Cover photo for Howell Joe Cotten's Obituary
Howell Joe Cotten Profile Photo

Howell Joe Cotten

February 23, 1934 — July 25, 2023


Howell Joe Cotten

Aged 89, Howell Joe Cotten (Joe), of Stony Point, Charlottesville, Virginia, made his final journey into the glorious presence of his Lord and Saviour July 25, 2023.  Joe was born February 23, 1934 in Amarillo, Texas, the second of four children of J.W. and Editha (Bobbi) Cotten.  Joe is survived by Phyllis Jeannine (Strader), his wife of 70 years, who already misses him, predeceased by his son, Craig Murray (1 month), and survived by six children, Laura Lynne Hull (Bobby - deceased), Jeffrey Young (Lori), Gregory Joe (Terri), Phillip Howell (Ronda), Timothy Duane (Sherri), Marilyn Janelle Rutt (David).  Amy (Steven) Dunavant joined the family at age 14, adding a third beloved daughter.  Joe and Phyllis have 20 grandchildren, 51 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.  Joe is predeceased by his brother Claude and survived by two sisters, Jeannette Jean and Lynita Airy.

At age 11, Joe moved to Southern California with his family, completing his school years in South Pasadena.  Attending South Pasadena High School, Joe played quarterback, rising to Captain and voted MVP in his senior year.  Joe was also selected for the Weldon Fair Play award for integrity and helpfulness to others.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, Joe desired to serve the Lord and was known for this commitment to Christ. 

During his high school years, Joe worked Saturdays and holidays, through which he learned drafting and welding.  In 1949, at the ripe "old" age of 15, Joe met Phyllis at a Bible Camp, instantly dumping his present girlfriend for this Oklahoma beauty.  They married in February, 1953 and settled in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Phyllis' birthplace. 

Before the birth of the computer age, Joe worked for Stanolind Oil Company, a subsidiary of Standard Oil Company, later Amoco/bp, in the tabulating room.  However, he preferred working with his hands, so he took a correspondence course in air conditioning servicing.  In 1955 he and Phyllis, with their first daughter, moved to Solvang, California, where he worked for a Refrigeration and A/C company, meanwhile welcoming their first son to the family.  

With limited opportunity for promotion, and now as a family of four, Joe and Phyllis returned to Tulsa, where Joe acquired employment for Skelly Oil Company and worked HVAC as a side hustle.  Over a year later, Joe made the HVAC business his full time occupation.  After five years, opportunity knocked once again, this time from the east.  Joe's brother, Claude, was embarking on development of the Woodbrook Subdivision in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Gathering up their family, including the recent additions of two sons - a 23 month old and a one month old, Joe and Phyllis pulled up stakes in Tulsa in 1961 and headed east.  The caravan, including all their personal belongings, work trucks and equipment, after a few days arriving at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Central Virginia.  However, there was more than work opportunities the young family sought - in Virginia there were vibrant, burgeoning assemblies of believers in Christ meeting in the name of the Lord.  While there were many additional twists and turns in their secular lives, their goal of being part of this endeavor for Christ became the anchor and focus of the remainder of Joe and Phyllis' life.

Working together, Claude and Joe bought a GangNail truss fabrication franchise to increase efficiencies and production in building Woodbrook.  Reflecting on his experience with the Oil Companies, soon Joe contemplated employing computers to assist in designing and fabricating roof trusses.  Seeing great potential, Joe attended UVA to learn computer programming.  The owners of GangNail were so intrigued by Joe's pioneering vision in applying technology to  the construction industry they purchased Joe and Claude's franchise, assigning Joe responsibility for worldwide hardware and software development.  This required extensive travel, in many cases taking Phyllis with him throughout the world on business trips.  He also taught computer classes to many friends and family across the U.S. and in Canada, providing multiple opportunities to befriend believers in Christ in journeys throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. 

In 1963, Joe and Phyllis shifted north a few miles to Stony Point, where they purchased a home on 40 acres.  While adding another son and daughter to the family, they soon embarked on developing a Camp facility on their property which they offered for Bible Camps and meetings for over a half century. 

Joe loved building, using his computer skills to design houses and enthusiastically build dozens of houses for friends and family as a ministry for Christ.  His desire to help others was a primary focus in life.  As he aged and his body didn't allow him to do the physical work, he continued to design houses and draw house plans, study the Bible, creating charts and timelines of biblical events and history. 

One of his greatest desires was for all his children, grandchildren, great-granchildren, and great-great-grandchildren to come to know the Lord as their Redeemer and Savior.  His last project was to offer his great grandchildren a Bible reading exercise and quiz about Jonah and the great fish, and the Apostle Paul's missionary travels.

Embarking on what became their last road trip, Joe and Phyllis took a wonderful trip to the south central US in May 2023.  A couple of weeks after returning they attended a bible Camp in West Virginia, then in mid June traveled to western New York for a short visit. 

After suffering a downturn in his health, it became apparent Joe's earthly tabernacle had given all it could.  In early July Joe chose home Hospice care, and after 16 days at home with his family and friends, Joe slipped peacefully into the presence of Christ. 

Above all else, Joe desired to serve his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, encouraging all to trust in God and continue in "the good fight of faith."

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."  1 Corinthians 15:58

A Homegoing and Memorial Service will be held Sunday, August 6th, at 2:00pm at The Dickinson Fine and Performing Arts Center at Piedmont Virginia Community College, 461 College Dr., Charlottesville, VA, 22902.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to the Hospice of the Piedmont,, or 675 Peter Jefferson Parkway, Suite 300, Charlottesville, VA 22911.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Howell Joe Cotten, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

The Dickinson Fine and Performing Arts Center at Piedmont Virginia Community College

461 College Drive, Charlottesville, VA 22902

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