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.
Notable memories include celebrity friendships with Jimmy Rogers, Van Johnson and Sammy Davis, Jr. In the 1950s, during a trip to the Vatican City, Mary’s commander arranged a private audience for her and several colleagues with Pope Pius XII. In the 1960s, Mary greeted President Kennedy at Otis AFB with her young cousin, the late Mary Rita (McGrath) Parziale.
Mary is survived by two children, Cathleen E. DeSantis of Canton, Ohio and Michael D. Cotton (Kenneth E. Bostwick) of Sparta, N.J. She also is survived by her granddaughter, Jessica (and Mark) Ferguson of Mansfield, Ohio; step-grandchildren, Ashley and Joshua Bostwick of Sparta, N.J.; three great-grandsons, Devin, Dylan and Daniel; and countless friends, colleagues and cousins including Dorothy (McGrath) Evans and her husband, Richard, of Chelmsford, Mass., and James Normandin of Lowell, Mass. In heaven, Mary will be reunited with her long-lost sister, Teresa Agnes McGrath; her cousin, Catherine (McGrath) Normandin and her beloved poodle, Martini.
On June 14, 2013, at 8:15 p.m., Mary was surrounded by her children and her cousins, Joseph McGrath, Jr. and his wife, Rosemary, and Jane Ayres, her husband, Arthur, and their kitten, Angel. As Frank Sinatra crooned “My Way” on the bedside table, her family celebrated her life with outrageous memories, laughter and joy.
Often described as a cross between Jackie Kennedy and Lucille Ball, Mary brought laughter to any party, frequently at her own expense. In recent years, she couldn’t always remember the amazing moments in her life, but her children reassured her, “Don’t worry, we will remember them for you.” Special thanks to the caring staff at Seacoast Nursing Home in Gloucester, Mass.
ARRANGEMENTS: A memorial “Celebration of Life” will be held on September 14, 2013, in her childhood town of Lowell, Mass. A memorial Mass will be held at St. Ann’s Church in Gloucester, followed by a brief service at Oak Hill Cemetery at a future date.
Arrangements are by the Greely Funeral Home, 212 Washington St., Gloucester.
Online condolences may be given at www.greelyfuneralhome.com.