Obituary: Mari Cobb chronicled her cancer odyssey

Published: Wednesday, May. 1, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4B
Last Modified: Thursday, May. 2, 2013 - 8:06 am

Mari L. Cobb, a Sacramento woman who opened her heart in an online diary and a college classroom to share her story of living and dying with an aggressive disease, died April 21 of cancer, her family said. She was 65.

Ms. Cobb was a lively, outgoing woman who enjoyed meeting people, going on adventures and helping find solutions. She traveled to more than 30 countries, rafted rivers and ate exotic foods. She volunteered with a hospice program for young children.

She hosted foreign exchange students and provided free housing for actors in Sacramento Theatre Co. shows. She designed user-friendly computer programs and mentored co-workers as a pioneering woman in the information technology industry.

"Mari was always willing to volunteer with a project, to speak up and help somebody," colleague Debbie Gollnick said. "She showed me how to take that next step and put yourself out there."

In December 2010, Ms. Cobb was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and deadly form of bile duct cancer. She sought help at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and moved to the Los Angeles area for 11 months for a drug trial in Santa Monica and treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She received chemotherapy after returning to Sacramento in April 2012.

She chronicled her odyssey online at Besides details of medical procedures and the ups and downs of her condition, she wrote with remarkable courage and honesty about her hopes and fears. Her diary drew almost 3,400 messages of support from more than 400 people around the world.

"To die or not to die?" she said in 2011. "I do not know the answer. But I do know that my life is so much fuller and joyous since I have gotten the cancer. I continue to be touched by so many of you reaching out to me."

Ms. Cobb also spoke about joys and regrets in moving appearances at Sacramento City College that were posted on YouTube. Speaking in March to a psychology class on death and dying, she teared up as she said that she accepted that she was dying. In a clear voice, she challenged students to embrace life, reject negativism and be true to themselves and others.

"One of the things that was striking about Mari was her willingness to be so open about herself in public," class teacher Julie Interrante said. "She was going to help people as much as she could for as long as she could."

Born in 1947 in Lakewood, Ohio, Mari Larson was the youngest of four children of a school nurse and an engineer. She earned a broadcasting degree from Ohio University and learned about automation overseeing cash register operations for Holiday Inn. She joined NCR in San Diego and was a programmer during the early days of office computers before moving to Sacramento in 1979.

She designed software for businesses and state agencies, including the Board of Equalization. She became an independent consultant, retrained herself in Oracle software and served on the board of the Oracle Development Tools User Group for several years.

She had two sons with her husband of 33 years, Ted Cobb, a lawyer.

After acknowledging that she was dying, Ms. Cobb spoke with SCC students about the meaning of life.

"I really think life is way simpler than what I've made it," she said. "Life is about (being) joyous and happy, and to feed your soul. Period.

"And you don't have to do great things or be somebody great," she added. "When you're in your joy – if that's fishing or whatever the heck it is – that's what we're here for. To be happy and to love each other – that's all there is."

Mari L. Cobb

Born: May 27, 1947

Died: April, 21, 2013

Survived by: Husband, Ted of Sacramento; sons, Jonathan of Portland, Ore., and Christopher of Los Angeles; sister, Judy Hunter of Albuquerque, N.M.; brothers, Andy Larson of St. Louis, and Keith Larson of Virginia Beach, Va.

Services: Memorial, 3 p.m. May 19 at Valley Hi Country Club, 9595 Franklin Blvd., Elk Grove

Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.

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