Good evening. I am Bob Ladouceur from De La Salle High School. I have worked with and known Fr. Coz the past 11 years.
This has been a painful time for me. Many of you have known Coz much longer than I have, and I envy that. I became acquainted with Coz the last part of his life. I have often heard it said that ‘things happen for a reason” ---whether we like it or not. I’m not sure if I fully agree with that statement, however, when it comes to my relationship with Coz, I believe it’s true. Coz came into my life during the time I lost both of my parents. I wasn’t searching for a new parental role model, but in some way shape or form he became exactly that for me. So when I lost Coz, I felt like I lost another parent. Yet, what makes it even more painful, I understand I lost so much more. I lost my priest, friend, colleague, confidant, sage, and without a doubt, my comedic foil.
I have lived in the Bay Area for 46 years; worked at De La Salle for 32. This is the second time I’ve been to this campus. Yet, through my association with Coz, I feel like I am an alumnus of this school. Through meeting many of you, and listening to the countless Coz stories of the experiences he had with all of you; I know it was here where he spent the best years of his life and where his presence was most vivid.
Whether you lived with him in dorms, was a student in Cozanomics, traveled abroad with him, having him there to witness and participate in your rugby antics, married you, baptized your children, attended your family gathering and parties (and God knows he loved a good party), or simply shared a meal with him (and God knows that man loved a good meal); in short, wherever we encountered Coz, the force was with him, we felt his presence. I often wondered: what is it about this man that makes his presence so different? For me, it can be best summed up in a story he told me 6 years ago when we worked a retreat together. He told of a young, rebellious Santa Clara student that lived in the dorm where Coz was the Resident Advisor. Coz would call him a hell-raiser which means loud, obnoxious, and abrasive. What concerned Coz most was that he was even having trouble relating to his own peers. So Coz worked with him. One evening, while Coz and his student were discussing the existence of God, which he was questioning, he made this statement to Coz: he said, “If there is a God, I know that he likes me.” Coz asked him back, “How do you know that?” And his answer to Coz was, “Because you like me.” This boy gave Coz the highest compliment one person could give to another. He probably didn’t even realize it. I don’t think Coz realized it. When he told me the story, he was trying to make some other crazy point. But the bottom line is this student got it almost right. The truth is God loved him because Coz loved him. This is what Coz’s presence felt like to me. And I’m assuming it’s true for most of you; if not all of you.
I know there have been a lot of holy men and saints that have walked this earth. I had never had the chance to meet one, much less walk with one, work with one, laugh with one---til Fr. Coz. What was it that made him so? His physical appearance didn’t give him away. They say God comes to us in many different forms. I never thought he would appear to me as a cross between Yoda and Mr. Magoo. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell him so since he considered me, and every male that walked the face of the earth, ugly—except himself. And you know what, Coz was Coz—perfect. His snow white hair, awesome blue eyes, big ears, wry smile, sausage fingers, and jovial chuckle. He was beautiful. It was the beauty that emanated from inside of him that made him so. Put simply, the man loved people and loved life. That’s where his God dwelt. I sometimes tried to lure Coz into some theological debates, but he never took the bait. I wanted his take on the existence of God, life eternal, the divinity of Jesus---he wouldn’t play.
He probably thought I was a pompous fool, because for him, his theology was simple and clear. He saw God every day, everywhere, and in everything he did. He saw God in His gift of Earth. He chronicled it through his love of photography and cared for it through his love of flowers and gardening. And what’s most important, he saw God in you and he saw God in me. He saw God in everyone. Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, brown, whole or broken; it didn’t matter to him; we were all children of God. Coz took that knowledge seriously and he approached us all with respect, care, concern, love and service. He was a true disciple of Christ.
To sum up my relationship with Coz, on December 23, I sat with Coz for a long time and I knew he was declining rapidly. It was time for me to go and I was fearful I wouldn’t see him again. I told him I’d be back real soon. He told me not to worry about him and if I can’t make it, it will be ok. I said, “Coz, I’m not coming down here out of charity or obligation to you.” I said, “I come down here for me.” He laughed and said, “In that case, ok.” I love that man.
I want to thank Fr. John Previtt and the entire Sacred Heart Jesuit community. The care and concern you give to each other is astounding and sacramental.
You always made me feel welcomed and a part of your family. Father John, thank you for taking care of Coz and God Bless the work you do.
Tonight we celebrate the life of Father Coz. He would want us to be happy and raise a glass in his memory. But let’s first thank God for showing His love for us by sending this wonderful servant and priest, Father Coz, into our lives.