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Remembering Pianist Gil Coggins


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On February 15, 2004, the nursing staff at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center informed Gil Coggins' family that he quietly and peacefully took one last shallow breath and slipped away into the spiritual world. On June 8, 2003, Gil was involved in a serious auto accident on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, NY, and his body was unable to recover from his numerous injuries, complications, and pre-existing conditions.

Gil, the oldest of two sons, was born in NYC to immigrant West Indian parents, Winifred and George Coggins. His mother played the piano, mostly hymns, and though she only received survival wages as a domestic worker, she paid for Gil's private piano lessons.

Gil received his public education in New York City and Barbados. His jazz education, collaborations, and career were filled with rich, historical anecdotes. At age 18, Gil was in the army stationed at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Honey Coles, the tap dancer, was his sergeant and Gil met Miles Davis, who at age 16, was playing in a bar in the local bowling alley. Gil's jazz travels took him to Montreal, Canada in the sixties, where he met and married Donna Rosen. Gil maintained a close, loving and lively bond with his daughter Jilene and her sisters Kim and Renee who call him Dad or Popsie. Gil adored his grandson, Jilene's son, Kingston.

Gil was an original who used his trademark two words to “vossa vusa" through life. His giving bodily presence will be missed and mourned, but his expressive spirit and music will remain in the universe.

Gil was preceded in death by his cousin-brother Leroy Harper and his friend Helen Johnson. He is survived by his grandson Kingston, his daughter Jilene, her husband Victor, her sisters Kim and Renee; his former wife Donna Coggins; his brother Wilfred and his wife June; his cousins: Eunice and Bert Welch, and family; Medvene and Arthur Williams and his family; Althea Harper, Janice Darren Harper and family; Candace and Brian Harper and family; Andrew Drew, Candice and Sherry Coggins, and many supportive friends like Art Phipps, Henrique Prince and Gloria Gassaway; Sam, Barney, Carole, and Winston Kulok; Ronald Steele; and numerous others. In Los Angeles, survivors include in-laws Suzarn Hightower and family; Evan Hightower and family; Darrell and Marie Daniel and family; James and Joanne Turner and family; and old friends: Freddie and Bernice Huggins, Windsor and Sylvia Blair, Marcy and Jay Edmonds, Martin and Diana Weeks, and others. In Holland he is survived by his god-sister Diane Cohen, her husband Lex, and their daughter Nicole.

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