At 5:06 am on Friday, December 4, I received a call from my mom. Her first words were: “dad’s passed away.”
Nothing quite prepares you for the news of losing a parent, and the grief that overcame our family was nothing short of an emotional punch in the gut or blow to the head. It broke our hearts. It was sudden and unexpected. We are still picking up the pieces.
Over the course of the next several minutes, I learned about the details of Papa’s death (that’s what his grandchildren call him), which happened just two hours earlier. Dad suffered from multiple ailments that have afflicted his health for many years. His body succumbed to these ailments, but he was ready to be released and God was ready to receive him. His earthly mission was completed in the comfort of his California home 73 years after it began.
This was not a COVID death.
Friday was spent contacting family and friends. Mom had given me instructions to not say anything publicly until she gave me the green light. I honored her wishes. I’d been assigned to call specific people to convey the news, and had my own short list of contacts, and when I reflect upon who they are they are the ones I trust implicitly and love with all my heart. Time and distance doesn’t matter.
Dad’s life began in 1947 in Mexico, Missouri, and as the youngest of four siblings, he completed the Cloyd and Edna Coss family. Doted on by his oldest sister, Martha, and by a loving mother, Dad enjoyed an idyllic childhood in a tiny town called Vandalia, MO. He would live in one home, a modest but well-designed dwelling built by his father — a brick plant worker, skilled carpenter, small business owner, and home builder — until adulthood.
His parents instilled in him family stability, the values of hard work, and a love of God. And, yes, as the baby he was spoiled. Even into adulthood I recall Grandma Coss telling him “Jimmy, what do you want me to make you today?” I always loved catching glimpses of conversations between mother and son.
Papa was very athletic and always had a love for baseball, basketball and football. He graduated Van-Far High School in 1965 and attended one year of college before serving four years in the US Air Force, three of which were spent in Germany.
Upon his return to the States, he worked briefly in Quincy, Illinois, but decided his future would be in California, so he packed up his light blue Dodge Coronet and headed to San Francisco. Over the next few years, Papa enrolled in a technical school, earned his certification and by 1974 began a career at Watkins-Johnson in Palo Alto, California, where he would work with his future brother-in-law.
The following year he’d meet a young, Mexican woman named Linda (my mother), a recently divorced mother of one, and he said the attraction was instant. He’d tell his mother, “mom, I’m gonna marry a Mexican woman who has a little boy.”
Grandma Coss was delighted.
In 1976, Papa married my mom in a simple ceremony in the Redwood City, CA apartment of a local pastor. In attendance were my Aunt Yolanda, Uncle John, my cousins Cecillie and Nathan, and me.
Within two years, they would move to Fremont, CA and join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which would forever alter their lives.
A year later, my brother Matt was born. By November 1980 our family moved to Blue Springs, MO, a cherished place where we welcomed Taylor and Katie.
In May 1984, we moved to Morgan Hill, CA, another cherished community. In time, Susie was born.
In 1993, the family would settle in Ripon, CA, a quiet San Joaquin valley town known as the almond capitol of the world.
Dad worked as a Technical Writer in the Bay Area until his retirement eight years ago.
Over the years, Papa served his church in various callings, as usher, Bishopric member, seminary teacher, Sunday School teacher, among many others.
Papa loved his meat and potatoes, doughnuts, Diet Coke, See’s candies and football. He would chat for hours about politics, family history, sports and his love of the Savior and His Gospel.
His commitment to the Savior only grew.
Papa is free from physical pain, the trials of mortality and the craziness of this pandemic. He’s with his parents, cherished family members and close friends. He made it.
Papa is survived by his wife of 44 years, Linda Coss; brother Fred; sister Dottie; 5 children, Ernie Geigenmiller, Matt Coss, Taylor Coss, Katie Coss Shepard and Susan Coss Schiele; one daughter-in-law, Liz Barber Geigenmiller; two sons-in-law, Jon Shepard and Daniel Schiele; and 10 grandchildren: Brendan Geigenmiller, Christian Geigenmiller, Jordan Geigenmiller, Grace Shepard, Sophia Shepard, Aaron Geigenmiller, Liam Schiele, Reina Shepard, Jay Shepard, and Charlotte Schiele.
Families are forever.