Cover photo for Margaret Cotton's Obituary
Margaret Cotton Profile Photo

Margaret Cotton

d. April 7, 2015

Woodbine, Iowa

Margaret Ann (Ulbrick) Cotton was born December 27, 1931 to Raymond and Alice (O'Neal) Ulbrick on a farm south of Nebraska City, Nebraska. She attended Indian Hill Elementary and T.J. Majors Training school in Peru, Nebraska, where her mother was an elementary teacher and later an elementary supervisor. Early on Margaret showed an immense musical talent as well as a brilliant mind. She attended Peru Prep High School, graduating as valedictorian with the class of 1950. During her junior year of high school her mother died unexpectedly, leaving Margaret to live with the family of her long-time piano teacher and college piano professor, R.T. Benford and his family. Mom and Pop Benford and their daughter -- her "sister" Pat -- became an important part of Margaret's life. After graduating from high school Margaret received a four year scholarship to attend Peru State College, also in Peru, Nebraska. Before enrolling at Peru State, Margaret attended one year at La Sierra College in California, where her musical studies included an emphasis on violin. After a year in California she returned to Nebraska where she lived with her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. L.C. O'Neal in Julian. During this time she worked as a secretary and took classes at Peru State. On December 28, 1954 Margaret was united in marriage to James L. Cotton. Margaret was always known to be a talented multi-tasker. There was proof of this early on, as during their wedding rehearsal she not only played the part of the bride, but due to a blizzard which kept many people in the wedding from being able to get to the church, also served as organist for the rehearsal.
Jim and Margaret spent the first two years of their married life in Baltimore, Maryland, where Jim was stationed in the Army. While there, she worked as a secretary to a group of lawyers. In 1956, after Jim's years of military service, they returned to Peru where she continued to work on her BFA degree, graduating with highest distinction in 1957. Also, in March of 1957 their first child, Mary Michelle, was born.
In the fall of 1957 Jim and Margaret started their teaching careers. Jim took a job in the Woodbine Schools and Margaret taught nine miles up the road in the Dunlap Schools. In 1960 they were blessed with a baby boy, James Michael. At that time they moved from Dunlap to Woodbine where both were employed as teachers at the school. Woodbine became their home where they raised their family, became involved in the community, and still reside today.
Margaret passed her love of music on to her students, who fondly referred to her as "Mrs. C." She wrote and produced wonderful operettas with her elementary students as well as directing a top notch high school vocal program. After her teaching career she became secretary to the Medical Director at St. Joe's Hospital in Omaha. This was a job she loved, but when the position of Activities Director at Rose Vista Nursing Home in Woodbine came open she decided to try a new adventure. After working at Rose Vista for a number of years, she felt the calling of a secretary once again and became Secretary to the Administrator at Community Memorial Hospital in Missouri Valley.
Margaret never really "retired". She taught violin at Dr. Rosemary Mason's School of Strings in Denison. She was part of a string quartet that played around the area. In 2005 she accepted a job as Pre K-6th grade music teacher at St. Pat's Catholic School in Missouri Valley. She taught there until its closing in the spring of 2008. She remained active as a 50 year member of Eastern Star, serving as the Iowa Chapter of Eastern Star Grand Organist for one year, during which she developed and treasured many lifelong friendships. She was a member of the Community Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, serving many years in leadership roles. The church was important to Margaret. She served as church organist for many years, sang in the church choir, and was a member of UMW. She also enjoyed directing Woodbine's famous mens' singing group, The Noteables. Whether it was an outing with the Red Hat ladies, a trip to the opera, attending Stars on Ice, or chatting over a quiet cup of coffee, Margaret cherished time spent with her friends.
Besides being a wife and mother, the job she loved the most was being a Grandma. From the time they were born, to now as grown men, her grandsons were a source of pride. There were trips to the zoo, special 4th of July celebrations (complete with fireworks she bought across state lines), tents and tree houses in the backyard, campfires, dyeing Easter eggs, school activities, and teaching her grandsons the fine art of making homemade noodles – she loved every minute. She and Jim were their #1 fans when it came to sports. They were no strangers to West Central Valley fans, attending many games over the years.
Margaret died on Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at the Rose Vista Nursing Home in Woodbine at the age of 83 years, three months, and 11 days.
Margaret was preceded in death by her parents. Left to celebrate her life and honor her memory are her husband of 60 years, Jim; her son, James Michael of Lincoln, NE; her daughter Mary Michelle and her husband Jeff Pease of Stuart, IA; her grandsons Tyler James and Tanner Michael, also of Stuart; brother-in-law and sister-in-law Gary and Janet Dahmke of Sheridan, WY; cousins Dr. John O'Neal, Mary Lou Hultgren, Martha Gillette, and George William Ulbrick; other relatives and many, many friends.

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