Editor’s note: This is the last of a five-part series on the five local women who will be inducted into the Highland County Women’s Hall of Fame at the annual recognition dinner on Tuesday, Aug. 16. The event starts at 6 p.m. at the Southern State Community College Atrium in Hillsboro. Tickets are $16 each and can be purchased at The Times-Gazette.
Gayle Coss was born on Oct. 1, 1944 in Phoenix, Ariz. Her stepfather was in the U.S. Navy and the family lived in many places including Millington, Tennessee, California and Hawaii. Gayle and her first husband lived in California, Arizona and Utah. She had two children.
Gayle was employed by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Arizona from 1968 until 1983 starting as a typist and was Medicare supervisor and systems analyst when she moved to Utah. She then worked for the Utah Professional Review Organization as a review coordinator and assistant project manager.
From 1978 until 1979, she worked for Health Systems Research Institute in West Jordan, Utah as the director of professional recruiting. In 1979, she became the director of professional relations for Humana Hospital Davis North in Davis County, Utah. During this time, the sheriff of Davis County contacted the hospital about establishing an emergency medical service under his department. Gayle was the hospital’s liaison with the sheriff on this project and as a result became certified as an EMT and reserve deputy with the sheriff’s department. After she became a single mother, she decided to obtain her college degree and began attending classes at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.
Gayle left the medical field in 1983 when she was hired by the Davis County sheriff as a deputy. She graduated from the peace officer training academy at age 38 and began her second career. She worked as an EMT on the emergency medical service, as a jailer and road deputy and then was appointed as public information and crime prevention officer for the department.
As part of her duties, Gayle became involved in the ground floor of the crime victims’ rights movement in Utah. She became involved in the Utah State Sheriff’s Association and was appointed a member of the governor’s task force on victim’s rights. Gayle became a member of the National Organization for Victims Assistance and was active in victims programs in the National Sheriff’s Association and during that time met several Ohio sheriffs. Gayle was certified as an instructor for the National Sheriff’s Association, as an EMT instructor in both Utah and Wyoming, and was a clinical faculty member for the Mobile Paramedic Program for Weber State University.
In 1986, the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association was awarded a grant for the purpose of establishing a victim witness assistance program in every county in Ohio. Gayle had been contacted about coming to work on that program. However, in late 1986, BSSA decided to decline the grant. The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association was asked to accept the grant and agreed to do so. Gayle’s name was given to that organization as the person they were going to hire. Gayle accepted the offer and became the director of grants and special projects for OPAA in 1987.
Gayle arrvied in early February of 1987 to Columbus, rented an apartment the night she arrived, moved in the next day and reported to work the day after for what she thought would be a one- to two-year project. Gayle’s primary duty was to encourage establishment of a victim assistance program in every county in Ohio, primarily through the local county prosecuting attorney’s offices.
She obtained her Ohio Peace Officer’s certification and became a reserve officer for the Upper Arlington Police Department, working as both as a part-time patrol officer and special details. She became an instructor on victim’s rights issues at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.
The position at OPAA became a long-term career as Gayle worked on other projects in addition to her victim-witness program duties. She became a registered lobbyist and assisted the OPAA executive director in legislative matters of importance to Ohio prosecutors.
Gayle was active in several community organizations in Columbus. She was a member of the American Business Women’s Association and Altrusa. She served as president of both groups. She also continued to attend college classes at Ohio State University and Columbus State. She later transferred to Ohio Dominican University.
On April 17, 1993, Gayle married Rocky Coss. For five years, Gayle lived in an apartment in Columbus during the week and spent weekends in Hillsboro. Gayle became a special police officer for the city of Hillsboro and worked special events such as parades.
In the spring of 1998, Gayle decided that she wanted to live full-time in Hillsboro, resigned her position with OPAA and accepted a position as an administrative assistant with Ferno in Wilmington. She left there in 2001 and became executive director of Highland House Assisted Living Center. She remained there until 2003 when she became marketing director for the Laurels of Hillsboro Nursing Home. Gayle completed her course work and received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Ohio Dominican and obtained her substitute teaching certificate.
In 2005, Gayle thought she would semi-retire. She did some substitute teaching; however, she was asked to become executive director of the Highland County Society for Children and Adults.
Gayle became active in the community. She became a member of the Hillsboro Rotary Club in 2003 and served as secretary for nine years. She served for six years as a member of the Highland County YMCA Board of Trustees. She has also been a member of the Highland Horse Council.
An avid animal lover, Gayle has brought three horses, two dogs, two indoor cats and five outdoor cats into the Coss household. She supports many animal welfare organizations. In 2014-15, Gayle was elected to the board of the Highland County Human Society.
In 2011, Gayle and Rocky became the guardian of their grandson, RJ Collard, who moved here from Clearfield, Utah to attend high school.
In another nomination letter, Sue Honeycutt wrote: I am privileged to know Gayle Coss. I first came to know Gayle in the 1990s when she came to Highland County to provide victim advocacy training. A group of volunteers had come together under the direction of the Highland County prosecutor’s office to launch the Highland County Victim Assistance program. Gayle provided valuable support to this fledgling program, helping launch a program that today continues to provide effective assistance to victims of crime in Highland County.
Gayle joined the Highland County Society for Children & Adults when Nina Wharton retired. At that time, I was a case manager for the Highland County Board of Developmental Disabilities. I regularly called Gayle to request assistance for individuals and families who had health-related needs, but who did not have the money to obtain said services. Gayle always promptly responded to any requests from my agency, helping resolve potential hardship for those families in need.
As executive coordinator for the society, Gayle wears many hats. Her duties include fundraising, public relations, assisting with the annual Rotary Telethon in March, and staying abreast of other government and social services resources available in our community. These duties are in addition to the direct services she provides to individuals who are calling to request assistance, oftentimes on an urgent basis.
Gayle performs her job in a professional and sensible manner. She monitors requests from the citizens of Highland County 24 hours pr day. She may spend a significant amount of her day providing services to those requesting help. This aspect of her work is fulfilled with patience, grace and sometimes with a sense of humor. She is diligent in seeking out other community and social resources that might help others.
As you are aware, Gayle is involved with many other altruistic activities in Highland County. Her caring nature is evident in the love she has for animals and for those who are facing overwhelming life circumstances. We are so fortunate to have her as a member of our community. Her contribution to Highland County is exemplary and she so deserves distinguished recognition.
In another nomination letter, Pam Chaney wrote: I first met Gayle Coss when she became the executive secretary of the Highland County Society for Children and Adults. Through the years she has earned my admiration and respect as she has dedicated her time to improve the lives of many local children and adults.
Through our conversations, I have often sensed Gayle’s compassion for our needy families and friends of Highland County. And yes, I’ve seen tears come to her eyes as she has shared some of their stories.
The position of executive secretary of the Highland County Society for Children and Adults not only requires compassion. It also requires a good sense of business and plain old common sense. Highland County is very fortunate to have these three traits found in one person.
Gayle is a positive advocate for what is best for our neighborhoods, and is impacting lives daily. She certainly deserves any and all recognition she receives for her accomplishments.
Submitted by the Highland County Women’s Hall of Fame.