Simple, homemade sign says so much about love — and loss

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Early on the morning of Sept. 9, the day in which the funeral for his beloved wife of 48 years, Linda Marie Lillard Cotton, was held, a heartbroken Danny Cotton erected a sign in his front yard in Arrington. 

The message painted on the 4-by-6-foot board read” “Linda, Love you for ever, Danny.” 

A farmer and popular local auctioneer, Cotton also cut out a 6-by-6-inch square near the center of the board. 

“It represents the hole in my heart,” he said.

Soon after the sign was set up, Kathy Westrum and her husband, who live nearby, saw the sign while on a bike ride.

“My initial thought was I wonder who would make such a proclamation,” Westrum said.

Her imagination provided myriad scenarios. The next day she saw Danny’s neighbor — who turned out to be his brother Tommy — out in the yard. Her curiosity got the best of her, so she stopped.

“He shared with me that Linda had passed on and her funeral had been the day before,” she said. “As I rode away, I thought, ‘What an amazing love and gesture for his wife.’”

Linda, 74, was surrounded by her family when she died on Sept. 5, after a hard-fought two-year battle with cancer.

“We were married 48 years, 64 days, four hours and 32 minutes. I loved her so much,” he added. “She was special.”

Linda was a 1963 graduate of College Grove High School, where she played basketball and softball. According to Danny, “She was a natural athlete,” a talent she passed along to her children and grandchildren, he added.

The two met when Danny was in the second grade and Linda was in the third grade at College Grove Elementary. They developed a childhood friendship that lasted until Danny headed to school at Franklin High while Linda stayed in College Grove. 

“We were separated for 11 years and met again at a county basketball tournament at Franklin High,” Danny said. 

The tournament was in February 1971. Four months later on, July 3, 1971, they were married.

“I prayed every night she was the one,” Danny said, his voice filled with emotion.

Until the first of their three children arrived, Linda worked at National Life Insurance. She resigned to devote her life to caring for her family. As the children grew, she worked at the family’s country store, Cotton’s Market, in the Rudderville community. The couple owned and operated the store for more than 15 years to augment the farm income — the same farm on which Danny and his brother and sister grew up.

“We raised tobacco for many years, but we never smoked,” Danny said. “My mother always told us don’t smoke or drink, but we sold it. Now we do row crops and hay, anything to make ends meet.”

In addition to Danny, Linda is survived by two sons, Dan and Stephen (Gina) Cotton, daughter, Christy (Kevin) Wampler, grandchildren Chloe, Beck and Annie Wampler and Breelyn and Callie Cotton and her sister, Martha Jane (Jim) Sledge.

Funeral services were Sept. 9 at Williamson Memorial Gardens. The Rev. Mary Kate Myers and Jim Taylor officiated. Linda was buried in Triune Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Wesley Chapel UMC, Meals on Wheels or the American Cancer Society.  

Carole Robinson may be contacted at crobinson@williamsonherald.com.

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