gardener and had been a strong advocate of trees being planted along Gwynns Falls Parkway, her son said.
She had also been on the board of the Friends of Druid Hill Park and was a volunteer with the Friends of Druid Hill Park Farmers Market.
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She was also known for her stylish millinery.
“We were known as the ‘Hat Ladies,’” Ms. Lane said.
“She was a community activist, organizer, leader, labor supporter and central committee member,” according to the NAACP statement. “She committed her life to service in the cause of justice. She was not only a mother to her family that she so loved dearly, she was a mother and a nurturer to our community.”
“President Almond-Cooper never stopped pressing for freedom and now that she has gone from labor to reward, we will honor her memory by continuing the march toward freedom,” the Rev. Little said in the statement. “May she rest in peace.”
Her husband of 50 years, James Cooper, a door attendant and an Owings Mills Mall maintenance worker, died in 2019.
A funeral service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the chapel of the Joseph H. Brown Funeral Home at 2140 N. Fulton Ave.
In addition to her son, she is survived by a daughter, Renee Cooper of Gwynns Falls; three sisters, Marjorie Almond of New York City, Shirley Branch and Alice Manley, both of Suffolk, Virginia; and six grandchildren.