Olive (Ollie) Marguerite Cossman passed away on Saturday morning, Nov. 17, 2012, surrounded by her granddaughter Leila Cossman Nelson and loving caregivers and friends after a brief struggle against lung cancer.
She was born April 17, 1933, in South Portland, Maine, to Irma Ratz and Chester Ellis, the youngest of four children. She was a multi-talented individual and her Idaho friends will be surprised to know that in Maine, she was a contralto soloist and won state competitions for her singing. As a young girl, she also read the Bible through twice and loved to invent words in Latin.
Ollie came to Sun Valley in 1954 with her best friend, Ellie, during a break from her studies at the University of Southern Maine. She came for a season and never left. Her first job at Sun Valley was as a waitress in the Sun Valley Lodge Dining Room. There she met “the smartest and the nicest man” she ever knew, Jack Cossman. They were married in December 1957, in Elkhorn, Nev. All these years later, one of the things Ollie appreciated most about Jack was that “he thought I was totally capable of thinking for myself.”
Ollie always said that in Maine there were too many “shoulds.” In Sun Valley she found the freedom that she had always craved in New England. Ollie and Jack had fun. They loved life and didn’t take things too seriously. Lee and Jimmy Limes were their best friends in those early years, so Jimmy’s music was a big part of their social lives. In the 1950s and ’60s, Ollie, Jack and Ned Bell ran a football pool out of Ned’s bar, The Rio Club; Jack and Ned took the bets and Ollie kept the books. Jack even won the down payment on their house in a poker game. The couple had one son, Nicolas Cossman, in 1958. She loved to reminisce about a time when Nick was about 5 years old. He was eating his morning pancakes, looked up and said, “If someone came here, they would say this is a happy, happy house!”
She had an especially warm and loving relationship with her granddaughter, Leila. When Leila was picked up at the airport by retired Idaho state Rep. Wendy Jaquet last month, she remarked, “Wendy, you know almost as many people as Nana!”
When Jack passed away in 1982, the Community Library became the focus of her life. She began volunteering at the library in 1962 and was hired by Dottie Thomas as assistant librarian in 1976, when the library only had a staff of four. She traveled to Twin Falls two to three times a week to take classes to get a certification in library science while holding down a full-time job. In 1988, Ollie was promoted to head librarian and later was named executive director of the Community Library. Working with the executive board of the library, Ollie organized three building expansions of the library building, including the construction of the children’s library in the late 1990s. Ollie ushered the library into the computer age in the early 1990s. Her career at the Community Library spanned 43 years.
Ollie loved words, books and reading. She traveled and played tennis. She loved cats. She loved dogs. She was addicted to The New York Times crossword puzzles and placing friendly bets on football games with her good friend Jerry Lane. Before her illness, when asked where she’d like to meet for lunch, she’d say, “I don’t care. I never met a food I didn’t like.” Her friends will miss her irreverent sense of humor and her infectious laughter.
Ollie and her friends and family would like to thank all of the wonderful people at Hospice and Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley and her caregivers for the gentle and gracious care they gave her. The Ketchum Fire Department came to her rescue several times when she had need of them over the last few months. Thank you.
Ollie is survived by her son, Nick (Andy) Cossman of Orleans, Calif.; granddaughter, Leila (Tyler) Cossman Nelson of San Diego, Calif.; great-grandchildren, Tyrus and Little Olive; and a brother, Robert L. Ellis (Janet) of Oakland, Maine.
Arrangements are being made through Wood River Chapel. A celebration of Ollie’s life will be held at the home of Jim and Wendy Jaquet at 510 Mesquite in Hulen Meadows on Saturday, Nov. 24 from 4–6 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials in her name may be made to the Community Library or Hospice and Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley.