MARGARETT COOPER

Obituary
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    - Ann Andrews Morris
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COOPER--Margarett Gillespie, died peacefully on September 20, 2013 at Lenox Hill Hospital. She was born in Ohio on October 15, 1913, to Ella and Isaac Nathaniel Gillespie and was the youngest among Isaac Jr., Constance and Paul. Margarett took her father's love of books and her own delight in people to Wilberforce College where she was both a stellar student and a homecoming queen. Her mentor, the college librarian, was a force for intellectual and professional ambition, and Margarett graduated in 1937 with a determination to pursue graduate study in library science. When depression era scarcity delayed Margarett's studies, she taught for two years in a WPA nursery school. She subsequently earned a Masters in library science at Hampton University and pursued additional graduate study at Columbia University. She worked as a children's librarian in Virginia, and Ohio, inspiring growth and hope in countless young people. While at Hampton University, Margarett met and fell in love with a dashing young undergraduate, George Clinton Cooper. Their marriage in 1939 lasted until his death in 2002. George was a member of the "Golden Thirteen," the first African American officers in the United States Navy. He subsequently headed the trade school at Hampton, after which the couple moved to Ohio where George continued to work in education and urban administration. After her husband's death, Margarett moved to New York, a city she had always loved. Margarett thrived on New York's intellectual richness and quickly gathered friends across its multiple cultures. A painstaking genealogist, she discovered a family history of slave resistance and proud emancipation. An ardent fan of jazz and classical music, she was, at age 97, a savvy guest host on WBGO Jazz Radio. (To see a photo and listen to the broadcast visit http://www.wbgo.org/ blog/margaret-cooper-host-hour.) Margarett was an enthusiastic supporter and goading advisor to all the people she loved. She is survived by a daughter, Peggy Cooper Davis, a son-in-law, Gordon J. Davis, a granddaughter, Elizabeth Cooper Davis, a great- grandson, Johari Cooper Davis Moses and a large and adoring circle of extended family and friends. Margarett was a generous, sharp-witted, politically passionate and spirited force throughout her 100 years. We celebrate her life even as we suffer her loss. Friends are encouraged to honor her memory with commitment to social justice. She would also be honored by gifts to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Center for Family Representation, Jazz at Lincoln Center or the Studio Museum of Harlem.

Published in The New York Times on Sept. 29, 2013