Human Interest


Heart Recipient Replicates Donor's Marriage and Suicide

April 08, 2008 11:30 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A Georgia heart transplant recipient who married his donor’s widow committed suicide in the same manner as her dead husband.

30-Second Summary

This past Tuesday, Sonny Graham, 69, took a shotgun into the utility building outside his home in Vidalia, Georgia, and put a bullet in his throat.

He leaves behind wife Cheryl Cottle, who, in a tragic and bizarre twist, had donated her first husband Terry Cottle’s heart to Graham more than 12 years ago. Cottle also shot himself in the neck.

At the time of Terry Cottle’s death in 1995, Graham, a retired golf director and plant manager from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, was suffering from congestive heart failure. Three months after adding his name to a donor list, he was flown to a hospital in Charleston, where doctors replaced his failing heart with Cottle’s.

Through the help of the organ donor agency, Graham found his donor’s widow, 28-year-old Cheryl Cottle, in 1998, and began writing to her out of gratitude. After two months of exchanged letters, Cottle and Graham met and fell in love. Following his retirement a few years later, they married. The couple shared six children and six grandchildren from their previous marriages.

They told their story at an organ donor reception held just before their two-year anniversary in 2006. “If you live God's will and give with a happy heart, you will reap the rewards. And I have so many rewards right here, standing next to me,” Cheryl Cottle had said.

Bill Carson, who had known Graham for more than 40 years, recalls Graham’s kindness. “It didn't matter whether you had a flat tire on the side of the road or your washing machine didn't work. He didn't even have to know you to help you."

Cheryl Cottle has given no comment. Authorities suspect no foul play.

Headline Link: '2 Men Shared Heart, Wife, Manner of Death'

Background: Cheryl Cottle and Sonny Graham’s unusual romance

Related Topic: Do transplant recipients acquire the donors’ traits?

Reference: The first heart transplant


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