If ever a youngster had need of a softball team, they needed go no farther than Justin Cothran.
"Whenever a player didn't have a team, Justin would take that kid," remembers Cothran's wife, Patty. "He loved coaching and loved the kids. He affected so many because every kid got a chance to play."
A coach and administrator in the Wyandotte County (WyCo) Softball Assn. for 30 years and a women's softball assistant at Kansas City Kansas Community College for the last 12 years, Justin Cothran passed away Thursday, July 5, after a 16-month battle with Squamous Cell Carcinoma cancer. He was 55.
In addition to his wife, Patty, he is survived by four daughters, Courtney Weis, Shannon Blankenship, Nikki Brown and Katie Cothran. A memorial service will be held Wednesday at St. Patrick's Church at 94th and State with funeral services Thursday at St. Patrick's at 10 a.m.
"It still hasn't hit me yet that he is gone," said KCKCC softball coach Kacy Tillery.
"Justin taught me so many things not only about softball but about life and I can't imagine what it is going to be like not to talk to him every day or have him here in the office or at practice. He loved coaching softball and it showed every day that he was on the field or in the office. There are just no words to express all that he has done for me, the softball program at KCKCC and the hundreds of young ladies that he coached. You don't replace people like Justin Cothran and KCKCC, his family and the community has lost a great person."
This past spring, the KCKCC softball team played "Red Games for Justin Cothran" at which time bracelets were sold to raise funds. When word spread to other teams in the Jayhawk Conference about his illness, full squads from more than a half-dozen conference rivals purchased the bracelets.
While he did coach a couple of boys teams at WyCo, most of Cothran's coaching was in girls softball where he coached all four of his daughters starting from T-ball all the way up through 16 and 17-year-old teams.
"He coached at every level," said his wife. "The three oldest girls were two years apart so for a while he was coaching three different teams at the same time." In addition to coaching, he served as chairman of various softball committees and was a member of the WyCo executive board for several years.
Cothran joined the KCKCC women's softball staff in 2000 as an assistant to Heather Mazeitis and was elevated to interim head coach when Mazeitis resigned in February of 2001 to become head volleyball coach at Louisiana Tech.
It was at that time that Tillery joined the staff as an assistant and then she and Cothran reversed roles for the 2001-02 season. He was also a volleyball assistant to Tillery during her four years as head volleyball coach and a softball assistant at Bishop Ward High School.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., Cothran grew up in Wyandotte County, attending elementary school in Bonner Springs and Arrowhead Middle School before graduating from Washington High School in 1975. He entered the military after graduation but suffered a severe knee injury in basic training and was honorably discharged.
In the workforce, Cothran worked for the Convention and Visitor's Bureau in Kansas City, Mo.; spent time in hotel sales and was vice-president of the Sports Connection before joining the KCKCC athletic department.