Former Menlo Park city attorney Jack Cosgrove dies at 85


Obituaries are based on information provided by the family.

John Russell-Cotes Cosgrove, who served as Menlo Park's city attorney from 1985 to 1993, died on Feb. 24 after a brief illness. He was 85.

Mr. Cosgrove, known by most as "Cos", handled the city's lawsuits even before he became the city attorney, and, according to his longtime law partner, Jack Jorgenson, never lost a case in 30 years.

"He was a genius," Mr. Jorgenson said. "He was a superb lawyer. He had the ability to focus."

While Mr. Cosgrove did settle a few lawsuits, he never lost a case at trial, Mr. Jorgenson said. "He was brilliant," he said.

Mr. Cosgrove's advice also at times kept Menlo Park from actions it might have regretted, Mr. Jorgenson said. "He was a thinker," he said. "He would take the time to analyze and understand what was going on."

Mr. Cosgrove was a strong supporter of the successful effort to extend the vote to 18-year-olds with the passage of the 26th amendment to to the U.S. Constitution in 1971. He later represented ex-felons in their effort to regain voting rights.

Mr. Cosgrove was born and raised in Pasadena, California. He majored in political science at Stanford University, which is where his fraternity brothers gave him the nickname "Cos." He enjoyed intramural sports, especially volleyball.

Mr. Cosgrove was drafted into the Army immediately after graduation in 1953, and served for 21 months, stationed half that time in Germany.

In 1956, Mr. Cosgrove married Stanford classmate Judy McDaniel. They had two children, Russell and Jeanette. Although they divorced and Mr. Cosgrove married Alice Samuelsen, he reconnected with Judy Cosgrove in his later years and they often dined together.

He graduated first in his class from Stanford Law School in 1959.

Mr. Cosgrove loved nature, especially backpacking in the high Sierra, and traveled extensively with various family members including his children and his brother Bob Cosgrove.

In his later years, he enjoyed reading, history, a little travel, and spending time with his children, his grandsons Kevin and Brendan, his first wife Judy, and friends.

He is survived by daughter Jeannette Cosgrove of San Carlos; son Russell Cosgrove and wife Chwinn of San Carlos; two grandsons; ex-wife Judy Cosgrove, of Redwood City; and brother Bob Cosgove, of Oregon.

He shared his home with John and Eleanor Fakalata, who family members said were very devoted and helpful to him.

No public services are planned, but a memorial website,, has been set up to share remembrances and photos.


• See the Lasting Memories posting by the family.

— Barbara Wood

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