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Philip R. Cosminsky

Philip Ray Cosminsky was born in Mobile, Alabama on November 14, 1906, the son of Clara and Philip Cosminsky, a newspaper editor. Phil (he was known as Ray within his family, to distinguish him from his father) had only an 8th grade formal education, but a high level of intelligence and curiosity; he taught himself astronomy, Greek, history, architecture, chemistry - anything that peaked his interest, and he was interested in everything. He also become interested in minerals early in life, and studied mineralogy on his own.

Living in the port city of Mobile, Phil felt an attraction to the life of a sailor. At the age of 14 or 15 he dropped out of school and went to work on any ship he could hire onto - including yachts on the Great Lakes and "banana boats" leaving out of Mobile. In 1928 he married Rosa Frye and they had one son, Philip Eugene ("Gene")Cosminsky; but the marriage lasted for only a few years. He returned to Mobile periodically between voyages, and in 1930 was working in Mobile at a dry cleaner's shop, but with his active mind he must surely have been bored. In 1932 he signed on with the Merchant Marine and for a number of years he traveled all over the world on cargo ships.

In the early 1940s he was sent to New York City. There his interest in minerals got him into a bit of a trouble. One of his buddies brought him a piece of rock that had come in on a ship as ballast to see if he could identify it. He had no sooner gotten home with it when a man in a trench coat appeared at his door and asked if he had a rock in his possession. It turned out that the specimen was uranium ore that had been secretly shipped in as ballast to be used for the Manhattan project!

In 1942 Phil married Evelyn Alice Horsfall (1912-1999), from Little Rock, Arkansas. He nicknamed her "Susie" after their whirlwind courtship. They married in Washington, DC and then she joined him in New York City. After the war, he went to work for the Washington Woodworking Company and settled in Falls Church, Virginia, where they lived from 1946 until 1972 (he retired in 1965). He was pleased to find that the northern Virginia trap rock quarries were located near his home. The quarries are noted for microminerals, especially zeolites, and collecting there must certainly have influenced his inclination toward micromounting. He field-collected at many classic localities in eastern North America, and wrote occasional articles on them for Rocks & Minerals, including the following:

"Mount Adam and Pine Island, New York" (1947)
"Psilomelane in Falls Church, Virginia" (1948)
"Babingtonite in Loudon County, Virginia" (1950)
"Old quarry goes modern" (1954)
"Ethics for rockhounds" (1957) (for the Mineralogical Society of Washington, DC)

Most micromounters who were active in the 1940s and 1950s owned prized micromounts they had received from Philip Cosminsky. He often provided specimens in trade but, in the true micromounter tradition, if you had nothing to trade he would give you a fine specimen anyway. Indeed Philip sought out those who were relatively new to the hobby, not only to share his specimens but to share his knowledge.

Phil was a strong supporter of the early Baltimore Micromount Symposia, where his humorous lectures were eagerly anticipated. Unfortunately, health problems in his later years made field collecting and attending symposia impossible. But he continued to make significant contributions to micromounting and mineralogy. After moving to Harrisonburg, Virginia he learned that James Madison University needed study specimens for their mineralogical collections. Contacting his many friends about this need resulted in many donations. He also obtained or mounted over 800 micromounts for the university and built a beautiful cabinet to house them. And he also gave seminars on mineral collecting and micromounting to the University's Geology Club.

In 1972 Phil and Susie retired to Harrisonburg, Virginia. While on visits to see his daughter Sharon in North Carolina and his son in Mobile, Phil enjoyed going to the local mineral shows where he shared his love of micromounting with everyone. He devised a portable turntable with about 20 specimens in it and was able to set up his microscope and talk rocks with everyone willing to listen. Since one of the specimens was a tiny diamond, he always had their full attention. He also took this set-up to his grandson's classroom and shared with the 6th graders. Phil was always a popular sight at the shows and he loved his minerals and interacting with people. The photo of him shown here was taken at the mineral show in Mobile.

Phil could make anything out of wood, and was always a gifted craftsman, whether it was doing woodwork for the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, or putting a ship in a bottle for his son-in-law. He was a superb cabinetmaker, and won numerous awards for his craftsmanship. Fortunate indeed were the micromounters who persuaded him to build them a cabinet.

Phil died in Harrisonburg on October 2, 1981. His ashes are scattered on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia along with Susie's. His micromount collection, housed in exquisite walnut and rosewood cabinets, was purchased by alumni and donated to James Madison University. In 1975 the Philip R. Cosminsky Service Award was established in the Geology Department at James Madison University in his honor, and has been presented annually ever since to the Geology Major who has shown outstanding service and dedication to the department. In 1984 he was inducted into the Micromounters Hall of Fame.

Sharon Cosminsky Kern (daughter), personal comunication.
Social Security Death Index.
U.S. Federal Census 1910, 1920, 1930.
WIGHT, Q. (1993) The Complete Book of Micromounting. Mineralogical Record, Tucson, p. 211.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Philip R. Cosminsky Philip R. Cosminsky
The Mineralogical Record - Philip R. Cosminsky 44 x 96 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Philip R. Cosminsky 44 x 96 mm;
reverse side of the above label.
The Mineralogical Record - Philip R. Cosminsky 48 x 101 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Philip R. Cosminsky Two of the specimen cabinets built by Philip Cosminsky, now in the James Madison University collection (photo courtesy of Lance Kearns).
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