Mary Lee Lambert Cooper died August 5, 2020 at age 94.

She was born in 1926 to James Isaac and Mary Cox Lambert in Ramseur, North Carolina. She graduated from Woman’s College in Greensboro and worked for many years as an Administrative Assistant in the School of Business at UNC-Chapel Hill.

She married Leland Cooper in 1956 and they lived in Chapel Hill, Boone and Florida before returning to Boone in 1966. She and Leland retired to Ashe County, NC and she moved to the Tryon Estates retirement community in Columbus, NC in 2010.

Mary Lee loved the mountains of North Carolina, which she called home for more than sixty years. In Boone, she was active in the League of Women Voters and the Methodist church and worked at the historical outdoor drama Horn in the West. She also enjoyed collecting North Carolina pottery, knitting and reading.

When Leland retired from Appalachian State University in 1991, they renovated a nineteenth-century farmhouse in the Pond Mountain community of Ashe County, and formed lasting relationships with many neighbors. Their talks and interviews with community members led to writing two oral history books published by McFarland Press of Jefferson, The Pond Mountain Chronicle and The People of the New River.

Wherever she lived, she held and shared a love for nature (especially wildflowers and birds), and cherished the relationships of family and friends. On moving to Tryon Estates, Mary Lee’s outgoing spirit and zest for life were nurtured by many new friendships with residents and staff, and she served multiple terms as Secretary for the Residents’ Association.

She is survived by her daughter, Cathy Cooper and partner Robin Buhrke; son, L. Ross Cooper, wife Amber and grandson, Liam, and sister-in-law Marian Cooper Bryan, husband Bill and children Paige, Erin, W. Ross and their families. A virtual memorial service will be held in Columbus, NC.

Mary Lee always treasured times of conversation with family and friends. Tributes to her memory may be made by looking at nature with a loving and appreciative eye, by being a listening as well as a speaking voice in conversations with every person encountered in life, by actively participating in local and national political processes and striving for all citizens to take part in that voice, and by giving as you are able to the charity of your choice.

Condolences may be left at

Petty Funeral Home & Crematory

Landrum, SC

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