FALMOUTH – In Charlotte Cote’s opinion, an education was one of the most valuable things a person could have.

When her granddaughter Cassandra Cote Grantham asked why Mrs. Cote wanted to return to school and earn her master’s degree in education at age 53, her response was simple.

“I can take my learning and have it anywhere,” unlike material things that can break or wear down, Mrs. Cote said to her granddaughter. “If you get an education, you can do anything.”

“That was quintessential Grandma,” Grantham said.

Mrs. Cote was a lifelong learner until her death April 5 at age 89.

“She always loved to learn. She read the paper voraciously and watched the news every night. If the news was on, we couldn’t talk to her,” Grantham said.

With a teacher’s certificate and her husband heading off to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Mrs. Cote fought for a job in the classroom. Many contracts at area schools stipulated that married women were not allowed to teach.

“She never thought of herself as a feminist, but she’d even say ‘Don’t take no for an answer just because you’re a lady,’” Grantham said. “She was bound and determined to find somebody to work with her.”

She started her teaching career in Yarmouth with third- and fourth-grade students. When her children, Pamela Potter and Ronald Cote, were young, she took time off from full-time teaching, filling in as a substitute on occasion.

Her son can remember a family trip to Yellowstone National Park when he was just 9 years old.

“My mother was a tremendous student of history,” he said, remembering how she would point out the geographical highlights and historical facts as they traveled by car across the country.

“It was a real enjoyable thing for my mother,” he said.

After returning to teaching full time, Mrs. Cote spent the remainder of her career teaching fourth grade at Plummer-Motz School in Falmouth.

Mrs. Cote hosted two students in her home, each for a year. Knud Reckweg traveled from Denmark as an exchange student and Michael Smith was a son of family friends who came to Maine from California.

The connections Mrs. Cote made with the two remained strong over the years. The Cote family would travel to Denmark and be shown around the area by their “Danish brother,” Ronald Cote said. In turn, the Reckweg family would visit Maine.

“She really reached out across the seas to Europe (with Knud) and worked and taught and raised Michael for a whole year,” her son said.

Mrs. Cote retired from teaching in 1982 and dedicated her time to her granddaughters. Grantham remembers returning home from school and spending time with her grandmother, who would help with homework or read a book.

“She was always there. That was the best part of growing up,” her granddaughter said. “She would have done anything for me.”


Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]


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