Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tribute to my friend--- Cathy

I first met Cathy a few years after I married and moved to Park Falls.  Interestingly, I had first met her hubby, Ed, as he was a teacher at the High School and was teaching a photography class I took sponsored by the local tech school- the developing end of photography that is. Shortly after I had my oldest son, I needed a person to care for him -as I began teaching preschool.  Someone suggested Cathy, and the rest- as they say- is history.

So many pictures of our kids, so few of us

Cathy and I turned out to be pretty compatible and we spent a lot of time together.  As a new mom and someone who was uprooted from her own mom, I needed someone to be sort of my mommy mentor-someone who could coach me through that first little guy and subsequent babies.  This was not a deliberate thought, but is indeed was what happened. She was that and became so so so much more.  Cathy was generous with her home, her time, her tea and her heart.  For many many years we were inseparable.

Our spot to survey the action on Schnurs Lake

The young Busby and Oswald families spent a lot of time together.  Her younger girls, Erin and Brittany, are the same ages as my older 2 boys Jon and Greg.  Cathy, as I said, was Jon's caregiver during the 1.5 year that I taught Pooh Corner Preschool.  My boys loved going over to their house, because Cathy was always arranging for  the kids to have the very best experiences even in the simplest things.  Her dedication to this showed in the passion she gave to the kids she tutored after school, the children she watched while moms were teaching full time, even the daily life that she gave to her girls and then eventually the children that she taught.  We spent time with occasional pony cart rides, lots of time swimming at the lake house, trick or treating,  sledding down their various hills in the winter and on and on and on.

Cathy assisting Erin 

So many many stories come flooding back to me.  Cathy was a person who always expected the best out of others and herself.  She truly was one of the most intelligent people that I ever met and - she had the most college credits ever to boot.  Lol.  It took persistence as life seemed to interrupt her as she was getting that teaching degree.  But she did it!  I can not begin to imagine how much of my knowledge of a whole range of things is because I was around while she was studying.

And this happened :)
She was in the library at school for many years (at first to her dismay) and she made it the very best that she could.  She began teaching the little kids to keyboard, she did computer troubleshooting, she ferreted out books that would be of the most use to teachers, she helped kids find the books that she thought they would enjoy.  When she finally became that classroom teacher, I know for a fact that she did everything in her power to help those kids succeed.  She was always positive, she only worked to find a way to teach them in a different/better/innovative way.  She took her class on as if they were her own children.  Her abilities to teach were absolutely the best.  She had the highest expectations for the kids but mostly for herself.  She gave of her time, energy and love to our school district and to our kids.

Giving rides at the land - Greg is up and probably jon behind?  Maybe Erin

It is very very hard to describe all that she did with me, for me and I for her during those family years here in Park Falls, but  she was a huge part of my life.  I spent a lot of time at her kitchen table with the tea cups in front of us, talking and talking for hours.  I miss that chocolate tea we used to drink.  We walked together for hours, we spent time in the car driving the kids to various places and to the horses.....  Cathy was 10 years older than me, but I never felt the difference.  She was so welcoming to me in her life and I am so  so grateful.

Intense discussion apparently

We shared many interests and definitely one of them was horses.  And she is the person who helped me find Jacpot.  I loved going out to "the land" and helping care for and ride the horses.  It was such a treat and somewhere along the line we decided I could get one!  Talk about a childhood dream.  We started looking in the newspapers for horses and we looked at one or two, neither one of those horses would have been a good fit for me or for their little herd.  My horse would stay at their place until we could get things together at our house.

We found Jac at a riding stable in Mercer- he was 14 years old, calm and had a really good little canter.  We brought him back to Cathy and Ed's place and got everyone all settled in- and we headed over to Busby's house. So, within an hour we got a phone call that the horses were out and we spent a long LONG time finding them- the lead mare had driven Jac through the fence and off he went with the others apparently merrily following.
Cathy took this picture, but this is exactly the sort of thing she easily orchestrated  all . the. time.

Jacpot came into our life when the kids were a little older and so I spent a lot of time with Cathy in their old truck heading down to Fifield to feed the horses.  I learned lessons in patience, persistence and I acquired so much information about riding, horse nutrition, bridling and saddling, and life.  We had each other to sound off to, to listen to and to comfort and console over the big things and the small.

Jon and Erin on Breezer
How does a person sum up a relationship that is over 30 years in the making?  The stories that I have are so rich in detail but are too hard to explain.  The experiences that we had together were the things that made life deep and multifaceted.  She was at both of my boys' weddings, I was there for a few scary health moments with her hubby.  I came to see new horse arrivals, attended the county fair where they spent so much time, and was introduced to the joys of butt warmers in the Volvo after the cold of feeding the horses during real Wisconsin winters.  I pray that I gave back to her even a fraction of all that I got from my friend.

I believe this was the day Jon figured out he was allergic to horses. Nice job of driving, Miss Erin!
Oddly enough, we didn't see each other as much after we both got full time jobs at the same school.  And then when I started working in the high school as well as the elementary, my life really became separated from hers.  But when we crossed paths, there was always time for a few words- which in our case was hard to keep it to a few most of the time.   Her first bout of breast cancer was within a year of getting that job at school and I was astonished how she never missed a day of work to being sick from that chemo.  She attacked that disease by research.  Research during a time when there was no easily accessible internet, that resulted in her finding the best doctors she could, going far away for the best reconstruction that she could find and she did everything that she could to succeed at recovering.
At Cathy's retirement party

I just sat at that kitchen table a few weeks ago.....  it felt like old times.  As fate would have it I had to drive by their in-town house to get to the post office because of road construction.  I saw Cath out on the porch talking with someone and I knew that I would be stopping on my way back through.  We went into the house and had tea for what would be the very last time. We talked about all sorts of things, some related to her cancer, much of it not.  I was a few days out from my trip and when she talked it sounded like she still had lots of time.  She was anticipating the girls being home in August and was figuring out who she should get to come and do some repairs to the lake house...   We had laughs over some private jokes we shared and some quiet moments over the unknown.  We exchanged several hugs as I was leaving and made tentative plans for when I returned.

Hold your friends and family close- they are the true joys of life.


  1. Deb, What a wonderful tribute to Cathy and what an awesome friendship you had!! I knew Cathy only for a very little time but what I got to know about her made her someone I really respected. I'm so sorry for our loss!! May you find comfort in all of the wonderful memories you hold in your heart!!

  2. Watching Cathy at the end was inspirational. Jane and I stopped by just a few days before she passed and she was still able to muster a smile even though she was struggling to breath. I'm glad she's free of the pain.