Phyllis Orseck Cotton celebrated her belated 75th birthday doing what she loved most: traveling and spending time with her family.
During an Alaskan cruise, she hiked a glacier, went dog sledding, and spent time with her children and grandchildren.
On Tuesday, two days after the cruise, Cotton died in her sleep while visiting a stepdaughter in California.
Cotton’s son, Gary Orseck, said his mother, who lived on Grove Isle and was active in the Greater Miami Jewish Museum and Miami Art Museum, “had the time of her life.”
“We couldn’t have scripted it any better,” he said of the cruise. “By the end of the cruise she was running the ship.”
Cotton, who was born in Jeffersonville, N.Y., attended Cornell University on an academic scholarship. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in English.
In 1962, Cotton married Bob Orseck. They moved to Miami, where Orseck formed what became the prominent law firm Podhurst & Orseck.
On June 30, 1978, Bob Orseck, who was on a group trip to Israel, drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. He’d swum out to help children caught in the current when he got caught in the undertow himself, said Aaron Podhurst, his law partner, who was also on the trip.
Podhurst described Cotton as a woman who took all the terrible blows that life handed her and found the strength to move forward.
“She always saw her glass as half full and never half empty,’’ Podhurst said. “We all could learn from her.’’
While raising her three children alone, Cotton met and married Harold Cotton of Worchester, Mass., in 1982. He died of cancer in 1996.
Cotton loved the arts and helped start the docent program at Miami Art Museum, which she also raised money for, Podhurst said.
She was also an avid follower of As the World Turns, not missing a single episode during the show’s 54-year run.
“Her advice to everyone was to just enjoy life and grab every opportunity,” said Gary Orseck.
In addition to her son Gary, Cotton is survived by son Jon Orseck; daughter Bonnie Stephenson; stepdaughters Laurie Cotton-Smith, Nancy Cotton and Betsy Cotton; sister Carol Baim; brother Stephen Levine, and longtime companion David Bloomberg.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Temple Beth Sholom, 4144 Chase Ave., Miami Beach. Burial will follow at Lakeside Memorial Park, 10301 NW 25th St. in Miami.
Contributions may be made to the Harold N. Cotton Scholars Fund, c/o Brigham & Women’s Hospital, 75 Francis St., Boston, MA 02215, or to the Miami Art Museum.