As a writer, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting quite a number of rock stars, actors and (in)famous politicians, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so honored as when Bob Cozens invited me into his home last summer. I was uncharacteristically speechless to find myself in the presence of a legendary local with such a palpable connection to the city’s past.Here was a man who, as a baby, had been dandled on the lap of Annie Hammond Cozens, one of the very first pioneers to settle in Encinitas, and a direct descendent of the family that had doubled the town’s population when they so courageously stepped off the train at the Encinitas whistle stop in 1883.Bob was just four years old when he got his first job during the summer of 1923 helping the local farmers as they trundled their horse-drawn hay balers from farm to farm. By harvest’s end he had earned the princely sum of $3.
He ended his working days as Director of the California DMV – a fitting occupation for a boy who got his first driver’s license at the age of 14 driving solo through the empty streets of Encinitas while a motorcycle patrol officer followed at a safe distance.
Robert Charles Cozens died on April 2 this year, which made it all the more poignant that I should have met him when he was still full of tall tales and sparkling wit. He has been called a “superb representative of the greatest generation” and indeed we will not see his like again.
When, during Bob’s final months, Tom Cozens asked his dad what he considered to have been his proudest achievement, Bob unhesitatingly replied: “having been given the opportunity to serve my family, my community, my county, my state and my country”. – Alison Burns is president of the Encinitas Historical Society and author of Legendary Locals of Encinitas