Lois Clark McCoy Passed Away 9/19/2016

Remembering Lois by Pete Minetree

On September 19, 2016, Lois “passed peacefully with her chin up and her boots on.” And what a pair of boots! I’ve known a lot of very big men and women in my eighty years, but I’ve never seen a pair of boots as big as Lois’s. I’ve known her as a close friend and comrade for over 35 years, and as hard as I’ve tried to fill those boots, I’ve never come close. Oh well, at least I tried. 

Photo Credit Seth Block 2008

What an inspiration she is. To be in the same room with her is to be inspired. She made all of us bigger and better, and we loved her for that. She never suffered fools gladly, and we loved her for that, most of the time. She had a kind of flair that doesn’t exist anymore in this crazy world of ours, and we loved her for that too. We just loved the hell out of that woman, even when we didn’t. I will always miss her, just as I’ve missed her these past five years or so.

Lois served as President of the National Association for Search and Rescue, and later was Chair of its Board of Trustees. The two of us then founded the National Institute for Urban Search and Rescue, and she served for the rest of her life as its president. During that time, she was instrumental in causing the federal government to create “fifty” urban search and rescue teams, dispersed throughout the United States and on constant stand-by to respond to crises, both here at home and throughout the world. Over the years, thousands of victims of disasters have been rescued by these teams. Her Institute represented the United States Government at a European Union conference in Greece, and was able to migrate the concepts developed by the Institute to other countries everywhere. Everyone world-wide knows about the work of these teams and of the brave women, men, and dogs that volunteer to do this dangerous work. Thank you, Lois.

President George Herbert Walker Bush recognized the work of the people of our country who volunteer their time, talent, and treasure to help others. He named this program “Thousand Points of Light” and he recognized 1,000 of these people from across the land, naming each of them as a “point of light.” Lois received this recognition for her leadership, for her devotion, and for her amazing capacity for caring. Yes, she was a point of light. She was brilliant, she was blazing, and she was blinding, and we loved her for that too.

To speak of Lois is to acknowledge others in her life. First, her father, who she worshipped and never forgot. She often spoke of her youth, and especially the time spent sailing with her father on the East Coast. Yep, Lois was reared in the east and migrated west, and she became every bit a Californian through and through. And then there are her children, who made her proud to the point where she couldn’t have a long conversation on anything without one or more of them creeping into the dialog. Interestingly, she had so many children that she usually spoke of them en masse, seldom singling one out from the other. Yes, she was quite a mom. Imagine, if you can, over fifty years ago giving birth to Danny, this when she was 45 years old. Wow!!!

O Lord, we ask that you remember thy servant Lois according to the favor which thou bearest unto thy people, and grant that she may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in thy heavenly kingdom. Those who knew and loved her thank you for the time shared with her as a cherished companion on this earthly pilgrimage. Encouraged by her love, made wiser by her example, and enriched by her friendship, her loving family and devoted friends pray that they too may one day be gathered to her and to the entire company of the faithful departed. Raise us, we humbly pray, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness; that when we depart this life we too may rest with them, and at the resurrection receive that blessing which your well-beloved Son shall then pronounce: “Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” Grant this to each of us, dear Lord, who have followed you in faith and fear. O God of grace and glory, give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are brought into your blessed kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I’ve always liked this old tale and have significantly expanded and embellished it to describe this woman, this mother, this friend, this one and only Lois Clark McCoy:

There was a beautiful young salmon that began her life in a peaceful, clear, deep, pool, far from the sea, and in this pool she grew sleek and strong. In time she knew she must leave this place, her home, a place where she had always been at peace. Yet, as she became older, something she couldn’t understand began pulling her to leave this home and make her way down the great river and out into the ocean. She made that journey quickly, and soon ventured out into the ocean; the sea became her new home, a huge world where for many years she thrived and grew ever larger, stronger, and wiser. And then, again, she felt that same undeniable urge to leave, to turn and retreat from the vastness of the ocean and return to the place of her birth, a home she remembered kindly where she had always been at peace. Oh, she had overcome countless threats to her life while living in the ocean, and she was keenly aware of the many risks she would encounter during this journey back in time, back to where it all began. She had no fear, no hesitation, and no misgivings, only resolve and her faith. Lean, muscular, and powerful, she glided gracefully and surely through the fierce currents that marked her passage. She was sure of her strength, sure of her goal, and oh so very sure of her faith. As she continued her journey back to her youth, the falls became more steep, the rapids more turbulent, and the force of the water against her as she swam was foreboding. She leaped again and again as she continued this last pilgrimage of her life, but inevitably and ever so slowly she began to grow weary. And then, dazzled by distant memories of an easier passage made long ago, and reminded of unrelenting tests of her character and endurance and countless assaults to her courage and faith, she made one last great leap, and settled quietly back into the same peaceful, clear, deep, and familiar pool where she was born so long ago. There, with deer grazing peacefully in the nearby fields, flowers painting the banks with their rainbow colors, and birds watching from the protective limbs of the overhanging trees, her courageous and faithful journey of life came peacefully and gently to an end, with “boots on and chin up.“

And so, dear friend, join the generations who have passed before. Keep a place for those of us still in this life, as surely we will join you one day, but just not now.

Pete Minetree, co-founder, National Institute for Urban Search and Rescue

Photo Credit - Seth Block 2008

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