Robert was 23 and Donna 19 when they were married in 1940.
Diana’s father was Robert Morgan Cotterell, born around 1917 in Algon, Iowa. He moved to Los Angeles around 1938 to follow his interest in aviation.
(And maybe to get out of Iowa as he never returned.)
Diana’s mother Donna Virginia LaRocca was born in 1921, in Peoria, Illinois.
Donna’s parents were Ned and Virginia LaRocca, vaudevillians who travelled the Pantages, Orpheum and other vaudeville circuits for about the first 10 years of her life.
Donna LaRocca moved with her parents to Los Angeles around 1934.
This is the Hollywood Wedding Chapel where Robert and Donna were married as stated on the marriage certificate. The location is about one block from the infamous and historic Chateau Marmont hotel. The famed Garden of Allah apartment building was across the street.
This Hollywood Wedding Chapel building was purchased by famous director/writer Preston Sturges in 1940; he transformed it into “Players” restaurant, a movie business watering hole. Players has its’ own interesting Hollywood and LA history.
Donna and Robert must have been one of the last couples to marry at the chapel before Sturges took over.
Currently, 8225 Sunset Blvd is a Pink Taco restaurant.
1944 Second Lieutenant Army Air Corps Heavy Bomber Robert M. Cotterell was captured on May 27th and imprisoned in a German POW camp. His address is listed as 3712 Arbolada as seen in the cutout below.
(Robert Cotterell is listed with the Evans address on his daughter Diana Lee’s birth certificate.)
Scroll WAY down for more.
Mother Donna Cotterell is listed as living at 3710/12 Arbolada address on her voter registration this year. Seen on ancestry.com
Robert Cotterell’s daughter Constance is 2 years old, and Diana only 5 months, on the date the POW announcement was published.
1945 Robert Cotterell is liberated from the German Camp.
Donna LaRocca Cotterell files for divorce against Robert Morgan Cotterell.
1947 The Cotterell’s divorce is finalized.
Historic Context: Robert and Donna Cotterell were one couple out of thousands who made up a nation-wide spike in divorce rates after WW2.
Statistics show that in 1946 one in four US marriages ended in divorce.
A 1946 article written on the subject in the New York Times:
“More than half of America’s 1,500,000 war-wed G.I.s have returned. Already one out of every four of these 800,000 men is entangled in divorce proceedings. Experts are predicting that by 1950, 1,000,000 of these wartime marriages-or two out of three-will end in divorce.”
Robert Cotterell remarried in approximately 1949 to Patricia Frick and the couple had two children in 1950 and 51.
He had a job after the war working for Douglas Aircraft. The job took his family all over the San Fernando Valley and Laguna Beach.
I would imagine Robert paid alimony to Donna as was common at the time, as well as child support for Constance and Diana.