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An unwavering commitment to his Catholic faith, a deep devotion to family, and the inner strength to model courage and caring in the face of personal medical misfortune informed the consequential life of Joseph Stewart Cosgrove, who died July 2 at age 57 following a 10-year battle with multiple myeloma.
“Love for all of us and for his faith — that was the theme of everything he ever did,” said Linda Cosgrove, his wife of 27 years. There was also this unspoken truth: “Faith and trust and surrender, and it’s all going to be OK. Don’t worry. God’s got your back,” she said. “That was sort of his motto when things would get worse. Like, ‘I’m not worried about it. God is right here with me.’”
Joe Cosgrove was born in Milwaukee and raised in Kenilworth and from an early age had a deep sense of faith. Many mornings, while a student at Joseph Sears School and then at New Trier High School, he would ride his bike to mass at Faith, Hope & Charity.
Early on he had an understanding heart as well. In a posting on legacy.com, former New Trier classmate Francis Ivanovich recalled one particular kindness. “We were not friends and I really did not know him at all, but he stood out as a young teenager who was not afraid to go against the grain; to stand against the bullying of misfits like me.”
Cosgrove graduated from Notre Dame in 1984, then went on to forge a successful career with IBM, Solomon Brothers and Strong Capital Management, where he was a bond salesman.
In 2006, Cosgrove suffered a brain tumor, which impaired his short term memory and forced him to leave the world of finance. Not to be deterred, he quickly became a beloved twice-weekly volunteer at Misericordia, a community of care that maximizes potential for persons with mild to profound developmental disabilities.
“He loved working in the bakery and the greenhouse and working with the residents there,” said his daughter, Claire. “He loved volunteering, he didn’t miss working at all. We joked that some people would feel lost without their work. He was just grateful to have more time with the family and get to relax with us.”
Joe Cosgrove’s volunteering slowed down, but did not stop, after he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2009. As the struggle with cancer progressed, Cosgrove’s spirit did not waver.
“He never lost the faith that he was on the right path, and that we were there with him,” said his son Patrick. “Throughout all of it he was incredibly selfless, he was always still volunteering and still doing everything for everyone else, making sure we were ok. He was never ‘woe is me.’ It was always ‘are you guys going to be ok?’”
“He fought for 10 years,” Linda Cosgrove said. “He really wanted to see everyone graduate, and got to see (youngest daughter) Margaret graduate from Fordham University in May.”
Joe Cosgrove loved his life as a husband and father. As a family, they enjoyed long road trips and KOA camping trips and bike rides to the Botanic Gardens. He loved to grill and at Christmastime made gingerbread houses.
Margaret recalled the secret signals they used to give each other. “We would scratch our noses and that would be our sign of saying ‘I love you.’ He couldn’t show it or say it enough. He signed all of his cards with xx’s and o’s and hugs and kisses. His love was abundant. It was seen and felt all the time.”
He also had an abundant love for Notre Dame football. “He always had a blast going to those games,” said his brother, John Cosgrove. Of course, Joe was in the stands when the Fighting Irish won the 1988 national championship game in Tempe, Arizona.
John Russell, a longtime professional colleague and friend, said that a part of Joe’s legacy will be the example he and Linda set in their marriage. “A marriage is a foundation for a family, but a great marriage is something the whole world can see and say ‘this is really special.’” Their marriage, he said, “is a great example of the way we should all be.’’
Joseph Stewart Cosgrove was the husband of Linda Cosgrove nee Arce; father of Claire, Patrick and Margaret; son of Sandy and the late Jerry Cosgrove; brother of Ann Cosgrove (Lyle) Menzel, John Cosgrove, and Mike (Karen) Cosgrove; nephew and uncle of many.