Last Wednesday Marlboro native G. Calvin Cosman took his last call, accompanied by family, relatives, friends and fellow firefighters. He passed away on January 19 at the age of 91. A Mass of Christian Burial was held at St. Mary’s Church in Marlboro, officiated by Rev. Thomas K. Dicks, followed by burial with full Military Honors at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Newburgh.
Rev. Dicks recalled that during Cal’s illness he received a phone call from Cal’s wife Ruthann while he was visiting his own mother in Staten Island. She informed him that Cal was not doing too well and perhaps he could stop by when he arrived home. Rev. Dicks did so, ministered to Cal and he passed away about thirty minutes later.
Cosman was born in 1926, the year plans were unveiled for the construction of the George Washington Bridge, the Army Air Corps was established by Congress, the Book of the Month Club was organized, the Pittsburgh Pirates bested the Washington Senators 4 games to 1 to win the 22nd annual World Series and “Bye, Bye Blackbird” was one of the year’s most popular songs.
Cosman served in the U.S. Marine Corps and after the war he went on to serve as the first town Water Superintendent, a position he held for 22 years. Cosman also drove a school bus for the DD and the George M. Carroll Bus Companies. In addition, he was a driver for the Troncillito Brothers Water Company and a volunteer ambulance driver for TOMVAC in Marlboro.
Cosman was a dedicated volunteer in the Marlboro Hose Company for 61 years, serving as Fire Chief and also as a Chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners. He held past memberships in the Ulster County Fireman’s Association, the Ulster County Fire Chief’s Association and served on the Ulster County Fire Advisory Board. He also served on the Marlboro School Board.
“Cal” as he was known, is survived by his wife of 32 years Ruthann, five stepchildren, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Former Marlboro Fire Chief Robert Troncillito delivered a eulogy at St. Mary’s, saying to the family that “we mourn with you with heavy hearts.”
Troncillito said the Fire Department was an important part of Cal’s life, so much so that he and Ruthann were married at the firehouse on the rear steps of the Hahn Pumper, “his favorite truck to drive.”
Troncillito recalled Cal’s exemplary service to the department.
“Cal never missed a call when he was available, no matter what it was,” he said. “His quickness in getting out of the house in the middle of the night was unbelievable. We thought he slept in his gear and had a direct line to the Ulster County Fire Control Center.”
Troncillito said Cal loved parades.
“When our antique firetruck came back from being restored, Cal drove it in the Memorial Day Parade, with a big twinkle in his eye,” he said. “If all new recruits had the love and dedication for the fire service that Cal had, no Chief would ever have to worry about his firefighters.”
Troncillito said when the time came for Cal to step down as a driver, “it was an incredibly emotional moment for both of us, as we had tears in our eyes. His presence was sorely missed, even the dispatchers at the County Fire Control would ask me about Cal and they missed hearing him on the radio.”
With a catch in his voice, Troncillito said Cal defined the meaning of community service.
“For so many of us, he was a leader, a mentor and a friend. He will be missed.” he said.
Stepson Charles Benfer III thanked the entire community for their love and support during this difficult time.
“It’s been a tough stretch and without the love and support and friendship we have received from you, it would have been a much tougher path for us all,” he began.
On a lighter moment, Benfer said he learned a few new stories about Cal since his passing; knowing he loved to hunt but “I just never knew that he shot his truck.”
Benfer said “Today marks the thirty-three thousand, three hundred and thirty nine days of the life of a really great man; a man that in my life as an adult I loved, trusted and admired. It’s hard for me to believe that today is actually here. I didn’t think he’d actually end up dying.”
Benfer said more than a year ago Cal’s doctors gave him only a few months more to live but “you see though, the doctors didn’t know Cal’s strength, they didn’t know Cal’s will and love of this life or his love for my mom, for our family and his friends. The doctors didn’t know that God’s plan for Cal was different than maybe theirs was.”
Benfer said God really knows what is best because Cal filled a deep void in his life after his own father had died.
“He knew that I was going to need Cal in my life, that we all would need Cal in our lives and he knew that Cal needed us too,” Benfer said. “I was blessed [and] our family has been blessed by God for putting Cal in our lives.”
Benfer remembered Cal as a “man of integrity and conviction. He was hard working and honest. He led by example and he walked the walk. He volunteered, he raced to the aid of a complete stranger when he was called…and he was a top responder even in his later years of service.”
Benfer concluded by saying that this is exactly the kind of day that Cal hoped for.
“This day, these ceremonies, our participation, a fond farewell salute surrounded by his loving family, his friends and the fire department he committed so much of his life to,” Benfer said. “Well Poppy, I think we got it. You got us this far…You should be very proud of yourself, the life you led, the lives you touched. You deserve all of this, times one hundred. God bless you and thank you.”
After the service, Cosman’s coffin was loaded onto the company’s 1937 American La France Fire Truck and a long line of fire department vehicles and trucks took Cosman on his last tour through town, passing his home and the Firehouse before proceeding to the Cedar Hill Cemetery. Rev. Dicks offered prayers and as a twenty-one gun salute sounded two Marines folded the American flag that was draped over Cosman’s coffin and presented it to Ruthann. As the graveside service came to a close, Ruthann stood, quietly leaned over and touched her husband’s coffin for one last goodbye.
By Mark Reynolds