Jim Cotter's Journal
Written Jul 24, 2010 11:04amGood Morning,
Thank you for making Coach's sendoff so amazing. We were and continue to be overwhelmed by your love and outpouring of spirit.
I had a number of requests for Dad's Eulogy, so I thought I would post it.
He is finally at peace.
Eulogy for Coach Jim Cotter
Good Morning Cardinal Sean, Fr. Sheehan and Esteemed Friends,
It is an honor to be with you to celebrate my father’s life. On behalf of Agnes, Kelly Mike, Uncles Don, Frank and the extended Cotter family and village, thank you for love and care of Coach. Your many acts of kindness and outreach truly sustained Dad the past four years as he met with each phase of surrender to his illness and I believe that we had him for these four years because of the care and love of Agnes, our family and each one of you. I have this powerful image of him today looking down with those smiling eyes, very much at peace surrounded by his parents, our family in heaven and his boys.
My role today is to say thank you and to share a few thoughts that Coach and I talked about as we prepared for today. I have heard so many folks say wonderful things about our care as a family of Dad, but for as challenging as the transitions of his care and the stages of diminishment, there were true moment of grace. Our role was to keep dad safe, filled with hope, surrounded by love and in control with dignity. As has been said by so many, Coach not only taught us how to live but he taught us how to die. And I think we as a family learned how to accompany someone through illness.
What does it mean to accompany a person though a disease like this? Well Coach set the tone by his response to his diagnosis when he said: “Gracie, it is not the crisis but how we respond to the crisis. Strength and resolve. We are Cotter’s, we have been through worse and we will get through this together.’ So the game plan was laid out by himself and he continued to Coach and teach from his chair. However, he or we couldn’t control the plan and like coaching and teamwork, we had to make lots of adjustments and to use the football analogy, not every play worked and there were times we needed a new offense and defense and to rely on the second and third string because the team was tired, or we just knew that we had to punt, but we shared a common strategy and a desire to give 180% in a season that we knew would not be completely successful. We did our best and that is all Coach asked of us.
I recently read a book by Gail Sheehy called Passages in Caregiving. And I was struck by one particular chapter that talks about the caregiving labyrinth. As we all know, a labyrinth has one defined path that eventually leads to the center and then back out again. A maze creates chaos and a labyrinth orders chaos. One cannot get lost. However, the path is not visible, nor is it predictable. Our labyrinth has been just that but just as we have come to a chaotic place, we had angels who stepped in to guide us. I would like to acknowledge some of Dad’s angels today who have shared in our journey. First and foremost, Dad wanted me to thank Agnes for her love and fidelity and devotion to dad. Aggie, we will never be able to convey our gratitude to you for love and care for dad. You are remarkable. To my siblings Kel and Mike, what can I say but that our humor sustained us and bond of friendship and love continues to grow and we made dad laugh. To Uncles Fran and Don, Peg, Uncle Tom and Mary, Lenny and Kathleen and families, thank you for your support and for just being with dad everyday. From coffee to chatting to stories! To our families, spouses and the grandkids for making Papa and Agnes the priority. You allowed us to just go and be without questions. Luke, Moe, Annie, Matt, Casey and Mikayla ~ you were and are the spark in his eyes ~ papa wanted you to remember that and be the best that you can be. Papa has high expectations, To dad’s best friends, the Space Cowboys, Frank and Peggy, John and Betty and Jack and Karen, thank you for being his friends, body guards and for spending time every week just talking and listening. You sustained Dad. And to his boys, all of you know who you are; for your cards, visits, e-mails, post Hall of Fame Eire Pub chats, breakfast after mass at the Egg and I, lunches at Florian Hall, calls from the football fields of IOWA and Stanford, to the baseball fields of Virginia, from Coach York on the way to the National Hockey Championship, to the shout out from Senator Hart at the St. Patrick’s Dad breakfast, to the foothills of Mount Greylock as you ran and dedicated a race, to author Paul Kenney and editors Brendan Hughes for making dad’s autobiography a reality; Coach and we will ever forget your thoughtful acts of kindness. To Bill Kemeza, Steve Hughes and the entire BCHIGH community for your reverence and love of Dad and the giants that these halls stand on. To our employers, colleagues and to the Jesuits for understanding that family is a priority. And to our unsung heroes and heroines of Compassionate Care. To Dr. David and the team at Mass General who care for ALS Patients everyday; you do God’s work. To Janice Hayes – Cha and Steve Durant for guiding us through the healthcare maze and reminding us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. To Ratt Kennedy and the Angel Fund for your friendship and personal commitment to accompanying dad through his journey. To Brenda and Ron from Compassionate Care ALS; we certainly did the dance together and we could not have done it without you. And to Dad’s A TEAM at Norwell VNA Hospice who loved him like their own Dad. To Meg, Sheila, Carol, Kelly, Mary Ann, Kim, Jack, Cheryl, Jodi, Dr. Gazelle and our adopted sister Kara ~ for your love and care of Dad and all of us. We will be forever grateful for you and your commitment to dignity.
Dad’s faith carried him through this past four years and his was a quiet, personal faith and yet his faith defined him. Dad loved and lived the quote from Micah that says: “This is what the Lord asks of you: only this: To act Justly, To Love Tenderly, And to walk humbly with your God.” Dad did just that by being a good man, a fair person, a person for and with others and a person who had an ego about his work and vocation, but not about himself. We have heard countless stories the past four years, but specifically the past few days that have struck each of us in a profound way. Kelly came upstairs last night and said, this BCHIGH alum said, “I was just a kid, not an athlete and struggling to figure it all out. Your dad sought me out and I was nothing, but he made me feel like I was his quarterback. That is a gift.” We were all so moved last night by the tribute to Coach and the desire of so many to pay their respects. Whether from his first class or the young guys from the early 2000 coaching years, there was a common theme; “I love the guy. I would never have become who I am. He got me into school and I had no business getting in. I knew he must have been sick because he wasn’t at my mother’s wake. He saw in me things I never knew were there and I am grateful. He is the reason I am successful; he took a chance on me and gave me a start.” I was particularly moved by the Rochester boys who found their way to BCHIGH West because of Coach’s lifelong friendship with Jim Scannell. The two men came up and one of them said, “I was just saying to my wife tonight ~ if it wasn’t for Coach, I wouldn’t have come to Rochester, met you and had our friends and our beautiful son.” There are countless stories and the lesson for me in all of this is that Coach cared, he paid attention and at the end of the day, his grounded approach to life instilled values and here at BCHIGH, being a man for others is the order of the day.
As dad's condition changed the past few years, he made adjustments and put his trust in God. The Jesuit motto we use these days is ”With You Always” and the passage from Matthew actually says, “Jesus’ final words to his followers, ‘Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” I think Dad knew that and he never complained or felt sorry for himself; he just made an adjustment in the game plan. I remember watching all of the Kennedy funeral last year with Dad and Agnes on the Cape and it was profound to share that with them, but I also recall a quiet morning where I read Maria Shriver’s eulogy of her mother Eunice to dad and we wept together, but there was a passage that truly captured the essence of dad’s journey when she said:
“Over the years, all of us learned so much from her as well. As she softened, she gave me permission to do the same. As she sat still, she taught me how important that is in one's life. She taught us that real strength can also be found in real vulnerability, and that it's OK -- even important -- to lean on those who love you.”
As we leave today, I’d like to share my favorite poem Anyway which has been attributed to Mother Teresa. I am not in any way comparing Coach to Mother Teresa, but they did share a philosophy of life. This was Coach’s approach to life and I ask you to think about these words and remember Dad because this is the way he taught all of us to live our lives.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
Thank you for accompanying us and for joining us today as we celebrate Dad’s life. “Coach has fought the good fight. He has finished the race. He has kept the faith.” He is at peace. “Well done good and faithful servant.” We will miss you dear friend.
Grace Cotter Regan
July 23, 2010
Written Jul 20, 2010 9:31pmGood Evening,
We are very sad saying goodbye to dad, but grateful thay he is finally at peace. It has been a very long week, but we are grateful to the many friends and family for their love, care and friendship. Coach was surrounded by love and prayer this entire week and we are so grateful to each and everyone of you for your kindness and care. From dinners, to lunch, to breakfast, to visits, prayers, to laughter and tears, we thank you for accompanying us on this journey. We are so very sad and lost without dad in his chair, but dad is in a better place and we imagine that he was met by his parents and family and favorite folks like Fr. Baseball (Frank Belcher), Paul Hunter, Jack Dempsey, Fr. Charlie McCoy, Bill Crowley, Ken Murphy, Steve Trapper Trapillo, Chris Murphy and many others.
The past few days were filled with great memories and Coach trying to rally and finally he was too tired to try. Our love and gratitude to Compassionate Care ALS (Ron and Brenda), The Angel Fund (Ratt), Norwell VNA Hospice (Kara, Cheryl, Jodi, Meg, MaryAnn, Jack, Kim, Carol and Dr. Gazelle), Cape Cod Hospice (Kristen and Meg), the Boy A Team - you know who you are, Fran, Don and Peg, Frank and Peg, Jack and Karen, the Hussey's, Eddie Farley, Billy, Leo, Steve Hughes, Kathleen, Lenny and the Boys, Jonny B, Brendan, Mike McGonagle, the Benny's (Tom. Mary, Tommy, Fiona, David, Mike and the kids), Bernie, Luke and Moe, Robin. Carol, Donna, Tim, Matt, Cardinal Sean and Fr. Kickham, Fr, Myles Sheehan, SJ and the cast of thousands.
Thanks you for the cards, e-mails, calls, dinners, flowers and acts of kindness.
We will miss Coach but he will never be far from our hearts.
Spome great articles and obits,
JIM COTTER, BC HIGH’S TRUE MAN FOR OTHERS, SUCCUMBS TO ALS AT 73 by Jack Dunn @ www.bchigh.edu
Dorchester, Mass (7-20-10)-- James E. Cotter, a beloved BC High teacher, coach, guidance counselor, athletic director and administrator, whose 50-year tenure helped to shape the lives of thousands of BC High students, died Tuesday after a long and public struggle with ALS. He was 73.
Cotter, whose courageous and forthright battle with the disease served as an inspiration to the BC High and wider community, died peacefully in his Quincy home surrounded by his family.
A native of Dorchester’s Savin Hill, Cotter attended BC High from 1951-1955, beginning an association that would define his life and make him a role model and father figure for generations of students.
“Caring, compassionate, generous and devoted to helping others, Jim Cotter was everything we would ever hope a student at BC High would turn out to be,” said William Kemeza, president of Boston College High School.
“More than anyone I know, Jim believed that if you could do something for someone you should do it,” said BC High Principal Stephen Hughes. “Whether it was a student in need of guidance or a college recommendation, or someone in need of a job, financial assistance or a sympathetic ear, Jim was constitutionally unable to sit by and not offer help. That is the way he lived his life.”
As head football coach for the BC High Eagles from 1964-2004, Cotter amassed a record of 236 wins, 145 losses and 17 ties that included two undefeated seasons and two Super Bowl victories. Six of his BC High players: Jim Rourke, Joe Nash, Bob Clasby, Steve Trapilo, Tim Bulman and Paul Zakauskas, went on to play in the NFL. In recognition of his devoted service, his former players raised money to install lights at the football field in BC High’s Viola Stadium that bears his name, as well as for an endowed scholarship in his honor. It was, however, through his efforts off the field where he left his greatest mark. “Jim Cotter’s greatest legacy was in what he did to help kids get into the schools that they would not have otherwise gotten into,” said his former football standout Leo Smith of Pembroke. “What is most impressive, though, is that he worked as hard or harder for the guys who didn’t play football as he did for his players.”
Of his remarkable 40-year coaching career, Cotter was proudest of his 1971 squad, which compiled a record of 8-2, but saw all of its starting players attend prestigious colleges and universities. In a 2007 interview, Cotter, whose ability to remember names and recollect events from the past was legendary, recounted with precision the college placement of his players. “The end, Bobby Fitzpatrick, went to Brown; Billy Haggerty, the right tackle, went to Tufts; Brian Barron, the right guard, went to Bowdoin; Dan Kenslea, the center, went to Dartmouth; Nick Arcangeli, the left guard, went to Boston College; the left tackle, Larry Carlson, went to Bowdoin; Artie Murphy went to Amherst; Tommy Murphy went to Brown; Steve Fulchino the quarterback went to Bowdoin; Barry Cronin went to Harvard and John Smoot, the fullback, went on to become the captain of Yale. I was very proud of all of them as I was of all of my teams.”
Cotter saw football as the ultimate teaching opportunity where he could instill in his players values that would prepare them for life. “A lot of former players have told me that what they learned from us on the field meant a lot to their future success,” said Cotter. “The importance of hard work, or trying to do something you didn’t think you could do. Setting goals – realistic goals, and having a plan to achieve those goals, has all played a role in their development as leaders and outstanding individuals.”
After graduating from BC High in 1955, Cotter accepted a football scholarship to play at Fordham University. When the school decided to drop football after his freshman year, he transferred to Boston College where he was a tight end and placekicker and had the distinction of kicking the first extra point in Alumni Stadium. Cotter also played outfield and first base for the BC baseball team under Coach Eddie Pellegrini. He graduated with a degree in business administration and married his childhood sweetheart Ann Grace in 1959. The couple had three children: Grace, Kelly and Michael, and settled in Weymouth. Cotter served in the US Army and then worked briefly as an insurance agent before accepting a job as history teacher and assistant football coach in 1960. He taught until 1972 when he was named a guidance counselor, earning a reputation as one of the most effective college placement experts in the nation. He also served as director of athletics for a decade. He stepped down as guidance counselor in 2000 and served as special assistant to the president, attending alumni and fund raising events throughout the country until the effects of ALS precluded his travel.
After losing his wife Ann suddenly in 1983, Cotter would eventually remarry, wedding Agnes Donahue of Dorchester. He remained devoted to his three children, who lovingly assisted him throughout his long battle with ALS. “My father had high expectations for us, and discipline was the order of the day, but he always challenged us to be the best we could be, to be people for others, and to give back as much as he did,” said daughter Grace Regan of West Roxbury. “He was a remarkable man.”
In one of his last public appearances at BC High, an event to celebrate the release of a biography of his life tilted “A True Man for Others,” Cotter asked those gathered to join him in a prayer for a former student who had been severely injured in a car accident. “Here he was, his body ravaged by ALS, and he asks us to pray for someone else in need,” said Dan Shea of Milton. “He was a completely selfless individual who was an inspiration to us all. There will never be another person like him.”
A wake will be held at the Hunter-Fahey Commons at BC High on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester on Thursday from 4-8 p.m., followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. on Friday, also at BC High.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Cotter Scholarship Fund at BC High or to support ALS research and patient care through Compassionate Care ALS, the Angel Fund or the Norwell VNA Hospice. Go to www.bchigh.edu for details.
We will miss Coach.
Written Jul 18, 2010 9:53amGood Morning,
Most of you know that we brought Coach up from the Cape on Thursday and he is resting comfortably in Quincy. His condition has changed dramatically and the Hospice Team came in on Thursday and have been with us in Quincy since Thursday.
My boss, Myle Sheehan, SJ, the Jesuit Provincial joined us on Friday and anointed dad with our family and close friends. Myles was so tender and we are so very grateful. Cardinal Sean and our dear friend Fr. Bob Kickham visited dad Friday night and blessed dad. We are very blessed with such wonderful spiritual friends and grateful for their kindness and care. We have been surrounded by dad's favorite people all weekend and thank all of you for the calls, e-mails, dinner, goodies and acts of kindness.
Dad is fighting the fight of his life and we are just trying to keep him comfortable and comforted. Please keep Agnes and our family in your prayers. We are all very sad but blessed to be able to accompany dad through his journey. It takes a village and we have a wonderful village.
I am reminded of Timothy's gospel watching dad as he gradually lets go:
"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7
Thank you for accompanying us and for your prayers. We pray that Dad goes to sleep and is at peace soon.