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Phyllis J. Cobb:A model of optimal aging

Sarasota Memorial Hospital lost one of its most passionate volunteers with the recent death of Phyllis J. Cobb, 75, who served on the hospital board since 1992. A well-known philanthropist and civic leader, Mrs. Cobb was an avid supporter of many social service agencies, from Toys for Tots and Goodwill Industries to Happiness House and the Wellness Community. She served on many boards from the Byrd Alzheimer’s Research Center and the American Cancer Society, to the Sarasota County Advisory Committee and Healthcare Facilities Advisory Committee.

A tireless advocate for the causes she believed in, Mrs. Cobb was one of those leaders who could move mountains. Her energy was contagious. Her zeal motivated others to action.

I know, I was one of those people.

Over the years, I frequently talked to Mrs. Cobb on the phone about hospital business or matters relating to her other causes, but I had never met her in person until May of 2005, when Mrs. Cobb called me.

“I am coming to Bradenton,” she said. “I want to give you something. I’ll be there in about a half-hour.” Never mind that the area was under a tornado threat.

The rain was coming down in sheets when she walked through the door, dripping wet but with a big smile on her face. I was struck by her diminutive size, all the more apparent given the huge book wrapped in plastic that she cradled in her arms.

“Here, this is for you,” she said. “Read it. Write about it.”

She handed me the newly published “Optimal Aging Manual,” edited by Dr. Kevin W. O’Neil, a Sarasota physician specializing in Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, and Renno L. Peterson, a local elder law attorney. Peterson had already co-authored many books on estate planning and legal issues of aging. Working with O’Neil, Peterson created a mega-manual that provided in-depth medical information as well.

As usual, Mrs. Cobb, a fervent supporter of the project, was right. I did need to write about this book, the subject of my May 7, 2005, column. “Everything you need to know about aging is covered, from the aging process to which medicines to take for what illnesses, to what kinds of insurance to buy, to what medical procedures are available and what’s involved,” I advised readers. “The message is clear: Do the right things when you are young and you will maximize your potential for aging well.”

Mrs Cobb epitomized that advice — she stayed young because she never retired from life, never gave up on her causes and beliefs.

Check out the “Optimal Aging Manual” at or special order it from Sarasota News and Books. You can also find more information at