CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Corpus Christi entrepreneur, educator, and activist Evelyn Cooper had a big personality, but those closest to her say that perhaps the largest part of her was her heart.
"Our mom was the most selfless woman that we've ever known," said Sean Dunson. "I mean, she would drop anything, you know, at a dime to help people."
Thea Cain knew Cooper for 30 years, but to her she was so much more than just a store owner.
"Many people remember Evelyn as being the owner of 'Lott's of Art' and when she had her business at Sunrise Mall," she said. "She was like my second mother. When my mom passed -- always there for me, always my confidant."
Cooper died in September 2022, but the mark she left on Corpus Christi's Black community lives on.
"We just wanted to highlight accomplishments of African Americans. Not only historically, but also right here in our community," Cooper said in an interview with 3NEWS before her death.
Cooper's loved ones said she never missed an opportunity to minister or educate.
For her, Black History Month wasn't a monthlong event -- it was celebrated year-round. And Lott's of Art wasn't just a store -- it was a cultural center, with activities and events that celebrated Black culture.
It was an education that started at home, and those most heavily influenced by Cooper were also her biggest supporters: The men who simply knew her as "mom."
Sean and John Dunson talked to 3NEWS recently about their mother, allowing us to know her through their eyes.
"Her life was a life of service and that's what she really loved," John said.
Cooper's influence in the community precedes her, because when she started her businesses, there wasn't a lot of retail that catered to the Black community.
"When she left Corpus, she had a mission to get back," Sean said. "She loved the African and African-American experience, and she wanted to share that with, you know, the community of Corpus Christi and the surrounding areas as well."
Cooper's career began at IBM in the 1970's. No matter where her career took her, Corpus Christi was her home.
"She first was in Detroit, Houston, and Dallas, as well as other parts of the state," Sean said.
Cooper climbed the corporate ladder, but never lost sight of her love for finding items that celebrated Black culture and history.
"When me and my brother grew up, we moved to L.A.," Sean said. "We can remember: She made frequent trips to Los Angeles to not only visit us, but really her main motivation was to go shopping for her store."
In addition to being a collector of Afro-centric attire and artifacts, the fashion-forward Cooper also loved serving her community.
"She really wanted to have the Black community in Corpus be served and be felt," said her son Sean Dunson.
Her store and activism were only two of her ministries, with music being one of the most important to her, and passion she shared with her sons and her church family at St. John Baptist Church, her home-away-from-home, according to her son Sean.
"Number one, she loved the lord," John said. "Number two, she loved her family. Number three, she loved her church community at St. John."
To honor their mother's commitment to all of the things she loved, Sean and John are creating a gospel album that they are dedicating to the most talented musician they know: their mother.
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