James Kotofskie passed into his next life on July 13, as he wished at his home in Show Low, Arizona, surrounded by family, from congestive heart failure.
He maintained his knowledge, wit and humor until his last breath. He is survived by children, Phillip Kotofskie and Susan (Don) Hicks; grandchildren, Hillary and Garrett; great grandchildren. Lilly and Giselle, and stepson Steve (Connie) Ashton.
Pursuant to his wishes, there will be no services. He was cremated and his ashes, along with those of his wife, Sheila, and their pets, will be scattered in Wolf Creek Pass, on the Continental Divide near Durango, Colorado. The family also wishes to thank his Show Low Family, Jay and Corkie Hecker, and Pat Stocks, for their never-ending friendship and support.
James was born at Station Hospital in Vancouver Barracks, Washington, April 14, 1939 to Frank W. Kotowski and Mary Jane Kotowski. His father had been an orphan and inaccurate record-keeping in an orphanage had changed his last name. James later reverted to the original name. A typical Army brat, his childhood was spent throughout the United States and four years in Germany. He came to Tucson, Arizona in 1955. Upon graduation from high school he began a life-long journey in the martial arts where he was introduced to Zen and Tibetan Buddhism which he studied and practiced throughout his life.
He credited many years in Catholic Schools with an excellent basic education and love of learning. He served in the United States Marine Corps before embarking on college studies, at the same time working in upscale restaurants. In 1971, as Executive Chef at Skyline Country Club, he was hired by Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) to establish a culinary training program, Food Education and Service Training (FEAST) at Catalina High School, which became an exemplary program and a model for Arizona.
Eventually switching to the English Department, he began a program in Asian Humanities, which also became a model for TUSD. Becoming Department Chair: English, Modern Languages, & English as a Second Language (ESL). He was affectionately known as “Mr. K” by students, colleagues and parents, and was one of the more popular, influential teachers at Catalina High School. Many considered him a “Renaissance man” because of his extensive, diverse knowledge, talent, and accomplishments. These include: Master’s Degree from the University of Arizona in Oriental Studies; Certified Executive Chef; Certified Chef-Instructor; President and Chef of the Year (twice) in the Chefs’ Association of Southern Arizona; Black Belt, Kenpo Karate; Brown Belt, Judo; Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, eight times (selected by students as a teacher who “made a difference” in the life of that student); Finalist, University of Arizona Tucson Teacher of the Year; and Veterans of Foreign Wars State Teacher of the Year 1999-2000.
Upon retiring, he and his wife and sole-mate, Sheila, moved to Show Low in the White Mountains in 2003. Sheila preceded him to the next life in 2009.
Three favorite literary aphorisms, reflecting his eclectic tastes are:
Plato, the early Jewish philosopher and mystic, “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle!”
“Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow a promise, that is why today is a gift, and called the present.”
The Diamond Sutra: “This is, you should see, thy fleeting world: a star at dawn; a bubble in a stream; a flash of lightning in a summer cloud; a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.”
No services are planned at this time.
Owens Livingston Mortuary - White Mountain Chapel of Show Low handled the arrangements.
For those who have special memories and would like to send private condolences or sign the online guest book, visit the website at www.owenslivingstonmortuary.com.