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Now as we say goodbye
To one of our own
We may be lonely
But we’re not alone
Though the leaves will fall
And the tears will flow
May it always comfort us to know
The family tree will always grow

Christopher Lennon, John Vester, Mark Lennon,
Michael Lennon, The Family Tree

Jerry LaStone Cottrell, 1934-2016

This isn’t the post that The Legal Genealogist planned for today.

But life has a way of doing that, doesn’t it? Tossing us curveballs. Unexpected twists and turns. Even grief on a day of thanksgiving. Maybe especially grief on a day of thanksgiving.

And I am so very thankful today for the life of one Jerry LaStone Cottrell.

My Uncle Jerry.

Born 10 July 1934 in Midland, Texas.

And … sigh … died 22 November 2016.

We got the news yesterday from his home in Tennessee. It appears to have been quick and painless. He sat down in his chair and when his wife went to wake him … well … he had gone to that rest from which there is no awakening.

Jerry… gone.

Laughing, singing, guitar- and banjo-playing Jerry.

Jerry, who once rescued a kitten from my way-too-intense four-year-old attentions by swapping it out for “a fresh one.”

Jerry who, when asked for stories of times he and his sister Marianne got in trouble to share at her funeral, responded gleefully, “Honey, we were always in trouble!”

Jerry, who — my memory tells me — is a dark-haired straight-backed young man.

Jerry, who — when last I saw him — was white-haired and frail.

Jerry, who turned 82 this summer.

I can barely wrap my head around him looking like this:


And now I have to wrap my head around Jerry — gone.

There are so many Jerry stories… My personal favorite has always been the time when my grandmother laid down the law after dinner one day. “The next person to criticize my cooking,” she told everyone, “gets to do the cooking from now on.” The very next morning, at breakfast, it was Jerry — about eight years old at the time — who uttered the words: “This gravy is salty!” The entire table grew silent. My grandmother stared at the boy. It took him a second to realize just what he’d done. He looked up, got that smile on his face and — being Jerry — did what he had to do. He said: “And that’s just the way I like it.”

Jerry… who always lived life to the fullest.

Jerry… for whose life I will always be so thankful.

And may whatever he’s dealing with now be just the way he likes it.

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