Posted by: rcottrill | June 15, 2009

A Tribute to My Dad

TGraphic Dads Biblehis coming Sunday is Father’s Day, and I thought I would take the opportunity to pay tribute to my father.

Edward (“Ted”) Cottrill was born in 1902, in Manchester, England. The family emigrated to Canada a few years later. He married my mother in 1935. As an adult, Dad was always involved in Christian ministry of some kind. A Bible he received at the age of 19 contains the inscription in the photo here. It says a great deal about the spiritual depth and passion of the man early on (as well as the kindness of his friend!).

In the late 1920’s, Dad studied as a music major at Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago. From then on he was involved extensively in music ministry. He led and sometimes sang with an exceptional gospel group, the Dayspring Quartet. They had their own weekly radio broadcast, and sang at churches and conferences all over Ontario. In the late 50’s, both Dad and I also sang in a male choir that ministered widely.

In the 1940’s Dad played either the violin or the cello in the orchestra of his home church–until a call came to assist another growing work as organist and choir director. That service he carried on for about 20 years, until his death in 1962 from cancer.

If I were to look for words to described the character of the man, they would be words such as steadfastness and faithfulness. His conviction was that we must honour our commitments. When we say we’ll do something, we do it–or have an overwhelmingly good reason why not. A couple of examples will illustrate this trait.

Our church choir had no highly skilled singers. Dad worked with what he had. But he did demand consistency in the commitment of those who joined. On one occasion, a young fellow wandered in to practice late. When my father pointed this out to him, he simply shrugged as though this didn’t really matter that much. After chewing him out in front of us all, Dad stung him with this rebuke: “God doesn’t want your spare time!” (Ouch!)

Around 1960 Dad was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The standard surgery was to remove the thyroid gland. But when the surgeon opened him up on the operating table, he realized it would be necessary to also removed my father’s vocal chords. Knowing of his involvement in music, the surgeon said to those assisting, “We simply can’t do that to this man.”

They opted instead for extensive radiation therapy. And though this did not cure the cancer, it did enable Dad to continue serving the Lord with his music. Over time, there were stays in the hospital for treatment. But my father would always insist on being released for the Lord’s Day, so he could fulfil his responsibilities.

I know my father would want this brief write-up to bring praise to God, not to him. And it was by the grace of God that his life made the impact it did. Yet there is a place to honour our heroes–as Hebrews 11 does.

Whatever sense of commitment I have today, I learned through his example. And others in our home church could testify similarly–as could those at his place of employment. Dad was a foreman in a large steel mill, and he worked with men who were sometimes crude and profane. But they came to respect deeply his Christian witness and his integrity. We were all blessed to know him, and I look forward to joining him in the praises of God around the throne one day.


  1. Thank you, Robert,

    for this lovely tribute to your Dad! i am glad our good Father in Heaven accidently caused you to browse thru my blog and read my tribute to my Dad. What a joy and inheritance we share of having a Christ loving and Christ honoring Dads! i dont take this lightly. Thank you for sharing your Dad’s life and testimony. i will remeber his words, “God does not want your spare time!” (amen to that!) one day, we shall see and praise God in heaven one day! peace and blessing, till then!

    • Thank your for your gracious words. Drop by any time.


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