Aunt Kathryn, as she was known to our family, passed away this past June. When I think back to my memories of her, I think of all the things she taught me. They are words that everyone wants to pass on to their family – words like responsibility, hard work, perseverance and encouragement. She lived out these words every day.
I remember getting in trouble for lying at their house. Aunt Kathryn made me take responsibility for my actions. She taught her daughters to have responsibility and to be independent. She had two rules for them. They had to get a college degree so they could get a job that they enjoyed that would allow them to be responsible for themselves. They also had to be supporting themselves with those jobs before they could get married.
I saw her work hard as a Benefits Authorizer for the Social Security Administration. She worked for the government for almost 30 years, working her way up. My uncle was in the Air Force in Spokane, Washington. That’s when she started her government career. When he got out, they stayed in Spokane. He started a construction company with Aunt Kathryn as his bookkeeper. They built 175 houses in the years that they were there as well as having my cousins Vicki and Valerie. When Vicki was a baby, she had her own special place in the office, inside one of her mom’s desk drawers so that Aunt Kathryn could work while she took care of Vicki too.
Their time in Spokane also brings me to her perseverance At Aunt Kathryn’s funeral Vicki shared that they would be living in one of the houses, someone would come to look at it, Uncle Charles would sell the house and they would pack up and move. They did that here in Kansas City too. In their 47 years of marriage, they moved more than 52 times. I remember one time when Uncle Charles sold their house, and they had to move into an apartment for a few months until he could build them a new one. Faced with all this, some women might have given up. Instead she just kept going and did what she needed to do. During all of this she supported and encouraged her husband too.
I remember him walking out the door for the night shift with a huge black lunch box that she packed for him. She did it even though she also had to be up early the next morning for work. She also supported him in all of his Shrine charity work. She supported her daughters in their dreams. She encouraged me and helped me get a job that has led to a career that has lasted more than 25 years. She always urged me to take training to better myself and cheered me on when I got promotions. I had a wonderful conversation with her in late spring. She had been suffering from memory issues for a while, but was having a good day and was looking at photo albums with her caregiver. She told her caregiver that she wanted to call ABC (my family nickname). The caregiver got the number and called me. Aunt Kathryn and I had a 30 minute phone call where she asked about everything I was doing at work. We talked about a training that I had just been on. She was so excited to hear news about my granddaughter. Her last words to me were “ABC, I’m so proud of you.” It brought tears to my eyes then and is doing the same as I write this.
Aunt Kathryn thank you so much for all that you have taught us. May we live our lives with the sense of responsibility, work ethic, perseverance and encouraging spirit that you showed us every day of your life.
My cousin Vicki’s wonderful eulogy at my aunt’s funeral contributed many of the facts in this post.