September 30, 1930 — May 16, 2019
A woman with south Jersey roots who bloomed in upstate New York.
QUEENSBURY — Catherine Walker Kietzman passed away on May 16, 2019 at 88, with her family and friends around her.
She was born at home in Nesco, New Jersey on Sept. 30, 1930 to Frank Walker and Lillian Wescoat Walker. Catherine (Cathy to most) was nicknamed “Midge” because she was a small baby. Her brother, Francis (Bud) Walker and sister, Ruthellen Jasper, were always prominent in Mom’s story.
From the beginning, she worked on the family farms in South Jersey, driving tractors at 14, milking cows, picking and packing blueberries and harvesting cranberries. She earned the title of Eatmor Cranberries Queen. Before going to high school, she would walk across the street to her family’s barn to milk the cows, singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.”
Teaching was in her bones. She was a product of a one-room schoolhouse, where her mother was her teacher through the eighth grade. In the one-room schoolhouse, she learned about the world outside of South Jersey and the value of community beyond family. She met people who shared their passions for life, and this sparked her curiosity about places beyond the familiarity of home.
Moving from her Jersey roots was a process. She went to Georgian Court College in Lakewood, New Jersey, where she had the diverse pleasures of witnessing both the joy the Nuns had in their commitment to the church and the wonder of dancing in an eyelet and tulle gown at the Plaza Hotel. After returning to Nesco following graduation, she worked as a teacher and served as a leader of a 4-H Troop. At age 28, she joined the New Jersey Skeeters ski club (later travel club) and started trekking to North Creek to ski at Gore Mountain. She fell in love with the freedom and the area. She met Joe (Pop) in 1962, a good-looking golfer with a 1952 black T-Bird, whom she married six months later. She relished the idea of being a mom and eventually had Mary Jo, Katie, Jim and Jenny. Inspired by her love for Johnny Cash, she aimed to have five kids — the perfect number for a country western singing group. Unfortunately, we failed her in that regard! She gave us a love of learning and ability to express ourselves in conversation and writing. She always took time to edit our compositions and book reports. She was a loving and interested grandmother to Tanner, Braden, Jackson and Katya, enjoying time with them all at Indian Lake. All would seek out private time and conversation with their beloved grandmom.
She lost Pop too early. As a widow, she was forced to rely on her inner strength, faith in God and the help of her communities. She still had four kids to get through high school then college, and continued to care for her parents, who were living with her. None of it was easy, but with grace, she persevered. In charge of both the inside and outside of her home at 22 Sylvan Avenue in Queensbury, her preferred aesthetic was “natural!” Her neighbors understood how much she loved her trees and gathered to celebrate and mourn the cutting of her outsized silver maple.
Just before Pop died, Cathy went back to teaching full-time at Queensbury Middle School, retiring in the year 2000 at 70 years old. Her many students around the area remember her best by the opportunities she created for them to learn through experience and challenge, most notably her yearly stock market game. She also took full advantage of location and throughout her career took students to the United Nations, the New York Stock Exchange, Washington, D.C. and to walk the Freedom Trail in Boston.
After retirement, she reconnected with the New Jersey Skeeters group and was able to experience new and unique places with yet another community of people she treasured. Adventure and travel were sources of joy for her throughout her life. She was able to marvel at the world, seeing the Amazon, Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Russia, Iceland, the rivers in Germany, Paris (overrated in her mind), Lake Louise and the southwest. To her last, she talked about jumping out of an airplane strapped to the back of a trusted nurse.
While home in Queensbury, she rediscovered a passion for golf that she shared with a wonderful group of women at Bay Meadows. Mom was competitive and worked at her game. After her hip surgery, the hope and desire to be back on the golf course was a true motivator. And her group of golfing friends were strong and supportive.
She had a lifelong connection to animals. She grew up riding a horse named Goldie, who she loved despite Goldie having the quirk of abruptly stopping dead at any crossroad, dropping her neck and sending Mom flying off. Without question, she took in all the cats that her kids couldn’t keep through apartment changes or after moves across the country. Her giant black Newfie, Nala, was her treasured companion for years.
Mom’s way of describing a connection to another person was to have an “affinity” for them. Mom’s affinities were many and wide-ranging. To name a few: Grampy (Wescoat), uncle Frank, the Nuns at Georgian Court, people she met in designated smoking areas on her adventures, the ladies of Bay Meadows, the Sylvan Avenue gang, antique dealers, Ron and Bill in Glens Falls and Chronheiter in Warrensburg, Mr. Locke in Indian Lake, members of the New Jersey Skeeters and Queensbury school teachers.
Her life and times were also marked with favorite beverages: Brandy alexanders, Lipton ice tea powder mix, Folgers black coffee, single malt scotch, pisco sours, egg nog with Four Roses whiskey and black tea.
Despite not having extra money with kids to raise and parents to shepherd, Mom believed in exposing us to art, theater, dance and music. The Three Tenors, Mario Lanza and Johnny Cash were lifelong favorites. The nursing facilities that Mom needed after breaking her hip were Mom’s “Folsom Prison.” Though she struggled mightily, she created a family at the facilities that she inhabited. She was cared for by amazing, generous-hearted and patient people who understood her frustrations and truly saw her, figuring out ways to support her and participate in fantasies about life unlimited by physical constraints of the body and age. The consistent love and advocacy of her daughter, Jenny, and Sandy Dickinson were crucial to Mom in the last months of her life.
Jenny was told by staff at Fort Hudson that one recent morning Mom was found out of bed, on her own (which she wasn’t supposed to do), standing by the window in a hospital gown eating a wafer cookie. When Jenny asked her why she had been standing by the window, she responded: “I wanted to see the beauty.”
She was a joy to know and behold.
Family and friends may attend a calling hour from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Monday, May 20, at Our Lady of the Annunciation Church, Aviation Road, Queensbury, with a Mass of Christian burial to immediately follow at 9:30 a.m. at the church.
Burial will be private for the family.
Arrangements are under the care of Singleton Sullivan Potter Funeral Home, Queensbury.