Obituary of Rosemary Catton
Rosemary (Kudrna) Catton
July 31, 1930-March 13, 2020
GREATEST MOM IN THE WORLD. Steve, Mary and Dave lost their mom early Friday March 13, 2020. We are devastated to lose our rock, our confidante, our best friend. The world is a different place for us now. We write this obituary/tribute about our mom because it is coming from our heart. We write it unapologetic in length. We write it because we loved her so much. Her life was full of highs and unspeakable tragedies…but our mom was strong and put one foot in front of the other and went on. We understand it’s a busy world. We are grateful if you can find time in your busy schedule so that you can read about this great lady. Maybe you can read some now and come back to it or just binge read it now. We want you to know how great our mom was. How strong our mom was.
Born on July 31, 1930 in Alameda California to two 100% Czechoslovakian Catholics, Emil and Olga Kudrna. Her parents had moved to Alameda from Omaha, Nebraska so that her father could open a new JC Penny store. Her father was an old-school businessman….and that rubbed off on our mom. She was quick with numbers. When she was old enough her dad put her to work in the store counting money and dealing with math. This will become a recurring theme in her life.
She grew up with her brother Richard Kudrna (Dick) in Alameda. Her brother had a friend named “Connie”. She would eventually end up marrying this guy but before that….
Mom loved learning about her faith while attending Catholic school in Alameda, but she eventually asked to be transferred to Alameda High purportedly because they had some higher level math classes there. She did admit at one point that the presence of boys at the public school made her decision much easier! She would go on to graduate from Lone Mountain College in San Francisco with a degree in Mathematics. She then taught high school students in San Francisco but soon married our Dad Conway Catton on August 15, 1953. 9 months and 9 days later our brother Billy was born...and yes...the ladies in the neighborhood were counting those days. For our mom this was a dream come true. All she ever wanted to be was a mom…and now she was. Two years later Steve was born at Fort Ord where our dad practiced dentistry in the service. Our mom was loving life. She was raising two kids and hanging with the other army moms/wives.
Next she spent two years in Philadelphia raising Billy and Steve while our Dad attended Orthodontic school. As it happened, the neighborhood was full of moms just like ours. She always talked fondly of her time there, although she was happy to get back to California. A few weeks before our Dad finished school in Philadelphia, Mom brought Steve and Billy back to the Bay Area and bought a house on Hawthorne Ave in Los Altos (sight unseen to our Dad). Our Dad arrived 3 weeks later and thus began their roots in Los Altos.
In 1959 our brother Joe was born. In 1961 Mary was born. Our mom had 4 kids now. Her life was a dream. A dream she always wanted.
Soon this dream would take a tragic turn. In 1962 Billy was diagnosed with Leukemia. There was no hope. While she was pregnant with Dave she would take care of her dying son. In 1963 Dave was born and 4 weeks later Billy died. This would become a recurring theme in her life...losing her children.
A survivor and strong lady, she went on.
2 years later in 1965 she would give birth to our sister Jeanie. Born 3 months premature at the time there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. 6 days later she died.
Our mom…who all she ever wanted to be was a mom…had lost 2 of her 6 kids.
A survivor and strong lady, she went on.
And went on she did. In 1967 she and our Dad would build their dream home on Covington Rd in Los Altos. Centrally located on a main street close to St. Williams there was never a shortage of friends dropping by. This would often include the nuns from St. Williams. Somehow those nuns would magically appear around 5:00…when they knew happy hour had begun. Our mom loved it.
With her strong Catholic faith our mom chose St. Williams School/Parish to educate us. She didn’t just send us to school though. She was a tireless volunteer for St. Williams. The school knew our mom was smart and good with math and took full advantage of that. If a teacher was sick she would substitute teach, often math class. She also did the accounting for the concessions stand during sports events and for the annual rummage sale. She was always driving us and our classmates around on field trips and to our sports games. With this involvement, and her involvement in the church, came lifelong friendships from St. Williams…some of these friends she spoke with in the days before her passing, and some of whom she is in Heaven with right now.
Mom's other joy was to spend time with the Kudrnas (her brother Dick and his family), the Butterfields (dad’s sister and her family), and friends from everywhere she lived (many of whom she considered 'family' and you know who you are).
After St. Williams she chose St. Francis high school for our education. How cool was it that when we had an algebra problem we couldn’t figure out we just asked our mom for help? Again she would be involved by working at the Western Roundup Fair, watching our basketball games and tennis matches. She particularly loved volunteering for the St. Francis Band by chaperoning events, sewing their uniforms and having the band director over to our house.
Soon our friends were now old enough to drop by the house. Our mom loved it. Our mom had a way of talking to our friends. Our dad would sit in the family room as she would talk and have long conversations with our friends in the kitchen. Later he would say how amazed he was how she was able to talk with the younger generation. If our friends would drop by and if we were not home…they would often just visit with our mom.
Soon Steve, Joe and Mary would go off to college. With incredible strength she had forged ahead...15 years had passed since losing a child. It was 1980...and life would deal our mom an unimaginably cruel blow. On August 26, 1980 our brother Joe died. Our mom...who all she ever wanted to be was a mom, had carried Joe in her womb for 9 months, given birth to him and raised him for 21 years only to have strangers murder him…stab him to death for the thrill of it.
She had now lost half of her children.
The perpetrators were caught and our mom was there over many years for every hearing and every day of the multiple trials. She became friends with the District Attorney’s wife and kept in contact with them for decades ...exchanging Christmas cards. No matter what it was, our mom was deeply involved with our lives even when one of us was gone. Her deep faith and commitment to caring for her family kept her going, and she was an inspiration of perseverance, Faith, and positive attitude.
So once again our mom went on. She put one foot in front of the other.
Soon Dave and Mary were away at college and Steve was working. Our mom had time on her hands now. Our dad was a homebody; mom wasn’t! So she bought a couple of timeshares and now they needed to be used. She was no dummy. Although my dad wasn’t a fan of traveling...not using something he had paid for was not an option. Our mom’s plan had worked to perfection and soon they would be vacationing. Hawaii became their go-to place to get away. They also traveled with other couples almost every year, maintaining those life-long connections.
When the grandchildren started being born in 1990, it was a new chapter in life for our mom. She was a Grandmom! The most special times she had in mid-life were those spent with her four grandchildren: Naomi, Joey, Billy and Katie. She was the best grandma ever, and relished every moment with them. Once again she was involved and loving it. Babysitting them…and spoiling them and taking them off to Hawaii. Her children and beloved daughter-in-law Maureen will cherish the memories of family holidays and times together.
She lost her husband of 50 years in 2004. We were all worried for our mom. What would she do without Dad? Would she be lonely? As she had always done she took charge and went on. She sold the house and moved to the Forum retirement community in Cupertino. We were all concerned. Would she like it there? Would she regret selling her dream home? As usual…mom was right.
For the first time we would call home to talk to mom and she would have to call us back later…she was in the middle of planning an event or playing bridge with her new friends at the Forum. She was busy getting ready for nightly happy hours and dinners in the restaurant there. She was going to have a martini at her favorite Forum Villa. She was going to water aerobics class. She was off to De Anza with a group for a lecture. She was heading off to the Catholic Mass at the Forum being said by St. Simon's priests. She was busy volunteering at the Country Store at the Forum…doing what else? Accounting! Her move to the Forum was a complete success and she had put to rest all our fears of how she would handle life without Dad.
For the next decade life was great. We have told you our mom was strong…
When she was in a serious accident at the age of 86, the attending paramedic said he had "never met a woman with such grit"; She did not break one bone!
And once again our mom went on. She put one foot in front of the other, albeit a bit slower now.
When mom was diagnosed with stage four metastasized lung cancer at the age of 87 and was asked if she wanted treatment, she replied "Well, I don't want to die!" The reason was that as long as she could visit with her family and friends, she wanted to be here. It didn’t matter that macular degeneration had left her legally blind or that her bad knees (for sure, a Catton trait) were painful. With incredible strength and willpower and grace she fought cancer for 2 years with immunotherapy. And the tumors shrank! She fought not only for herself but for her kids. She knew we would be devastated when she died and she put it off as long as humanly possible.
The 2nd week of March, she was ready to say the rosary one last time and join her beloved God and her family members and friends already waiting for her in heaven. She was a fighter, our hero, an inspiration. But most of all, she was a mom and Grandma and that was her dream come true. A remarkable lady who taught us so much about strength and perseverance and no matter what life deals you….you put one foot in front of the other and go on. WE LOVE YOU MOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Rosemary is survived by her children Steve (Maureen Sheehy), Mary Newman, and Dave. Grandchildren Billy and Katie Catton, Naomi and Joe Newman. Her sister-in-law Shirley Butterfield (Bob) and her nieces and nephews Bobby (Barbara) and Janie; Liz Ann, John, Jane and Christine (Dan). She is predeceased by her husband, Conway Catton, sons Billy and Joe, daughter Jeanie; her brother Richard Kudrna and beloved sister-in-law Barbara, as well as many ‘best’ friends.
If you would like to honor Rosemary’s memory with a charitable donation, please visit VisionofHope.org (Robert M. Holstein) or Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at LLS.org.
If you would like to be contacted when date of service is determined please leave your contact information on the Tribute Wall. Service information will be posted as soon as is it becomes available.