William Gordon Cooling, who led a long and distinguished career in international business, died Wednesday, July 22, at Stamford Hospital after a prolonged illness. He was 71.

In the world of international consumer products, Mr. Cooling was known as a smart, thoughtful leader, trusted by employees, colleagues and even competitors. Those that knew Bill would agree that he was a man of great integrity, leadership, intellect, charm and above all, a man who maintained unwavering loyalty to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Mr. Cooling retired in 2003 as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the publicly listed Panamerican Beverages (now Coca-Cola FEMSA), the largest soft drink bottler in Latin America and the largest international bottler of The Coca-Cola Company. Miami-based Panamco employed over 40,000 people across a wide range of countries including Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. Mr. Cooling originally joined the Panamco board of directors in 1994 and took on additional roles at the company in 2000.

Prior to Panamco, Mr. Cooling was a long serving executive at the Colgate-Palmolive Company, where he eventually rose to be Senior Executive Vice President, Chief of Operations for Specialty Marketing and International Business Development. A well-known financial operator, he helped shape Colgate's strategic vision over several decades as the company expanded across the globe. By the time of his retirement, he’d personally visited some 110 countries (though after many years of travel it was hard to keep track).

At various points during his long career at Colgate, Mr. Cooling worked in almost every division and global region, including time as Head of Finance, CTO, Head of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, director of the Paris-based Global Export function, and head of corporate real estate and facilities. Prior to joining Colgate, Mr. Cooling was vice president of finance of the Huston Company, a Canadian manufacturer and marketer of consumer goods, which became part of the Colgate group of companies in 1973.

Mr. Cooling was also a former partner of Atlantic Capital Partners and Managing Member of Diversified Investment Management.

A lifelong love of the water kept Bill near the waterfront as much as possible. He loved spending time along Five Mile River in Darien, or near the water wherever he traveled.

Mr. Cooling was an enthusiastic supporter of local Darien causes, a past member of the Metropolitan Club of New York City, the Wee Burn Country Club and Tokeneke Club of Darien, and an active member of the Noroton Presbyterian Church of Darien.

Bill was born in Campbellton, New Brunswick, and was the son of Albert Gordon Cooling and Margaret Ann MacCurdy Cooling.  He is survived by his close former wife, Anne  Cooling, and his children, William Jr (Billy), Andrew, Sarah and Melissa, and by his grandson, Quinn Gallagher.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 25, at the Noroton Presbyterian Church, 2011 Post Road, Darien, at 10:30 AM.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Stamford Hospital Foundation, 1351 Washington Blvd, Suite 202, Stamford, CT 06902. www.lawrencefuneralhome.com