Norman D. ‘Dutch’ Cota: private life

Source: R. Miller., Division Commander: A Biography of Major General Norman D. Cota

George William Cota was a railroad telegrapher who lived in White River Junction, Vermont. In Dublin in southern New Hampshire. Here he met Jessie Mason. Norman Daniel Cota was born on May 30, 1893.

Just two months before the end of World War I, Cota received orders to return to his alma mater, West Point. In that period his eyes fell on a short, pretty, young brunette named Connie Alexander. She lived in Manhattan where her father practiced law. After a whirlwind courtship, the couple were married on November 1, 1919, in the Church of the Incarnation on Madison Avenue at 35th Street in downtown Manhattan.

The couple’s first child was born on October 23,  1920, a girl whom they named Ann.

Strange as it may seem for one who had such a strong aversion to horseback riding, one of Dutch’s favorite pastimes was to go to the race track. One day, he invited Connie to go along, and, not owning an automobile, they went out to Pimlico Race Track on the streetcar. After a couple of races, Connie had to return home to feed their infant daughter, Ann, again taking the long ride back on the streetcar by herself. As she walked up the front steps, a taxi pulled up to the curb. There was Dutch with his feet hanging out of the window of the taxi and singing at the top of his lungs. He had just won the daily double.

Shortly before Christmas of 1921, Connie went to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington to give birth to a son, Norman Daniel Cota, Junior.

To Dutch’s dismay and disbelief, Connie and the children developed an interest in horseback riding. They received excellent instruction from cavalry officers on the post and, in time, became accomplished riders.

In December 1941, Connie found a nice house for rent in Gainesville, home of the University of Florida and closest community to Camp Blanding with decent housing accommodations. She saw little of Dutch during the next three months, as the heavy training schedule kept him in the field most of the time. As it turned out, this house in Gainesville was to be Connie’s home for the next three and one-half years-as long a period as she had ever lived in one house during her career as an army wife.

The planes set down at the San Antonio airport at 1 P.M., June 13, to the welcome of a fifteen-gun salute. Following the press conference, Cota had a joyful reunion with his wife, Connie. She had been scheduled to arrive in time for the parade but fell victim to the vagaries of war time travel. It was just one month short of three years since he had last seen his wife. A reception and banquet concluded the day’s celebration.

The following day, Dutch and Connie left for Florida and a week or two at Daytona Beach, where Connie had arranged for accommodations on the seashore. Here they were joined by daughter, Ann Morris, and their grandson, Diji. Later, Dutch described Diji in a letter to his father, Major Tom Morris, as “quite a boy and looks to me as if he would grow up to be a good sized man.” This time at the beach gave Dutch and Connie an opportunity to talk about their future plans. Very little was decided in view of the uncertainties as far as Dutch’s future was concerned. Connie did say that she had no desire to remain in Gainesville and was perfectly willing to give up her house there. After their sojourn in Florida, Connie and Dutch went north for a short stay with his mother in Chelsea.

The official notification came in a letter from General Devers, which stated in part: “I am assured that the Secretary of War is well aware of your distinguished service during the war as attested to in reports submitted by your various commanders. Your record, along with those of other general officers whose situation is similar to yours, has been given the most careful consideration. Nevertheless, as a result of the new organizational situation of the Army, it has regrettably been found necessary to place your name on a list now being prepared for reductions of some, and release from active duty of other general officers.”

There is no record of Cota’s reaction to this disheartening information. He must have been severely disappointed. The army was his life, and he surely felt that his outstanding war record merited his inclusion in the list of general officers for whom places would be found in the post-war army. But it was not to be. He undoubtedly reminded himself on more than one occasion of his own favorite admonition to “ROLL ON” as he made his effort to overcome his disappointment and adjust to life on the “outside.”

At the Valley Forge Hospital, it was determined that he suffered from an irregular heart beat and a mild case of diabetes. This enabled him to accept a retirement for physical reasons-an important consideration as it allowed him to maintain his current temporary rank of Major General rather than being reduced in grade to a permanent rank. His retirement became official on June 11, 1946.

During the early part of 1946, Connie and Dutch lived a vagabond existence, spending some time in Wichita, some in Chelsea, and some in Philadelphia as Dutch underwent his various physical examinations and treatments. They became attached to the Philadelphia area and, with encouragement from both Governor Martin and Dan Strickler, decided that they would like to settle there on a permanent basis.

When Dutch and Connie bought a home in one of his developments, the General got interested, and Wallace took him on as superintendent of construction. In addition to residential work, Cota searched out military contracts both in the United States and Canada in an effort to develop design and engineering work for the firm. Dutch worked for Wallace on several occasions over a three-to-four-year period.

The second position was that of director of civil defense for the city of Philadelphia. He was largely responsible for putting together the civil defense plan for the city and conducted the first practice alert which was held in 1951.

In 1965, he and Connie took a trip to Europe. It was, at least in part, a conducted tour arranged by the army, beginning at the army base in Heidelberg and visiting Wiltz, Bastogne, and Luxembourg City. It was a truly sentimental occasion for the seventy-two-year-old General and his wife. There was an elaborate independence celebration in Luxembourg City to honor the General, and the couple was warmly greeted by the population of Wiltz.

The European trip was a happy occasion in the midst of a very sad time in the General’s life. He had learned several years earlier that his wife had cancer and that the prognosis was unfavorable. In 1964, the Cotas decided to leave the Philadelphia area and move to Wichita to be near their daughter, Ann. After years of often painful struggle, Connie passed away in May of 1969. As previously arranged, she was buried in the West Point Cemetery with a plot at her side reserved for her husband. Connie had provided much of the spark in the General’s life, and he was desolate without her.

He was dreadfully lonely and seemed to lose interest in life.

Fortunately, he kept up his interest in the Historical Museum and through this association met a widow by the name of Alice McCutcheon. The couple were married in October of 1970. Alice moved into Dutch’s home and revived the vitality that had gone out of the General’s life since Connie had passed away. They spent a pleasant year together pursuing their common interests of history and art.

On October 4, 1971, at seventy-eight years of age, Norman Cota passed away. He was buried alongside his wife in the cemetery at West Point-a site that had always held a preeminent place in his affections.

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