Sometimes a bug hits a person. I’m not talking about the flu, but something equally as nauseating: me on a stage. That was where I found myself in the fall of 2011. It was just a mild case of the acting bug so I signed up for a drama class at Raleigh Little Theatre.
I spent Sunday evenings in that class with 13 other students, including my sister. Some were in college. There was one mother-daughter pair. And there was a witty gal named Kristin. I knew she was from Oklahoma. I knew she was an attorney, and a mother.
And somewhere between stage direction and tongue twister lessons, I learned she could laugh at herself, genuinely compliment others and self-deprecate with the best. It wasn’t until the end-of-class program, though, that I realized she was married to Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s [then] attorney general. She never mentioned it, but anyone who had ever picked up a newspaper would have recognized him in the audience.
After the show, we all said our goodbyes. I ran into Kristin a couple of times over the years – always at a show. Kristin often volunteered at the theater assisting backstage and with costumes. But last year, worlds intersected again when I volunteered to help put on the N.C. Governor’s Inaugural Ball with the Junior League of Raleigh, which has hosted it since 1933. Kristin, now North Carolina’s first lady, would be the star of that “show.” Every time I went to an Inaugural Ball meeting, I thought about the personable lady I’d met five years earlier.
Right before Christmas, Kristin invited me to her ball gown fitting and I felt like a kid getting to open presents early. Fashion and the first lady? I was in. I laughed when the designer asked her what bracelet she’d be wearing and she replied, “Not my Fitbit?”
There it was that off-the-cuff wit from a lady who might just surprise you. Here are a few other things you probably don’t know about North Carolina’s First Lady.
She’s no stranger to playbills.
Over the years, Cooper found her place on stage in North Carolina’s community theaters. She and all three of her daughters—Hilary, Natalie and Claire—starred together in a performance of “Camelot” in Rocky Mount. In Raleigh, she and Claire took the stage as Mrs. Frank and Anne Frank in “The Diary of Anne Frank” play. And the Cooper ladies worked together on “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” in the roles of mother and children.
She’s part of a knitting circle.
You may find Cooper at a craft store picking up yarn and needles. Knitting is a top hobby. She could make a scarf, sure. But her knitting prowess goes beyond to projects such as sweaters (with pockets) and hats. “Knitting makes me feel close to my great-grandmother, who was a master knitter, crocheter, and quilter,” Cooper says. “I like to knit projects that are a little too hard for me. I enjoy the challenge.”
Friend Greg Moore, who calls himself a knitting novice, enjoys the challenge with her. Moore is part of a knitting circle that Cooper leads. During the last two months he’s made three scarves and learned how to make the purl stitch. “I am not a good student, but she’s a good teacher,” he laughs. “She’s so patient and one of the dearest friends.”
She has a soft spot for paws.
Cooper has a big heart for cats and dogs. Her cats Adelaide and Alexei and dog, Chloe, are rescues who have found their way to the mansion on Blount Street. They’re part of a new Facebook page, First Pets of North Carolina, where you’ll also find photos of her daughter Hilary’s dog, Ben.
She’ll scoop in and help.
For over 12 years, Cooper, an attorney who graduated from Campbell Law School, used her legal training to represent foster children in court as a volunteer guardian ad litem. She also served two terms on the North Carolina Arts Council, working to support arts organizations across the state. She served on the board at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, and is in her second term on the board at Raleigh Little Theatre.
“Kristin is so dedicated and genuine. The thing about her is that she just wants to help,” says Charles Phaneuf, Raleigh Little Theatre’s Executive Director. “She’s great in the board room with strategy and big picture thinking. She’s helped with ticket taking and backstage [tasks] … and she’s even scooped ice cream at a donor event.”