The Real-Life Inspiration For The Gerber Baby Has Died

Ann Turner Cook was a retired English teacher and mystery novelist. And although her name may not be well-known to the general population, her face most certainly is — at least from when she was an infant. That's because Cook was the first-ever Gerber Baby. Her illustrated portrait — complete with innocent, twinkling eyes, rosy cheeks, puckered lips, and slightly unkempt hair — is among one of the most distinguishable logos around the world.

Nearly a century ago in 1928, the world heard the pitter-patter of an ad campaign in its infancy. Gerber sought the right face for the job — one that would be instantly recognizable and become embedded in people's minds for years to come. The baby food company hosted a nationwide contest. The winning participant was artist Dorothy Hope Smith, who just so happened to have the Turner family as neighbors. Smith submitted a charcoal sketch of the sweet 5-month-old tot who still appears on all Gerber packaging today, per NPR. Sadly, Cook, who lived in Florida, passed away at her St. Petersburg home on Friday, June 3, The New York Times reports.

Ann Turner Cook didn't seek out fame

Ann Turner Cook was born in Connecticut in 1926 and grew up in Orlando and Tampa. At a young age, Cook learned from her mother that she was indeed the baby whose face was a trademark of Gerber products. During a 1998 interview with The Associated Press, Cook said, "If you're going to be a symbol for something, what could be more pleasant than a symbol for baby food?" Regarding the timeless illustration that has attracted consumers for decades, she added, "All babies are appealing. The reason that drawing has been so popular is the artist captured the appeal that all babies have."

Cook told Oprah Winfrey Network in 2015 that she kept her spokesbaby identity a secret when she attended college, as she believed it would be too "self-promoting" to flaunt the fact. She also viewed her stardom as Dorothy Hope Smith's achievement. "[Smith] captured an image of a happy, healthy baby, and I think that's exactly what all mothers hope that their babies will be."

The Gerber brand announced Cook's death on social media with a heartfelt tribute: "Many years before becoming an extraordinary mother, teacher, and writer, her smile and expressive curiosity captured hearts everywhere and will continue to live on as a symbol for all babies," the caption reads. "We extend our deepest sympathies to Ann's family and to anyone who had the pleasure of knowing her." Rest in peace, Ms. Cook.