Dr. Paul David Cotten Sr., 80, died peacefully at his Ellisville home on Saturday, April 15, 2017.
He spent his final days surrounded by his loving family before making his transition to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The funeral will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Ellisville First United Methodist Church followed by burial at Ellisville Cemetery. Visitation will take place at the church from 9-11 a.m. before the funeral. Ellisville Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Dr. Cotten was born in McComb on Nov. 27, 1936, to Sylvester and Florida Williams Cotten.
After graduating from McComb High School, he prepared himself for an outstanding future by earning a bachelor of music education, master of music therapy, and Ph. D. in psychology from USM. He began working in the field of mental retardation in 1958, ending his impressive career as director of the Ellisville State School and then Boswell Regional Center. During his tenure in mental health, he served as an adjunct professor at USM and William Carey University. Following his retirement from the state, he became a full-time professor of psychology, gerontology, and music therapy at William Carey University until October of 2016.
Dr. Cotten will always be remembered as a man whose life was all about people. He was an honorable, respected man who took to heart the advice of his parents to live a very rewarding life by being a living sermon through his daily words and actions. His philosophy was to be immortal by being involved with others younger than he, facilitating experiences and training others to improve the quality of life for others. This philosophy earned his the Laurel Junior Auxiliary Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2012 as well as countless other awards in his field.
Ellisville First United Methodist Church lost one of its staunchest members with the death of Dr. Cotten. He was a vital part of church ministries for more than 50 years, serving as Sunday school teacher, Methodist Men member, children’s tone bell director, enthusiastic dishwasher and kitchen cleaner, and dedicated visitor to shut-ins. He shared his musical talent and passion by serving the church as adult choir director, mentoring budding young singers along the way by encouraging solo performances.
A very mission-minded Christian, Dr. Cotten chaired the church Mission Committee for many years, raising funds for mission trips as well as participating in the mission field. The church Relay for Life team became very meaningful to him in the last few years as he lost his three siblings to cancer. He was a driving force of the team, helping the church to be recognized yearly as one of the top church fundraisers in Jones County. At the annual church Relay for Life Dinner Theater, Dr. Cotten was presented the 2017 Spirit Award given to a church member who has been an inspiring example to others while fighting cancer.
Paul Cotten never met a stranger. He loved travel, horses, food and reading. He caught the travel bug as a child, riding the railroad with his parents. A college mission trip to Cuba started his international travels, which extended from Europe to Australia to the Korean DMZ. He loved horses and had the opportunity to ride all around the country. Paul’s love of food became a trivia game “match the restaurant with the town.” He knew every local restaurant, diner and café between San Antonio, Texas, and Talladega, Ala. He also loved watching westerns on TV. He knew how it would end and who the bad guy was.
Dr. Cotten was preceded in death by his parents and three siblings, Dr. Milam Cotten, Mary Virginia Graham and Rev. Frances Cotten.
Dr. Cotten married the love of his life Lou Ann Waggoner in 1959, and they became the parents of four children. He is survived by his devoted wife of 57 years; and his children, Paul David Cotten of Houston, Texas; Lee Cotten of Ellisville; Mark (Lisa) of San Antonio; and Paula McGowin (David) Ellisville. Survivors also include his four grandchildren, Joseph Mark (Athena) of Smyrna, Tenn.; John of San Antonio; and Anna Claire and Alisa Evans of Ellisville.
Pallbearers will be Brad Lyon, Webb Lyon, Walt Therrell, Clarence Putnam, Larry Walters and Ken Reynolds. Honorary pallbearers will be the men of the Ellisville United Methodist Church. Memorial gifts may be sent to Ellisville United Methodist Church.