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‘She left a exceptional legacy of management and caring’

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Because the medical area battles staffing shortages, it is maybe becoming to current a stark juxtaposition of that present disaster and the heralded hospital profession of the late Bernadette (Bunny) Cotman. Her storied work historical past of her at Resort Dieu Hospital spanned eight a long time.

Bernadette (Bunny) Cotman.
Bernadette (Bunny) Cotman. Equipped Picture

Cotman taught and mentored 1000’s of nurses, directors, volunteers and people, typically by her personal actions. Within the phrases of present Kingston Well being Sciences Middle CEO Dr. David Pichora, “She left a exceptional legacy of management and caring.”


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For the second, we’ll shamelessly skim over Bunny’s 40-plus years on the hospital payroll, together with the primary 19 years as a nurse. She labored her manner up, all the best way to Director of Nursing. She served within the latter position for 11 years, then spent one other 15 years as Director of Affected person Care Providers.

She retired in 1994 at age 64, her final day on the job leaving a long-lasting impression and demonstrated her unbridled affection for the previous hospital.

“Our mother signed her retirement papers,” daughter Carolyn remembers a memorable second from her mother’s swan tune, “then walked straight to the Volunteer Providers desk, signed up, and began volunteer work the very subsequent day.”

Bunny did not stay a volunteer for lengthy. She solely lasted 26 years. On her ninetieth birthday, she handed in her volunteer badge, ending an unbelievable run. Left behind was the reminiscence of a longstanding affair with a constructing, its folks and its day-to-day operation. Seventy-two years had handed because the teenage nursing scholar from Ottawa Valley first set foot in Resort Dieu Hospital.


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Bunny’s lengthy, productive life ended quietly final week halfway by way of this charming dynamo’s ninety fifth spin across the solar. If that extraordinary stretch of loyalty and achievement have been all she’d ever achieved, it could be greater than loads good. Now think about this: She had 15—sure, depend ’em, 15—kids. Phrases like indescribable and unprecedented spring to thoughts.

By all accounts, Bunny fell in love twice throughout her lifetime, first along with her beloved HDH, and shortly thereafter with a extra standard suitor named Wally Cotman, an area drummer/piano participant who carried out with the band Dixie 6+1 band and made ends meet by moonlighting as a profession postman. Bunny married Wally in 1952 and beloved him till the day he died 54 years later. Theirs was a heat, fruitful union whose 15 wee ones have been born over a 20-year span. Bunny got here by way of 14 pregnancies, gladly capitalizing on a two-for-one particular with twins Margaret and Maureen.


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Fortuitously, Bunny already had first-hand expertise within the interior workings of a giant close-knit household lengthy earlier than she and Wally set about filling their very own nest. Bernadette was considered one of eight kids born to a homemaker and her barber husband, a latter-day stay-at-home dad who labored out of the home and helped out between brush cuts and bean shaves. Bunny discovered quick the necessity for co-operation, dedication and self-discipline in sustaining peace and concord among the many troops. She by no means took a time administration course, as a result of she had lengthy mastered that talent earlier than needing it. Apart from, the concept of ​​her finding out time administration is akin to Scotty Bowman taking teaching ideas from a rink rat or telling Oscar Peterson to follow his scales.


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Bernadette Burke, 17, in her hometown of Renfrew.
Bernadette Burke, 17, in her hometown of Renfrew. Equipped Picture

It was at dwelling in Renfrew the place Bunny discovered to make use of time correctly. Ditto for the significance of a resilient household bond, the place the workload is shared and everybody, by some means, will get alongside.

Bunny instilled that very same all-for-one-and-one-for-all precept on the Cotmans’ modest West Kingston dwelling, the place having your personal mattress was a pipe dream and vacant house was at a premium. “The home was small, a few thousand sq. toes, with three bedrooms and only one lavatory,” Carolyn remembers. A handyman uncle added two extra bedrooms, considered one of which slept 5 Cotman women. Come bathtub time, it was rub-a-dub-dub/three children within the tub. Such organized chaos was balanced by songs and singing. The Cotman dwelling was musical, the focus being the upright piano. Usually instances the previous member of Dixie 6+1 would add percussion on the close by drum set.


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“The very best a part of rising up in a big household is you learn to share and methods to get alongside,” Carolyn says. “It is the rationale why we’re nonetheless so shut at present. Mother was instrumental in that.”

Along with Bunny’s offspring (10 daughters, 5 sons), she leaves behind 18 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

For one hectic 12 months, the mother and father had all 15 children at dwelling. One time, having hauled himself dwelling after a tiring day on his route, Wally exclaimed to his spouse, “Bunny! There are children crawlin’ all around the neighborhood! And so they’re all ours!”

In a 1971 Whig-Normal article on the Cotman clan, Bunny defined the rationale behind her bedtime ritual for the smallest Cotmans.

“I let the younger ones watch tv for an hour earlier than bedtime,” the matriarch identified. “They normally go to sleep in entrance of the set. It is higher than having them rip up the sheets for an hour.”


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What about that Bunny sobriquet? Seems it is a childhood nickname courtesy of her de ella brother John. Bernadette thought she’d left it behind in Renfrew till John additionally relocated to Kingston and resurrected the moniker, which caught on at HDH like a prairie wildfire.

I am reminded of the traditional line from a Ma and Pa Kettle film. Ma, by the way, additionally had 15 children, though she delivered hers in a straightforward cinematic manner. Within the scene, Ma and Pa Kettle are watching themselves on the TV information, and the report is displaying extra kids than simply their 15. “Flip that factor off!” thunders Ma, “earlier than our household will get any greater!”

The esteem during which Bernadette was held was on vivid show within the swollen crowds of mourners at her wake—lineups in any respect three visitation instances—and on the funeral Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. The celebrant, St. Mary’s pastor Fr. Shawn Hughes, referred to as it one of many largest funerals in church historical past.


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Not many 94-year-olds appeal to such giant gatherings when their quantity comes up. “Bunny was an exception. “Roots run deep,” Dr. Pichora explains.

“She was a lot greater than a nurse,” the famous orthopedic surgeon provides. “Once I first arrived on the Dieu, folks spoke so extremely of Bunny and informed me that she primarily ran the place. Bunny was a type of uncommon people of whom it could actually be mentioned was the center and soul of a spot.

“And she or he had 15 kids!” he says, triggering a Pichora parental reminiscence.

“Both my spouse or I might be chirping at one of many children and considered one of us would say to the opposite, ‘How would you prefer to have 15 of them?’”

Requiem in tempo, Bernadette. You earned it.

Patrick Kennedy is a retired Whig-Normal reporter. He will be reached at

The Cotman family, with parents Bernadette (Bunny) Cotman and Wally Cotman sitting in the center of the couch, and their 15 children.
The Cotman household, with mother and father Bernadette (Bunny) Cotman and Wally Cotman sitting within the heart of the sofa, and their 15 kids. Equipped Phoo


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