Rockport, MA — Mary Ann Cotton, 90, of Rockport, died Friday, June 14, 2013.
Mary was born to the late John Joseph and Ellen Lillian (Mangan) McGrath, May 12, 1923, in Watertown, Mass. Following the death of her mother in 1926, Mary was raised by her grandparents in Lowell, Mass. Although a teenager with a strict Catholic upbringing, she did frequently enjoy lining up for a dance on the right hand side of the Commodore Ballroom, chaperoned, of course, by her late uncle Joseph McGrath and his future wife, Rita Carragher, both of Lowell, Mass.
After graduating from Catholic high school, Mary studied stenography at Lowell Commercial College. Answering a job posting on the school bulletin board in 1941 began her 45 year career in government service. In the spring of 1945, under the direction of the Secretary of the War Department, she was among a handful of ladies travelling by Navy troop transport on a serpentine course to the Pacific Air Command at Hickham Field, Hawaii. In 1949, Mary was transferred to the Pentagon for two years and then reported to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe in London, where she shook hands with Princess Elizabeth, the Duchess of Edinburgh, at the Festival of Britain in the summer of 1951. By May, 1952, Mary transferred to SHAPE’s new headquarters at Rocquencourt, France, under the command of General Eisenhower and, that autumn, at the personal request of General Thomas Handy, Mary transferred to the new joint headquarters of the United States Army, Europe, at Heidelberg, Germany. There, she met and married the late Col. Bill D. Cotton in the gardens of Heidelberg Castle in July, 1955. Mary often joked about the drastic drop in status associated with her change from the general’s secretary to the lieutenant’s wife. Mary put her career on hold to raise her children until returning to the Department of Commerce in Arlington, Va., in 1971 and eventually to the National Marine Fisheries Service in Gloucester, Mass., where she retired in 1986.