By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A bouquet of white flowers sat behind Cotati Councilman Robert Coleman-Senghor’s nameplate on Wednesday night at City Hall, as colleagues, friends and even adversaries paid tribute to his keen intellect, eloquence and gentlemanly manner.
Coleman-Senghor, 70, who was elected to the council in 2008, died Saturday from a tear in his aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body.
Andre Morrow, president of Cotati’s Chamber of Commerce, said that he and Coleman-Senghor “butted heads” on several matters “but we always respected each other.”
After arguing, Morrow said, the two men would talk about their families and fathers, and “he cried every single time.”
Joan Simon, a Cotati resident, said Coleman-Senghor, a longtime professor of English at Sonoma State University, was “one of the most thoughtful men I’ve ever known. He was an elected official, but not a politician.”
Chris Cone recalled meeting Coleman-Senghor at her kitchen table when he was campaigning for the council. “I had just found a lifelong friend,” she recalled.
Kathryn Wickstrom acknowledged Coleman-Senghor’s ability to wade into controversy. “I am a firm believer that controversy is good for the betterment of mankind,” she said.
Councilwoman Pat Gilardi said he had known Coleman-Senghor for years, calling him “gracious always, even in debate, even when we disagreed, a gentleman always.”
Councilman Mark Landman, like others who spoke, recalled hourslong conversations with Coleman-Senghor, including their first, a three-hour dialog.
“We talked about everything under the sun,” Landman said.
Born in Louisiana, Coleman-Senghor grew up in the East Bay, graduated from Berkeley High and enlisted in the Marines.
He joined the SSU faculty in 1972, having earned a bachelor’s degree after studies at UC Berkeley and the University of San Francisco.
Coleman-Senghor is survived by his wife, Gabi Schmitz, and four sons. Mayor Janet Orchard described Coleman-Senghor as “a huge presence and force on the council, and a good friend of mine.”
Councilwoman Susan Harvey said she will miss “our conversations and his smiling face sitting next to me.”
“I think we will move forward, but we’ll never forget him,” Orchard said, concluding the remembrances.