The spirits of Jock and Holly Cobb

Driving north out of Albuquerque with my parents last month to celebrate my aunt’s and uncle’s 50th anniversary, we learned from the Internet that our dear friends Jock and Holly Cobb have passed away.  Jock was my god-father and immortalized himself in my mind early on, mostly by convincing me (as a ~6-year-old) that it would be a good idea to rent a very large rock from him at a compounding interest rate, which I’ve done for more than 40 years!  He was always an inspiration — whether reclining naked in the outflow stream of a Colorado glacier when I first met him, or demonstrating the latest prototype of his solar-powered water purifier in the New Mexican sunshine when Annie and I last saw them in the early 2000s.

Both Jock and Holly were wonderful people, full of ideas, compassion, principle, and creativity.  I’m going to take the time to get to know them a bit better this winter.  Perhaps you should do so, too.  Here’s my reading list:

Jock’s book

Jock took some amazing photographs during WWII when he was a conscientious objector working as an ambulance driver in north Africa for the American Field Service.  Thankfully, they made it back to the States and through the decades to be published recently (in 2013) as Fragments of Peace in a World at War.  You can buy the book directly from the Cobb family via

or via the publisher,
or via Amazon.
Jock ends his Vimeo recollections (in ~2011) with this quote from John F. Kennedy

“War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”  –Letter to a Navy friend, quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965), p. 88.

NYT article (2013) regarding the photographs

Obituaries

John Cander (Jock) Cobb II, MD, MPH

1919-2016 (96)

Tribute to Jock in the Denver Post

John Candler Cobb II, known to all as “Jock”, was born July 8, 1919 in Boston, MA. He died June 20, 2016 in Albuquerque, NM. After earning his B.A. in Astronomy from Harvard, he volunteered as an ambulance driver with the American Field Service in World War II. This experience and his association with the Quakers around this time, led him to his lifelong devotion to the cause of peace and to his career in medicine. He returned from the war to earn his MD from Harvard, and an MPH from Johns Hopkins. While in medical school he met Radcliffe student Holly Imlay-Franchot on a skiing trip. They were married for 67 years until Holly died in 2014.

After teaching at Johns Hopkins in maternal and child health, Jock began a career in public health when he moved to Albuquerque, NM in 1956 to work for the Indian Health Service. In 1960, he moved with Holly and their four children to Lahore, Pakistan, where he directed a Family Planning Research project. In 1965, the family settled in Denver, CO, where he became professor and chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Realizing the importance of environmental health early on, he was a member of the task force studying the Rocky Flats Plutonium Plant and Uranium Enrichment Plant, which were shut down as a result of this work. He also served on the Governor’s Scientific Advisory Council, and tackled Denver’s notorious “brown cloud” as a member of the Air Pollution Control Commission. His work with international public health continued with shorter assignments in Indonesia, the Philippines, Togo, and China. He is honored to have his work and papers archived in the University of Colorado Archives in Boulder, CO.

In 1985, Jock retired from the University of Colorado Medical School, and he and Holly returned to live in the house they had built in Corrales, NM. They continued to travel abroad and enjoyed summers at their mountain cabin in Alice, CO. Jock’s inventive spirit and dedication to health and the earth led him to develop a solar sanitation system for water and waste. While active in the world, he also treasured quiet time in nature, played cello, wrote poetry, and took many photographs. In the last decade of his life, Jock revisited the photographs he took while serving as ambulance driver in Italy, North Africa, and Syria. He distilled his dedication to peace in the book Fragments of Peace in a World at War, which includes his photographs, poetry, and narrative.

He is survived by his children Loren, Nat, Bethany, and Julianne; grandchildren and great grandchildren; and many people whose lives he touched.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the American Friends Service Committee or Planned Parenthood.

Published in Albuquerque Journal from June 26 to June 29, 2016– See more at:

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/abqjournal/obituary.aspx?pid=180462254#sthash.OyjcMXsX.dpuf

Helen Imlay (Holly) Cobb

1925 – 2014 (age 89)

Helen Imlay Franchot Cobb was an artist, a musician and a teacher. Holly grew up in New York State, and graduated from Radcliffe College with an AB in International Affairs. She and her husband Dr. John C (Jock) Cobb lived Baltimore MD, Corrales NM, and in Pakistan before settling in Denver, where he was a professor at CU Medical School. She taught art and kindergarten at Graland School. She leaves a beautiful portfolio of paintings and note cards of the peaks by their cabin in Alice, Colorado. She is survived by Jock, her husband of 67 years, her brother Dick Franchot, children Loren, Nat, Bethany and Julianne, and grands and greats. In lieu of flowers, donate to Planned Parenthood or AFSC.

Published in Denver Post from May 16 to May 17, 2014

Archives of Jock’s work

Abstract:
Cobb, Dr. John C. 83 linear feet, 1960-1993
Dr. John Cobb (b. 1919), M.D., Harvard University (1948), and Master of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University (1954), became a professor of community health in the Department of Preventative Medicine and Biometrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in 1965, where he is currently an emeritus professor. Dr. Cobb was appointed by Governor Lamm and Congressman Wirth to the Lamm-Wirth Task Force on Rocky Flats in 1974. From 1975 to 1982, he worked as principal investigator on an EPA contract to study human plutonium burdens in people who lived near the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Facility. He has also served on several other councils and commissions concerning Rocky Flats and Three Mile Island. The collection contains files relating to Dr. Cobb’s medical career including: plutonium study papers; material on air and water pollution, recycling, bioethics, holistic medicine, and urban health ecology; Rocky Flats and Pakistan radiation studies; and teaching materials, reports, and conference papers. Guide available in Archives.

An example photograph

San Vito, Italy: This fatherless boy, like so many in the war, was searching for something he did not understand and could not find.

San Vito, Italy: This fatherless boy, like so many in the war, was searching for something he did not understand and could not find.

Inspiring quotes from “earth, air, water” class of Peter Rhines

“The world looks so different after learning science. For example, trees are made of air, primarily. When they are burned, they go back to air, and in the flaming heat is released the flaming heat of the sun which was bound in to convert the air into tree. And in the ash is the small remnant of the part which did not come from air, that came from the solid Earth, instead. These are beautiful things, and the content of science is wonderfully full of them. They are inspiring and they can be used to inspire others.” — Richard Feynmann, physicist, California Inst. of Technology.

“We are living our lives as energy hunter-gatherers rather than energy farmers. The midwest is farmland for windpower and biomass; the southern states and California are farmlands for solar energy.” — Dan Kammen, Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, Univ. of California, Berkeley, on Talk of the Nation, Science Friday, 13 September 2002.

“We need a Manhatten Project for energy independence in the US.” — Dennis O’Brien, University of Oklahoma.

Exemplary quote from a “whole lake” ecologist

Would that I could come up with such eloquent prose when talking to the press about alarming environmental politics!

Here is what David Schindler said in the Tyee article about the Harper administration closing Canada’s world-famous archive of freshwater ecological research:

The library’s closing did not surprise retired water ecologist David Schindler. “In retrospect, I am not surprised at all to find them trashing scientific libraries,” he said.

“Paranoid ideologues have burned books and records throughout human history to try to squelch dissenting visions that they view as heretical, and to anyone who worships the great God Economy monotheistically, environmental science is heresy.”

Carl Sagan can change his mind

In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time someting like that happened in politics or religion.  — Carl Sagan, 1987 CSICOP address

Bob Ballard calls for ocean colonization

Most of this video is familiar history to me, but the last 10 minutes held some surprises for me.  First, the U.S. Government is now funding a new ocean Explorer program and dedicated ship, though it’s still poignant that the NASA budget for outer space exploration is 1600 times the NOAA budget for inner space (ocean) exploration.

Ballard's ocean habitat

Second, he posed a question I’ve never heard an ocean leader pose: “Why are we not looking at moving out onto the sea?”  While showing a schematic of a (hypothetical?) ocean habitat in a giant spar buoy, he goes on:

“Why do we have programs to build a habitation on Mars and we have programs to look at colonizing the moon, but we do not have a program looking at how we colonize our own planet?  And the technology is at hand!”

Perhaps it is time to learn how to live in the ocean right here in the Pacific Northwest?  What could we learn if the Salish Sea had a sea floor observatory?  Would it be valuable for research or education to have a human habitat underwater at  the Friday Harbor Labs or Lime Kiln State Park?  Or can the same value be gained through virtual presence: enhancement of the underwater sensors at Race Rocks, the Seahurst Observatory, and the fledgling Ocean Observing Initiative’s Northwest regional expression, like the Venus line.

Inspiration from Obama infomercial

At the end of his 0.5hr piece called “American Stories: American Solutions”, he said some things that are rare to hear from anyone — especially politicians.  It struck me that these should be on the list of things we teach our children, or at least I teach mine.  He said, “I can promise you this:

  • I will always tell you what I think and where I stand;
  • I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face;
  • I will listen to you when we disagree.”