The Vineyard community turned out in force at noon on Monday to celebrate the life of Edmond G. Coogan. Friends and family members were pleased by the outpouring of love and sensitivity at his funeral services at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, and they repeated the thought over and over again.
Mr. Coogan, 57, a Vineyard Haven attorney and selectman with as many years of public service to the community as years of residence on the Island, died last Friday at his home.
"This past week of Ed's dying was a testament to the love and loyalty of our cherished friends," said Liza Coogan during the afternoon service.
"He could listen harder, argue more vehemently, tease more efficiently, laugh more heartily than anyone I ever knew. He could also cry like a baby, but rarely did he cry about his illness. He called his pain discomfort," she said.
More than 500 people filled the Edgartown Whaling Church to overflowing. The hall was filled with tears and laughter, as people took their turns before the audience to tell their stories, offering personal memories of the same man. The audience of many was itself a testimony to the man's reach into the community.
Bill Coogan, 58, of Portland, Me., spoke first: "Thank you, Martha's Vineyard. Thank you for being Ed's home, Ed's vision, Ed's community." Behind Mr. Coogan were bouquets of freshly picked daffodils.
In front of him was the casket of his brother, draped by an American flag and surrounded by more flowers.
"Two weeks ago, Ed told me that he thought of the cancer that he had been fighting for 22 years as a gift. The tenuousness of his grip on life made him treasure it. He treasured the Vineyard, He treasured his friends, and most of all, he treasured his family," Bill Coogan said.
During the ceremony of more than an hour and a half, there was music. Dan Murphy, the choral director of the regional high school, played the piano to accompany the singing. He performed with Sandra Bitterman's harp. Mary Jacobson sang Ave Maria. Elizabeth Bradley sang Songbird.
Ed and Liza Coogan's three children took turns describing the magic of their father's legacy. Will Coogan, 26, an actor in Los Angeles; Geoghan, 25, a second-year law student at Suffolk University, and their sister Virginia Nelligan, a senior at Wesleyan University, spoke movingly of their father.
Geoghan recalled a time when he was a senior in high school and didn't want to go to school that morning. He recalled how his father rallied him to get up and get going.
While Miss Coogan read an excerpt from a biography she had written about her father, brothers Will and Geoghan stood silently behind her, their arms wrapped around each other.
Their mother, Liza, said: "My man was a man for all seasons, but he preferred the warmth of the sun and the lapping of waves against his boat."
She said: "Ed believed that talent and genius wear many cloaks, so he pushed and prodded his loved ones, his students and his energetic friends to use their brains and hearts to better the world around us. If he had better health, Ed would have run for higher office, but he always said his family, his little law office and his favorite elderly clients saved him from the rat race and kept him alive."
Duncan Ross, a teacher of theatre at the regional high school, recalled memories of Mr. Coogan when he was a teacher of government at the school. "There are volumes of memories from all of the plays we did together and apart."
Mr. Ross repeated the words of a Harry Chapin song: "It's got to be the going not the getting there that's good."
"I am very glad Eddie never got to be governor, because he played so many roles in his life: a son, a brother, student, teammate, boyfriend, actor, fiancé, husband, father, sailor, navigator, neighbor, planner, politician, best man, cook, gardener, teacher, uncle, brother in law, campaigner, selectman, lawyer, school committee member and a good friend. One of the things that made Ed so special is that he did all of those roles very well."
There were many references to the Coogan family's 31-foot gaff-rigged sloop Welwyn, a boat that has been in the family for 24 years.
Gerry Sullivan of Boston, a high school teacher and friend of 50 years, talked about their growing up often side by side.
Others joining in included Marge Harris and her husband, Jamie.
When it came to getting people to volunteer for public office or other duties, Jamie Harris said Mr. Coogan was the best: "That smile and twinkling eye were a giveaway that you were going to be asked to do something. He knew what arm to twist."
Mr. Harris said: "I will miss Ed because he was a good friend." Mr. Harris looked to the ceiling of the Whaling Church and observed that Ed was probably up there looking down. He suggested that Ed was out looking for Michael Wild. "The two are looking for green beer, lots of it."
With a guitar, Flo Anito sang the song Bobby McGee: "Freedom is another word for nothing left to lose."
Peter Fohlin, former executive secretary for the town of Tisbury, said he had worked for many selectmen over the years. He said: "Ed Coogan is the best selectman I have ever known." Mr. Fohlin said that Mr. Coogan had a great gift for bringing people together to solve problems. "When we needed someone to cross over the bridge into Oak Bluffs to solve the tempest of the day, Ed could do it."
He said people knew Mr. Coogan by many different names: Ed, Eddie and Pops. "I only knew Ed. I sort of knew Eddie, and only recently did I get to know Pops."
Mr. Fohlin recalled how Mr. Coogan was very proud of his three children and what they are doing. One is an actor, another is a politician and the third is in law school. "Ed said: ‘At least one of them has an honest trade.' "
Mr. Fohlin turned and looked at the three and then said: "Ed didn't say which one he was referring to. You've got the rest of your lives to kick over who he meant."
Joe McCarron, a professor, recalled some sailing adventures he and Jim Lobdell had with Mr. Coogan.
Closing his remarks, Mr. McCarron suggested that those who knew Mr. Coogan as a sailor will sense his presence in the years ahead. There will be signs. "When a ray of light breaks through the clouds and makes a bright spot on the water, he will be there."
Bill Coogan thanked the audience for coming and invited everyone downstairs for a luncheon. He looked down at the casket before him and said: "Good bye, little brother. You packed a lot into your 57 years. You are the best man I've ever known."
Next summer, when the family is able to gather together again, Edmond Coogan's ashes will be spread on the waters between East and West Chop.