Melba Scott Cooke, 74, a teacher in Philadelphia schools for 40 years, died from complications of pancreatic cancer Dec. 10 at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Mrs. Cooke was born and raised in Philadelphia. She graduated in 1953 from West Philadelphia High School and in 1957 from Cheyney State University with a bachelor's degree in elementary education.

Mrs. Cooke retired in 1994 after a long career at Walton School in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city, and at Moore School in Northeast Philadelphia. She taught all elementary grades, and also children with special needs.

"She was loved by her students," her family said, "and always encouraged them that where they started out in life did not determine how far they could go."

Mrs. Cooke met Ashley Cooke Sr. in college. They married in 1957. He died in 2000 of renal failure.

Mrs. Cooke played bridge for more than 35 years, and was a member of the American and National Bridge Associations.

She was a member of the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church and served on the Comfort Choir, singing at funerals to support the families of deceased church members. The choir is expected to sing at her funeral, the family said.

Mrs. Cooke loved excursions, and was a member of the Red Hat Society, an international women's group that celebrates being middle-aged and older.

Surviving are a son, Kevin Sr.; three brothers; four grandchildren; and one great-grandson. Another son, Ashley Jr., died in 2004.

Friends may call from 8 to 10 a.m. tomorrow at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, where a funeral service is at 10. Donations in her name may be made to the Cooke Family Scholarship Fund in care of the church, 230 W. Coulter St., Philadelphia 19144.