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Concert plays role in death of teacher

The St. Petersburg man had complications from heat exhaustion suffered at Woodstock '99, New York police say.

A popular special education teacher from St. Petersburg has died in a hospital in New York state after attending the Woodstock '99 concert.

Frank Wayne Cooper, 31, who worked with learning disabled children at Bay Point Middle School for six years, died Saturday at St. Luke Hospital in New Hartford, N.Y., apparently of complications from heat exhaustion suffered at the concert, according to New York state police Capt. John Wood.

Wood said the official cause of death was hypothermia and diabetes.

For the first time in years, Cooper did not work the summer school schedule this year, choosing instead to spend his time off from school traveling and visiting friends.

"He planned on doing a lot of exciting things this summer," said Dorian Ulrich, a teaching assistant at Bay Point Middle who worked with Cooper. "He had a lot of friends all over the country and all over the world."

Cooper's friends recalled him Tuesday as a brilliant man who could have done just about anything, but who chose a job where he could make a difference with children.

"He really changed a lot of little lives," Ulrich said.

Fellow teacher Dorothy Slone, who taught in a classroom next to Cooper's class, said she and Cooper were planning to work closely together this school year, as they taught many of the same seventh- and eighth-graders with learning problems.

"I was really looking forward to this year," said Slone, who has taught two years at Bay Point Middle. "He was like a mentor."

Ulrich recalled that when she last spoke with Cooper, on the last day of school, she told him to do two things.

"I told him he should write a book _ he was so full of ideas and so brilliant," she recalled. And she told him to take care of himself.

Cooper was born in North Miami Beach and moved to St. Petersburg from Bradenton where his parents still live. He was a Catholic.

He is survived by his parents, Frank and Nancy Cooper of Bradenton; two sisters, Sondra Cooper of St. Petersburg and Debra Hartrum of Gastonia, N.C.; a half brother and two half sisters.

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.