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Grace Rizzardi "Toni" Cooter

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Grace Rizzardi "Toni" Cooter Obituary
COOTER, GRACE "TONI" RIZZARDI, 88, originally of Nashville, TN, and most recently of Louisville, KY, passed away in her sleep Sunday morning, April 7, 2013, at the Episcopal Church Home.

Toni Grace Cooter was born on November 30, 1924, in Knoxville, TN, of Louis T. and Bonnie Rizzardi. Toni had an exciting early life as her father; a restaurateur, had businesses in Tennessee and Kentucky. As a child, Grace and her family were rescued in the Great Flood of 1937 in Louisville, KY, where her father owned a restaurant. After the passing of her mother early in her life, Grace lived with family in Nashville, TN, and graduated from Hume-Fogg High School. Later in life, she returned to college and earned a baccalaureate and master's degree in Special Education from Tennessee State University, and pursued post-graduate work at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.

Soon after the end of World War II, Grace Rizzardi accepted a position with the Nashville Tennessean newspaper as an artist under the name "Toni" Rizzardi. Her nom de plume, "Toni," was coined in her resume to land a position at a time when only men were being hired at the close of World War II. It worked, and her skill as an artist won her a permanent position at the Tennessean. It was there that she met and married her husband of 62 years, Bruce Cooter, a photographer with the Associated Press.

In Nashville, Toni Cooter worked as a commercial artist, and as an engineering draftsman for the State of Tennessee. In 1962, Toni accepted a position offered by Messrs. Sam and Robert Coleman as resident manager of Elysian Garden Apartments. She held that position for nearly 50 years until she and Bruce retired at age 84.

In addition to managing a large apartment complex, Toni also served as a hospital homebound teacher for the Metropolitan Nashville Schools for 15 years. Part of her teaching career was at Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt where she loved assisting fragile children and their families.

Toni Cooter enjoyed their longtime membership and friends at Johnsons Chapel United Methodist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee. Toni and Bruce vacationed with family and friends, and once traveled aboard the famous Concorde supersonic jet to Great Britain. They were founding members of a Wine Club still flourishing in Nashville, and had numerous adventures over the years with their circle of friends.

Toni was a cheerful and fun-filled person to the very end. Her friends came from all sectors of the Nashville scene, doubtless due to her long years as an apartment manager. Many of their friends over the decades from the Nashville Tennessean and Associated Press would gather for after-work spaghetti and drinks just to listen to Toni's latest tall tales, for she was indeed a great storyteller (who refused to let mere facts interfere with the narrative of a wacky event or family drama). As an Italian American, she likewise enjoyed "great" cuisine (Krystal hamburgers, Krispy Kreme's) and Nashville area restaurants (especially the Omni Hut and the Puffy Muffin). Several of the parties in recent years hosted by Toni and Bruce were held at Elm Hill Marina on their houseboat, "Our Last Child." Toni Grace was preceded in death by her beloved husband of 62 years, Bruce; her father and stepmother, Louis and Louise Rizzardi; as well as her sister, Sarah Rizzardi Brown; and brother, Louis T. Rizzardi, Jr.

She is survived by her brother, Ned Rizzardi (Lynda) of Maryville, TN; her sons, Robert B. Cooter, Jr. (Kathleen) of Louisville, KY, and John C.T. Cooter of Bluefield, WV. Toni also has 10 grandchildren; and 20 far.

Memorial services take place on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. April 20, 2013, at Johnson's Chapel United Methodist Church, 201 High Lea Road, Brentwood, TN, with Dr. Daly Thompson presiding. Local arrangements in Louisville are entrusted to Ratterman's, 3711 Lexington Road.

Memorial donations in the name of Toni Grace Rizzardi may be made to Johnson's Chapel United Methodist Church, Brentwood, TN, or to the , online at: or by phone at: 1.800.272.3900.


Published in The Courier-Journal on Apr. 10, 2013
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