Rod Cooper passed into the mysteries of the universe on November 29, 2021. He was proceeded in death by the love of his life, his wife, B. J. Brantley Cooper. Devoted father to daughter Brantley Elliott Cooper, life mate Ryan M. Fitzgerald, and proud grandfather to his “buddy” Peyton Cooper Splawski, all of Greensboro. He is preceded in death by his parents and bother Gary Cooper. He is survived by his brother-in-law James Brantley, wife Kathryn, and nieces Allison and Meredith, all of Wendell.
A true southern gentleman, throughout his life Rod maintained the highest standards for himself. From hosting guests to reaching out to friends and family, he believed in making the world a better place through beauty, excellence and giving. His dry wit, sense of humor and ability to laugh at himself and at life, will leave a void in all who knew him well.
Rod was born April 12, 1951, in Burlington, North Carolina to Ellen Forbis Cooper and Wayne Harris Cooper. From the time he was able to hold a pencil Rod drew pictures and planned spaces. On his eleventh birthday, he began formal painting classes with his first box of oil paints. Rod’s mother was an artist and teacher. Her love of art and design affected and informed his life’s passions. She loved decorative arts, and he was weaned on antique stores and art galleries. Rod’s father supported his efforts from the time he held his first crayon.
Rod’s art and design education began with a summer session at The NC School of the Arts in high school. In 1973 he received a BFA from UNC Chapel Hill with a double major in Studio Art and Art History. He did graduate studies in Art History at UNC Chapel Hill and then lived in NYC and Washington, D.C. where he furthered his career. He continued his education in Washington with graduate studies at American University, classes at the Smithsonian Museum, and classes with Clement Conger, former Director of the State Department public rooms and collections.
Upon his return to North Carolina, he became Director of The Firehouse Gallery in Alamance County, served on the Board of directors for the Alamance County Arts Association and taught drawing and painting classes at Alamance County Community College. His first adult exhibition of art was at Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art in 1975. Rod’s work in the home furnishings industry and the decorative arts began at The Alderman Company in High Point as a set designer, graphic designer and finally Creative Director. He wrote copy, designed photo shoots, and was an award-winning art director of hundreds of catalogs and ads. He also restored homes and interiors for clients and himself.
In 1987 Rod co-founded Cooper and Cockerham, Inc., a marketing group doing branding, design, art direction, production, advertising, printing, data services and fulfillment. He was President and Creative Director until 2002 when he became Creative Director Emeritus. Rod created office interiors and did showroom design for many furniture and fabric manufacturing clients. He designed furniture, wallpaper patterns and fabrics. During his time as art director, Rod designed over 1000 room settings. Today, Cooper Cockerham, Inc. successfully does business as C2.
In 2010, he retired to be caregiver for his wife who was diagnosed with early-onset dementia. Upon retirement, Rod began painting again. In 2012 he had a one-man exhibit at The Shop at Green Hill coming full circle from the show in 1975. In 2016 he had a show of large works at The Center for Visual Arts and in 2018 he exhibited at the View on Elm Gallery. His paintings hang in the collections of Wells Fargo, BB&T, Lloyds of London, and many private collections.
He continuously gave generously of his time and funds to various organizations in the community. Rod gave his paintings freely to support charity auctions. He was a volunteer for Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art and served on the board of trustees for six years. Rod also served as a volunteer for Weatherspoon Art Gallery at UNC-G and was on the Association Board of Weatherspoon. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church where he was a Sunday school teacher and usher. Rod was designer of the Governor’s Guest house during the Hunt Administration and a volunteer for The Barnabas Network, did reading assistance at Jones Elementary school and Our Children’s House.
The family wishes to thank Constance Garner and Diane Quillen with At Home Care for the amazing care they provided. We would also like to thank Dr. Clarence Owen for being an advocate for our dad, especially the past few months.
A celebration of his life will be held on Sunday, January 09th, at five o’clock, 2022, at Undercurrent Restaurant, 327 Battleground Avenue, Greensboro, NC 27401. Services provided by Triad Cremation and Funeral Service.
Rod always surrounded himself with flowers, planting, gardening, so the family requests no flowers but rather donations to Weatherspoon Art Museum or Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art.
Posted online on December 11, 2021
Published in Burlington Times News