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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.

Bob McClay, Reporter

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