This week Ann Turner Cook turned 90-years-young and though you may not recognize her name, chances are you would have no problem recognizing her baby picture — an image of her at 5-months-old is one of the most recognizable sketches on the planet.
Born on November 20, 1926, Cook was the daughter of a cartoonist who drew the comic strip “Captain Easy”. Interestingly, the family’s neighbor, Dorothy Hope Smith, was also an artist.
Smith did a charcoal drawing of Ann when she was five months old.
The unassuming and unfinished charcoal drawing sat in the young child’s home for the following two years, when Cook’s mother heard that Gerber had announced it was looking for baby images for its upcoming line of baby food.
Smith’s drawing was submitted and subsequently chosen. It was trademarked in 1931. The drawing of Ann Turner Cook has been used on all Gerber baby food packaging since.
After reaching womanhood, Cook attended the University of South Florida and other post-secondary schools. She studied education and English journalism, earning several degrees, including a master’s degree in English Education.
Cook taught at Oak Hill elementary school in Florida, and then at Madison Junior High School, in Tampa, Florida. In 1966, she joined the English Department of Tampa’s Hillsborough High School, where she taught literature and creative writing. Students there dedicated the 1978 Hilsborean school yearbook to Cook, who sponsored the book. In it, students described 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 retiring from teaching, Cook became a novelist. A member of the Mystery Writers of America, she is the author of the Brandy O’Bannon series of mystery novels set on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The adventures of Florida reporter and amateur sleuth O’Bannon are detailed in Trace Their Shadows (2001) and Shadow over Cedar Key (2003).
And best of all, this week, Ann reached the ripe age of 90. Happy birthday Gerber Baby!
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