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John "Jack" Cottingham

John "Jack" Cottingham Obituary
John " Jack" Cottingham
Resident of San Jose
Dr. John "Jack" Cottingham was a beloved San Jose dentist known for his boundless enthusiasm, considered by friends as "a walking New Year's Eve party", and with a personality that was larger than life. He spent his last days surrounded by his three children and their families. John Cottingham (Kate) Los Gatos, Judith Sieber, (Michael) Woodside, Jacqueline Courtney (Todd) Willow Glen. He died six months after the passing of his wife of 61 years, Ann Carlin Cottingham. He was predeceased by his Brother Jerry Cottingham and Sister Joanne Skowronski.
"Papa Choo Choo" was adored by his seven grandchildren, Claire and Ben Cottingham, Jack and Wyatt Sieber, McKenzie, Hunter and Will Courtney and his adopted son David Ross.
The family stories about him are legendary.
As a private pilot, Jack invited friends on a flight to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and pushed a small piano onboard his Douglas DC-3 so they could sing the whole way there. For his daughter Judy's junior prom, he donned a tuxedo and fishing hat and took her and her friends on a sunset flight over the San Francisco Bay. There was not a birthday that went by that after he blew out the candles on his cake that he would shout "Let the fire fall" and then proceeded to light his chest hair on fire.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Mrs. Katherine Wanless Cottingham and Dr. Albert Delno Cottingham, Jack grew up an Army brat in the 1930's and '40s, moving from Minnesota to Denver and the Philippines to Florida.
He landed in California as a teenager and finished high school in Pleasant Hill before earning a degree from UC Berkeley. While attending dental school at UC San Francisco and living in the Xi Psi Phi fraternity house on Parnassus Avenue, he met Ann Carlin when he confronted her over stealing his parking space. Sparks flew. They married his junior year and their son, John, who would one day take over his dental practice, was born during state board exams his senior year. Their two daughters, Judy and Jackie, soon followed.
The young couple moved to George Air Force Base in Victorville in the early 1960s where Jack rode around the base on a turquoise Vespa while practicing dentistry. Here he and Ann would meet their lifelong friends, John and Judy Bailey, their daughter Judy's namesake.
In 1961 the couple moved to San Jose where Jack established a practice in Willow Glen, and they bought their first home on Tiffany Way.
He taught his children the value of hard work, managing every year to run out of gas on Lake Tahoe in their boat christened "The Lemon" so his kids would have to paddle back to shore with water skis. They spent many summers in Agate Bay at the home that Jack's father-in-law built. He loved a good martini, and during cocktail hours at the lake he would remind his children, "It's adult time. Beat it."
He never worked a Friday once his practice was established. Fridays he spent coaching his daughters in Bobby Sox softball, getting his commercial pilot's license or taking John duck hunting. He built an ultralight plane in his garage and a garden railroad and koi pond in his backyard. There were many family adventures as you can imagine. Skiing with the DalPortos, and backpacking with the Casey's, Isola's and Reilys on the Yuba River. Ann called Jack, Tommy Morey and Alex Stepovitch "The Marlboro Men" as they would smoke and hunt for elk on horseback in Nevada. Over the years, Jack snow skied with Eddie Albert in Aspen and water skied with Christian Brando in Tahiti.
Ann and Jack traveled the world with their friends. His grandchildren Jack and Claire inherited his love for travel. John recalled his father's unique parenting style and basic rules for his son. "Don't break my stuff. If you borrow my stuff return it. Don't ever make me talk to a cop." Jack was also known to tell his high school children as they left the house "Remember who you are and what you represent, have fun and don't get caught!" Ann and Jack treated all of John, Judy and Jackie's friends like their own. They taught their children the importance of friendships, travel and having a grand time.
In his Willow Glen years, Jack enjoyed morning walks with his beloved golden retriever Greta and good buddy, Stan House. Jack, Ann and Greta spent their golden years in Palm Desert. After Ann's death in April, Jack moved into the Willow Glen home of his daughter, Jackie Courtney and her husband Todd. His granddaughter, a nursing student, McKenzie Courtney, lovingly cared for him.
Several nights before his death, Judy noticed her father deep in thought and asked, "What are you thinking about Dad? to which he replied, "I just had so much fun." The next night, he whispered to Jackie "The party is over; I've had a wild ride, now I just want to go home".
"That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much."
Robert Louis Stevenson


View the online memorial for John " Jack" Cottingham
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Nov. 10, 2019
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