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‘Bigger than life’ hotelier Hooks Cooper dies at 81

Cyril (Hooks) Cooper, one of Bermuda's long-serving hoteliers and a devoted philanthropist, has died at the age of 81.

Mr Cooper, who founded Hamilton's Rosemont Hotel, also served on the Tourism Board and keenly took part in boating of all types.

“He was bigger than life ­— that's the best way to describe him,” his widow Barbara told The Royal Gazette. “He was generous, ambitious, and very caring toward his family.

“We all said he was the wind beneath our sails. His greatest love was family.”

The Rosemont estate was initially rented out to locals, but became the family home in 1958 when Mr Cooper married Barbara Morell, a nurse.

It “accidentally” turned into a hotel in 1966 when the Coopers rented a room out to a visiting friend — and the new Rosemont Guest Apartments began taking bookings.

The couple ran the business with daughters Karen and Lorri for the next 40 years, before selling it to Neal and Samantha Stephens in 2006.

Awards included Hoteliers of the Year, and Mr Cooper's dedication to Bermuda's hospitality industry won him a place on the Tourism Board from 1995 to 1998.

He also served on various committees for the Bermuda Hotel Association, and in 2001 he joined the task force of the Bermuda Project, a group aimed at reviving the Island's entertainment scene.

“He was very much involved in productions such as the Um Um Show — he'd be backstage building sets, doing stage management,” Mrs Cooper said.

With his wife playing piano, the Coopers took part in venues all over the Island, such as the Smith's Parish Revue, the Marsh Follies, and shows by the Bermuda Junior Service League.

Mr Cooper took to the water from an early age, his wife recalled.

“From the time he was a bailer boy on the dinghies,” she said. “He sailed just about every class in Bermuda and also in a lot of overseas regattas.”

An avid fisherman, he also served as commodore for the Bermuda Sailboat Club and was a manager at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, as well as a board member at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.

Acquiring an extensive collection of cups and trophies, Mr Cooper had no shortage of sea stories, including the October 22, 1987 sinking of his boat Full Hot some 90 miles off the North Carolina coast.

Mr Cooper was on his way to Bermuda with crewmen Douglas Anfossi, Brian Anfossi, Stuart Smith, Durham Stephens and Harry McHarg, when the vessel struck a submerged container in 15ft seas.

In later years he paid tribute to the United States Coast Guard team that rescued them.

As well as the Rosemont, Mr Cooper ran the J Cyril Cooper Commission Agency and his own construction contracting business.

He received the Queen's Certificate and Badge of Honour in 1993.

The Coopers were prominent donors to “most of the charities in Bermuda over the years,” Mrs Cooper added.

Their granddaughter Jessica Lewis represented the Island at the Paralympic Games, and the couple were strong supporters of the WindReach Foundation.

Mr Cooper, who died on May 22, will be remembered at a June 6 service in Hamilton's Anglican Cathedral where he served as a Bishop's Warden and directed the restoration of stonework.

At his request, attendants to the 4pm service are asked to give donations to the charities Friends of Hospice and the Bermuda Sloop Foundation.

Hotelier: Cyril (Hooks) Cooper was the founder of Hamilton's Rosemont Hotel. He has died at 81.

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Published May 30, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 30, 2014 at 12:17 am)

‘Bigger than life’ hotelier Hooks Cooper dies at 81

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