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Arizona snowbird to be honored by Queen Elizabeth

An Arizona snowbird has left the state early to receive a royal honor.

Joseph Cotterill was born in Britain. He served as a missionary to China in the 1940s, where he was imprisoned by the Japanese during World War II. He has led Episcopalian churches across England since the 1960s.

Because of his service to Christianity and community, the winter visitor to Green Valley is now headed back to England.

"The Bishop of Oxford has nominated me as one of the people who should have the honor of being the recipient of the Maundy Thursday gifts," said Cotterill.

Queen Elizabeth will personally give him a gift of coins during the Maundy Thursday services in Oxford, England. The services are a tradition in England that commemorate Jesus' last supper and date back hundreds of years.

He'll get two pouches of coins from the Queen. One contains specially minted coins. The other will amount to 87 pounds to represent the Queen's age.

Cotterill won't be alone for the ceremony. There will be 87 men and 87 women -- also representative of the Queen's age.

Cotterill hopes to get to speak to the Queen. He has submitted a list of his background and interests to Buckingham Palace in case the Queen wants to ask him any questions. Tradition says that recipients can't speak to the Queen unless she says something to them first.

There is one way he and his wife are getting ready for the event.

"I've been practicing my bow," said Cotterill. "My wife, who'll be standing beside me will be practicing her curtsey."

This is Cotterill's second "brush" with royalty. As a young boy in Manchester, he came face-to-face with George V during the grand opening of a new library.

Cotterill says being chosen is a great honor.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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