A Life Cut Short, But In Service To Others
The Broomfield Enterprise, April 2017
Lynnette Oser sat at her dining room table Tuesday with two of her son’s friends as they smiled over pictures of Cody Oser and watched a video that will be played at his funeral.
Propped up against the wall was photo of Oser, sandals clutched in one hand, strolling along the beach of Costa Rica where the sand meets the surf.
“That looks like my son is walking off to meet God,” his father Steve Oser said.
Oser, a 24-year-old Peace Corps volunteer, died April 8 in the Comarca Ngäbe Bugle region of Panama. So far, two memorial services were held to honor his life, one in the village he served and another in Panama City. Cody was fluent in Spanish and Ngäbere, and was studying French and Swahili.
Villagers who knew Oser mourned his death alongside his family, his mother said, and Oser’s host mother was inconsolable. The community also welcomed Oser’s family when they arrived to in Panama last week with open arms and offered comfort.
“They exuded service and care,” Lynnette Oser said. “They cried just as hard as we did.”
Oser’s father, who was scheduled for surgery last Tuesday, was unable to go to Panama, but his mother — accompanied by Cody’s brother Gabriel and sister Abbe Gilroy — made the trip to bring Cody home.
On Friday, his family and friends will remember Cody at a funeral service in Broomfield at Nativity of Our Lord Church.
Out-of-town family was expected to arrive Tuesday night, said his parents. They haven’t had a chance to be alone since their son’s passing. People have been calling, texting and emailing every day since then.
“I have a young son who touched the heart of so many people,” Steve Oser said. “I don’t care about anything else in this world. I’ve got a young man that cared about people.”
His mother expected several hundred people to attend the funeral, she said, but the church seats up to 750.
His friends and family described Oser as passionate and driven, quiet and shy. He loved learning and always had a book nearby. Every morning, he would make a checklist of things to accomplish that day, Lynnette said, and he was so detailed-oriented.
Oser graduated Colorado State University with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and received minors in Business Administration and International Development in 2015. Prior to that, he had graduated from Broomfield High School.
He served as an Engineering Intern for SunCulture Solar Agriculture in Keyna and as a Project Leader for Engineers Without Borders in El Salvador and Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
He had planned to work in Cerro Gavilan, in northwest Peru, on latrine construction and formation and legalization of a water committee.
After he left the Peace Corps, which would have been October 2018, Oser planned to travel a few months and then return home to Colorado where he wanted to buy land in the mountains and own a hostel — similar to the ones where he spent so much time while traveling.
Part of the building would be a microbrewery, Lynnette said, and he hoped to attract people who wanted to travel and enjoy everything Colorado has to offer.
An autopsy is still pending, but his family said Oser’s death was an accident. The place he died, an area with a lake and waterfalls, was one he visited frequently to practice yoga and meditate.
They believe Oser was jumping from one rock to another when he missed his footing and slipped. Lynnette said she was grateful he didn’t suffer, and that when she saw him, he looked at peace.
His brother Gabriel gathered his brother’s belongings and went to see the site where Oser died.
“He said it was just beautiful,” Lynnette said. “Gabe said it was absolutely so peaceful. He could feel him everywhere. He could feel Cody’s essence and presence there and he was at peace there, completely at peace.”
The outpouring of support, love and compassion shown to their family has been overwhelming.
One example was the U.S. Ambassador arranging with Delta Air Lines to postpone an early-morning flight several hours for the family who was bringing home a fallen soldier of peace, she said. “They moved mountains for us.”
A Marine Corps Honor Guard escorted Oser, who was encased in a glass coffin draped with an American flag, from one plan to another when they arrived in Atlanta to switch planes.
In the days following his death, a scholarship fund was set up to help other young engineers with their college tuition.
For the next 20 years, engineering students at Colorado State University will receive the Cody Steven Oser Legacy Scholarship. Donations will be collected through the Broomfield Community Foundation in Oser’s name.
His parents said they want to establish the requirements on Oser’s best characteristics, including giving back to communities.
So far, the fund has nearly $200,000, a combination of several life insurance policies and donations. Oser’s parentes, sister Abbe, Oser’s godfather Steve Harbert and longtime family friend, Broomfield Mayor Randy Ahrens, will serve on the scholarship committee.
Ahrens knew Cody, who was friends with his nephew William, while he was growing up. He first met the family when his brother invited Cody’s parents on their annual camping trip to Grand Lake.
“Cody was really a good kid,” Ahrens said. “When he graduated college he worked with Engineers Without Borders and did projects in conjunction with my Rotary club.”
This year Broomfield will host its second annual Volunteer Appreciation Day, scheduled for Aug. 9, in honor of Cody.
“He had opportunities to go work with a lot of companies,” Ahrens said, “but he decided he wanted to go work in the Peace Corps and go help people. That’s the spirit of Cody. He always wanted to go out and make things better for people.”
A few weeks before his death, Oser was told that there would be no follow-up volunteer to his site and to finish the work he started.
Panama President Juan Carlos Varela met with the family for hours and asked to speak Wednesday at the celebration of life in Panama City.
When Varela talked to the Osers about their son and the work the Peace Corps does in his country, Lynnette brought up the lack of a future volunteer for that village. After discussions with the Peace Corps, she said she was promised that Cody’s work would be finished.
Varela also offered to arrange a plane so the family could visit in a year and see the progress for themselves.
A new school in his Panama community was named after Oser, his parents said, and Varela has decided to dedicate this year’s Panama Special Olympics to him.
Oser will also be honored with a Memorial Tribute in the Colorado Senate on May 8, a ceremony his family is invited to attend.
Cody’s family created the Cody Steven Oser Legacy Scholarship for engineering students at Colorado State University. Donations in his name can be mailed to the Broomfield Community Foundation, PO Box 2040, Broomfield, CO 80038. Or you may donate online here.
I had the honor to pay tribute to the life and work of Cody at the recent Fallen Peace Corps Volunteer memorial service in Washington, DC. My thoughts and prayers are with Cody’s friends and family. As the former Peace Corps Country Director in Panama, I knew Cody’s community well and know that he was making a difference.