Obituary: Irene (Browne) Cotell, Substitute Teacher at St. Paul School

Patch file photo
Patch file photo
Obituary from George F. Doherty & Sons Funeral Home:

Irene (Browne) Cotell, 86, of Wellesley, died Jan. 25, 2014.

Irene was born in Boston June 9, 1927 to Jeremiah and Brigid Browne, who had come to America the previous year from Ennis, County Clare, Ireland. She attended St. Francis de Sales Catholic Grade School in Roxbury followed by Notre Dame Academy in Roxbury. She was a 1948 graduate of Emmanuel College with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. She later earned a master's in mathematics from Boston University in 1951. After her graduate degree, she returned to Emmanuel where she taught math.

In 1953, she went to work for the United States Air Force at Cambridge Research Labs (CRL) as a geophysicist. She conducted extensive analytical work on accumulated data that were used to track the movements of Fletcher’s Ice Island, which was a United States Air Force glacial ice station in the Arctic Circle. Her duties involved radio communications with researchers on the island to acquire and process data from the ice station. In 1960, she was invited to travel to the ice island for on-site duty in the Arctic. This trip above the Arctic Circle by Irene and her female colleague represented one of the earliest forays above that latitude ever undertaken by women.

While working for CRL, Irene met her husband, Robert Cotell, who had been on the earliest mission to the ice island. They were married in 1959 and had four children. In 1964, the couple moved to Wellesley, where they raised their four children. 

Irene became an active member of St. Paul Parish, and a substitute teacher at St. Paul School. She was also a prominent leader in the Scouting movement, where she served as a Cub Scout Den Mother, Boy Scout Troop committee member and served various roles in the Norumbega Council. She also enjoyed spending summers on Cape Cod, where her family owned a home in West Yarmouth.

As a lifelong, devoted Catholic, she attended daily mass at both St. Paul church in Wellesley and St. Francis Xavier church in Hyannis. 

Irene is survived by her four children, Catherine of Alexandria, Va., Robert of Fort Detrick, Md., Richard and his wife, Jennifer of Needham and Daniel and his wife Elizabeth of Lexington, N.C.; her three grandchildren, Jillian of Needham and Peter and Sarah of Lexington, N.C.; and her two brothers, Gerald Browne and Rev. Robert Browne, both of Marlborough, Maine. Irene was pre-deceased by her sister, Catherine Brigid.

Funeral from the George F. Doherty & Sons Funeral Home, 477 Washington St., Wellesley, Thursday, Jan. 30 at 9 a.m. Funeral Mass in St. Paul Church, Wellesley at 10 a.m. Relatives and friends are invited. Visiting hours are Wednesday, Jan. 29, 4 to 8 p.m. Interment will be held Friday, Jan. 31, at 1 p.m. in the St. Francis Xavier Cemetery, Centerville. 

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations may be made to Boy Scouts of America, Knox Trail Council or the Alzheimer’s Association.


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