Church founder, activist dies at 92
PITTSFIELD -- The Rev. Fanny R. Cooper, one of the cornerstones of the African-American community in Pittsfield and Berkshire County, died late Monday night. She was 92.
Cooper was the founder of both the Price Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Pittsfield in 1958 and the Warren Brown Chapel AME Zion Church in North Adams in 1978. She was also very active in the Clinton AME Zion Church in Great Barrington.
Of the three, the Warren Brown Chapel is closed.
The AME Zion Church is an international Protestant demonination founded in 1796 by slaves freed from Dutch colonists. The order of worship is Methodist, but the structure is essentially Episcopalian.
It is separate from the AME Church.
In addition to her church work, Cooper was a formidable community activist. In 1971, she and her sister, Dorothy Amos, founded the Early Childhood Development Center, now known as the Dorothy Amos Community Preschool, on West Street.
The center was the first public day-care center in city history for low-income city residents.
But, according to an Eagle story in 1986, "much of [Cooper’s] work was somewhat less dramatic. [She and others] taught Sunday school, ran fund-raising events, cooked for and hosted church socials and assisted low-income and less fortunate African-American families."
"I think the church will remember her as a modern-day Harriet Tubman," said the Rev. Alfred Johnson, pastor of Price AME Zion and a longtime friend of Cooper.
Johnson pointed out that Cooper essentially started the AME Zion Church community in Pittsfield and North Berkshire County.
"She started out as a member of the Clinton [AME Zion] Church in Great Barrington, and founded Price Memorial [Zion Church] here and Warren Brown [Chapel AME Zion] in North Adams. She was a pioneer."
The daughter of Edward and Eula Reid of Pittsfield, Cooper graduated from high school in 1938, and attended Virginia State College for a year, according to Eagle files. She attended beauty school in Boston with the intention of becoming a beautician, before relocating to the Berkshires.
After founding Price Church in Pittsfield in 1958, Cooper became a licensed preacher that same year.
She worked nights and attended the Career Development Program at Project Head Start in Pittsfield during the day to obtain her two-year degree in Early Childhood Development through Springfield College in 1972.
With four other worshippers, Cooper traveled to North Adams and started the Pastor Warren Brown Chapel AME Zion Church in 1978.
In 2006, Cooper was awarded the Martin Luther King Community Service Award by Price Memorial AME Zion. In 2011, she was named one of the city’s most notable people by The Eagle as part of Pittsfield’s 250th anniversary celebration. The same year, she was awarded th Martin Luther King Service Award.
Wellington Funeral Home at 220 East St. is in charge of the funeral. Services have not yet been finalized, according to a spokesman.
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