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Howard "Sonny" Cothran

November 10, 2010
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Former Sanibel resident Howard "Sonny" Cothran died on Nov. 1, 2010 in St Petersburg, Fla., surrounded by family and friends, from complications of a stroke following heart surgery. He was 67.

His passing may come as a surprise to many of his local friends. Cothran had two major loves — golf and boating — and he excelled at both. His casual Tennessee demeanor masked his golfing skills which never became apparent until well into a round when his opponent realized he had no hope of winning. In the eyes of his golfing buddies at The Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, his short game prowess was legendary.

An inveterate gambler on any sport or activity, he rarely lost. He said he always had one big advantage over his opponents in that he was never afraid to lose. By his own estimation he won and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years but in the end analysis he came out ahead. His Tennessee “twang” was a constant source of ribbing by his friends who accused him of speaking a foreign language requiring him to have an interpreter.

Known for his free spirit and his countless number of friends, Cothran was known by many names: Sonny Man, Sunshine, Sonny Boy, Sand Bagger, Sand Bar Sonny and Lefty, to name a few. Always smiling and upbeat, he never met a stranger. Friends attest that he was a man’s man and there were few who didn’t have a “Sonny story.” His smile will continue to reach out and touch those who knew him and he will be deeply missed.

Cothran was born July 3, 1943 in Johnson City, Tenn. where he spent most of his life until moving to Sanibel in 1998. He graduated from Science Hill High School and attended the University of Tennessee. He had an entrepreneurial spirit. He owned and operated the Starlight Lounge in Johnson City in the 1970s and then took over the family marina on Boone Lake in Tennessee, which he owned and operated as Sonny’s Marina with his wife Joann, daughter Shannon and son Keith for many years.

He retired to Sanibel in 1998 to pursue his passion for golf and boating. He spent several years working at the Sanibel Marina before succumbing to his independent instincts. He studied for and received his master captain’s license and began operating his own charter business – Dolphin Tours and Shelling — along the barrier islands. He also operated a marine repair business. He possessed an uncanny knack for diagnosing and repairing marine engines.

He is survived by his former wife Jodi Cothran of Sanibel; daughter, Shannon C. Lawson, Tampa; son, Keith Cothran, Cape Coral; grandchildren, Larry F. Lawson lll (Tripp) and Sunni Joannah Lawson, Tampa.

He was preceded in death by his son Eddie Cothran, mother and stepfather Kathleen and Dean Cothran and father William Howard Stewart.

A Celebration of Life memorial is planned on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 4:30 p.m. on the west side of the first causeway island when exiting Sanibel.

A Tennessee memorial will be held at Sonny’s Marina in Johnson City, Tenn. in the spring of 2011, at a date and time to be announced later.

In lieu of flowers the family is requesting that family and friends submit their favorite “Sonny” story to Anyone considering a monetary gift should send it to to the Edward Lynn Cothran Foundation in memory of his son.



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