You HAVE to hear about this woman. Her name was Anne Cotter. She was my husband’s grandmother, a slightly intimidating woman to meet as Tom’s new girlfriend (who quickly became my favorite person to see and talk to at family functions), a woman I instinctively revered before ever being regaled with the amazing tales of her life. After I’d heard them? I was even more in awe of this lady, and I retold her stories to EVERYONE who would listen because they’re just that amazing. I always said that MY grandmas, Ford and Teschke, respectively, couldn’t be topped with their factory manager babe & Queen of the May flapper badassery. I never, ever thought I’d say this, but grandma Cotter is 100% in their league! Read and learn, people, because Grandma’s about to school you on breaking the glass ceiling and living life to the absolute fullest.
Her best friend was related to CHEF BOYARDEE. I don’t know why I think that’s SO cool, but COME ON! He’s every 5 year old’s favorite chef!
She only made it to the 10th grade before having to leave to help her family during the Great Depression, but this lady had CLASS. She had a subscription to the best theaters in Cleveland. She and her family were always dressed impeccably, even if times were tight and she had to make those clothes herself! She even named their purebred basset hound Beethoven so every member in the family would have a touch of class.
She owned a garage, Bauer Radiator, ON HER OWN in a time where female business owners were extremely rare, LET ALONE a woman owning a radiator shop! Not to mention she wasn’t just the owner, she could diagnose those cars! Anne, given a bum deal on the business and a loan by the men around her expecting her to fail, had never run a business. Instead, she learned by doing and EXCELLED, keeping her city running with contracts for all of the Cleveland fire and police vehicles. Soon, she was not just a business owner but also a landlord, owning several homes, and was even the first female president of the Cleveland Radiator Association! She also defied convention by hiring anyone and everyone that needed help, ignoring race, sexual orientation, creed, or criminal records – she was extremely accepting. She was a self-made, shrewd businesswoman, among the first of her time and all on her own as a widow, with a sign in her office proclaiming ‘Our credit manager is Helen Waite. Looking for credit? Go to hell and wait.’ GENIUS.
Speaking of breaking the mold, Anne coached her daughter in her womens’ CYO basketball team. The team only had 7 girls, but under Anne’s direction (who knew nothing about the sport prior to taking on the position) went all the way to the championship! They were outsized and outnumbered, but the ONLY reason they lost is because 3 of them fouled out and they simply didn’t have any other players. One of the biggest girls on the other team was heard to have said about Anne’s 4’11” daughter, Sharyn, ‘Get this girl OFF of me!’ These ladies had HUSTLE, which irrefutably came from their rule breaking, change making coach.
She was a TO. TAL. BABE. Spike heels. Red lipstick. Pencil skirts. Ironed EVERYTHING to perfection and always looked put together. She loved laying out in the sun, covered in oil, getting a deep tan. Even after her hair became much thinner due to medications from a pregnancy, she always wore fabulous hair pieces, always red and ALWAYS done flawlessly.
Anne was such a knockout hottie-o-rama, she had men falling at her feet her entire life. She eloped with her first husband, Everett or ‘Red’, at a young age and had 3 kids. Sadly, he passed when she was 38, leaving Anne with a broken heart and the kids to care for. She married again, after 7 years, to Ed, whom she met at a party in February and married in May (!), who also passed after 33 years. A two time widow, I simply can’t imagine. But then, years later, in 2009, she was reunited with Bill. The story goes that Anne and Bill had worked together some 50 years earlier, and Bill fell for her, but she was married. After her husband passed, he invited her to a singles dance. When she went, though, a woman asked her who she was there with and when Anne replied, the woman said NOPE, Bill was hers, so Anne left. Bill never knew that and married that girl, and Anne didn’t hear from him for years since they were both married. But 40 years later, a few years after Bill’s wife had passed, Bill saw Anne, then 87 (!), at a mutual friend’s funeral. He waited a year (so polite, what a man!) to call her and ask her out on a date, she said yes, and BOOM, they were (finally) an item! He took care of her, doted on her, took her to the Olive Garden – for the rest of her life. I mean, come on, SO ROMANTIC!
Now, I never got to meet the younger Anne Cotter. The Anne that I knew was SUPERGRANDMA. She only ever made 6 pies at a time – the woman could produce mass amounts of scrumptious food. She made 3,600 cookies every Christmas! Gnocchi, her special sauce (a Croatian tomato-based sauce with gizzards, allspice, and plenty of cinnamon), nut and poppy seed rolls, chicken fried steak, polichinkas, and always with leftovers for everyone to take home. Thanksgivings in the old days were apparently amazing too – both kitchens, upstairs and down, two ovens each, were all rocking. Her pantry had EVERYTHING. There were pancake breakfasts, with bets to see who could eat more (there were always more pancakes no matter how many they had), plenty of squeeze bottle Parkay, and EVERYONE was welcome at her table. Once I passed the ‘new girlfriend’ test, of course, I always felt like another grandkid, part of the family, fed and listened to and taught and loved. Anyone who met Anne Cotter fell in love with her, with her quirks and her quotes, but I really did. I adored her fabulous glitter bibs when she started having trouble with her hands and had a hard time eating, her ever-so-slightly dirty jokes, the fact that she NEVER missed a Cleveland sports team game or a WWE Monday Night Raw, how her nails were always on point, even in the rest home, how much she loved Tom and the family, so many things. She always had something funny to say, a story to tell, a hug to wrap you in, a sparkly accessory or two (or three), and was always, always, always genuinely herself. Truly a life to be remembered. And emulated.
Spike heels and red lipstick FOREVER! (Right, Grandma?)