Liberia: Florence Irene Cooper David: 103 Years of Life

The late Florence Irene Cooper David.

.. From humble beginnings to the world stage

The David and Cooper families announce with profound sadness the passing of their matriarch, Florence Irene Cooper David. This sad event occurred on Friday, October 29th, 2021 in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA. She was 103 years old. 

Florence Irene Cooper was born on Sunday, August 4th, 1918 in Plunkor, Monrovia.  She was the first of seven children of her father, Charles Edward Cooper.  Her mother was Jassa Ndui Sangbah.  From a very young age, Irene was raised by her paternal grandmother, Florence Irene Wiles.  Following her grandmother’s death when she was five, she lived with her aunt, Magdalene Cooper (Dennis), Liberia’s first professionally trained midwife.  A product of the Trinity Parish School (TPS), Irene (as she was known for most of her life) matriculated at Bromley School in Clay Ashland and completed the 8th grade.  She later attended the College of West Africa (CWA) in Monrovia. 

In 1937, Irene caught the eye of Wilmot Adolphus David, son of Associate Justice Isaac A. David Sr. of Cape Mount, at the First United Methodist Church on Ashmun Street in Monrovia.  They courted for a few years until their marriage on May 14th 1941. A prominent Liberian newspaper billed it as “The Wedding of the Month”.  

A few years after their wedding, as World War II raged in Europe, Wilmot, a foreign service officer at the Liberian State Department (now Ministry of Foreign Affairs) received his first overseas appointment as Consul General to Liverpool, England. Diplomatic service for Wilmot marked the beginning of Irene’s journey which would take her far from home.  

As a wife of a Liberian diplomat, Irene travelled extensively with Wilmot’s assignments. Irene accompanied Wilmot from Liverpool to London where her husband was appointed First Secretary at the Liberian Embassy in 1948.  The family was next transferred to the United States where Wilmot served as Counsellor of the Liberian Embassy in Washington D.C. from 1952 to 1956.  In 1956, Irene moved to Rome, Italy where Wilmot was appointed as Minister Plenipotentiary.  Haiti was next on the agenda, where Wilmot was accredited as the first Liberian Ambassador to that country in 1956.  Irene was now an ambassadress. In 1957, the family moved to Accra, Ghana when Wilmot was appointed Liberia’s first ambassador to that country.  Then, from 1960-1964, Wilmot worked as Under Secretary of State at the State Department in Monrovia. Thereafter, Wilmot served as Liberian ambassador to France (1964-1969), Italy (1969-1976) and Guinea (1976-1979). 

As wife of a diplomat, Irene met several heads of states and foreign dignitaries including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Prince Phillip, Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Charles De Gaulle of France and Pope John XXIII, among others. 

As the wife of an ambassador, Irene did what she loved best: entertained. Irene was truly a hostess par excellence whether entertaining five or two hundred. Wherever they were assigned, she and Wilmot made sure to invite Liberian students to the Embassy to enjoy a taste of Liberian food. To this day, many of those students have never forgotten this kind act of hospitality.

Irene and Wilmot were blessed with 4 children: Cietta David Mensah, renowned Liberian artist, Vera David Duche, who worked for the United Nations in Monrovia and New York for many years, Wilmot David II (deceased), long time employee of Boeing Company in California and former Air Liberia pilot, Dr. Soniia (Magdalene) David, an internationally known rural sociologist; and stepchildren, Edward David (deceased), former mayor of Monrovia, and Mildred David Kla-Williams.  

Irene left Liberia at the start of the civil war in 1990 and moved with Wilmot to the United States from Las Palmas in 1997 to be closer to family. Wilmot died on July 26, 2005 at the age of 93. Irene continued to live in Gaithersburg, Maryland surrounded by her children and other family members until her passing on October 29th, 2021. 

She is survived by her loving children: Cietta David Mensah, Vera David Duche, Dr. Soniia (Magdalene) David; step-daughter, Mildred David Kla-Williams; sons-in-law: Raynold K. Mensah, Nakomo Duche, J. Saba Kla-Williams II; sister, Anna Cooper Harris; cousin, James Kiawu; sisters-in-law, Rose David and Antoinette Cooper; grandchildren Raynold W. Mensah (Tawana), James Mensah (Fata Antoinette), AmiCietta Duche Clarke (Spencer K. Clarke II), Konah Duche (Soundia), Wokie David, 10 great grandchildren and a host of other relatives and friends in the United States and Liberia.