AUGUSTA — Sylvester Cobbs, a photographer, community volunteer and popular substitute teacher known for teaching students as much about life as academics, died early Monday morning.

Cobbs, 83, of Augusta, known to most as Cobby, was a fixture in Augusta schools and community organizations, including the Augusta Elks Lodge and American Legion for many years.

He died of injuries suffered in a May 25 car accident in Winthrop. He died in his sleep just after midnight Monday, family said.

Cobbs was active until the end — he was on his way to photograph a wedding reception at the YMCA Camp of Maine in Winthrop when his sport-utility vehicle went off the road and rolled over.

He substitute taught a class the day before the accident. And he was planning to teach again next school year, his wife, Mary Cobbs, said Monday.

“He’d get called in to teach four or five times a week sometimes,” Mary Cobbs sad. “Students loved him. We couldn’t go anywhere without a bunch of teenagers coming up to him, saying ‘Cobby! Cobby!’ They connected with him because he listened to them. Cobby loved people. And people loved him.”

Lynne Cobb, a seventh grade teacher at Cony High School, said Cobbs was one of the best friends she ever had and he had an enormous impact on children. He would jokingly call her his niece, because their names were so similar.

“He was very honest with them, and would talk about his own life in a way that would keep them spellbound,” Cobb said Monday, before Cony’s eighth grade graduation ceremonies, at which Cobbs traditionally spoke to students, representing the American Legion.

“He would share his years of wisdom and life experience. He spoke with students in a way that was really profound yet simple and understandable. He was a teacher, in a very natural sense of the word.”

Chuck Hinds, longtime guidance counselor to middle school students in Augusta, said Cobbs was such a fixture in local schools a lot of people thought he was a full-time teacher.

“He loved coming in to the schools and the kids liked him a lot,” Hinds said. “When he finished with a teacher’s lesson plan for the day, then he’d go on to his own unique philosophies on life and shared them with the kids. (His death) is going to be hard on a lot of them. It’s going to be difficult not seeing him walking around school.”

But his influence on youngsters is only part of the story of Cobbs. He was also very active in the Augusta Elks Lodge, where he previously served as chaplain, and the American Legion post where he has served as commander, Augusta Eagles Club where he was vice president and as a lifelong member of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

His wife noted he didn’t join those clubs for their bars. He didn’t drink. Though he was widely known for giving rides home to others who had too much to drink, even giving them rides back to get their cars in the morning.

She said Cobbs, a nearly 22-year Navy veteran, joined the clubs because he believed in serving the public and representing veterans.

And he was a regular in an informal group of residents who met every Sunday morning for breakfast at area restaurants, including Lisa’s Restaurant in Augusta where, Mary Cobbs said, “he’d always walk through the door and say “Good morning everybody!’ and they’d all respond back to him.”

Cobbs was widely known for his sense of humor. It was sometimes off-color. And often at his own expense.

Hinds recalled him joking about winning a raffle in which the prizes were a haircut and tanning salon visit. Cobbs, who was black, kept his head closely shaved.

Cobbs was mentoring a young photographer lately, something he loved to do, Mary Cobbs said.

He shot film, not digital.

Tony Routh, of Randolph, Cobbs’ nephew, said his uncle was also known for providing whatever support was needed by anyone who was down and out.

Mary Cobbs said she and other family members have received an incredible amount of support from the community, both during her husband’s time in the hospital, and now that he has died. A Caring Bridge website, www.caringbridge.org/visit/cobby, set up to keep people up to date on Cobbs had received, by late Monday, nearly 4,300 visits and numerous heartfelt comments. His family has received hundreds of cards.

A celebration of life for Cobbs is planned from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at American Legion Post 2 on Capitol Street Extension in Augusta. A military service at Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery on Mount Vernon Road is planned for 9 a.m. June 25.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.