Ruskin King Cooper, born Sept. 28, 1957 died Wednesday, July 18, 2012. He was 54. Ruskin collapsed on Thursday July 12, and never regained consciousness. He passed quietly surrounded by his loving family and is already missed beyond measure.
Ruskin lived a life so full that it is hard to know where to begin to list the highlights. His love for music began before he could speak. By the age of four he could sing several songs in perfect tempo and pitch. He would tap on an old pump organ pumping with one foot and so began his passion for keyed instruments.
Under the tutelage of his maternal grandmother the late Mrs. Ruskin (Mary Justice) King, wife of Dr. Ruskin King, he began to learn the fundamentals of musical notation. Not long thereafter he began piano lessons with Jocelyn Sack Reiter his next-door neighbor and life-long friend. The late Dorothy Neidlinger Murray took over his musical instruction through his teens.
Ruskin attended grade and high school at Savannah Country Day, where his mother Emmeline King Cooper was a teacher. He graduated in 1975, but stayed in contact with his 11th-grade English teacher Beulah (Harper) Nettles and would often invoke her name in discussions of grammar and usage. He studied French and over the years became fluent in five languages. He often practiced his language skills while driving.
He studied piano with James Ambrose at Armstrong State College for a year. He left Savannah in 1976 for Oberlin College in Ohio and never really lived in Savannah again. He studied piano there with Lydia Frumkin and graduated with a degree in music. Friendships that he formed there lasted throughout his life. His classmate, Karen Schwartz, was then and remained one of his best friends and confidantes.
His educational path took him to the University of South Florida where he earned his Master of Music with Jacques Abram as his advisor. He applied for and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Germany. He spent a number of years in Bad Homburg near Frankfort. He flourished there and would visit beloved friends often throughout his life. He loved Germany and harbored a personal dream of opening a soul food restaurant in Berlin. The main obstacle was how to get collard greens delivered to Berlin from the United States.
In 1985 he settled in Winston-Salem, N.C. Hedda Boker his beloved patroness and friend followed him to the U.S. to establish residency here. They settled in houses next door to one another in Winston-Salem.
Ruskin pursued and earned his Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro under John Salmon. His paper on Robert Schumann’s friend Ludwig Schunke was awarded the Outstanding Dissertation Award at UNC-Greensboro in 1995. He was staff pianist at North Carolina School of the Arts from 1985-1991; assistant professor of piano at Salem College from 1997-2001; and artist associate at Davidson College from 1997 on.
Ruskin met William Scott Carpenter in 1991 and they began a life together. They were married in a private ceremony in Connecticut in 2011.
Ruskin was a loyal and true friend. He was an avid cyclist and student of bridge, all the arts and literature and cooking, ask anyone about his nanner pudding or greens. Ruskin and Scott loved their dog Micho, and cats Sammy, Petie, and Ziv.
Ruskin gave generously of his time and resources to numerous causes. He raised many thousands of dollars for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the name of his mother, Mary Emmeline King Cooper, who died in 2007 from complications of this often-misunderstood disease.
He is survived by his husband, Scott of Winston-Salem, N.C.; father, Robert Scotland Cooper, Sr. of Savannah, Ga.; his brothers, Robert Scotland Cooper, Jr., and Graham Patteson Weisiger Cooper (Lisa); his nieces, Valerie Emmeline Cooper, Hedda Eugenie King Cooper, and nephews Benjamin King Cooper, Samuel Mallard Cooper, and a host of friends that he treated like blood kin.
His family members extend their heartfelt gratitude to the staff at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Doctors Alvarez, Butler, Stacey, Sarwal, Miles, and others treated Ruskin with great gentleness and genuine concern. They also thank the nursing staff in the Cardiac Care Unit including Jeremy, Jason, Jessica, Gabby, Amanda, Laura, Heather and Dee. They especially thank Chaplain William Pegues for his pastoral care.
Remembrances may be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Society in his name or in the name of Emmeline King Cooper. A memorial service will be held Saturday, July 28, at 11 a.m. at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church, 1008 Henry Street, Savannah, GA, 31401.