Gerald 'Jerry' Cooper, 1932-2013: Pharmacist known as a people person


Gerald “Jerry” Cooper, a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan and well-known local pharmacist, died Thursday in Toledo. He was 80.

He was diagnosed with cancer about 4½ years ago, but did not become seriously ill until this year, his son, Dr. Michael Cooper, said.

Mr. Cooper first owned Sam’s Drugs on Bennett Road with partner, Sam Schwartz, in the 1970s. A second Sam’s Drugs location was later opened on Douglas and Alexis roads. He purchased Orchard Drugs on Talmadge Road, where he worked with his son, Dr. Robert Cooper, who preceded him in death.

He was passionate about his work, Dr. Michael Cooper said.

“My dad was a people person. He knew the customers by name and he really totally enjoyed that aspect of it,” he said.

His daughter, Marla Holtzman, said her father’s passion started when he was much younger.

“When he was a kid, he worked at a local pharmacy. He loved talking to people and he loved people stories and could talk to anybody. What he loved so much about pharmacy — it wasn’t about counting out tablets, he liked to give his clients information about drug safety,” she said.

Mr. Cooper always took time to listen to his clients, Ms. Holtzman said.

“He was one of those pharmacists that didn’t stay behind the counter. He was just schmoozing with the people. We would go to restaurants and my dad would always see people that he knew. He knew their life stories and liked to listen,” she said.

Mr. Cooper retired in 2002. He sold his stores to the Rite Aid Pharmacy chain, but continued working there for more than a decade.

He had a strong interest in baseball. His son said his father would listen to the games on the radio before baseball was televised. As a boy, Mr. Cooper worked at the stadium in Cleveland, where he sold hot dogs, peanuts, and beer.

“He was an absolute lifelong, dedicated, faithful, and unwavering Cleveland Indians fan. Unfortunately, the record wasn’t always all that good. He would never give up on them, no matter what,” Dr. Cooper said.

Mr. Cooper was a Yo-Yo champion in grade school and was known for being able to do tricks and entertain others. He also collected marbles.

But fishing was another aspect of his life that he cherished.

“He loved fishing. We had many trips to Canada,” Dr. Cooper said, adding that a group of fathers, sons, and friends would travel to Wawa, Ont., and then take a float plane to remote Lake Kaby.

“We would fish there and have shore lunch and initially it was with myself and my brother, my father, and other friends that were similar of age,” he said. Soon, the tradition included the women of the family — the trip only delayed recently when Mr. Cooper became too sick to travel.

Mr. Cooper was born Sept. 14, 1932, in Cleveland to Harry and Manya Hopescand Cooper. He was a 1950 graduate of Glenville High School, Cleveland. He received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Toledo, where he met his wife Ellen Topper of Toledo. They married in 1955. She preceded him in death, after 30 years of marriage.

Surviving are his wife, Gail; sons, Dr. Michael Cooper and Alan Wexler; daughters, Marla Holtzman, Sherry Cooper, Dr. Wendy Wexler-Kale, and Michelle Wexler-Gessesse; and 16 grandchildren.

Services will be held Sunday in The Temple Congregation Shomer Emunim in Sylvania, at 1 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to Toledo’s Baskets of Care, The Temple Congregation Shomer Emunim, The Bob Cooper Foundation of Cincinnati, or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: or 419-724-6522 or on Twitter @KMcBlade.