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In Memory . . . Max Alden Coots

Posted By Jessica Cambio, Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Reverend Max Alden Coots died at his home in Canton, NY on March 3, 2009.  He was under the care of Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley.  He was 81.

Rev. Max Coots was born June 10, 1927 to Dr. Carl Alden Coots and Mabel G. Brownell Coots in Canisteo, New York. He grew up in Waverly, New York and graduated from Waverly High School, majoring in art.   Rev. Coots entered the U.S. Navy in February of 1945 and was honorably discharged in August of 1945.

Upon his discharge, he attended art school for a year, but then opted for a liberal arts education.  He attended Elmira College for two years, and finished his undergraduate education at Bucknell University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1950.  He then moved to New York City where he earned a Masters in Religious Education from Teacher’s College of Columbia University and a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in 1953.

During his years at seminary, Rev. Coots served as the Assistant Minister at the Universalist Church of the Divine Paternity in New York City where he was ordained a Universalist Minister in 1953.  He next served as Minister of the First Universalist Church in Cortland, New York from 1953 to 1958.  Rev. Coots became Minister of the Canton Universalist Church in 1958 (which became the Unitarian Universalist Church in 1961) where he served for thirty-four years until his retirement in 1992.   He was an inveterate punster, a poetic preacher, wise counselor, and general church handyman.  A visitor to the church once mistook him for the church custodian and was surprised to find him in the pulpit when she attended services the next Sunday.  Upon his retirement, Rev. Coots was name Minister Emeritus.

Rev. Coots adopted Canton and the North Country as his own.  He was a community activist, who helped spark the creation of the St. Lawrence County Chapter of NYSARC, the Church and Community Program, and North Country Freedom Homes.  He aided those concerned with nuclear warfare, penal reform, civil rights, alcoholism, family planning, and Vietnam and Iraq war resistance.

Rev. Coots was often in demand in the area as a public speaker and for seven years (1968-1975) he taught "Contemporary Social Problems” at Clarkson College. He was also regularly invited to speak at other Unitarian Universalist churches and regional conferences and had particularly strong ties with the Unitarian Church of Barneveld, NY and Unitarian Fellowship of Kingston, Ontario.  In retirement, he became the supply minister for the Central Square NY Universalist Church, preaching there two Sundays a month for several years.

In 1978 Rev. Coots was awarded a Doctor of Sacred Theology by Starr King School for the Ministry. In 1983 he was awarded the Human Services Award by the State University of Potsdam.  St. Lawrence University honored him with a North Country Citation in 1990.

Rev. Coots published three books: Seasons of the Self in 1971, View from a Tree in 1989 and Leaning Against the Wind:  A Selection of Sermons in 1992. 

In retirement Rev. Coots returned to his early love of the arts and took up sculpting.  He audited all the available ceramic courses at St. Lawrence University, and then continued to work in the studio there through Independent Study courses.  His sculptures were full of whimsy, puns, and fanciful creatures, which brought smiles to viewers’ faces.  The St. Lawrence University hosted a show of his sculptures, "The Sublime and the Ridiculous” in 1999.  Rev. Coots eventually moved to a studio in Roger Bailey and Bobbie Haldane’s barn on the Boyden Road.  The St. Lawrence County Arts Council honored him February 7, 2009 for his dedicated service to the arts, and is currently hosting a show of his works at Art Central in Potsdam.

Rev. Coots enjoyed carpentry and had a workshop in his barn at 19 State Street.  He loved gardening and raised vegetables for over 50 years in plots near his homes.  He also became an expert on edible wild plants. 

Rev. Coots married Emilie J. Fritz ("Fritzie”) in Scranton, Pennsylvania on December 21, 1950.  The marriage ended in divorce in 1977 after 26 years of marriage.  He married Betty N. Hutto on August 12, 1978 at his parent’s home in Waverly, New York. Betty died February 23, 1993. He married Charlotte C. Ramsay on April 24, 1999 in the Canton Unitarian Universalist Church.

In addition to his wife, Rev. Coots is survived by three sons from his marriage to Fritzie: Douglas and his wife Amy Bernhardt of Harvard, Massachusetts, Brian and his partner Karen E. Johnson of Pierrepont and West Potsdam, New York, and  Daniel and his wife Kimberly M. Coots of Nashville, Tennessee.  He is also survived by  a stepdaughter, Meribeth Hutto, and two stepsons and their wives,  Douglas and Kimberly  S. Ramsay of Kensington, Maryland, and David and Hadassah M. Ramsay of Nottingham, NH, as well as 5 grandchildren and 6 step-grandsons.  He was predeceased by two brothers, David and Terrance Coots, and stepson Martin Hutto.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton, 3 ½ East Main St., Canton or to the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, 51 Market St., Potsdam, New York.  A memorial service for Rev. Coots will be celebrated on Saturday, April 25, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton, NY, with the Revs. Anne Marsh and Wade Wheelock officiating.  The time has yet to be determined.  Please send messages of condolence to Ms. Charlotte Ramsay, 19 State Street, Canton, NY 13617.

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