Gloria Vanderbilt Dead at 95: Read Anderson Cooper's Tribute to His "Extraordinary" Mom

"She died this morning, the way she wanted to—at home, surrounded by family and friends," the journalist said in a statement

By Jamie Blynn Jun 17, 2019 2:50 PMTags
Anderson Cooper, Gloria Vanderbilt Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Anderson Cooper is remembering his mom Gloria Vanderbilt's everlasting legacy.

The artist, author, actress and fashion icon passed away today from stomach cancer. She was 95.

"Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms," Anderson, 52, said in a statement. "She was a painter, a writer, and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife, and friend. She was 95 years old, but ask anyone close to her, and they'd tell you, she was the youngest person they knew, the coolest, and most modern. She died this morning, the way she wanted to—at home, surrounded by family and friends."

The journalist went on to pay homage to his mom during CNN's Newsroom With Poppy. "Gloria Vanderbilt, my mom, lived her entire life in the public eye," he began. "Born in 1924, her father Reginald Vanderbilt was heir to the Vanderbilt railroad fortune but gambled away most of his inheritance and died when my mom was just a baby. Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, her mother, wasn't ready to be a mom or a widow. My mom grew up in France not knowing anything about the Vanderbilt family or the money that she would inherit when she turned 21. She had no idea the trouble that money would create."

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At age 10, he explained, Gloria's aunt sued to take his mom away from her own mother. The custody battle, at the height of the Great Depression, caused headlines. In the end, she was handed over to her Aunt Gertrude. 

"As a teenager she tried to avoid the spotlight but reporters and cameramen would follow her everywhere," Anderson stated. "She was determined to make something of her life. Determined to make a name for herself and find the love and family that she so desperately craved."

At 17, she married her first husband. After a decade, they split and she married Sidney Lument then Anderson's father Wyatt Emory Cooper

"If you were around in the early 1980s, it was pretty hard to miss the jeans she helped create, but that was her public face, the one she learned to hide behind as a child," he continued. "Her private self, her real self was more fascinating and more lovely than anything she showed the public. I always thought of her as a visitor from another world. A traveler stranded here who had come from a distant star that burned out long ago. I always felt it was my job to try to protect her. She was the strongest person I've ever met but she wasn't ever tough, she never developed a thick skin to protect herself from hurt. She wanted to feel it all. She wanted to feel life's pleasures, its pains as well. She trusted too freely, too completely and suffered tremendous losses, but she always pressed on, always worked hard, always believed the best was yet to come."

And, as Anderson said, she was always in love, whether it be with men, friends, books, art or her family. 

"Love is what she believed in more than anything," he added. "Earlier this month we had to take her to the hospital. That's where she learned she had very advanced cancer in her stomach and that it had spread. When the doctor told her she had cancer, she was silent for a while and then she said, 'Well, it's like that old song, show me the way to get out of this world because that's where everything is.' Later, she made a joke and we started giggling. I never knew we had the exact same giggle. I recorded it and it makes me giggle every time I watch it."

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Anderson went on to quote writer Joseph Conrad, who said, "We live as we die. Alone." But that's not the case for Gloria. 

"I know she hoped for a little more time, a few days or weeks at least," he said. "There were paintings she wanted to make, more books she wanted to read, more dreams to dream, but she was ready. She was ready to go...She was surrounded by beauty and by family and by friends. The last few weeks every time I kissed her goodbye, I'd say, 'I love you, mom.' She would look at me and say, 'I love you, too. You know that.'"

"And she was right," he concluded. "I did know that. I knew it from the moment I was born and I'll know it for the rest of my life. And in the end, what greater gift can a mother give to her son. Gloria Vanderbilt was 95 years when she died...What an extraordinary mom. What an incredible woman."

Sending our thoughts to Gloria's family during this difficult time.