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65-year-old had that cute little Gerber face

Published Jul. 28, 1992|Updated Oct. 11, 2005

You might not recognize 65-year-old Ann Turner Cook.

But her 1928 baby portrait is one of the best known trademarks in the world.

Cook is the Gerber baby.

Today Cook lives in Temple Terrace, where she is enjoying her retirement from teaching and trying to launch a new career as a mystery novelist.

She is modest about her early fame, insisting it was a combination of luck and the artistic talents of New England artist Dorothy Hope Smith.

As Cook tells the story, Smith submitted a pencil sketch, copied from Cook's baby picture, to Gerber Products Co. back when the business was scouting for a trademark. It uses that same 1928 portrait today on its baby food.

"I have to credit Dorothy with everything," said Cook, who was a baby model for Smith back in Westport, Conn. "I was really no cuter than any other baby, but she had wonderful artistic talent and was able to draw a very appealing likeness."

There is a frequent rumor about the Gerber trademark: The model is often thought to be Humphrey Bogart.

"Humphrey Bogart's mother was an artist, who often used him as a model when he was a baby," Cook said. "The rumor started when a trivia show erroneously stated the Gerber baby was Bogart. The rumor still pops up today."

In 1978, Cook traveled to Gerber's headquarters in Fremont, Mich., to participate in the company's 50th anniversary celebration.

"I have no official connection with the company, but we do keep in contact," said Cook, who has been assured that the trademark will always be used. "I posed with an enlargement of the original sketch at the anniversary."

But there was a time when Cook wasn't as willing to talk about the picture.

"When I was a young teacher at Hillsborough High School, I never told anyone about it," she said. "I thought the students might make fun of it. But as I matured, I became more comfortable with the idea. Actually when the students found out, they were very interested."

Cook receives no royalties from the trademark, but was given a one-time fee in 1951.

"I was given $5,000, which now doesn't sound like much. But in 1951, with my husband returning from World War II, it was a large amount," she said. "It was enough for us to make a down payment on a modest house and to purchase a car _ something we had never had."

Cook was an English teacher in Florida schools for 25 years before retiring two years ago.

"I absolutely loved teaching and being with the youth, but I have also always wanted to write," said Cook. "As an English teacher I just didn't have the time to write. Now that I have retired, I am writing murder mysteries. I have one placed with a literary agent that we hope to get published and have just finished my second novel. I hope to sell that soon also."

Cook also spends her time visiting her four grown children and eight grandchildren.

Her husband, Frank Cook, retired two years ago from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. They travel to Virginia and Maryland to see two of their daughters. A son lives in St. Petersburg, and another daughter lives in Tampa.

"The important things in my life now are my children and grandchildren and having time to write," Cook said.

"It has been fun being involved with Gerber, it's always a good conversation topic. I still get autograph requests that customers send to Gerber. I'm always happy to comply."

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