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Olivia's Doc Jim dies at 85

Longtime Olivia family physician Dr. James A. Cosgriff, 85, died Saturday at his home.

OLIVIA -- Longtime Olivia family physician Dr. James A. Cosgriff, 85, died Saturday at his home, nearly two years after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Cosgriff, know as Dr. Jim or Doc Jim to many in the community, practiced medicine in Olivia for almost 60 years, according to his sister, Nancy Cosgriff of Marine on St. Croix.

Dr. Cosgriff was influential in establishing the family practice department at the University of Minnesota, where he earned his medical degree in 1946.

"He believed strongly in family practice," his sister said, adding that the doctor lamented the fact that fewer and fewer young doctors chose family medicine and rural communities were not well-served by the narrow focus of specialty medicine.

Cosgriff deeply cared for his patients, she said, "He was passionate about healing, and helping people be healthy and well."

He would do absolutely everything he could for those who were terminally ill, but not hastening the end of life. Even as he was dying of cancer, Dr. Jim expressed concern to not hasten his own death. "He said, 'Life is precious, we need to hang on to it as long as we can,'" she said.

Cosgriff didn't expect to settle down in Olivia, she said. Rather, he returned from serving in the Navy in 1949 to temporarily help his father, Dr. James A. Cosgriff Sr., with his medical practice after the senior doctor had a heart attack.

"He grew into this place," she said, adding that Dr. Jim made a conscious decision to remain in the town, grateful for a reciprocal relationship of appreciation with the community of Olivia and the surrounding area.

The doctor was a somewhat shy man, Nancy Cosgriff said. When his illness forced him to close his practice, he began to receive hundreds of cards, from patients and medical colleagues. The cards told him "how much he was loved, both as a physician and a friend," she said. "It was a bit overwhelming for him."

The complete obituary for Dr. James A. Cosgriff Jr. is on Page A8.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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