NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Dr. Elsie Cofield was born in rural North Carolina, to sharecroppers. She ended up graduating college, moving to New Haven and enjoying a decades-long career as school teacher. But that was far from the end of her service-driven life. A life that would touch hundreds with her love and compassion.
New Haven City Hall was packed in a way that it rarely is. Hundreds of chairs, filled with loving friends of a city icon. A woman who gave so much for the city she called home. And that city sending her home with the highest honor.
“If people know my mother, they know the good she did,” said Curtis M. Cofield III, Elsie’s son. “And I have to say the good she did came from the love that was instilled in her, in her belief in Christ.”
The body of Elsie Cofield lay in state at City Hall Friday evening. With her children sitting in the front row, hundreds paid their respects, including the areas highest elected officials.
“After a 40 year career as an educator, Elsie could’ve retired,” said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven. “But instead she embarked on a new journey that would touch hundreds of lives and comfort so many in pain.”
After a decades-long teaching career in Hamden. Elsie founded the AIDS Interfaith Network nearly 30 years ago, at a time when HIV-AIDS was misunderstood. Patients were treated with contempt, many people afraid to even touch them. But Cofield welcomed them in and helped any way she could.
“She did it, without self concern,” said Cofield III. “She did it because she loved. So I think we as a community have to have that same mentality.”
She met President Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Elsie was such a giant in New Haven, she’s even had a street corner named after her in the city’s Dwight neighborhood, not far from a corner named for her late husband. After a full life, lived with love, Elsie Cofield, died at the age of 92.
“Rest in peace Elsie Cofield. I thank you for your dedicated service to New Haven,” said New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.