By Alex Petroski
The North Shore’s own Michael Cosel will always be remembered as a relentless advocate for people with disabilities, according to those who knew him.
Cosel, a resident of Setauket for 44 years, died this week. He was 69 years old.
Cosel dedicated much of his life to improving the lives of others, his wife Ronne said.
“It forces me to reflect on those things and makes me realize just how deep and enduring his effect was on people and the community,” she said.
The couple was married for 48 years.
It is difficult to quantify just how many lives her husband touched, she said.
“He had a big heart and a generous spirit,” Ronne Cosel said. “We had a lot for ourselves so he had enough to share.”
In addition to his wife, Michael Cosel is survived by a daughter, Paige, and a son, Andrew. His mother, Claire, will turn 90 on Friday.
He leaves behind the Michael & Ronne Cosel Foundation, which was established in 2007 to fight for the rights of people with disabilities. The Cosels’ son Andrew, 43, has cerebral palsy.
Cosel was a coordinator for the Suffolk County Special Olympics. Because of those efforts, Andrew was the first student to attend Ward Melville High School with a service dog in the mid-1980s. Cosel also helped to set up a vocational program for students with disabilities to help them find work after high school. Andrew works at Stony Brook University Hospital today.
“We were a very big thorn in Three Village school district’s side,” Ronne said with a chuckle.
The North Shore native was also instrumental in helping to spark efforts to put in a pedestrian and bike path linking Port Jefferson to Wading River as well as the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail, which eventually secured $2 million under a federal grant to finance the project linking the communities.
Cosel’s efforts in the community did not in any way impact his dedication to his family.
Daughter Paige mentioned Cosel’s humor and generosity as the traits that she would remember most.
“As a father and a grandfather he was playful and generous,” she said.
Ronne Cosel had similar memories of the family man.
“He always had time to have dinner with us,” she said.
Along with his advocacy efforts, Cosel was a custom builder of single-family homes. In his spare time he liked to travel, scuba dive, sail and ski. His wife said she shared nearly 400 dives with her late husband over the years.
“I would have probably stayed home,” she said. “He was an adventurer.”