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Susan Kosior isn't sure what she and daughter Leah will do now that her husband has died. He didn't have life insurance, but they will get some death benefits from his job.
The death of Michael Kosior last month stunned his wife, Susan, but the overwhelming response
Mike Kosior reads a Braille book to his daughter, Leah, in 2009. He died unexpectedly last month.
By CATHY DYSON
Susan Kosior admits she has been in a fog since July 12, when her husband died in front of her as he ate dinner with his family.
But one message has come through loud and clear to the Stafford County woman in the midst of her grief: Her husband, Michael Antoni Kosior, touched a lot of people during his 38 years on earth.
"I don't know three-fourths of the people I've gotten condolences from," Susan Kosior said about the cards and letters that have come from around the globe. "It's been extraordinary, the sheer number of people who have responded."
Mike, as he was known to most people, was born blind and hearing-impaired, but refused to let disabilities get in the way.
He was the first blind student to graduate from his high school in Rhode Island, and he developed a niche in computer sciences that helped him pay for college.
Mike went to work for the federal government and made his way up the scale. He was a GS-14, and his goal was to reach the top, GS-15.
His parents, Henry and Sheila Kosior of Rhode Island, taught him to never use his disabilities as an excuse. They held a memorial service earlier this month--one of three scheduled for Mike in New England--and printed remembrance cards with four simple paragraphs on the back:
THE PEOPLE HE IMPACTED
Mike left his home in southern Stafford's Ferry Farms at 5:30 in the morning and rode the Virginia Railway Express to Washington. He got rides with various neighbors to the station, but otherwise needed little help.
He spent 13 hours a day away from home, and said in a 2009 story in The Free Lance-Star that he was glad he made enough money that "the cookies," his wife and 3-year-old daughter, Leah Katherine, could be home together.
Mike and Susan adopted Leah as a newborn when they weren't able to have children.
In the weeks since his death, Susan has heard from a lot of people who considered Mike a part of their lives, even if they didn't speak with him regularly--or ever.
"The response from VRE people has touched me the most," Susan said. "There really was another family for him, people who looked out for him and loved him."
One was a co-worker who saw Mike daily, but never talked to him.
"He was a big inspiration to me, just observing him from a distance," wrote Emmanuel Addai in a letter to Susan. "His attitude to work and his profound etiquette were inspiring."
Another was Mike's boss. She was devastated by the news, and followed the office tradition of taking a walk to clear her head.
A homeless man saw her and asked what was wrong. She told him about Mike's death, and he knew exactly whom she meant. Mike talked to the homeless man regularly on his way to work.
"I told Mike's parents we'll never have any idea of the number of people Mike impacted," Susan said.
'AND THEN IT HAPPENED'
Up until dinnertime, the day of July 12 was just like any other. Mike got home about 6:30 p.m., did some laundry and sat down to eat with Susan and Leah.
"And then it happened," Susan said.
Mike made a face, and Susan noticed him slumping over. She helped him from the chair to the floor.
"He didn't blink, he didn't make a noise," she said.
He stopped breathing.
She called 911 and gave CPR before the rescue squad arrived.
The seizure apparently shut down his brain and was related to Norrie disease, a rare genetic disorder that caused Mike's disabilities.
He hadn't complained of feeling badly that day, and he didn't suffer regularly from seizures.
In their 10 years of marriage, Susan knew of only one other incident, in October 2009. Mike collapsed in his upstairs office, then came downstairs and told Susan about it.
Susan has no idea what she and Leah will do. The family didn't have life insurance, but Susan will get some death benefits from Mike's job. She said there's about a two-month delay in processing them.
She is getting Social Security survivor's benefits for herself and Leah.
Susan would like to stay in the Fredericksburg area and in the home she and Mike shared, if she can afford it. Her mother, Susan Brogan, lives in Florida and has been in Stafford with her since Mike's death.
If the two decide they get along well enough, Susan said, laughing, they could convert the downstairs into an apartment for "Nana," whose rent would help cover expenses.
Despite how unsettled her future may be, Susan said she feels calm. She has already experienced the worst thing that could happen to her.
A bigger concern is that people won't remember her husband the way she will, for his smile and love of life.
"My No. 1 fear is that people are going to forget him," Susan said, "and I've been assured that's never going to happen."
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425