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Archives Fr. Côté ‘was a very holy and simple soul’

February 21, 2024

By Darcy Fargo

Father Normand C. Côté collected items, people and prayer intentions.

Father Côté died the evening of Thursday, February 8, in Plattsburgh, where he had resided since retiring in 2003. He was 95 years old.

A complete obituary appears below.

“He was a very holy and simple soul,” said Father Timothy G. Canaan, who became pastor at St. John the Baptist Church in Plattsburgh while Father Côté resided in the church rectory in his retirement. “He loved people – he loved to joke with people, he loved to be around people. He was a person who had a very deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He also loved celebrating Mass every day. When it got to the point with his infirmities where he couldn’t celebrate Mass on his own, he continued to concelebrate. That was a very difficult thing for him to journey through. The Mass was so important to him.”

Father Canaan said Father Côté regularly celebrated Masses in a parish in Vermont from the time he retired until he could no longer do so. The retired priest also covered daily Masses at St. John’s weekly on Father Canaan’s day off.

“He loved that sense of being able to help out,” Father Canaan said. “As he aged, it became hard for him to hear and difficult for him to see. When the decision was made that he would concelebrate going forward, he found that so difficult to accept. He loved the Mass so.”

Father Canaan noted that people frequently asked Father Côté to pray for them, and he took those prayers to Mass with him in a special way.

“He had this very simple chalice,” Father Canaan said. “The base of the chalice was octagonal in shape, I believe. He would cut pieces of paper in the shape of that base. When somebody asked him to pray for them, he’d write their name on one of those pieces of paper. He’d open up the base of his chalice and put those papers inside of his chalice. The papers would be full, front and back, with names, and he’d have several of them in the chalice. When he celebrated Mass, he was remembering all the people who asked him to pray for him. When I developed a heart issue, he added my name to a piece of paper like that. He showed it to me. He was so proud of the fact that he could pray for me in that special way. I never knew another priest who did that.”

Father Canaan also recalled his friend as an avid collector.

“When you went upstairs to the third floor at St. John’s (rectory), there were six rooms,” he said. “When (Father Côté) moved in, the pastor then said he could have two rooms. He took over five rooms, and every room was full. He loved to save and collect all kinds of things. Msgr. (Joseph) Aubin and Father Normand were very close in age. There were only a couple weeks between them. Msgr. Aubin would say, ‘when I go visit Father Normand and go to his room, his main room, I feel I’m in a Catholic shop and got to buy something.’ He had so many religious and various other items, and they all were all dear to him. He loved to display them. Everything had to be displayed in a case or container.”

Additionally, Father Côté proudly collected every copy ever made of the Diocesan Directory, published by the North Country Catholic.

“He was very proud of that,” Father Canaan said. “He would ask me and others if we knew what NCC stands for. We’d say, ‘of course. It’s the North Country Catholic.’ He’d say, ‘no. It’s Normand Charles Côté.’”

Father Canaan noted that his friend overcame vision struggles and difficulties learning a new language – French was the primary language in his home growing up – to become a priest.

“He struggled academically,” he said. “Some of that struggle was because he had serious issues with his eyes. Eventually, a doctor in Montreal performed surgery on his eyes and corrected them. I never met his parents, but from my understanding, his mother spoke very little English. I think it was hard for him to adapt to English in American schools. Some people didn’t think he could become a priest. He thought it was funny that he ended up the oldest priest in the diocese after people didn’t think he could make it.”

In addition to filling in to celebrate Masses when he was able, Father Côté’s ministry in retirement “consisted of a lot of prayer,” Father Canaan said.

“It was Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours every day,” he said. “And he would pray one rosary each day, but it was all 20 mysteries – every single day. In addition to the 20 mysteries, he also attached virtues to the mysteries. He would not only meditate on the mystery but also on the different virtues. He’d do maybe five mysteries in the morning, five more in the early afternoon – he broke it up. But he wouldn’t even think of going to bed until he was done praying.”

Father Côté also had a great devotion to Blessed Marie Leonie Paradis.

“He was a great promoter and very proud of her cause,” Father Canaan said. “Apparently, she was a relative, a distant cousin. I told his nephew and sister, when she was alive, that when Mother Leonie becomes canonized, if it’s after Normand’s death, I’ll know he made it to heaven. He’ll see it gets done. Recently, the Holy Father accepted her for canonization. I knew that would mean something to him. When I found out, I texted his nephew, Lowell, who had been very faithful in taking care of him over the last few years, and sent him the article. I said, ‘you need to tell him she’s going to be canonized. His mission is done.’ Both Lowell and (Father Côté’s) niece, Debbie, conveyed that. Within hours, he went to be with the Lord.”

Father Canaan said his friend was also very devoted to the Third Order Franciscans in the Plattsburgh area, serving as their chaplain for decades.

“For a person who struggled academically, he was a very gifted man,” Father Canaan concluded.


Mass of Christian Burial celebrated Feb. 21
A Mass of Christian Burial for Father Normand C. Côté was celebrated by Bishop Terry R. LaValley on Wednesday, February 21, 2024, at Our Lady of Victory Church in Plattsburgh.

Reception of the Body will be at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 20, at the church with Msgr. Dennis J. Duprey, dean of the Clinton-Northern Franklin Deanery, presiding. Calling hours will follow concluding with Night Prayer at 8 p.m. Calling hours will resume on Wednesday morning from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

A spring burial will be in the family plot in St. Peter’s Cemetery.

Father Côté died late in the evening on Thursday, February 8, 2024, in Plattsburgh, where he had resided since his retirement in 2003. He was 95.

Born August 18, 1928, in St. John’s, Quebec, he was the son of Gabriel and Christine (Biasaillon) Côté. His parents predeceased him.

The third of six children, his family left Canada for the United States in September of 1929, and he attended grammar school at our Lady of Victory Academy in Plattsburgh and high school at St. Edmund’s Junior Seminary in Swanton, Vermont. His first two years of college were spent at St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vermont. He then went to Bourget College in Rigaud, Quebec, to study philosophy. 

He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in November of 1953.

He began his seminary studies at Holy Apostles Seminary, La Prairie, Quebec, in 1954. He completed his seminary studies at the Grand Seminary of Saint Sulpice in Montreal, Quebec.

On May 31, 1958, he was ordained by Bishop James J. Navagh in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg.

He celebrated his first Solemn High Mass at his home church, Our Lady of Victory in Plattsburgh. He then began his priesthood as parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Church in Clayton, followed by time in that same role at St. Augustine’s Church in Peru, St. Bernard’s Church in Lyon Mountain, Notre Dame Church in Malone (temporary assignment), Holy Name Church in Tupper Lake, Church of the Holy Family in Watertown, St. John the Baptist Church in Keeseville, and again at St. Mary’s Church in Clayton. 

In June of 1969, Father Côté was named pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in LaFargeville. He later served as pastor of St. Therese Church in Newcomb and St. Joseph’s Church in Coopersville, with a brief period of service as a special assistant at St. Mary’s Church in Champlain. 

Father Côté retired in 2003. 

In addition to his parents, Father Côté was predeceased by a sister Lillian Côté: a brother, Paul Côté, his wife Patricia and their daughter Valerie; a brother, George Côté and his wife Valida; and a brother, Lionel “Joe” Côté, and his wife Barbara and his sister Aline Côté.

Father Côté is survived by several nieces and nephews, and extended family.

Arrangements are through Brown Funeral Home.

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