Michael Cotter, 1931-2017

Published 1:00 am 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 died Monday,  July 31, 2017, at his home in Albert Lea.

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

Michael Cotter

Email newsletter signup

In 1957 he married Genevieve Ward and they were blessed with six children; 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, and for 13 years he hosted “Remember When” on KAUS Austin radio and for three years the “Michael Cotter Show” on WHO Des Moines. He was 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, 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; son, Tom (Alma), of Austin; daughter, Rose (Pete) Lyford, of Wasilla, Alaska; grandchildren Jennifer Cady Berggen, Colleen, Martin and Sean Ormberg, Jordan, Brady and Tegan Cotter, Ray, Priscilla (Gilberto), Brandon, Vanessa and Iris Cotter,    and Laura Lyford; great-grandchildren Julian and Romeo; stepchildren Toni (Scott) Lorenz, Scott (Jeannie) Jackson, Ken (Judy) Jackson and Rick (Alice) Jackson; several step-grandchildren and step-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, Audrian and Estelle; brother, Richard Cotter; and nephews Richard Cotter and Stacy Cotter.

A funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Edward’s Catholic Church. Friends may call from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at St. Edward’s Catholic Church and one hour prior to the service at the church on Monday. Interment will be at Calvary Cemetery. Condolences may be left online at www.mayerfh.com. In lieu of flowers, the family prefers memorials to the donor’s choice.