The Rev. Earl Joseph John Cote, the retired pastor of a Pikesville Roman Catholic church, died of cardiac arrest Jan. 27 at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was stricken while driving on Putty Hill Road as he headed to say daily Mass for the School Sisters of Notre Dame. He was 68.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Robb Street, he attended St. Bernard School and was a 1961 Loyola High School graduate.
He decided to enter the priesthood and studied at the old St. Charles College in Catonsville and at St. Mary's Minor Seminary on Paca Street. He then earned a degree at St. Mary's Seminary at Roland Park, where he studied with Scriptural scholar the Rev. Raymond E. Brown. Cardinal Lawrence Shehan ordained him at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in 1969.
"He had a love for the Scriptures and it showed in his homilies," said Monsignor Richard W. Woy, vicar general of the Baltimore Archdiocese and a friend for many years. "He was bright and well read and had the ability to understand the human dimensions in life. He was a great champion of the underdog."
He said Father Cote had a strong personality, was compassionate to others, and was known for his quick wit and sharp tongue.
"He was also devoted to his parishioners and those he cared for as a priest," Monsignor Woy said.
According to a biography supplied by the archdiocese, Father Cote was first assigned as an associate pastor to St. Peter's Parish in Westernport. In 1975, he was assigned to St. John the Evangelist in Frederick and later served at St. Margaret in Bel Air.
"He kept a huge library of works on the Scriptures and theology," said a longtime friend, James H. Dowdy Jr. of Stevensville. "He was one of the best preachers in his class at the seminary, and he poured his heart and soul into what he was saying."
He said his friend was a "gracious host" and a cheerful, upbeat person who was also a "private person."
He recalled his ready wit and decidedly unsanctimonious style of speech, which often included salty expressions. "He had a comeback for anything you could say," Mr. Dowdy said.
He was named pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Pikesville in 1987. He stayed at that post until becoming an associate at Immaculate Conception Parish in Towson in 2000.
Betty Schmedes, a friend from Pikesville, said, "He had an extraordinary way with people. His sense of humor carried his conversations. When he spoke, he spoke from experience, and you could feel it."
She said his sermons were popular because they were concise. "You were never bored," she said. "He spoke straight and to the point. He had such a knack of preaching that people looked forward to his talks."
She said that Father Cote was an excellent listener and adviser. She said people sought his counsel in times of personal tragedy, death or suicide.
"His compassion was well known and after a traumatic situation, he would call you daily to see how you were doing," she said.
He was the chaplain to the School Sisters of Notre Dame at Villa Assumpta in the Woodbrook section of Baltimore County from 2003 until his death.
"The first thing he would say to our sisters in the health center would be, 'Is there anything I can do for you?'" said Sister Bernice Feilinger of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. "He was kind and considerate and was well loved by those he served."
She said his knowledge of the Scriptures was evident in his preaching. "He always began his homilies casually, saying, 'Just a thought.' He could blend the Old and New Testaments together skillfully."
Friends said that Father Cote enjoyed nights out at a steak house with a meal of beef, potatoes and onion rings.
Father Cote donated his body to the Maryland Anatomy Board.
A memorial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 10 at the Villa Assumpta Chapel, 6401 N. Charles St.
He leaves no immediate survivors.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun