Michael Cotter, 86

Published 1:11 pm Saturday, August 5, 2017

“My name is Michael Cotter.  I am a third generation farmer from Austin, Minnesota where the land is flat and the soil is black. Many of those farms have been in the same families for a hundred years, and ours is one of those farms.”  Excerpt from “The Killdeer” by Michael Cotter

Michael Cotter, 86

Michael Cotter, 86, died on July 31, 2017, at his home in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Maurice Michael Cotter was born on the family farm just west of Austin, Minnesota, on April 13, 1931. He was the son of Richard and Rose Cotter, youngest of a family of eight children, six sisters and one brother. He was a graduate of Pacelli High School.

Email newsletter signup

In 1957 he married Genevieve Ward and they were blessed with six children, and they later divorced. In 2006 he married Beverly Jackson and moved to Albert Lea. The farm where he was born is now run by his youngest son, Tom, who is continuing the same healthy farming practices that Michael believed in. In 2016, the family won the Mower County Conservationist of the Year award. Michael spent his entire life nurturing the land and the animals, respecting and protecting his heritage.

In the 1850s, his pipe-smoking great-grandmother brought her family to America from Ireland’s potato famine and, in 1875, his grandfather broke the Southern Minnesota prairie sod with a team of oxen.  Michael began sharing this legacy when, at 50 years of age, he was introduced to storytelling. His stories of the farm, his strict Irish Catholic upbringing, the hoboes who worked there during the Depression, the animals and their personalities, his Irish sense of humor, and his love and respect for the natural world carried him across the U.S. to festivals, schools, conventions, reunions, workshops, the Smithsonian Folk Festival, and the Jonesborough, Tennessee International Storytelling Festival.  For 22 years he served as artistic director of the Minnesota Storytelling Festival held annually in Austin; for 13 years he hosted “Remember When” on KAUS Austin radio, and for three years the Michael Cotter Show on WHO Des Moines. He is the recipient of the Circle of Excellence Storyteller award presented by the National Storytelling Network. His legacy and stories will continue on through his voice and words on cassette tapes and CDs and in his books.

He is survived by his wife Beverly; his daughter, Michele Cotter of Apache Junction, Arizona; daughter, Catherine (Bob) Ormberg of Anchorage, Alaska, daughter, Mary Cotter of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, son, Marty (Jolene) of Northwood, Iowa, son, Tom (Alma) of Austin, Minnesota, and daughter, Rose (Pete) Lyford of Wasilla, Alaska; grandchildren, Jennifer Cady Berggren, Colleen, Martin and Sean Ormberg, Jordan, Brady, Tegan Cotter, Ray, Priscilla (Gilberto), Brandon, Vanessa, Iris Cotter, Laura Lyford, great-grandchildren Julian and Romeo; step-children, Toni (Scott) Lorenz, Scott (Jeannie) Jackson, Ken (Judy) Jackson, and Rick (Alice) Jackson; several step-grandchildren; great-grandchildren; sister, Teresa of Cleveland, Ohio; and numerous nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents; sisters, Dorothy (Chet) Langowski, Jean (Gus) Manthy, Cecelia (Bruce) Longtin, Sister Audrian, and Sister Estelle; brother, Richard Cotter; and nephews, Richard Cotter and Stacy Cotter.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at St. Edward’s Catholic Church. Friends may call from 4 to 7 p.m. on Sunday at St. Edward’s Catholic Church and also one hour prior to the service at the church on Monday. Interment will be in Calvary Cemetery.

Condolences may be left on line at www.mayerfh.com. In lieu of flowers the family prefers memorials to the donors choice.