Richard J. Kosiba, loving husband, father, grandfather, engineer, and great Purdue fan, died Monday, November 20, 2023, days after a heart attack which would have been instantaneously fatal had he been an IU Hoosier. His next few days were joyous, spent in a hospital room with his wife, Barbara, his sons, his daughters-in-law, and many of his grandchildren. He joked, laughed, and made sure he stuck around to watch the Boilers trounce Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational.
He grew up very poor in The Region of Northern Indiana, but he was surrounded by a loving family. With his wonderful sister, Carol, he was raised by his mom, Johana, who had the world’s biggest heart, and by his loving uncles, after his father, Alfons, died when he was twelve. He graduated from Hobart High School and was honored to have dated one of the cheerleaders and prom princesses. Speaking of…
He and Barbara were married for 62 years. He was so appreciative of her. She was out of his league and he always thought that her being smitten with him was an example of his “game”. It wasn’t. It was just that Barbara was a great judge of character.
To be noted, they had a decades long tally of Skipbo wins and losses, and while Barb had an insurmountable lifetime win record, he won the last two games. I am sure he thinks that makes him the champ.
In later years, when dad needed significant help every day, mom stepped up. Bigtime.
After being married, they moved from Indiana to California (Brea and Yorba Linda), where he worked for the Bechtel Power Corporation. After many demanding years, he became the Chief Civil/Structural Engineer in Los Angeles. He was a terrific engineer, he worked and studied so much, and he was proud that he worked on some very significant and ground-breaking structures. His Bechtel years were so fulfilling, and he was rewarded by the success of his teams and its members. He always told us the key to success was to surround yourself with people smarter than you, and he believed he was surrounded by the best. In retirement, he followed the careers of his team and even his interns with great interest.
During his career, he won multiple engineering awards, among them (from memory), the Los Angeles ASCE young engineer of the year, the TY Lin ASCE engineer of the year award, and others. He was one of the first registered nuclear engineers in California. The award he was sappiest about was the Distinguished Engineering Alumni award from Purdue. It is an honorary degree, from an institution that he loved.
A fun memory: recently, his granddaughters came to visit as he was cleaning out his office. In the stack of stuff he didn’t know what to do with were many of his professional awards. He lit up as they asked for the story of each one. Isn’t it funny how things once so important can sit in a pile in the corner of your home office? Only when the people you love ask about them do they become meaningful again.
Did we mention that he was a Boilermaker? Like his sons, he believed that Purdue changed him in great ways. Purdue whipped him into shape, taught him how to learn and how to work hard at learning. It also introduced him to a career that was so very interesting to him. In his last days, he had fun describing to his grandchildren how to pre-stress concrete in massive nuclear containment structures (seems it involves 20-foot concrete walls and jacks to tighten the world’s thickest rebar within the concrete). When he managed the engineering of the containment structures of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations 1, 2, and 3, they were state-of-the art and they pushed the boundaries of what civil engineering could do. He is ever grateful for Purdue professors Martin Gutzwiller and Bob Lee for inspiring him to be a great engineer.
This morning we entered Barb’s and his house for the first time without him in it. He left his affairs in great order, along with stickers saying “I love you, Barbara” placed in weird places, like on a lampshade (a little too high for Mom to see), in their fridge, and on their Tupperware. I think this was a regular thing, but it was the first time we noticed.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara (Boiler-in-spirit), and his wonderful sister, Carol Gee (fan). Also, his sons, Ric (Boiler), Steve (Boiler), Mark (Boiler), daughters-in-law Karin (fan), Mandee (Boiler), Marissa (fan). He so loved his grandchildren, Chris (Boiler), Katie (Boiler), Carrie (Boiler), Kelsie (fan), Molly (Boiler), Jack (Boiler), Mallory (fan), Whitney (fan), and Quinn (fan). In his eyes, his greatest achievement may have been to train his boys to find wonderful wives and to raise such smart, fun, and level-headed grandchildren. They loved their Papa.
Rich was generous to all. He loved coaching youth football, baseball, and basketball. He loved mentoring young engineers. He was gregarious. He loved to laugh.
Previously, a scholarship in honor of Rich and Barb was set up to help Purdue civil engineers in need. If you are looking for a worthy cause, donations to the scholarship in Rich and Barbara’s name would be appreciated. You can find the scholarship at: bit.ly/ce-kosiba.
One last thing. There are people who live among us who are true heroes and saints. To the nurses, physician assistants, techs, and doctors at Ascension St Vincent Heart Center in Carmel, thank you dearly. To the Noblesville EMTs, you are all the epitome of all that is good and strong, and we are so grateful you are here for all of us.
The very last thing. As we left the room as dad fell asleep, I gave him a hug, he looked at me, and he smiled his mischievous grin and whispered his last words to us. It may-- or may not have been-- “Boiler Up!”
A Celebration of Life will be held for Rich at a later date. Please check back soon for additional details. In lieu of flowers, you can find the scholarship donation at the following website: bit.ly/ce-kosiba