COLUMBIA — On a Friday afternoon after a long week of work, one could walk past Brian Cottle’s office and see a bulky box filled with books from Amazon. During the weekends, Mr. Cottle would vigorously read to learn how to fix or build something new at work for the next week.
"The thing that sticks in my head is that he was truly one of the most brilliant people I've known," said Chris Hindle, one of Cottle’s coworkers at KOMU/NBC.
Mr. Cottle died at 58 in his home Saturday from early onset Alzheimer’s disease. His friends and family surrounded him with love all the way up until the end.
"He was just an amazing, amazing human being and fought an unwinnable fight," Mr. Cottle's wife, Amelia Cottle, said.
Brian’s work family
Mr. Cottle started working at KOMU when he was 18 and worked his way up to director, producer and manager of the IT department.
Hindle, Mr. Cottle’s coworker, said Mr. Cottle was always solving problems at work, even if there weren’t any problems to solve. He would get his own ideas for how to improve systems at KOMU: he wrote his own program to have a box for scorekeeping during football games on TV screens, and he created a program to show replays during games. He was always searching for a new project without ever having been trained in IT. He was completely self-taught.
One summer, Hindle and Mr. Cottle spent their days in Mr. Cottle’s woodshop building new sets for KOMU. Hindle said he didn't know much about building sets, but trusted that Mr. Cottle would know what to do.
Hindle said he asked Mr. Cottle what his plan to begin building was, and Mr. Cottle didn’t have one. After a little time working, he was slapping together a new desk like he had done it several times before.
Hindle said it was never a question for Mr. Cottle if something could be done, but a question of which way he would choose to do it that day.
"I’m like: 'What the hell is he doing? Holy crap, how'd you come up with that?'" Hindle said.
Hindle remembers Mr. Cottle saying, "I had to think about it."
Marty Siddall, the general manager at KOMU, said Mr. Cottle was the kind of man who worked until he was worn out. And then he would go home and work some more. Siddall said it was tough to get Mr. Cottle to slow down.
"Brian was a big-hearted guy who functioned in a very quiet way," Siddall said.
Siddall was close with the Cottle family and said they would always be around for each other to find comfort and words of encouragement throughout their lives.
"You could not have a truer friendship," Siddall said.
Brian’s volunteer family
Mike McCurdy said the first time he met Mr. Cottle he was told: "This is Brian Cottle, and he has Alzheimer’s."
McCurdy and Mr. Cottle worked together on the stewardship crew at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park to remove invasive plants.
Despite Mr. Cottle's disease, McCurdy said he never showed his frustrations or personal struggles to the people around him.
"Even with the battle inside of him, he always kept a positive attitude," McCurdy said.
As his disease progressed, it became more difficult for Mr. Cottle to be able to see some of the invasive plants the volunteers would work to remove. McCurdy said they would cut down a tree, and Mr. Cottle wouldn’t be able to see the stump that remained.
McCurdy and Mr. Cottle worked through these obstacles though, and they always made time to joke around together and with the other volunteers.
McCurdy said that because of Mr. Cottle’s memory issues, he used to say: "You can tell me the same joke over and over, and I'll think it's funny every time!"
"He was a good friend, and I looked up to him quite a bit," McCurdy said. "He touched the lives of a lot of people."
Mr. Cottle's family
Mr. Cottle was a family man who was madly in love with Amelia Cottle, adored his son, Chris, and was close with his two younger brothers.
"Sometimes siblings drift apart, but we never did," said Brice Cottle, Brian’s youngest brother.
The three brothers used to play ball together outside or play pranks on each other like all siblings do.
"I remember spraying him with the hose from the sink," said Brice Cottle, Brian’s youngest brother. "I think I got beat up pretty good after that."
Brice Cottle said they always stayed involved in each other's lives, going rock climbing and enjoying other adventures. He said Mr. Cottle lived his entire life the same way he climbed rocks.
"You had to keep going and keep moving," Brice Cottle said.
Mr. Cottle and Amelia Cottle were married for almost 32 years. Their 32nd anniversary is in September.
"Every minute was worth it to be by his side, listening to rock and roll," Amelia Cottle said.
Amelia Cottle said she doesn't want to grieve too much because she would rather celebrate her husband's life.
"Everyone who met him fell in love with him," Amelia Cottle said. "He was just Brian."
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