IN AN AGE when most talk of families includes the word "dysfunctional," Bill Cosby brought to television an intact, warm, eminently functional American family in "The Cosby Show." In a family format that mimicked his own -- four daughters and a son caught smack in the middle of all those sisters -- Mr. Cosby and his on-screen wife brought hope and humor to mothers, fathers and children everywhere.
Families could be fun. Parenting could pay off. Even in the late 20th century, children could respect and obey their parents even while enjoying them. Bill Cosby reminded us of that. To learn that he, his wife and daughters now must cope with one of the cruelest blows any family can face -- the searing loss of a son and brother to senseless violence -- is to know that everyone who was touched by the gentle humor of his sitcom is in some measure grieving too.
Twenty-seven year-old Ennis Cosby was a fortunate young man. By all accounts, his father and mother, Camille, provided much the same warmth and humor and good sense portrayed in the TV Cosby family. But if he had much good fortune, he also had challenges to face and overcome. One of the biggest was dyslexia, a learning disorder that was not diagnosed until he was about 13 years old.
The diagnosis, and how he and his family learned to deal with his condition, became a script for one of the most informative shows of the entire series -- one that many parents of children with dyslexia remember well.
At his death, Ennis Cosby was a graduate student at Columbia University, working toward a doctorate in special education. His goal was to start a school for children with learning disabilities. An apparently random murder near a Los Angeles-area freeway has now ended a life that contained much accomplishment, and much promise for the future.
Pub Date: 1/18/97