Former SF supe aide Tom Cooper dies in New York

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday January 3, 2024
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Tom Cooper, a successful real estate agent, once worked for San Francisco supervisor Annemarie Conroy. Photo: Courtesy LinkedIn
Tom Cooper, a successful real estate agent, once worked for San Francisco supervisor Annemarie Conroy. Photo: Courtesy LinkedIn

Tom Cooper, a gay man who once worked for former San Francisco supervisor Annemarie Conroy before launching a successful real estate career in New York City, died December 26. He was 56.

Mr. Cooper apparently died by suicide after jumping to his death from his apartment building on New York City's Upper East Side, according to media reports. Those reports also stated that police said he left a note, though its contents were not made public.

Mr. Cooper had been a licensed associate real estate broker and top sales agent at the Douglas Elliman firm since about 2002. He had worked with buyers and sellers of Manhattan condominiums, coops, and townhouses, according to his LinkedIn page, and focused on luxury residential properties.

According to the Messenger, Mr. Cooper was the closing agent on an $18.5 million Greenwich Village brownstone in November.

In a January 2 phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter, Conroy said she had stayed in touch with her former aide and had recently texted him.

"He was focused, he was smart, he was kind," Conroy said. "He had tremendous wit."

Mr. Cooper had worked for Conroy during her two and a half years on the board. She had been appointed by her godfather, former mayor Frank Jordan, and served from April 6, 1992 until January 8, 1995, according to an online list of former supervisors. Conroy is now an assistant U.S. attorney.

Mr. Cooper attended community meetings on behalf of Ms. Conroy and assisted with legislative work, she said.

His death, she said, "left a huge void in a lot of people."

Conroy recalled a time when lesbian then-supervisor Roberta Achtenberg stopped by her office to share the good news that she had just been invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention. Conroy's office was a popular gathering spot because of Mr. Cooper, she recalled.

"A few people were saying, 'what are you going to say?' And Tom said, 'Forget what are you going to say. What are you going to wear?'" Conroy said.

Achtenberg, reached by phone, laughed at the story. "That's probably true," she said. "That was the thing I was most worried about as well."

Achtenberg said that she was sorry to hear the news of Mr. Cooper's passing.

"He was a completely delightful person," she said.

Mr. Cooper was an avid follower of news about the British royal family, so much so that he once joked in the City Hall press box with reporters that, as the Board of Supervisors was debating some piece of legislation, "We have two royal marriages on the rocks," Conroy said. Mr. Cooper was referring to the marriages of now-King Charles and the late Princess Diana and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, both of whom went through public separations in 1992.

Mary Lasher worked with Mr. Cooper in Conroy's office as the supervisor's other legislative aide. She recalled the bustling office as people wanted to hear Mr. Cooper's jokes.

"Department heads would call our office to hear his jokes," Lasher, now senior director of communications at SAP, said in a phone interview.

Lasher, a straight ally, said Mr. Cooper was in her wedding and her son's godfather. She, too, kept in touch with Mr. Cooper.

She recalled that Mr. Cooper had just come out as gay in the early 1990s.

"He loved being gay," she said. "He was a bon vivant — he embraced all of what life had to offer. He was brilliant.

"He had a passion and zest for life and he commanded a room," Lasher added.

She said that after Mr. Cooper left City Hall, he met with a career coach to determine his next steps and was told the real estate profession would be a good fit for him.

Bevan Dufty, a gay man and BART board president, is a former San Francisco supervisor who also had other jobs at City Hall over the years and knew Mr. Cooper.

"He had the greatest smile and personified himself as someone who could disagree without being disagreeable," Dufty wrote in a text message.

A memorial sits outside Mr. Cooper's apartment building in New York City. Photo: Courtesy Mary Lasher  

Friends 'heartbroken'
Robert Oakes, a gay man and longtime friend, said that Mr. Cooper helped him get a job at City Hall back in the 1990s. Oakes said he was heartbroken by Mr. Cooper's death.

"He was an amazing human being," Oakes said. "It reminds us that mental well-being is something we all need to be mindful of."

Oakes said he last spoke with Mr. Cooper in November. He said that Mr. Cooper had lived in New York City for decades, relocating there a few years before 9/11.

"I'm having trouble with it," Oakes said of Mr. Cooper's death. "I have intense sadness, frustration, and at times I'm so mad — like why?"

Oakes said that Mr. Cooper had been in recovery, though he did not know if that was a factor in his death. He said that he had been with Mr. Cooper during some of his "down periods."

Oakes, who just finished a project for the Bay Area Council, said that he spent some time previously working in the behavioral health field, and that he and Mr. Cooper had talked about his sobriety.

"I think I know too many people who have died by suicide," Oakes said, adding that it's long been a part of the LGBTQ community for many reasons. "We've got to do a better job as a society. That somebody with means and support thinks this [is a] permanent solution, and a violent one too."

But Oakes also recalled Mr. Cooper's "wicked sense of humor" and how he changed politically.

"When I met him he was a Republican," Oakes said. "I'm happy to say he evolved."

Mr. Cooper grew up in the East Bay, graduating from Miramonte High School in Orinda in 1985 and from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in political and social sciences in 1989, according to his LinkedIn page.

Conroy had a final thought on working with Mr. Cooper and how he detested the more informal Friday City Hall dress code.

"Tom thought casual Fridays were the decline of Western civilization," Conroy said. "He dressed to the nines every Friday. It was really funny."

Added Lasher, "The world is a little less brighter without him in it."

If you are having a crisis, call the national suicide and crisis line at 988. San Francisco Suicide Prevention's 24-hour crisis line is (415) 781-0500. Its HIV Nightline is (415) 434-2437 or 1-800-273-2437. For the 24-hour crisis text line, text (415) 200-2920. For more information, go to

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