All of us who knew Andrea Cooper, one of Venice’s biggest boosters and volunteers, are mourning her sudden death yesterday. I don’t know the details yet, but she died at home. Andrea worked at Venice MainStreet as former executive director Kat Quast’s right-hand woman, but that was only her paying job. Over the years, she had leadership roles in Sertoma, the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce, ran numerous fund raisers, and still had time to organize a just-for-fun group I belong to–the Ladies Who Lunch.

Andrea was a presence at most community celebrations and fund raisers. Catching up on email after a quick trip to South Beach, I had just finished reading an email from Cooper on Monday, prodding all of us Lady Lunchers to RSVP to this weekend’s gathering, when a Facebook notification from Councilmember Jeanette Gates popped up on the screen about her death.

“We’re all devastated,” said Gates, a good friend who Cooper helped on her campaign for office. Gates was at a Chamber meeting when I reached her by phone this morning. “We just wrapped up a prayer for Andrea. She was such a strong presence in the community; she was active in everything.”

Gates says Andrea was supposed to have open-heart surgery. She did not have children or much living family. Her husband, Steve, died years ago. No details yet on services.

On Facebook, community leaders and Andrea’s long list of friends are mourning and celebrating her.

“Andrea always spoke her mind and loved truly and deeply,” Quast wrote. “A beautiful forceful light went out. I was blessed to have her in my life and devastated by the loss.”

I will cherish the last Ladies Who Lunch message from Andrea, prodding us laggards to RSVP for Saturday’s lunch.

“Wear something for your favorite team ... it doesn't have to be NFL,” Cooper wrote. “We are off to a fun place with awesome burgers.”

We hope you are in that place now, dear Andrea.

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