Dr. Walter C. Cotter of Stuart, FL, and late of Providence, RI, passed peacefully at home on October 27, 2021 culminating a full and rewarding ninety-seven plus years of life, love and service. Head of a family spanning four generations, he was also a committed and expert physician/surgeon, a combat veteran of the Second World War, and an avid golfer and fisherman.

Known to his friends as Walt, he was raised in the greater Boston area, graduated from Roslindale High School and attended Boston College as a pre-med major before entering service in the United States Navy at the outset of the Second World War. Commissioned as an Ensign, he deployed to the Pacific and served as the gunnery officer aboard LST 1031 participating in several amphibious operations, including Iwo Jima. During his wartime service he earned the American and Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medals as well as the WW II Victory Medal. He was released from active duty in 1945 as a Lieutenant (JG) and resumed his premedical education at Brown University, graduating in 1947.

He attended medical school at Tufts University, graduated in 1951 and trained as a neurosurgical resident for five additional years before beginning practice in Rhode Island in 1958. During his long career as a physician, he served on the staff of many RI hospitals including the eponymous facility in Providence as well as Roger Williams, Miriam, Pawtucket, South County, Kent and Newport hospitals. In the final two decades of his surgical practice he assumed a leading role in the development of and leadership in the major neurosurgical center at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Providence serving as the Chief of Neurosurgery at both St Joseph’s and Kent County Hospital. Dr. Cotter was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He was frequently called upon by local media to provide medical insights, notably on the death of Robert F. Kennedy and the significant injury suffered by boxing champion Vinnie “Paz” Pazienza, an event which found its way to the big screen in the 2016 film, “Bleed for This.”

Never satisfied with being good enough, Dr. Cotter pursued professional development and growth throughout his career, pioneering the practice of micro-neurosurgery in the RI medical community. He was named president of both the Rhode Island and New England Neurosurgical Societies. Walter retired from active practice in 1995 and turned his considerable energies to his expanding family.

He had met and married his wife, Barbara Pearce, while at Brown and together they created a family of six children, three girls and three boys. Walter and his family were active in the community, enjoying membership at the Edgewood Yacht Club and the University Club. Barbara died suddenly in 1977 and Walter married his new partner, Mary Lynn McInnis, in 1981 adding another daughter to the family in the process. Together they provided strong, central focus of family support for their children and for the new generation of fifteen grandchildren.

When Walter and Mary Lynn moved to Florida, distance notwithstanding, the new home became a magnet for the third generation. The home in Stuart was rarely empty, a condition that continued with a new fourth generation, the great grandchildren, who also became regular visitors who benefitted from Walter’s tales of their parents and grandparents.

Walter is survived by a devoted and saddened family including his wife, Mary Lynn, his children; Jean, David (Jane), Karen (Kurt Badynski), Betsy (Don Wisehart), Stephen (Barbara), Thomas (Kerri) and Lisa (David Gray); his grandchildren Jonathan, Carolyn, Michael, Brian, Andrew, Gregory, Jennifer, Justin, Christopher, Tyler, Cameron, Harry, Tommy, Lindsey and Samantha; his great-grandchildren William, Timothy, Nicholas, Abigail, Theodore, James and Mason. Walter’s extended survivors include many nieces and nephews, mostly in and around the greater Boston area.

The funeral mass for Dr. Cotter will take place on Friday, November 26 at 10 a.m.

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