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Penelope Frances Cofrin ’75

In 1971, Penelope arrived at Reed from Green Bay, Wisconsin, where her grandfather had founded the Fort Howard Paper Company. The following summer she traveled to Montana with a Reedie she was dating. Eventually the wheels came off the relationship with her Reed boyfriend, but Penny developed an abiding affection for the state of Montana.

“I came to Montana for a weekend and never left,” she said.

She was born on Flag Day, June 14, 1953, the youngest of John and Barbara Cofrin’s six children. Growing up, Penny played tennis and Ping-Pong, and swam at the Green Bay Y. While attending high school at Emma Willard School in Troy, New York, she became a life master at bridge at the age of 17, one of her proudest accomplishments.

In fact, she met her first husband, Larry Little, while playing bridge in Havre, Montana. That marriage produced two daughters, Robyn Paige and Barbara Maureen; a third daughter, Sarah K. Savannah, was born after Penny married her second husband, Rick. Penny was a person who made lifelong friends, including both of her husbands. Her three daughters were her pride and joy, and her green eyes sparked when she watched them play sports.

Penny was a lifelong Cheesehead, that is to say a devoted fan of the Green Bay Packers. In 1989 she shared the Chancellor’s Award at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay for the commitment she and her siblings made to the development of the Cofrin Memorial Arboretum, which surrounds the campus. Over the years she donated to many organizations, including the Darby Elementary School in Montana, the University of Montana, and the YMCAs in Missoula and Green Bay.

By nature boisterous and assured, she could work an ensemble made up of a bright muumuu, Converse sneakers, and sunglasses. She also had a keen eye for interior design and art.

Later in life she graduated with honors as a nontraditional student at Smith College, where she was an Ada Comstock Scholar—awarded to women whose education was interrupted earlier in their lives.

Her parents and her brothers, Douglas and Peter, preceded Penny in death. She is survived by her brothers, John and Andrew; sister Tish; daughters Robyn Patric (Ian), Barbara Fossen (Kurt), and Sarah; and grandchildren Patience Cofrin, Jayden Jackson, LaNayah Cofrin, Aubrey Fossen, and Logan Fossen.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2016

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