Laurel Haag Cooper, 66, who retired in 2003 as purchases manager for the City of Philadelphia, died of esophageal cancer on Wednesday, Feb. 16, at her home in West Mount Airy.

Mrs. Cooper graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College in 1966 and worked as a bookbinder at the Lippincott Library of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

After she joined the Philadelphia Procurement Department in 1967, Tony, her husband of 45 years, wrote in biographical notes, "she trained several [future] Procurement Department commissioners."

Among the projects on which she worked, he wrote, "were the purchase of the first bulletproof vests for the Police Department, the purchase of the first 'Fairmount Park Trolleys' and the purchase of the original (tungsten) lights outlining the houses on Boathouse Row."

She also helped protect a significant political figure from embarrassment.

Soon after Ed Rendell became mayor, Mrs. Cooper ordered the backseat of his City Hall car coated with a stain-resistant spray.

The cheesesteaks that Rendell ate there, her husband said, were known to leak.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mrs. Cooper was a church organist. She had no religion but played for several denominations.

Early in her musical career, her husband recalled in a phone interview, she had trouble with organ pedals.

Then, her husband said, "she had an epiphany.

"She had not played for quite a while," he said, "but one summer she went back to the church and sat down to practice, and it just came to her."

All because it was summer, and she was playing the pedals barefoot - which she continued to do, no matter how chilly the organ lofts.

She traveled far, he said.

"After discovering the joy of warm-water diving," her husband wrote, "she extended her range from many parts of the Caribbean to the exotic [waters] of Papua New Guinea."

Her husband is her only survivor.

A memorial is planned for an undetermined date and site in June.

Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or