Sat. Sep 24th, 2022


The long anonymity of the Gerber baby also ensured that there was at least one pretender to the throne. In the 1940s, one family sued the company, claiming that its child was the baby on the label. Testifying in court, Ms. Smith disclosed her model’s identity, and the suit was decided in Gerber’s favor.

Ms. Cook, who had been aware of her role since early childhood, kept her own counsel. After moving with her family to Orlando, Fla., in the late 1930s, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, followed by a master’s in the field from the University of South Florida. She taught junior high and high school English, becoming the department chairwoman of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Fla.

As a young teacher, Ms. Cook, fearful of the exquisite brand of disdain at which adolescents excel, chose never to disclose her infantile identity. Only in the late 1970s, with Gerber’s commemoration of the drawing’s 50th anniversary, did she publicly reveal herself as its subject. Her students, she later said, were intrigued.

Ms. Cook’s husband, James Cook, a criminologist who was a major with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, died in 2004. Her survivors include three daughters, Jan Cook, Carol Legarreta and Kathy Cook; a son, Clifford; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

After retiring from teaching, Ms. Cook wrote a series of self-published crime novels. She grew amiably reconciled to life as the Gerber baby, granting interviews and appearing on the television quiz show “To Tell the Truth.”

Bogart was a small lingering irritant, but he could be borne.

Ms. Cook’s long-ago likeness remains a cultural touchstone to this day. In recent years, Gerber, now a subsidiary of Nestlé, has held an annual babies’ photo contest, awarding a grand prize of $25,000 and using the winner in its advertising.

Once she identified herself as the Gerber baby — and as the mother of four to boot — Ms. Cook left herself open to a question that she had to answer cagily. She gave just such an answer when The Globe and Mail, the Canadian newspaper, put the question to her in a 1987 interview:

Did she feed her own children Gerber baby food?

There was a slight pause.

“Not exclusively,” Ms. Cook replied.

By Rahul

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