Bruce K. Cottington, age 90, died Thursday, September 14, 2017 at his home in Litchfield. A visitation will be held at the First Lutheran Church in Litchfield on Thursday, September 21 starting at 4 PM and concluding with a Masonic Lodge Golden Fleece ceremony at 7 PM. The funeral service will be at First Lutheran on Friday, September 22, with a visitation starting at 9 AM and the service starting at 11 AM. Military honors will be provided by the Litchfield Military Honor Guard. Burial will be later this fall at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, people are encouraged to contribute to the Litchfield Military Honor Guard.
Bruce was born January 22, 1927 on a farm near Forest City, Iowa, the 10th of 13 children. His father, Levi, died when Bruce was nine. His mother Gertrude raised the kids, never remarried, and lived to 96.
In 1942, at age 15 and with five older brothers in uniform, Bruce tried to enlist, but was refused as underage. At 16, he pestered Gertrude to certify him as 17 and into the Navy he went, still underage. He trained as a radioman and served with the 4th Marine Division in the Pacific Theater, participating in seven battles and island assaults, eventually joining the crew of LCI 462. During that ship’s last refitting assignment in Pearl Harbor, while preparing for the invasion of Japan, the war ended.
Bruce returned to Iowa, got his high school GED and worked for Northwest Airlines as a radio navigator. He enrolled at Drake University on the GI Bill and joined the Naval Reserves, then returned to active duty in Korea, participating in the Christmas Eve action at Hung Nam, receiving his eighth battle star.
Back at Drake to finish college, he married Florence Anderson from Decorah and started a family. He went into the grocery business, working for the Kroger chain managing a rundown store in a tough neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1957, they moved to Minnesota to work for Super Valu, where Bruce helped set up new supermarkets across several states. Over the next ten years, they moved to various towns for a variety of opportunities, from Aberdeen, SD, to Mankato, to Tracy, then Blue Earth, and finally settling in Litchfield in 1967 as a partner in the Super Valu store.
Bruce was first and foremost a promoter and introduced quite a few changes to the Litchfield business scene. He was the first to stay open past 6 pm on any night but the traditional Friday, the first to open on Sunday and the first to be open 24 hours. He started a daily radio show and stayed on the air until his 90th birthday this past January.
He founded the Peanut Butter and Milk Festival in 1972 and established the sister city relationship with Hartford, Alabama. That program continues and the annual citizen exchanges have supported the FFA in particular and introduced many from the Litchfield area to lifelong Alabama friends.
He was always active. He belonged to Kiwanis, the Eagles, the Masons, the Shrine, the American Legion, the VFW and Delta Sigma Pi. He helped lead the Meeker County Republican Party and the Litchfield Military Honor Guard, as well as the Litchfield Chamber, the Watercade and Wintercade Committees, and the GAR Hall. His grandfather, also named Levi, rode in the Union cavalry for four years, and Bruce was a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. He was also a tireless promoter of the dairy industry, having gone to work for the American Dairy Association after selling his grocery store in 1979.
Florence died in 1996, beloved by many. Bruce and Marie Rick were married four years later.
Bruce leaves three sons, their wives, and seven grandchildren: Scott and Jean Cottington with Greta and Clay; Jim and Holly Cottington with Zachary Schmidt and his wife Amanda McLean-Schmidt, Levi and Anna; and Jack and Julie Cottington with Cris and AJ. He is also survived by three siblings: Barbara Penquite of Ankeny, IA; Marilee McAlpine and husband Jim of Oak Harbor, WA; Rex Cottington of Phoenix, AZ; as well as many wonderful nieces and nephews.