Catherine Kelly Cooper, 94, retired high school teacher and attorney, passed away at her home in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, on September 15, 2018.
Catherine was born in Huntsville, Al., on Feb. 4, 1924, to Earl Angus and Florence Capps Kelly. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1945 with a B.S. degree in chemistry and was secretary of Theta Psi Epsilon, the national professional chemistry fraternity. She held leadership positions in numerous campus organizations, including speaker of the Women’s Senate. She won the 1944 debate cup and was inducted into the university’s honorary leadership society, the Valkyries. Catherine transferred to North Carolina from the University of Alabama, where she had completed two years of work.
While at North Carolina, she met Robert Cooper of Chattanooga, who was enrolled in the university’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program, and they began a relationship that lasted the rest of their lives. After graduation, Catherine worked as a research chemist in Louisville, KY, before enrolling at Vanderbilt Law School, where Cooper was also a student. Catherine was one of only two women in the class of 106 members. Catherine and Robert graduated in 1949 and were married on Thanksgiving Day of that year.
Catherine devoted much of her time and talents after marriage to education. She joined the faculty of the Girls Preparatory School in 1967, where she taught chemistry and other science courses and served as head of the science department. She also coached the debate and skeet teams before retiring in 1983. She served as president of the City Council of the Chattanooga Parent-Teachers Association, as well as president of the Normal Park Elementary PTA, where her four children attended school. She was an active member of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, an international women’s organization with a primary focus on providing educational opportunities for female students worldwide. She joined Chapter M of the Sisterhood in Chattanooga in 1980, serving twice as president.
In addition to teaching, Catherine maintained an active law license for 55 years, representing family and friends and assisting her husband in his work as a judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
Catherine was a devoted member of Second Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, which she and Robert joined shortly after they married. During almost 70 years at the church, Catherine served as Sunday School teacher, Elder, and Clerk of Session.
Catherine was predeceased by her husband.
She is survived by her children, Susan Hodges (Charles), Bobbie Martin (Bruce), Kelly Smith (Jack), Robert Cooper Jr., grandchildren, Catherine Hodges, Chase Hodges (Katy), Andrew Martin (Heather), Rob Martin (Ryan), Sarah Smith, Jack Smith III, and three great-grandchildren. The family extends its deepest gratitude to Wanda Albritton, Ina Smith, and Cynthia Smith for the love and care they gave to Catherine following the death of her husband.
Services will be held on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 2:30 p.m. at Second Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, 700 Pine Street. Visitation in the church will begin at 1 p.m. Burial will be at Chattanooga National Cemetery at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Second Presbyterian Church and Hospice of Chattanooga.
Arrangements are by the East Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, 404 South Moore Road, East Ridge, Tn. 37412.
Please share your thoughts and memories at www.ChattanoogaEastChapel.com.