Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fond memories of my aunt Kathryn

2/20/08 The Chatterbox Betty Kaiser There’s nothing like a death in the family, to put life in perspective. I was sadly reminded of this strange truism when I received the call that my dear aunt Kathryn Carroll Rush had passed on to her heavenly reward. She was 93 years old but in my heart, she will be forever young. I was five years old when I remember this lovely woman scooping me up in a big hug. She had jet-black hair that was turning prematurely gray, bright blue eyes and a delicate porcelain complexion. I thought that she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. Over the years, her hair color changed many times but her flawless complexion and loving ways remained. Everything she did was thoughtful and tasteful. She dressed beautifully (I never saw her in slacks) and entertained elegantly. It was a family joke that her presentation of a hot dog could make you think that you were eating steak! My aunt was not a saint, but she was a bright and shining star who illuminated every corner of life that she touched. She was one of those rare people with a consistently gracious persona and a deliciously wicked sense of humor. She loved to laugh and have fun; delighted in dancing and listening to big bands. Singers Dean Martin and Michael Bublé were favorites. “Mom always looked on the positive side of things. If anything bad ever happened to her, she never told you about it. She lived a life of positive thinking,” her daughter Kathy Jean said. If her life sounds like fairy tale fluff and fancy, think again. She was a real person of substance who just happened to love the color pink! Born in Joplin Missouri in 1914, she was a member of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.” His book reminds us of the stories of real people like my aunt who suffered through the Great Depression, slugged through World War II and built modern America. Under that seemingly soft, sweet exterior she was tough as the next gal or guy. Kathryn was just coming of age when the Great Depression hit. In the late 1930s she was a young, single southern mother of a small son, living in rural Missouri. With no means of support (Alimony? What’s that?), she moved to California where she found employment in a cigar factory! Yes, this woman that I knew as a vision of elegance and White Shoulders perfume, sat in a factory, shoulder to shoulder with other workers and rolled cigars. Looking to the future, she attended night school to obtain a business degree, while she was rolling cigars. In an era when women working outside of the home were unusual, she did what needed to be done to pay the rent and put food on the table for herself and her son Billy. In 1941, she married the love of her life, William L. Rush. This was at the beginning of World War II, just before he shipped out for the battlefield. Like so many other women she became a Rosie the Riveter to help support the war effort. She worked at Douglas Aircraft where they turned out 30,000 aircraft between 1942-1945. When Bill returned from the war, he started a business and Kathryn worked as an interior designer. They lived in a lovely home in Glendale where her decorating skills took flight as far as Nevada when she decorated the Governor’s home. In 1957, after 16 years of marriage, she and Bill became parents (surprise!) of daughter Kathy Jean and later added Pat, another girl to the family. In 1966, her beloved husband suddenly died of heart failure. Kathryn became a single mother of two young girls and would remain a widow for the remainder of her life. She remained Mrs. William L. Rush and lived a full, interesting life for the next 40 years. Sitting in the funeral chapel, I had time to reflect and put together the whole person: the insecure young woman who began with nothing, moved west, worked hard and became an admirable woman. I looked around at her family of three grown children, their spouses, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. I saw her love reflected in them and was comforted in knowing that her loving family legacy is success at the highest level. Aunt Kathryn’s greatest gift was her unconditional love. And in return she was probably loved as much as anyone that I have ever known. Highly independent, she was a great role model, a loyal and true friend who loved us all equally. Sometimes all I had to hear her say was “Oh, honey,” and everything was all right. Meticulous to the end, she planned her own funeral. Three years ago when my mother died, she sweetly asked my son John if he would do her service “when the time came.” She decided on the scriptures to be read, the special music and the flowers — pink roses. Additionally and probably most important of all, she left a hand written synopsis of her life to be shared with generations to come. You probably have someone special like my aunt in your life. Someone who’s getting along in years. It could be your parents, an uncle or a cousin. Maybe just a dear friend. They need to be known for the whole personality that they are, not just for the white-haired old person that they’ve become. Do them and yourself a favor. Encourage them to write a simple timeline of their life. If they won’t do it, offer to do it for them. Write it down, folks. Write it down. If we don’t, someday it will be too late and all those wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experiences and character traits will be lost to future generations. My aunt Kathryn was a true blessing and her story is not lost. It will be handed down and she will be loved always. God rest her soul. Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Read her weekly columns at www.http//

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