Remembering Harry Cotabish: A Consummate Christian Gentleman

by W. Darwin Collins

A few years ago, the Rev. Janet Hellner-Burris met with the Rev. Dr. Dwight French, the late Pennsylvania regional minister. As they talked about their church communities, Dr. French remembered Harry Cotabish as “a consummate Christian gentleman.”

Rev. Hellner-Burris served with Harry for years as board chair, elder, trustee and choir member at Wilkinsburg Christian Church. She couldn’t agree more with Dr. French’s kind words.


Sharing his talents with the church

I was introduced to Harry as I transitioned to regional ministry following Dr. French. Harry served the region as the chair of the regional new church start in Cranberry Township, PA. The church start required many hours and detailed plans, and I quickly learned to appreciate Harry’s organizational and planning skills. An engineer by profession, Harry brought the skills from his career to help the church. More importantly, what Harry brought to his service in the congregation and region was a devotion to giving his best for Christ’s ministry. Through his time, skills and financial resources, Harry always gave his very best.

Harry’s commitment to the church did not only span one congregation. Prior to his final years at the Wilkinsburg church, he participated at East End Christian Church. During the winter months of his retirement, he and his beloved wife, Gladys, attended First Christian Church of Ft. Myers, FL. His commitment to God and the church could not be confined to a single location. Wherever Harry lived, he gave of himself.

Following his death in 2016, Harry’s legacy would not be diminished. Rev. Hellner-Burris spoke of his legacy: “His attention to detail, combined with his great love of the church led him to be one of the wise voices we always listened to as we navigated the choppy waters of congregational transformation. In addition, Harry was a role model for me in growing old gracefully…his legacy lives on at our church and in the heart of one honored to be his pastor.”


Planning for generosity in death

Although it’s easy to remember Harry’s life and service, Harry and Gladys made careful plans to distribute their remaining assets after their deaths. The church and its ministries were beneficiaries of their generosity. As in their lives, so too in death!

The congregations Harry served in Wilkinsburg, Ft. Myers and the Pennsylvania region received proceeds from the Cotabish estate, extending the couple’s love for these ministries well into the future. Through the Christian Church Foundation, the Christian Church in Pennsylvania created the Harry N. and Gladys N. Cotabish New Church Establishment Fund to encourage continued interest in planting new churches.

Harry Cotabish was a consummate gentleman indeed, and a true ‘saint’ of the church.


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