TAMPA, Fla. — The original Gerber baby is another year older and still going strong.
Ann Turner Cook, whose image on Gerber products became famous when she was 4 months old in 1928, turned 94 on Friday.
Cook, who was born Nov. 20, 1926, was 4 months old when a family friend, Dorothy Hope Smith, sketched a charcoal drawing of the cherub-faced infant. Smith submitted her work to Gerber’s contest in 1928, according to the Gerber website. When the drawing won, Smith said she would complete it, but Gerber officials were enamored with the original work and trademarked it in 1931.
“(Smith) wrote me (later) that she had thought it was kind of unfinished, and if they liked it she could finish it properly,” Cook told WFLA in 2016. “But they were smart enough that they didn’t want anything done to it.”
Cook’s identity was kept private until she joined the company for its 50th anniversary celebration in 1978.
“I was a happy, healthy baby and I think that’s why the drawing has been so appealing to people,” she told WTVT in 2013. “Because everybody wants their baby to be happy, healthy-looking.”
In 2019, Magnolia Earl, of Ross, California, became the first adopted baby, chosen for the annual campaign, the television station reported.
Cook was an English teacher at Tampa’s Hillsborough High School for 26 years, WTVT reported. She said she began every year answering questions about the Gerber baby
“And then I would say, ‘Now we won’t talk about this anymore’ because I didn’t want it to monopolize the time I had with my students,” Cook told WTVT.
After retiring as a teacher, Cook began writing mystery novels with Florida subjects, including “Shadow Over Cedar Key,” “Homosassa Shadows,” “Tracing Their Shadows” and “Micanopy In Shadow.”
Cook’s father, Leslie Turner, was a cartoonist who drew the strip “Captain Easy” for more than three decades.