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Area family suffers loss in Asian tsunami

December 30, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The killer waves crashed four days ago on the other side of the globe, but a local family is only beginning to feel the aftershocks.

Members of the Cosens family have lived in Washington County as far back as anyone can remember, but Charles "Tim" Cosens III married a New Zealander and moved to Thailand in the mid-1990s, family members said Wednesday.

The two were living on Phuket, an island off Thailand's west coast, when Tim Cosens' wife, Leone Cosens, was swept away by the tide on Sunday. She was 51, family members said Wednesday.

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Kenneth Cosens Jr., 45, of Boonsboro, a cousin of Tim Cosens, said he couldn't believe the news when he heard it.

"It blew me away. It's on the other side of the world and it's affecting people here in Boonsboro," he said.

Tim Cosens, 51, and his parents, Charles Cosens and Gloria Elizabeth Cosens, were on the island at the time the waves hit but they were uninjured, Priscilla Shingleton, 64, of Sterling, Va., said in a phone interview. Shingleton is Tim Cosens' aunt.

Shingleton is acting as the family's international liaison, phoning officials in Bangkok while trying to keep in touch with her brother, his wife and their son, who remain in the secluded area known for its vacationing spots.

Tim Cosens' father and his father's siblings grew up in Washington County, Shingleton said.

By the time Tim Cosens was born, his father was no longer living in Washington County, and his family moved around the country several times, family members said. Tim Cosens began working with an oil company, first in Louisiana and then in Asia.

Kenneth Cosens said his cousin once phoned him to offer him a job running a boat business in Thailand. Kenneth said he turned the job down, but never forgot the conversation.

"That was pretty wild. ... That was something I'll never forget," Kenneth Cosens said.

Tim Cosens continued sending postcards from Thailand. Kenneth Cosens said the cards showed the picturesque surroundings of his cousin's home.

Shingleton said the couple bought two homes in a beach community on the Thai island, one of which they lived in and the other they rented.

Tim had a stroke in the fall that caused partial paralysis, which prompted an early visit from his parents, who usually visited annually, Shingleton said.

Shingleton said that between trying to find English-speaking officials and good maps, learning international time zones and dealing with spotty phone service, it's been difficult to gather information about her niece's death and how the surviving family members are coping.

From what she's gathered from local news accounts and quick conversations with overseas officials, her brother and sister-in-law, Shingleton said it appears that Tim, his father, and maybe his mother, were at the hospital when the waves hit.

Phuket is approximately 300 miles from the earthquake's epicenter, which was in the Indian Ocean off Indonesia's west coast.

Leone Cosens had gone to the rental house, which was closer to the shore, because the first wave had flooded the home. She had begun to help move furniture when the second wave hit.

Tim Cosens' father found his daughter-in-law's body, Shingleton said. She was among the tens of thousands who died.

Shingleton said the family remained strong after other major setbacks, including her brother's teen-aged death in an auto accident and nearly losing her two children in a similar crash.

Shingleton said the last few days have been running together.

"I guess, I was like I was in a fog," Shingleton said. "It's a family member. It's a loved one. They lost a house. He's recovering from a stroke. And it's like, how much can you take? But like I said, we're strong."

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