With sadness, but with the fondness of many loving memories, the descendants of Paul and Carlene Cotton announce the passing of Carlene Cotton on November 26, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina, at the age of 95. Carlene, born to Carlos and Mattie Teer Clapham and raised in Lyon, Mississippi, lived most of her life there. She had the greatest good fortune to have been married to and partner of Paul Cotton for seventy years.
Carlene lived a life of servant leadership. She was a source of strength and optimism to all who knew and loved her. She possessed the ability to inspire, work with, and accomplish family and community tasks with and through other people. Young and old sought her counsel and she mentored and assisted many through difficult life challenges. She was a housewife and partner extraordinaire, raising a family, leading Girl Scout and Cub Scout units, organizing community, church and public school activities, and serving as a founding member and pillar of her Lyon Methodist Church. She served many years as assistant postmistress of the Lyon US Post Office. Carlene loved quietly and quite fiercely when the welfare of her loved ones was as risk. When Paul barely survived a massive heart attack at age 42, Carlene was overheard asking him as they drove home from the hospital if he remembered the taste of the cigarette he had smoked just before the attack. When he replied yes, she said, “Good, you hang onto that memory because that is the last one you are ever going to smoke.” Compliance was the best option when dealing with Carlene, so he stopped cold a twenty-year habit and, never smoking again, lived a full and active life to age 91.
Carlene loved to fish. Her knowledge of fishing served her in good stead when, as a new graduate of the Clarksdale High School Class of 1937, she interviewed for a secretarial job with Mr. R. D. Peay, a Clarksdale realtor. To the surprise of all applying, the interview included baiting hooks with a minnow, a cricket, and a worm. Carlene won the job, and for the duration of her time in the job spent Wednesday afternoons taking the elderly Mr. Peay fishing.
Late in life, Carlene and Paul relocated to Wharton, Texas, to be near their son Carlos and his wife, Carolyn. They enjoyed living in Turtle Creek and attended First United Methodist Church. While in Wharton Carlene was a member of the knitting group providing prayer shawls to the community. After Paul’s passing Carlene relocated to Croasdaile Village Retirement Community in Durham. There she served on numerous committees and crocheted many preemie baby caps for Duke Hospital newborns.
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Carlene’s and her husband Paul’s legacy lives on in the lives they enriched and in their children, who carry them in their hearts and values. Descendants and family who carry Carlene’s and Paul’s ethos into the future include children w/spouses - Norris Cotton and companion Tracy Mancini, Carlos Cotton and wife Carolyn, Paula Vaughn and husband Dan; sibling - brother Curtis Clapham and his wife Carol; grandchildren w/spouses - Alicia Butler and husband Ryan, Blake Cotton, the Reverend Seth Cotton and wife Ann, Dr. Taylor Cotton and wife Ann, Dr. Travis Cotton and wife Dr. Jacquelyn, Sarah Vaughn and Andie Vaughn; great grandchildren - Jackson, Gates, and Finn Butler, Carter Cotton, and Caroline Cotton; nieces - Elizabeth Clapham with daughter Zoe and Jennifer Clapham with sons Riley and Carlos Appel; grandniece – Penny Jones and husband Jeff; great grandnephews - Justin and Joshua Jones.
Near the time of her passing, Carlene uttered “Gotta make straight.” When asked what needed to be made straight she replied, “What’s crooked.” Carlene lived a life of community and family service by “making straight” life problems. As John Stennis, the late Mississippi Senator of her time, would have said, she “plowed a straight furrow down to the end of her row.” Her community, friends, and family will be less for her absence, but she will live on far into the future through the lives of the many people she touched.
Visitation at the Meredith Nowell Funeral Home, Clarksdale, Mississippi 5:00-7:00 PM Saturday, December 13th. Graveside services 2:00 PM Sunday, December 14th at Coahoma County Memorial Gardens, Lyon, Mississippi.
Memorials may be made to the Lyon Methodist Church, PO Box 177, Lyon, MS 38645 or First United Methodist Church of Wharton, 1717, Pioneer St., Wharton, TX 77488.