Dr. Betty L. Cottle, born Betty Jane Lowell on June 5, 1925, passed away at Homewood in Martinsburg on October 4, 2020
The first-born of two children to Rev. Robert A. and Edith M. Lowell, Mom, along with her younger brother, Rev. Earl J. Lowell, grew up during the Great Depression. From Mom’s birthplace of St. Louis, her parents moved to and served a number of congregations in the greater New York City area. My grandmother and mother often spoke of not knowing how Grampa managed to feed them on a depression-era minister’s irregular pay. But Grampa’s focus was always on service to others, not their own situation. He was a firebrand preacher who believed it was deeds and only deeds that demonstrated one’s faith—not words or religious labels. He was doubtless a major influence on Mom’s choosing to become a physician, as that is how she often indicated she thought she could help people the most.
As a female in medical school and later in practice during decades when women were frequently not regarded as “real” doctors, she was often part of a small group of trail blazers (if not the only one) where she worked. To say it wasn’t easy is to gloss over not just the disrespect but the nastiness that she sometimes experienced. But if there is one expression of hers that will ring in my ears forever, it is “Never, ever, ever let the naysayers get you down. You smile right at them, and you do what you think is right.” She’d often say that you needed to meet people on their ballfield and play ball—hard ball, if need be. I never saw my mother back down when she was fighting for patient care. Her 20-hour days while still showing up for administrative meetings to advocate for what she believed was good medical practice—these were her deeds that showed her faith.
Mom was a board-certified anesthesiologist who started her practice in New York City. She moved to central Pennsylvania with Dad, my two brothers, and me in 1970, where she continued to practice or, as she joked sometimes, “to pass gas.” She also trained nurse anesthetists; served in the county, state, and national medical societies as an officer or on committees—most notably, perhaps, working with impaired physicians; and served as Chair of the Board of the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s Liability Insurance Corporation. She also raised a family, took care of virtually all household matters, and successfully avoided ever handling a checkbook—something she readily acknowledged having no patience for.
While over the decades of her practice Mom was angered by medical politics, she often spoke of her love of medicine and remained engaged professionally into her 80s. She stopped her professional work primarily to take care of her husband of over 55 years, Dr. Harold R. Cottle, who passed away in 2008. His loss took a heavy toll. Her life without him and without medicine was a great challenge for her that, as she was headed into her mid-90s, she increasingly couldn’t bear well.
She spent most the last 12 years living without Dad in the home she shared with him in Hollidaysburg for almost 40 years, participating in several book clubs, benefiting from her friends’ visits and many kindnesses, enjoying the view out the windows in good weather, dreading gray days and winter in general, and savoring the classical music she loved since her earliest years. She did go on one glorious trip—to see Alaska—with a dear friend, which she enjoyed immensely but which was her last great adventure. Most recently she resided at Homewood in Martinsburg, where she received excellent care and was shown immeasurable kindness during the last months of her life.
Mom is survived by her eldest son, David, and his wife, Becky Cottle, of Lockwood, NY; her second child, Andrew, and his wife, Anne Cottle, of Houlton, ME, and their children Morgan Cottle (of Washington, DC) and Elias Cottle (of Boston, MA); and yours truly, Susan Cottle, and my husband, Peter Moulton, of China, ME. Also surviving her are her nephew William Lowell of Bridgewater, ME, and her niece Elaine Lowell of Westford, MA.
Those wishing to remember Mom are encouraged to support her love of music, books, and learning by contributing to the Altoona Symphony Orchestra, the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library, or an educational institution that will use the gift to help students who need financial assistance. Equally important, please consider doing your part in the world when you have the opportunity—carpe diem, as Mom often said. Stand up for what you believe in, get in the game, and handle the hard balls as best you can. Don’t let anyone make you believe you can’t do it or you don’t belong in the game.
Due to the complications of Covid and concern for everyone staying well, there will be no gathering in Mom’s honor at this time. We hope we may be able to gather at a future date.