Reason Center’s board recently voted to name its main hall after an activist couple, Hank and Cleo Kocol (pronounced Koh’-sall). Both Hank and Cleo were activists who resided in the greater Sacramento area, for the last decades of their life.
A plaque was made for hanging in the main room, and the official dedication of “Kocol Hall” was made during the 3rd anniversary celebration of Reason Center on July 16, 2017.
Reason Center board member Mynga Futrell, a friend of the Kocols, displayed the commemorative plaque at the event, and recalled for the audience some of the notable actions and achievements of the persons being honored.
Living and aging in Roseville, Hank and Cleo nonetheless remain known to many participants in today’s Reason Center community, each having played key roles in our local atheist-humanist partner organizations. Both are also recalled and respected for their actions in support of freethought and women’s rights.
The couple clearly shared progressive values, and a passion for humanism and feminism.
Hank was a prolific letter-writer to the Sacramento Bee, and he volunteered for several years to escort women into the local Women’s Health services.
He conducted his “final exit” self-delivery in 2013 at age 75, purposefully getting ahead of the final depredations of Alzheimer’s disease.
Cleo, a creative personality and major benefactor to Reason Center, traveled widely performing in plays and other works she authored.
She died of cancer last year at age 89, merely months after presenting at the Reason Center her well-researched one-woman play centering on three women and their ties (wife/daughter/granddaughter) to Thomas Jefferson.
Both Hank and Cleo were long-time supporters of the American Humanist Association, and Hank recalled as a highlight in his life his opportunity to physically present AHA’s Humanist of the Year award to Isaac Asimov.
Cleo, for her part, was an AHA board member and leader in the Feminist Caucus. In 1986 AHA, acknowledging her feminist activism in support of the ERA among other activities, presented her with its annual “Humanist Heroine” award. Hank and Cleo were lifetime members of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
While residing in Sacramento proper, Hank and Cleo were active in both the Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area and Atheists and Other Freethinkers (charter members in 1993).
Hank on behalf of AOF, took charge and organized the Year 2000 annual convention of Atheist Alliance International in Sacramento. He also initiated AOF’s highway cleanup project, which continues to this day as a SacFAN activity.
Cleo, who wrote both prose and award winning poetry, scripted a couple of skits that AOF members performed at celebratory events.
After their move to Roseville, the couple co-founded the Sun City Humanists, which they sustained within a notably religiously conservative milieu for over a decade until they decided retirement was in order.
We, the board members of the Reason Center, and the larger freethought community are humbled by and thankful for the dedication and support of Hank and Cleo Kocol.
Please note that the correct pronunciation of Kocol is coatsol. My source is Hank himself. He and Cleo were very tolerant with respect to the very slight mispronunciation. However, out of respect, we should get it right.