Meet a Community Elder: Jeffrey Cottam
At 76, Mono resident Jeff Cottam loves to perform wherever he finds an audience. But theatre is only his spare-time gig.
At 76, Jeff Cottam loves to perform wherever he finds an audience. As actor, director, costume designer and maker – even stage manager when needed – Jeff has done it all.
“I just love to perform. I’m a total ham,” he says. His wife, Lee Ann McKenna, an ordained minister, says that during her church services he reads – or rather, “performs” – gospel passages with the same enthusiasm and passion that mark his theatrical presentations.
But theatre is only his spare-time gig.
When Jeff arrived in Canada with a wife and three children in 1972, he settled in Windsor and quickly found a place as a corporate problem solver. But the corporate vibes weren’t right. After the death of his father and a divorce in 1990, he took stock. Concluding that his calling was to help people, he embarked on a 13-year stint with the Windsor YMCA. There, he implemented programs to help people who were homeless, as well as those with mental and physical challenges, find housing and a place in the world.
During that time, he also took courses in acupuncture, reflexology, craniosacral therapy and myomassology, a holistic form of massage. In 1997, while still with the Y, he opened a clinic and school, practising and teaching his newly acquired skills in the evenings and on weekends. In 2000, he was named Myomassologist of the Year by the International Myomassethics Federation, becoming the only non-American to receive this award.
Chronic pain was an issue for many of Jeff’s clients, and ever the problem solver, he came up with his own way of dealing with it. Called “contraction release therapy,” his technique draws on Chinese philosophy to relieve muscular pain. He has written a treatment protocol for the technique, as well as a hand reflexology manual that is still in use today.
Healthy eating has always been a way of life for Jeff. He credits it with sustaining his enthusiasm for life and his ability to perform his one-man shows, notably his performance of A Christmas Carol, for which he must flawlessly memorize 6,500 words.
In 2015, Jeff and Lee Ann moved to their 10-acre Mono property and he started developing the strong community ties that are helping him ease into retirement. Though concerned that “many people make a living, rather than live a life,” he continues to exude a passion for his own life – and gratitude for how he’s able to live it.