They also died the same way: Mr. Cottle, 12 years ago from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the Summerville home he shared with his wife, Cheryl; Mr. Graham, 69, died the same way last week outside his Vidalia, Ga., home that he shared with his wife, Cheryl.
When Mr. Cottle died at age 33, his organs were donated. Mr. Graham got Mr. Cottle's heart and nine years later, he married Mr. Cottle's widow.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent Greg Harvey told The (Hilton Head) Island Packet that Mr. Graham was found Tuesday in a utility building in his backyard with a single gunshot wound to the throat. The former golf tournament director had used a shotgun and no foul play was suspected in his death, Mr. Harvey said.
Mr. Graham, who was director of the Heritage golf tournament at Sea Pines from 1979 to 1983, was on the verge of congestive heart failure in 1995 when he got a call that a heart was available in Charleston.
That heart was from Terry Cottle, who had been put on life support after shooting himself so his organs could be donated, Berkeley County Coroner Glenn Rhoad said.
Grateful for his new heart, Mr. Graham began writing letters to the donor's family to thank them. In January 1997, Mr. Graham and Cheryl Cottle, then 28, met in Charleston.
"I felt like I had known her for years," Mr. Graham told The Island Packet in 2006. "I couldn't keep my eyes off her. I just stared."
In 2001, Mr. Graham bought a home for Mrs. Cottle and her four children in Vidalia. Three years later, they were married after Mr. Graham retired from his job as a plant manager for Hargray Communications in Hilton Head.
From their previous marriages, the couple had six children and six grandchildren across South Carolina and Georgia.
Cheryl Graham, now 39, has worked at several hospices in Vidalia. A telephone message left Sunday at a listing for Cheryl and Sonny Graham in Vidalia was not immediately returned.
Sonny Graham's friends said he will be remembered for his helping people.
"Any time someone had a problem, the first reaction was, 'Call Sonny Graham,' " said Bill Carson, Mr. Graham's friend for more than 40 years. "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."