In Memory of Max Coots

Max Coots died this past week.

Some people reading this blog will know who Max was. He was one of the remarkable men I have known. I first met Max almost 37 years ago, when he was minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Canton, NY. I met him because I had attended a UU church in Rochester with my mother, and now I wanted to get married, and I wanted him to marry me to my swain. He warned the young man and me that his marriages didn't always take, and his words were prescient for this particular marriage, which did not survive the transition from college life to real life. Nevertheless, he did a great job with the service, saying many words about what it means to be married that deserved attention.

Many years after that Robert and I joined that UU church. Max was retired by then, but he still came back to lead two services every year. For us, those services were not to be missed. It was always a treat to hear his rich voice, his humor, his take on humanity and the institutions we create. One year I gave Robert a book of Max's collected sermons, "Leaning Against the Wind". Robert was inspired by the book to put together a project: a two-CD set of Max reading some selected sermons, recorded at the church, with musical interludes performed by Betsy Kepes, also a member of the church. Burning and packaging the CDs was a family enterprise, and we sold quite a few. Part of the proceeds were donated to the church.

After retirement, Max began to make clay sculptures. His work gained local notice, and was available in some small shops selling art among the jewelry and picture frames. Just last month, the St. Lawrence County Arts Council recognized Max for his contributions to the arts, and mounted an exhibition of his work. I was unable to attend the opening, but friends who did said that Max was in fine form and that the sculptures on display were marvelous - well crafted and funny.

Perhaps a couple of weeks ago, Max learned that he had an aggressive lymphoma. Max said he had lived a full life that was long enough at 81 years, and refused treatment. The doctors said he might have two months to live. In reality it was a week. Always a wise man, Max's decision probably spared him discomfort that would not have prolonged life. I so hope that he was comfortable and believe that he was, because one of my favorite Hospice nurses was at the wake yesterday.

On Friday, I took the afternoon off and went to see Max's art. Here are some of the pieces in the show:




"Lard of the Manor"




"James Audobon and his Fairy Godfeather"




This dog belongs to a family member.




"The Seekers". I believe that this image comes from a children's book.




"Panhandler"




"Emilie Froge", inspired by Gustav Klimt




"Froesche Nach Klimt". His wife owns this piece.




This piece is inspired by Manet's painting "Olympia".


Finally, this gargoyle was not in the show, and I see it every day. Robert gave the sculpture to me for Christmas a couple of years ago.

Comments

  1. What a great guy; thank you for the biography. It is so uplifting to read of a life well spent and well-ended. And I really like the clay work. Hard to say which is my favorite; I might go with the Klimt but for titles, maybe Panhandler.

    Your telling this puts a different light on the notion of being remembered after we die. Max will be remembered; his influence will endure longer still. I know what you mean in your mini-autobiography, but still.

    I guess our relationship with legacy is complicated.

    -- Tim (aka ottermatic)

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  2. Perhaps twenty-five years ago Mr. Coots poem/prayer "Let Us Give Thanks" was published in the newsletter of Seattle Tilth. I think of it at this season that our culture celebrates the giving of thanks.

    Paul McShane
    Port Townsend, WA

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