Cotton Haigler

April 10, 2014, at the close of a glorious Spring day and surrounded by those he loved, the earthly life of Collins "Cotton" Haigler ended. In his last words, he offered his own benediction. Twice, he whispered, "Thank you." Gratitude was the core of this Christian gentleman's spirit, the virtue that expressed itself through profound generosity. Cotton was never burdened by the weight of money in his pockets. With no expectation, judgement or standard, he emptied all to the benefit of others. His charitable givings can't be found on plaques and listings. He simply gave to the one next to him. In eloquent Southern expression Collins gave the richest stories of days gone by, archiving experiences of early 20th century Birmingham, World War II, the game of baseball and the loves of his life. The setting was his plot of earth. Family and friends, were his favorite characters and his finest audience. He believed he lived in the most extraordinary time. Born on July 29, 1918, Collins was the son of Mary Alma Zeigler and Frank Hampton Haigler. The boy they called "Cotton" was raised in Wylam, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, and he carried the magic and hospitality of his native home throughout life. Educated in the Ensley public school system, Cotton's charmful, winning ways culminated in his election as Mr. Ensley High School, 1938. His popularity increased in his years at Birmingham Southern College and as a member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity. Gratitude and love of country inspired his enlistment in The United States Army. During World War II, Cotton served in the European Theatre, specifically France, Germany and Austria. He rarely spoke of the horrors and heroics of battle, preferring to note one small gesture in the way of peace. Cotton was an integral part the 71st Infantry's effort at restoration of good will. Stationed in Augsberg, they formed clinics for instruction in the game of American Baseball for the local children, most of whom had been members of Hitler's Youth organization. Spectators, eager for refreshment and to learn the game, numbered in the thousands. Cotton coached the infield and believed this experience of play to be a "useful enterprise" in the bolstering of sportsmanship and the pursuit of understanding and peace. Ever the devoted Alabama football fan, Cotton's truest sports love was indeed the game of baseball. Rickwood Field was his second home and he played at the semi-professional level in the East Texas League. In later years, he delighted in the backyard antics and coaching of his grandchildren. Never did winter give way to Spring that he didn't long for training camp and he even, metaphorically, embraced the ideals in his rehabilitation exercises of his later years. He worked hard, pitched well and always brought his fans to their feet. Cotton was a faithful husband. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Jeannette Burchfield Johnson Haigler. Beloved in their community, they raised daughter, Gail Johnson, in the Ensley section of Birmingham. Cotton was employed by United States Steel and and Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company. In 1986, Cotton married Virginia Mauck Hamm. He had been her first date at age 16. He embraced her children, Tom and Vivienne and hoped for ten good years with her. They were blessed with twenty seven. They enjoyed every moment of their life together and especially dancing, and travel. Though they traveled extensively, their experiences in Vienna, Austria, as guest of family friend, John Harris, were defining moments of pleasure and memory. Cotton was a member of Oberon and Talisman Dance Clubs, The Club and various civic organizations. He served on committees of Woodlawn United Methodist Church and was an active member of Mountain Chapel United Methodist, while living in Birmingham. Cotton and Virginia left their hometown in May, 2007 and moved to Signal Mountain, Tenn., to their own home with daughter Vivienne and her husband David. They joined Signal Mountain United Methodist Church, where they have been lovingly nurtured by Rev. JN Howard and the United Methodist Women. For seven years, Cotton continued to make friends, young and old and his spirit colors every fiber of home and community. Collins Haigler is survived by the children of his heart: Gail Johnson Calma (Frank, deceased) Gulf Shores, AL; Thomas Mauck Hamm (Diane), Birmingham, AL and Vivienne Hamm Nichols (David), Signal Mountain, TN He embraced as well, Tammy Maddox and George Calma. Cotton was grandfather to: Cindy Parks Wood (Mark), Christy Parks Davis (Alan), Thomas Aaron Hamm (Jennifer) Melanie Hamm Toole (Frank) John Nordan Hamm (Jennifer) Nicholas Richardson Nichols IV (Ashley) David Stonestreet Nichols, Jr. (Liz) Ellen Nichols Norris (Field) Also, Allysa and Brittany Davis; Josh, Jason and Jacob Garner, Blake Wood and Jeremy Morgan. Sixteen great-grandchildren were the joy of his golden years and under his tender gaze, eclipsed even the stars of Heaven. He claimed as family, those who cared for his needs. Stacey York, Sherry Motley, Amanda Gaddis, Gail Carter, Angela Smith, the staff of Memorial Home Healthcare. A visitation and memorial service will be held on Sunday, April 13, 2014 in his cottage garden at the residence of David and Vivienne Nichols, 1170 James Blvd., Signal Mountain, TN Visitation will be from 3-4 PM with a brief memorial celebration at 4. Burial will take place in Birmingham, Ala. on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Visitation will be held, from 1-2 p.m. at John's Ridouts Funeral Home, Valley Chapel, 1800 Oxmoor Road., Homewood, AL. A funeral services will follow at 2 p.m. in the chapel. Full military interment will take place at Oakland Cemetery, 1230 Warrior Road, Birmingham, Ala. To honor Cotton's charitable nature, the family has chosen the Wounded Warrior Foundation. To God and to everyone who ever crossed his path, Collins Haigler would want to simply say, "Thank you" for this extraordinary, beautiful life. May his memory inspire us to enter each day with a generous heart. Leave online condolences at

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