Josephine Lenore (Hopkins) COUGAN 1929-2012

Josephine Lenore Cougan – who always went by Jo – died peacefully on Friday, October 12, 2012 at Virginia Mason Hospital from post-surgical complications, after bravely battling cancer for the third time. She was two months shy of her 83rd birthday.

Jo was born in Seattle, Washington, on December 3, 1929, the third child and second daughter of Walter Edward Hopkins and Evelyn Goodrich, who for some mysterious reason, was always called Mary. Jo and her siblings – Eugene (who was variously known as Sonny, Red, Hoppy and Gene), Marilyn, James and Nancy – spent their early years on Vashon Island, until the war came and the family decided to return to the mainland, settling in White Center. Jo attended Highline High School, graduating in 1948.

After high school, the whip-smart, fun-loving Jo took a civil service test, became a secretary for an army general and then got a job with Sears, where she worked for many years. Family lore has it that she became acquainted with and may even have briefly dated young Clint Eastwood, who had come up to Seattle from California to work in his father’s factory. During this time of her life, Jo was one of the legendary “rink rats,” whose lives revolved around competitive roller skating. Jo may even have been planning a comeback: she always kept her old roller skates and tap dancing shoes in her closet.

In 1952, Jo was introduced to career Coast Guard man Harry James Cougan by her brother Hoppy. After a brief courtship, they got married and spent the ensuing years traveling and living all over the US – from Ketchikan, Alaska to Westbrook, Maine, and from Chicago, Illinois to Memphis, Tennessee. After Jo and Harry divorced in 1969, Jo decided to return to White Center with her two sons. In addition to raising them, Jo always worked full-time: when she wasn’t waitressing at the Epicure, a legendary White Center restaurant, she worked as a bookkeeper for various local businesses.

As everyone who has ever known Jo would agree, she was a scrappy, feisty, joyful troublemaker who made and stayed friends with everyone who ever had the luck to cross her path. She was funny, friendly and immensely talented in the arts, crafts and homemaking department. An accomplished quilter, knitter, baker (the world will miss her legendary pies, cakes and cookies) and puzzle assembler, Jo was also an avid reader and a diehard Mariner fan who made the annual spring training trip to Arizona until the end of her life. In fact, she was a huge fan of all things baseball and probably never missed a single game that aired on television. Somewhere along the way, she found the time for a hot air balloon ascent. With her incisive but never mean-spirited wit, Jo was every cousin’s favorite aunt. She had compassion for others, accepted the world as it was and made the best of everything. When life threw her lemons, not only did she make lemonade, she made the best damn lemonade and she shared it with everyone.

After retiring from her last job, as a stocker at Target, she volunteered at the Museum of Flight and was the go-to person for her friends: she took them shopping, picked up their prescriptions, drove them to the doctor, visited them in the hospital, wrote letters and sent cards. In the electronic age, Jo still loved writing and receiving handwritten letters, carrying on a lively correspondence not only with her grandchildren but also with the friends she made everywhere she went. However, in her typical can-do way, during the last year of her life Jo learned the ways of the web: she mastered the iPad, learned to check out library books online and even joined Facebook.

Jo is survived by her sister, Nancy, her sons, Robert Bruce (Patty) and Walter Scot (Peggy), her grandchildren, Melissa (Charlie), Kelsey (Brian), Allison (Ian), Peter (Rachel) and Catherine, and her great-grandchildren, Eli and Abby—not to mention her many well-loved nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews and their kids.

A celebration of Jo’s life will be held October 26, 2012 at The Cove in Normandy Park beginning at 4pm. In lieu of flowers, donations to the White Center Library Guild (206-243-0233).

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