Lee Fabian (Harrison) Pavalko ("Cosi")
Feb 17, 1947 - Jul 21, 2021
Lee Fabian (Harrison) Pavalko, known as "Cosi", passed away surrounded by friends and staff at UCSF Medical Center on July 21, 2021. A well-known San Francisco and Haight-Ashbury personality and British expatriate, she was during her life a scholar, journalist, author, poet, masterful storyteller, avid gardener, sex worker, a recovering alcoholic (40 years sober), devotee of the "Goddess spirit" in all life and a force to be reckoned with.
Cosi was born in Malta to British parents (Len and Fay Harrison, along with doting older brother Paul, deceased) where the family was stationed as part of her father's military service during World War II. Cosi's early childhood in Malta, with its ancient megalithic temples, likely stimulated some of her later adult interests in cultural and historical practices around female spirituality. The family later returned to the UK where Cosi's primary education took place. During her teenage years, the family lived in Singapore where her father was posted to Changi Base, now the site of the international airport of the same name. Returning to the UK in her 20s, Cosi worked in BBC radio during the 1960s encountering many personalities of the British Rock industry. An initial visit to San Francisco led her in the late 1960s to make it her home. Like so many of those arriving then, Cosi marched to the beat of her own drum.
Cosi loved travel with ventures to Mexico, Guatemala (where she did work as a correspondent), Hawaii, Cambodia, Australia and Africa. It was during a trip to Africa in April 1972 that Cosi survived an airplane crash at Abbis Abbaba Bole Airport, which killed 39; 64 survivors including Cosi escaped the burning plane. The memory of this lucky escape was felt by her for the rest of her life.
In San Francisco, by 1980, Cosi had moved into the apartment on Ashbury Street that would remain her home for 40 years. Her street garden, which she maintained for many years, gave many neighbors pleasure. She also began a lifetime journey of sobriety. Later that decade she became part of the sex worker community, supporting the decriminalization organization known as COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics, founded by Margo St. James) and the St. James Infirmary, where she mentored a generation of sex workers and remains a central figure in that community. For a decade or more, Cosi worked as a "Sacred Whore", using sexuality as a path to the divine. A researcher of mythology and ancient ways, Cosi modeled her career on temple priestesses.
As a scholar she would forge revolutionary perspectives on both the sacred feminine and masculine based upon her in-depth historical and mythological research. Cosi served as an advisor and a lecturer for The Women's Spirituality Programs at The New College of California, and she was a frequent guest on radio programs including NPR. She shared her wisdom and wit on various television shows including ABC's 20/20 and the Canadian SexTV. Her paradigm shifting teachings touched many lives through major media, books, workshops and lectures. Cosi is a contributing author for Whores and Other Feminists (Routledge 1997) and she wrote the powerful forward for Lilith's Fire: Reclaiming Our Sacred Lifeforce (Universal Publishers, 2000).
In later life, Cosi created the successful dog walking business "Mary Poopins" and cherished her canine clients (and their owners) who became part of her life. She also loved felines including her cats "Handsome" and her beloved ginger, "Hammersmith". Cosi was an active participant in the Haight-Ashbury community, creating a support group for local seniors, and engaged with campaigns to ensure public transport access for seniors. The last two years of Cosi's life were challenged by both acute and chronic illness, but her spirit and humor never wavered. Prior to her terminal illness, she planted and nurtured sweet peas in her street garden which flowered in time for her to treasure their aroma in hospital. For those who knew and loved Cosi, her witty conversation, sense of humor, enthusiasm for the feminine spirit, and the pleasure of a good cup of tea while watching British TV murder mysteries will be greatly missed.
Cosi's friends and extended family gratefully acknowledge the many and compassionate efforts of the UCSF surgical and ICU teams on Cosi's behalf during her illness.
Cosi's extended family include her two nieces, Anneke Harrison (of Sydney, Australia) and Matilda Harrison and great-niece Inez (both of London, UK). She will be deeply missed by many and diverse friends in the San Francisco Bay area and across the globe. A celebration of Cosi's life will be held at the San Francisco Columbarium on Saturday, September 25th, at 2.00 pm. In lieu of flowers donations may be sent to St. James Infirmary or the Haight-Asbury Free Clinic (now part of HealthRight360).
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Sep. 16 to Sep. 19, 2021.