Family, students remember ‘Coss’ as father, teacher, friend

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman Contributing Writer
Earl “Coss” Cossey was an inspiring teacher and coach, a practical joker, a professional parachuter and pilot, and a diehard Huskies fan, according to his son Wayland and his daughter Kori.

Cossey, 71, was found murdered in his home on Friday, April 26. Police are still investigating the crime.

According to Kori, Cossey was born in Peoa, Utah and moved to Seattle in his teens.

He started his teaching career at Leota Junior High in Woodinville when the school opened and taught there for 25 years.

He was a “lifelong school teacher” and also coached the basketball, baseball, softball and football teams, Wayland said. “Literally thousands of young men and women had the opportunity to learn from him on the field.”

Cossey’s antics as a math, computer and air sports teacher are local legends.

Kori remembers that her father kept a large jar of chewed gum he had confiscated from students and called the mixture “gumbo.” If a student was caught chewing gum three times, the student would have to chew a piece of gum from the jar.

Wayland described his father as having “an infectious spirit, [being]very very funny and sharing the mentality of a junior high school student — even though he was much older.”

Cossey also entertained students by parachuting onto the field on Leota Lions Day.

Students threw their shoes near Cossey’s landing point, and a prize went to the owner of the shoe that Cossey picked up as he landed.

Kori said her father’s knowledge went beyond the academic subjects he taught. “He had a unique knowledge set. He taught our whole family practical skills on how to fix things. He definitely had street smarts and understood how to do practical things, which is something I really appreciate. He was a very willing and patient teacher.”

Bill Lyons had Cossey as a teacher for math and air sports — which included building and launching model rockets and balsa airplanes — in the early 1980s. Lyons also played on the varsity baseball team, which Cossey coached.

“He seemed like he was always happy to see you,” Lyons recalled. “You got a good vibe from him when you walked into his class ... He’s one of those people who once they’re gone, you realize how much they meant. There’re a lot of people who went to that junior high who’ll miss him.”

Eric Isaacs, also one of Cossey’s former students, remembered him as “an incredible teacher” and as a role model who shaped Isaacs’s career.

“He introduced me to computer programming on the Radio Shack TRS-80 computers and later on the Apple II, both programming in BASIC,” Isaacs said. “I took those skills I first learned in my three years at Leota and became a software developer. His influence was big on my life. He was one of those teachers who you look back on and hope you’ll see again. I’m very disappointed to learn that will never happen now. He was a great guy. I pray for him and his family, and I pray for justice.”

Besides Cossey’s influence on his students, he was helpful and caring even to strangers. “He was a very generous individual, Kori related. “To the day that he died, he would stop and help people on the side of the road with a flat tire.”

Kori remembered that just a week before he died he encountered a woman and her kids with a flat tire and gave them a ride to a mechanic.

As family, friends and everyone whose life was touched by Cossey remember him, police continue to investigate the homicide.

On Tuesday, April 30, the King County medical examiner’s office identified the victim as Cossey and determined the cause of death was a blunt force injury to the head. Police do not yet have any suspects or possible motives for the crime according to Cindi West, public information officer for the King County Sheriff’s Office. Although Cossey was known for packing the parachutes that were given to airplane hijacker D. B. Cooper in 1971, West said police have no information that suggests Cossey’s death is related to the unsolved Cooper case.

Police are asking for the public’s help in the investigation. Anyone who had contact with Cossey between Monday, April 22, and Friday, April 26, is asked to call the King County Sheriff’s Office at (206) 296-3311.  In addition, Crime Stoppers, an organization that allows people to anonymously provide information about crimes, is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for anyone who calls 1-800-222-8477 with information leading to an arrest in this case.

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