By Jessica McBride
An outgoing man who loved playing baseball and is a “missed soul in our family.” That’s how the older sister of Thomas Cottrell, of Milwaukee, describes her brother, who died in Vietnam.
After reading a story in the Milwaukee Courier, a local reader connected the Courier with Cottrell’s family, and his sister sent his photo.
The photo was being sought for a major project designed to put a face with every name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. Researchers – including students from a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee journalism class – have now found all of the 1,161 Wisconsin photos.
A photo of Cottrell had already been submitted, but it was a yearbook photo, so a story in the Courier had urged readers to provide additional photos if they had them (we are still seeking additional photos of the following men: Ruben L. Horton, Timothy H. Johnson, Thomas C. Mitchell, and Murphy Pleasant, Jr. If you have any, please contact Jessica McBride at jessicamcbride05@live. com.
These men already have photos included in the VVMF project, but family photos would be better and are still desired).
“Tom is going to have a birthday coming July 16, and he will be 68,” Cottrell’s sister, Dorothy Haskins, said, describing how the family had just returned from the cemetery, where they put a cross with red, white and blue fl owers on his grave.
“My brother, and I went to cemetery,” she said. “We go out every year. We clean up the area where his headstone is.
He was a genuine young man who would help others.” Cottrell worked at Galst Food Market, 1622 W. North Ave., until he graduated Rufus King High School. His sister said he was drafted.
“Tom was an outgoing young man, and he loved playing baseball. He had four other brothers,” she said, and three sisters.
The family moved to Milwaukee in 1950 when Cottrell was four from Memphis.
“My grandmother sent for my mother, and my dad came here and got a job,” she said.
The Cottrell boys were very well known in the neighborhood around 1st and Center, she said.
Diane Hill-Horton, who connected the Courier with Cottrell’s family, said of him, “He was handsome and kind and was missed by many.”
“Tom didn’t want to go,” Haskins added.
“His orders were to go to Vietnam and that’s what he didn’t want. He wasn’t happy.
He wasn’t in there a year. It was very painful.” Cottrell was a specialist fourth class in the Army, serving with the 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry, A Company. He died on March 29, 1969 of fragmentation wounds through “hostile action,” military records say.
Because he died in Vietnam at age 21, his other siblings were spared from service, other than one brother who also served, but came home.
“We always were a close family, but my other three brothers did not have to go,” she said.
“He was a conscientious young man. He had just loads of friends, and he loved people.
He is a missed soul in our family.”