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Opinion

The Gordon I knew

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Gordon Cotton passed away quietly overnight and I am saddened and disappointed on many levels.

My greatest disappointment is that his passing didn’t involve a bottle of Corbett Canyon Chardonnay after an intimate dinner party with friends. He was a man deserving of leaving this earth doing something he so greatly enjoyed.

There were few things that Gordon loved more than to invite people over for dinner, cook up one of his specialties and then chat about the world- who they knew, where they had been and their dreams. Gordon wrote eloquently about several of those parties and the lifelong connections made there.

Soon after moving to Vicksburg, I made it a point to go to the Old Courthouse Museum to meet Gordon. His name was synonymous with the community and he was, even then, the expert on all things Vicksburg past. He did not disappoint. We had a 45-minute conversation that included him saying he had already heard my name and had made plans to meet me. It was difficult to believe that Gordon had heard my name, but that comment alerted me that this kind, informative, witty, engaging, and polite man was, at his core, humble and humane. That humanity didn’t stop him from an impassioned point of view, but he was forever looking to make one more fan.

He sure did with me.

Gordon rejoiced in telling the stories of his days in newspapers past and his fun-filled rivalry with Charles Riles. I am certain Gordon’s self-penned obituary will include a line about how pleased Charles Riles is to learn of Gordon’s passing and how pleased Gordon is that Charles won’t get a penny from it.

Charles Riles, behind the shovel, and Gordon Cotton. (photo by Sam Andrews)

The above photo is from a book the two wrote about our local cemetery scene. The idea is Charles Riles plays the undertaker to Gordon’s gravedigger. It exemplifies their friendship.

Gordon told the photographer (some kid named Sam Andrews) what he planned on doing – pretending to hit Charles in the face with the shovel. Charles was unaware and was probably mildly humored by it until the photo appeared on the back cover of the book showing Gordon clearly and hiding the face of Charles Riles. Gordon chuckled a few times when he related that story to me.

Gordon laughed a lot.

Gordon even chuckled when he mentioned his dear friend Hobbs Freeman who had passed away a few years ago. He asked me if I had ever met Hobbs as he walked me to the garden at the Old Courthouse Museum created in honor of Hobbs. When I softly mentioned that Hobbs and I had not met, he reticently looked down and away but quickly recovered with a kind, vulnerable smile.

I think Gordon was hoping to share a moment’s remembrance of his dear friend. Gordon’s passing is made easier with the knowledge that he is once again sharing moments with Hobbs.

Few people have had the impact on the community as have Gordon Cotton.

When I called him a legend, he asked me not to do that. He didn’t want the burden and he didn’t really believe it to be true.

He responded with stories of his own favorite boss, Charlie Faulk. Gordon had nothing but praise for him and I am certain Gordon, Charlie and Hobbs are at this very moment telling war stories, laughing and trying to come up with the one-up line.

Gordon called me Boss. “Hey Boss!” he would exclaim as he lit up when he saw me. He knew the impact it would have on me, and I never once was able to look him back eye-to-eye. The best I could muster was to drop my head and shake it side to side in defiance of his comment.

He chuckled every time.

It was an honor to work for Gordon Cotton. Publishing his stories and giving him that joy back will be listed among my greatest pleasures in this adventure.

 

Gordon Cotton, April 3, 1936 – March 7, 2021, age, forever young.

 

 

 

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Vicksburg Daily News