Donna Cotner worked as cook at senior center
By Marcy Stamper
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Methow Valley hard, with the death of longtime resident and senior center cook Donna Cotner from the disease in March.
“We were all shocked. Nobody knew Donna was sick until it was over,” said a member of the Methow Valley Senior Center board. “Everyone is so sad.”
Cotner grew up in the Methow. She had worked for Okanogan County Transportation & Nutrition (OCTN) for about nine years. This past year, although seniors couldn’t gather in person for regular lunches, Cotner and her co-workers still showed up three times a week to prepare lunch for seniors for pick-up or delivery. She also cooked in Brewster during the past year.
Before COVID, when everyone shared lunch at the center, most seniors went through the kitchen to get their meal, where they had a chance to visit with Cotner and the other staff. Cotner was always ready with a greeting and knew what foods people liked or couldn’t eat.
But this past year, with the lively, social lunches on hold, the seniors had much less interaction with the cooks. For those who picked up their meals, a cook or an assistant would simply bring the food out to the car. Contact was limited.
Cotner also helped provide meals for one of Methow At Home’s clients. “Donna was somebody who went above and beyond. She was really dedicated to seniors,” Methow At Home Executive Director Tracey Sprauer said. “People are really reeling.”
“She was a busy gal — so efficient. I’ve never known somebody so efficient,” said a senior center board member, recalling how Cotner cooked in Twisp and Brewster, worked as a caregiver, and cared for her husband, who had some health problems.
“It’s pretty devastating,” said Sheree Clines, a bookkeeper at OCTN.
Cotner was transferred to a hospital in Wenatchee and died late Sunday night or early Monday morning, March 21 or 22, according to Okanogan County Coroner Dave Rodriguez.
Because Cotner died in another county, the case wasn’t under Rodriguez’ jurisdiction. Rodriguez said he receives updates from Okanogan County Public Health, who notified him that Cotner had died from complications of COVID-19.
According to a brief notice posted on the door of the Twisp post office, there will be celebration of life service for Cotner later this spring.