Assemblyman recalled for service to people in need

Melvin Cottrell took
keen interest in seniors,
people with disabilities

By mark rosman
Staff Writer

Assemblyman recalled for
service to people in need
Melvin Cottrell took
keen interest in seniors,
people with disabilities
By mark rosman
Staff Writer

Melvin Cottrell, a lifelong resident of Jackson who served as mayor in 1988 and 1989 and later went on to win a seat in the state Assembly, died Oct. 9 at the age of 73 at Graduate University Hospital, Philadelphia.

Cottrell, who was born on March 31, 1929, was serving his sixth term in the Assembly, having been elected in 1992. Along with state Sen. Robert Singer of Lakewood and Assemblyman Joseph Malone of Bordentown, the three Republicans represented New Jersey’s 30th District, which includes parts of Ocean, Monmouth, Mercer and Burling-ton counties.

In an interview with the Tri-Town News, Singer recalled his colleague as a champion of legislation and services that aimed to help two groups of people — senior citizens, and children and adults with disabilities.

"I knew Mel for 25 years, ever since I got involved in politics," Singer said. "He had a few passions, among them was children and adults with disabilities. He was perceived as a role model in overcoming his own disabilities (speech and hearing). He showed them that anything was within their grasp, even with a disability."

Singer said Cottrell also worked on behalf of children with autism, trying to keep their concerns at the forefront of the legislative agenda. The assemblyman also took up the flag for seniors and worked to pass legislation that requires insurance companies to pay for hearing aids.

"He was our conscience," Singer said, adding that Cottrell solved problems for people on a one-to-one basis and took satisfaction in the thank you of a child or a senior citizen he had helped.

Cottrell was a lifelong resident of Jackson, a graduate of the town’s public schools and a graduate of Lakewood High School. He retired in July after 28 years of employment with Ocean County. His final position with the county was assistant superintendent of public property.

The assemblyman’s resume is a lengthy list of legislative accomplishments and community service, including:

• chairman, Senior Issues and Community Services, 1997-2001.

• member, New Jersey Commission on Aging, 1998-present.

• co-founder, District 30 Commission on Juvenile Crime, 1994-present.

• affiliations with the Jackson Little League, the Jackson Recreation Commission, Boy Scouts of America, Jackson Township Handicapped Commission and co-founder of Dreams for Tomorrow Inc., a nonprofit organization founded to meet the recreational needs of children with autism.

• supporter of legislation that provides interpreting services to developmentally disabled victims and witnesses in judicial proceedings.

• supporter of legislation that established the "alcohol and drug counselor licensing and certification act."

• supporter of legislation that allows members of volunteer fire companies, first aid or rescue squads to earn tuition credit.

• supporter of legislation that created graduated driver’s license system for new drivers of passenger automobiles.

Cottrell’s awards include:

• The ARC, Ocean County Chapter, Community Service of the Year Award, 1999.

• Lakewood High School Alumni Association Hall of Fame, 1999.

• Easter Seals New Jersey, Special Recognition, 1998.

• National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependency of New Jersey Legislative Award, 1998.

• Humanitarian Award, Ocean County ARC, 1996.

• Inductee, Jackson High School Alumni Hall of Fame, 1992.

• Inductee, Jackson Little League Hall of Fame, 1990.

Cottrell was a communicant of St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church, Jackson. He was predeceased by his parents, Otis Commodore and Mary E. Cottrell; and a sister, Stella Brown. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Lillian Byk Cottrell; three daughters and two sons-in-law, Maryanne Cottrell of Vineland, Jackie and Steve Burns of Jackson and Rosemary and John Mennona of Toms River; a brother, Otis Commodore Cottrell of Jackson; and five grandchildren, Tommy, Brittany, Johnny, Stevie and Melanie.

A funeral liturgy was offered Monday at St. Aloysius Church with the Rev. Scott Shaffer officiating. Interment followed in the Harmony Road Cemetery, Jackson. Donations in memory of Cottrell may be made to The ARC of Ocean County, 815 Cedarbridge Ave., Lakewood 08701.