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Monday, August 6, 2012


My sweet father-in-law passed away last Sunday morning.  By Sunday evening, we were in the car and headed to Massachusetts.

The wake, funeral and burial were all perfect - as far as those things can be perfect.  The love and support my husband and his brothers and sister got from their friends and family was beautiful to witness.  I know they were dreading each of these events, but after each one they felt peace and comfort and love.

My father-in-law lead a very interesting life. This is his obituary from the Boston Globe:

COTELL, Robert D. Of Wellesley, July 29,2012. Born in Dorchester, MA, on April 7, 1919. He grew up on South Sea Avenue in West Yarmouth, MA, son of Clarence & Bridget (Walsh) Cotell. His father was a fisherman, house painter, and well known worker in West Yarmouth. His mother immigrated to the US from Waterford, Ireland in 1915. 

She worked many years as a housemaid and cook at the Chace Family Estate on Great Island on Lewis Bay in Yarmouth. Her work was so much appreciated by Mr. Chace that he offered to send her son (Robert) to college. He graduated from Yarmouth High School in 1936; Worcester Academy in Worcester, MA, in 1938; and Brown University in 1942, with a degree in Electrical Engineering. 

After college he commenced service in WWII.  He mustered into the Army at Ft. Devens, MA; completed US Army Signal Corps basic training at Ft. Monmouth, NJ and was shortly thereafter promoted to second lieutenant as a Signal Corps officer. 

Throughout the war he was an assistant platoon leader for a radar platoon in the 555th Signal Air Warning Battalion, a part of the 9th Tactical Air Command. His unit trained in Tampa, Florida; Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, MA, and in southern England just before D-Day. The unit crossed from England to France in September, 1944 and moved to Ellsenborn, Belgium, where it commenced operations directing US aircraft from England to enemy targets in Germany. They were present in Ellsenborn during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. 

After the war he worked for the U.S. Navy in Washington, DC; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod, and Cambridge Research Labs (CRL) in Cambridge, MA. In 1952 while working for CRL he was part of US Air Force research teams that conducted operations on Fletcher's Ice Island in the Arctic Circle. The island was a floating glacier in the Arctic on which the Air Force established small research outposts designed to measure atmospheric and weather conditions in the Arctic and to track the movement of the island. 

In the summer of 1952 he and a small number of scientists and crew flew 100 miles from the ice island and were part of the first air landing at the North Pole. The team conducted a number scientific readings at the Pole, many of which are still cited in scientific research today. 

While working at CRL he met his future wife, Irene Browne, who worked with him as a scientist on the Arctic project and also visited the Ice Island. They were married in 1959 and had four children. 

In the 1960s he began work as an engineer at the MITRE Corporation in Bedford, MA and at Hanscom Air Force base in Concord, from which he retired in 1986. He lived in Burlington, MA and later moved to Wellesley in 1964. 

In the 1960s he began long association and service with the Boy Scouts of America. Even before his sons were of scouting age he served as an Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 186, St. Paul Church, in Wellesley. He later served many years as the Scoutmaster. He was also very active with the Norumbega Scout Council and at Yawgoog Scout Reservation in Rhode Island. He was a true believer in the ideals and values of the Scouting organization. 

He was also an active member of the St. Paul Church, Wellesley, and St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis. He maintained his home on Yarmouth throughout his life and enjoyed returning to the Cape as often as possible. He is survived by his wife, Irene (Browne) Cotell; his daughter, Catherine Cotell who now lives in Alexandria VA, Robert J. Cotell, in Fredrick, MD, Richard W. Cotell,(Jennifer) in Needham, MA, and Daniel P. Cotell (Beth) in Lexington, NC and 3 grandchildren, Jillian, Peter and Sarah Cotell. 

Funeral from the George F. Doherty & Sons Funeral Home, 477 Washington Street, (Rt. 16) WELLESLEY, Wed. at 9 AM. Funeral Mass in St. Paul Church, Wellesley, at 10 AM. Relatives and friends kindly invited. Visiting hours Tues. 4-8 PM. Interment St. Francis Xavier Cemetery, Hyannis. 

Rest in peace Grampa.  We will miss you.


Mari said...

I'm sorry to hear of his passing. He really did have an amazing life. I think it's awesome that his Mom's boss sent him to college.

Aimee said...

My sincerest sympathies to your family, he sounds like an awesome guy. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing man - that is clear. I'm so sorry for your loss. My prayers are with you.

deborah said...

Our sympathy and prayers for your family. What a life full of experiences!

God's blessings on you!

Wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendy said...

Wow! I don't know what else to say after reading that. What an amzing man Dan's father was. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Colleen said...

I know a lot of the places mentioned in that article! We used to go to st Francis in Hyannis. Small world. So sorry for your loss but so thankful his family felt at peace.

jennwa said...

I know he will be greatly missed. My prayers are with Dan and his family.