Ann Turner Cook, an American educator and mystery novelist who was best known as the model for the Gerber Baby images seen on baby food packages of the Gerber Products Company, died at her home in St. Petersburg, Florida, last Friday, at the age of 95.
Ann was the daughter of syndicated cartoonist Leslie Turner, who drew the comic strip Captain Easy. The family’s neighbor, the artist Dorothy Hope Smith, did a charcoal drawing of Ann when she was a baby. In 1928, Gerber announced it was looking for baby images for its upcoming line of baby food, and Smith submitted her drawing which was subsequently chosen, and in 1931 trademarked. Since then, it has been used on all the Gerber baby food packages. However, Ann Turner Cook’s identity was kept secret until 1978. Then, in 1990, Cook appeared as a guest on, To Tell the Truth.
The Gerber company posted a statement online, saying, “Many years before becoming an extraordinary mother, teacher, and writer, her smile and expressive curiosity captured hearts everywhere and will continue to live on as a symbol for all babies. We extend our deepest sympathies to Ann’s family and to anyone who had the pleasure of knowing her.”
The Gerber company website noted that “the image of this happy, healthy baby was soon to become the face that launched a brand, a face recognized and loved across the globe.”
Later in her life, Cook taught at Oak Hill elementary school and Madison Junior High School, in Tampa, Florida. In 1966, she joined the English Department of Tampa’s Hillsborough High School, where she eventually became the department’s chairwoman. her students dedicated the 1972 school yearbook to Cook, describing her as “a teacher who really communicates with the students” and who, “without any complaints … has stayed late, worked nights, and with quiet efficiency supported her staff in their monumental task.”
After her retirement, Cook became a novelist and a member of the Mystery Writers of America. She wrote the Brandy O’Bannon series of mystery novels set on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the adventures of Florida reporter and amateur sleuth O’Bannon in Trace Their Shadows, and Shadow over Cedar Key.