Architect and community worker John Cotner has died

Oxley Heard obituary
March 15, 2022

Editor’s Note: We join many people, friends and family as we mourn the death of John Cotner, a good man who gave so much to our community. For years, John has volunteered his time as a member of the City of Fernandina Beach Parks and Recreation Board. Most recently, John volunteered his time to Nassau County Habitat’s “6 on Elm” project for humanity as he worked with dedicated volunteers to provide affordable housing in our community. The Fernandina Observer extends its sympathy to John’s family and friends. John was a much loved member of our community and will be missed.

John Mark Cotner, 68, of Fernandina Beach, Florida passed away peacefully Friday, March 4, 2022, at his home on Amelia Island.

Born March 11, 1953 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania to Lloyd Charles and Jane Yoder Cotner. He grew up on a farm near Danville, Pennsylvania before moving to Williamsport and then graduating from Loyalsock High School in 1971. After graduation he married Debra Marie Westervelt and the couple moved to Atlanta , Georgia, where John attended Georgia Tech and graduated. with a degree in architecture.

Their two sons, Ian and Grant, were born during their stay in Atlanta before John accepted an offer from the architectural firm Nichols, Carter, Grant, Inc. on Amelia Island Plantation in 1980.

In 1985, their daughter Kristen was born in Fernandina Beach. Shortly thereafter, in 1987, John opened Cotner Associates, Inc. in downtown Fernandina Beach, joining forces with his father’s business in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Eventually, the companies consolidated the two branches, retaining the flagship Fernandina office. A significant portion of their work included designing dream homes, businesses, schools, churches, parks and playgrounds throughout Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Pennsylvania.

John dedicated his life’s work to improving the community and often reminded those close to him, “Don’t just take up space”, but work to make the world and your community a better place. John practiced what he preached, leading countless community projects in Fernandina Beach, including: Center Street Comfort Station; city ​​public works administration facility; Peck Center landscaping and renovations; historic railway depot; North Beach Park; Seaside Park; waterfront park; and Central Park Little League and Pop Warner facilities. John has also served on numerous architectural review boards and committees in northeast Florida and southeast Georgia.

Additionally, John has generously donated his time, talents and treasures as a Little League baseball umpire, leader of the Indian Princesses, member of the Ducks Unlimited Executive Board, leader of the breakfast of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and he spent nearly 30 years running St. Peter’s. Mission Crew on trips to the Caribbean to repair and replace churches, schools and other places of worship tattered by the hurricane. He also volunteered to design, build, and renovate various structures at Camp Weed, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida.

In his spare time, John has taken on projects around the family home, as well as the homes of his friends and family members. He was never one to let the grass grow under his feet. An avid outdoorsman, he welcomed any opportunity to travel, get out on the water and cast a line, camp with his kids or sit in a tree.

John was a husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, friend and role model to many. He was a real pillar of the community. John’s life on this Earth has inspired many people to become better people. His outlook on life can best be embodied in a quote from the late Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, when he said, “I want to be completely exhausted when I die. Because the harder I work, the more I live. I enjoy life for its own sake. Life is not a short candle for me. It’s a beautiful torch, which I have for now, and I want to shine it as brightly as possible before passing it on to future generations.

John’s memory will live on, not just in his work, but in his wife of nearly 50 years, Debby; his children Ian (Kate) Cotner, Grant (Miki) Cotner and Kristen (Michael) Schebell; his grandchildren Liam, Michael, Ansley, Bryson and Lennon. He is also survived by his siblings Jeanette Chaffee, Charles Cotner and Ann Pittman, as well as his mother, Jane Cotner, nieces, nephews, in-laws and other loving family members.

John’s life will be celebrated at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Fernandina Beach on Monday, March 21, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. with interment in St. Peter’s Cemetery immediately following the service.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to Nassau Habitat for Humanity, Nassau Humane Society, or St. Peter’s Episcopal Outreach.

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