Oct. 6, 1930 - Dec. 4, 2012
SOUTH BEND - Dr. Donald E. Kotoske died showing the same courage and strength in death that he taught us in life. He loved life and wanted to live until 100. But God determined he had accomplished his mission by the age of 82. He was so large in life to his wife and children and grandchildren. He taught us through hard work and perseverance that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to. Born into a family of little means, he worked off tuition at Holy Cross Catholic grade school by sweeping the classrooms. In high school, he started a babysitting service. While attending the University of Notre Dame and living at home, he worked at Drewry's Beer. Yes, he was popular with his friends, as beer was a frequent perk of the job. He married in 1952, the year he graduated from Notre Dame. He married a sweet little Italian girl, Anne Sergio, who graduated from Saint Mary's College the same year. Theirs was a union of love bonded by their mutual devotion to and support of each other. They had a large Catholic family: David Kotoske, Kathleen Brickley (Tom), Dr. Thomas Kotoske (Andrea), Karen Metcalf, Lisa Franzke, and a stillborn baby boy. As a successful salesman for Eaton Laboratories, the doctors he called on often encouraged him to go to medical school. Anne supported this desire. They sold everything, he got a loan from a wealthy entrepreneur in Chicago who was impressed with his gumption, she learned to drive a car, and they packed up their five kids and moved to Chicago. At the age of 34, he started medical school at Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. They returned to South Bend in 1968, where he did his internship at South Bend Osteopathic Hospital, and then opened his office on the corner of Miami and Byron in South Bend. Anne was his office staff for the first year to save money, but he was such a dynamic and caring physician that his practice quickly grew. Anne was able to once again devote most of her time to their family. Because of his thoroughness and caring ways, he drew patients from all over the country. He was devoted to his ministry of healing the sick. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Osteopathic Medical Foundation Board of Indiana, recognizing his service to his patients. He was also awarded the Distinguished Fellow Award by the American Osteopathic Association, recognizing his teaching and writing in the field of medicine and surgery, as well as his service in many capacities for the state and national osteopathic associations. He was well-known locally for his call-in radio show, "Ask the Doctor." He was always pleased to spread the word about the benefits of osteopathic medicine. His hobbies were reading medical journals and attending medical conferences. But his biggest love was his family. Nothing pleased him more than sitting around the dinner table, eating Anne's delicious home-cooked meals surrounded by his kids and later his grandchildren (Shawn and Tara Kotoske, Kristen Brickley Sawdon and TJ Brickley, Zachary and Hunter Kotoske, Dalton Metcalf [who preceded him in death] and Nathan Franzke). Holidays at Nonni and Papua's house were like no other with massive amounts of home cooked Italian food, gifts galore, and frank discussions about medical issues that others might deem a little too detailed for the dinner table! We felt his love, his larger-than-Iife presence, and we learned the values of family, honesty, hard work, showing forgiveness when wronged, and not to judge people based on the color of their skin or their station in life. He was forever grateful for his marriage to Anne. He gave her a kiss every day and always told her, "Dear, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever known. I will love you forever." And he was forever grateful for the gift of life. He wrote a book about his life, ending it with these words: "I THANK GOD EVERY DAY FOR MY WIFE OF 53 YEARS, MY ABILITY TO HELP PEOPLE BY BEING A DOCTOR, MY WONDERFUL GRANDKIDS, AND OUR EXCEPTIONAL, LOVING CHILDREN. ALL I CAN SAY IS 'THANK YOU DEAR JESUS'". We will miss him forever but know how blessed we are to have shared life with him for such a long time. Visitation was at St. Joseph Funeral Home at 1827 East Ireland Road on Thursday from 3 pm to 8 pm, with reflections at 7 pm and prayers to close the evening. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Matthew's Cathedral on South Miami Street at 1:00 pm Friday followed by entombment services at St. Joseph Valley Memorial Parkway on Cleveland and Grape. A reception followed at Windsor Park on Edison Lake Parkway. Donations may be made to the Christ Child Society in South Bend, 308 S. Scott St., P.O. Box 1286, South Bend, Indiana 46624. Condolences for the family may be made at www.sjfh.net.
Published in South Bend Tribune from Dec. 6 to Dec. 9, 2012