Obituary: Gilda Elise Cooper

Local educator, Cherry Hill East theater booster, passed away earlier in December.

Gilda Elise Cooper, of Cherry Hill, beloved Mother, Sister, Aunt, and Cherished Friend, passed away on Dec. 11, with her daughter by her side. 

Gilda was born in Fort Dix, N.J. on Sept. 16, 1960 to Edmond and Prestine Hawkins. She is survived by her loving daughter Ashley, dear sisters Carlotta, Pat, Twila, and Andria, as well as several nieces, nephews, cousins, and dear friends. Gilda’s beautiful smile, soulful spirit, palpable warmth, and energetic presence blessed all who were lucky enough to know her.

She appreciated every moment of her life, acting with unwavering grace and resilience every day. In doing so, she demonstrated the importance of leading a life rooted in gratitude to all those she interacted with. To know her was to love her.

A life-long educator, Gilda served as both an esteemed Assistant Principal and Reading Specialist for over 30 years. She graduated with her bachelor’s in Education, and went on to earn two master’s degrees in Literacy and School Administration. Gilda committed herself to uplifting her students, impacting not only their education but every aspect of their lives. She is fondly remembered by hundreds of these students, as well as their families, whose lives she changed permanently through her thoughtful work and care. Gilda went above and beyond every day to ensure equity for students. She often worked overtime, spending countless hours to cultivate a supportive school environment. If something wasn’t right. She devoted her life to serving and caring for those around her.

Gilda was also a pillar of the Cherry Hill community, investing time and energy to brighten the lives of everyone around her. Her radiant smile and thunderous applause could always be seen and heard from the front row at every event, enthusiastically supporting Ashley and her peers. Gilda was vice president of fundraising of the Cherry Hill East Theater Boosters, a staunch advocate for equality in the Cherry Hill School system, and a devoted volunteer at the Animal Welfare Association. Gilda was also a parent to over 20 pets throughout her life, loved gardening, and was a creative thinker, always ready to tackle a new problem. 

Above all, Gilda’s immense love for her daughter Ashley was undeniable. She embodied a love of learning, a remarkable kindness, and a passion for music—qualities she instilled in her daughter.  

Gilda began everyday in song. She was an accomplished jazz singer, who performed her album “Loved in Return” at hundreds of venues. Her favorite song was “By Your Side” by Sade, which so perfectly illustrates her commitment to leading a life rooted in giving unconditional love. Gilda will remain forever in our hearts as her love is eternal. Her spirit is too ethereal to ever fully capture in words.

Relatives and friends were invited to the visitation on Dec. 28 after 7 p.m. at the Hinski-Tomlinson Funeral Home, 81 Haddon Avenue, Haddonfield, N.J. A Funeral Service in memory of Gilda was to be held Dec. 29, 11 a.m., at Ashland Presbyterian Church, 33 East Evesham Road, Voorhees. 

Friends were to pay respects to the family after 10 a.m. Interment was to follow at Haddonfield Baptist Cemetery, 402 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield. 

Gilda loved sharing her name with her favorite comedian, Gilda Radner. In memory of this, memorial donations may be made to Gilda Radner’s Club South Jersey, a foundation established with the mission to uplift all those impacted by cancer.