A life in 640 words
This past weekend I wrote my brother’s obituary. An obituary that he never would have wanted, but that we needed. This follows the personal tribute I wrote, which was more about what he meant to my life .
Writing is always hard. But writing the summary of someone’s life, particularly when you are dealing with the fact that it’s really ended? That was a new experience.
Donald Scott Coombs
On the afternoon of November 10, 2017, Donald Scott Coombs, formerly of Plymouth, MA, died peacefully at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from injuries he sustained ten days earlier in a traffic accident. Scott was 55 years old.
Born on August 4, 1962 in Bad Aibling, Germany and adopted as a newborn by his parents Donald and Jean Coombs, Scott spent five of his first eight years living in Germany while his father was with the U. S. Army.
The family returned to Plymouth permanently in 1970 where Scott attended local schools and participated in a number of academic programs, his excitement and gift for learning obvious to anyone who knew him.
As a Plymouth-Carver Regional High School (PCHS) junior, Scott was one of 10 students selected nationally to participate in an intensive Russian-language program at Phillips Andover Academy. That same year, he was one of 20 students selected to participate in a National Science Foundation computer AI program at MIT.
Valedictorian of the PCHS class of 1979, Scott went on to attend Dartmouth College where he majored in Russian Language & Literature and minored in Computer Science, and was an early member of the College’s Gay Students Association. Scott graduated with an AB in 1983.
Programming was Scott’s chosen career and he worked for a number of financial institutions on Wall Street before discovering that working remotely would allow him to live in warmer climates and provide enough financial security that he could work less. Throughout his life, he continued to enjoy extended travel, teaching himself new languages, and experimenting with computer languages. He was very active in online communities involving open source computing projects and presented a paper at an academic conference in Norway in 2007.
For the past decade, Scott chose to make Brazil his home, using his gift for language to become a successful translator while also helping those around him improve their language skills. This included teaching English to his partner, Diogo, so that he could travel the world without a barrier — a gift that has also allowed Scott’s family to be in communication during this difficult time.
As an adult, Scott also established a loving relationship with his birth mother, Veronika, teaching himself German so they could communicate and he could learn more about his birth family. When he wasn’t working or programming, as he had during his youth in Plymouth, Scott spent his time visiting the beach, swimming, riding his bike, meeting new people, and was never without a book in hand.
Scott was never interested in career longevity, a financial windfall, or the accumulation of possessions. He never owned anything of any monetary value, but for a laptop. He chose to live as cheaply as possible wherever that might be. In his class yearbook, Scott was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” In that his definition of success was the freedom to do what he wanted, when he wanted, and where he wanted, his family can confirm that he achieved it. Scott was loved by his Brazilian family, his German family, and his American family. We greatly miss his smile, his laughter, his wit and charm, and his unique perspective on life and the world.
Scott was preceded in death by his father Donald Coombs, and is survived by his loving partner, Diogo Jacintho Barbosa of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, his mothers Jean Coombs of Carlisle, MA and Veronika Zastrow of Germany, in addition to his sister Karina Coombs and her husband Benjamin Tremblay, also of Carlisle. Scott is also survived by his nieces Sophia and Eleanor Tremblay, his many aunts, uncles, and cousins, and his friends both near and far.
Donations can be made in Scott’s memory to amfAR at: Philanthropy, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, 120 Wall Street, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10005-3902 or online.