Carol Cooling-Kopp, director of special events for Channel 5, dead at 56
BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL Staff Reporter November 7, 2013 7:40AM
Carol Cooling-Kopp, director of special events for WMAQ-Channel 5, died of lung cancer on Oct. 30. She was 56.
Updated: December 9, 2013 10:41AM
To capture the strain, blisters and triumph at the Chicago Marathon, Carol Cooling-Kopp knew all the best spots to station TV cameras on the 26.2-mile route.
Sensing which cars were going to make hearts go vroom at the Chicago Auto Show, she coordinated broadcast specials on its most intoxicating models.
As director of special events for Chicago’s WMAQ-Channel 5, she forged strong ties with charities, philanthropists, sponsors and sports teams, collaborating on memorable benefits.
A grateful Bill Murray and his siblings sent flowers to her funeral service. They had worked with Mrs. Cooling-Kopp on golf fund-raisers, said former NBC executive Larry Wert, president of broadcast media for the Tribune Company. “She was really the heart and soul of all the relationships,” said Wert.
Hyper-competent and unflagging in energy, she also was a nurturing presence at Channel 5, said Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin, political editor for the station and an interviewer on WTTW-Channel 11’s “Chicago Tonight.”
“She was a mother, a sister, a girl-next-door,” Marin said. “She’d been the homecoming queen in college, but she would be the homecoming queen who would also be Miss Congeniality.”
Mrs. Cooling-Kopp, 56, died Oct. 30 of lung cancer at her Arlington Heights home.
If something went wrong, or someone was grousing or blaming somebody else, “She would inspire me to take the higher [road]. She would say ‘Let’s forget that person said that or did that, and let’s figure out how to get through this and make it better,’ ” said Jan Golden, vice president of broadcast operations and technology at Channel 5.
At her wake last Sunday, every strata of Channel 5 was represented, from mailroom workers to top-level executives and retirees who hadn’t been in the newsroom for years.
She was born in South Bend, Ind., and graduated from Hersey High School in Arlington Heights. While attending Western Illinois University, she worked as a White House press intern. She watched UPI’s Helen Thomas and hard-charging ABC newsman Sam Donaldson joust with White House officials. She joined Chicago’s WMAQ-TV in the early 1980s.
She worked on about 15 broadcasts on the Chicago Auto Show and about eight on the marathon, Wert said. She oversaw a dizzying number of duties on those specials, from shooting to producing to promoting them. Channel 5 staffers said they lost track of the number of Emmys she collected, but the marathon shows won 10, and the Auto Show won four.
In 2014, she will be posthumously inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
“I always called her ‘The Closer’ because she was always the one who did all the details for every department,” Golden said. “We would literally work on the marathon for six months, coordinating with NBC and Bank of America folks [on] literally the number of cameras, the budget, what would it look like, who would come and sing the national anthem. She was that liaison for all of it.”
Last month, even as her health declined, “She was still working with her iPad and Blackberry from her hospital bed, coordinating coverage of the marathon,” Channel 5 anchor Allison Rosati said.
Mrs. Cooling-Kopp took care of details great and small, according to Rosati and Marin, from supplying tired staffers with coffee to locating satellite trucks.
Outgoing and optimistic, she was the kind of person who’d walk across a room and introduce herself to strangers. Soon, she’d know how many kids they had.
If somebody complained about it being overcast, she’d say, “ ‘On a cloudy day, you don’t have to squint,’ ” said her brother, Jim Cooling.
She used to coordinate a big family reunion and Fourth of July party in Arlington Heights. She also loved to eat at Bob Chinn’s restaurant.
She always had a Starbucks coffee and her BlackBerry in hand. Her husband of 24 years, Channel 5 broadcast engineer Chip Kopp, tucked her BlackBerry and a Starbucks cup into her casket. The funeral home received about 100 floral arrangements from Mike Ditka, the Bears, the White Sox, the FBI, veterans’ groups and Bank of America, her brother said. When Rosati walked in to the station on Wednesday, she saw that co-workers had decorated Mrs. Cooling-Kopp’s parking space with flowers and a rubber ducky from the Special Olympics Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby.
Other survivors include sisters Judy Kuhlmann and Kim Roberts; another brother, Tom Cooling; and 12 nieces and nephews.
After saying her goodbyes and thanks at the hospital, she arranged to come home to die. Wert called it an ending that was — like everything else she did —“perfectly produced.”