“That life rhythm, this is what I’m talking about,” Coggs said. “I couldn’t have gone to Harvard without that combination of G.I. Bill and scholarship. If one or the other had been insufficient, I wouldn’t have made it.”
Medical school paved the way for that long career, much of which was spent working in the San Francisco Bay area. He and Maud had two daughters — one of whom is also a doctor — and a son, who was killed in a construction accident at the age of 7. In his 70s, Coggs enjoyed a late blooming stint as a runner, winning three gold medals at the Texas Senior games after retiring to San Antonio, where he now lives.
As for his gutbucket, it turns out it wasn’t a product of his Southern upbringing, but a gift he received from a Harvard classmate when Coggs was living in San Francisco.
Willie J. Laws, a blues singer and guitarist and a longtime friend of Coggs, hosted a barbecue for the doctor at his Canton home during the recent class reunion festivities. Coggs calls Laws “son number two.”
“Since I’ve known him — and we go back a long time, maybe 15 years or more — he hasn’t changed,” Laws said of Coggs. “I mean that as a compliment. He is the definition of consistency. But unlike a lot of people, I think the reason Dr. Coggs is so happy and so full of energy is that consistency for him has never meant settling.”
A little later, both men broke out their instruments: bass guitar for Laws, gutbucket for Coggs. They played a little to the delight of neighbors and guests.
“Dr. Dude,” Laws called out, explaining that Coggs’s kids good naturedly call him “dude.” “Tell us a story.”
Coggs paused, long enough to shrug and pluck a few strings. “This,” he said, “this is what it’s all about.”