Our family and dear friends experienced the end of an era July 13, 2019, when Kathlyn Cecilia (Harper) Schuck gently passed away with family present after a long goodbye.
She was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Florence and Milton Harper on December 27, 1926. Our mom Kath, also known as Kay, was just 9 years old in 1936 when on a Fourth of July family vacation her father was killed in a car accident. This profound event left her widowed mother to raise Mom, her older brother, and younger sister at a time when there were few jobs available for single women with children. After fighting to get work at Northwestern Bell as a switchboard operator to provide for their family, her mother worked as much as she could, including odd hours and overnights. Young Kathlyn and her brother and sister were on their own much of the time and made their fun with imagination and found objects. She took great pride in having endured those lean years, years that shaped the rest of her life and strongly influenced what she taught us. Mom avoided buying single-use anything — we were taught to reuse wrapping paper, foil, string, and to add water to get the last drops of any product out of the bottle so as not to waste. Mom often reminded us to “keep that — you might need it someday.”
After graduating from Roosevelt High School in January 1945, Mom spent time traveling with her merchant marine brother and lived for a time in New Orleans before returning to Minnea-polis. She worked at the telephone company with her mother and went to the University of Minnesota taking fashion and art classes — there she met her “sweetheart darling” of more than 60 years, Fran Schuck; they married in 1952. They brought home their first son on their 10-month wedding anniversary and later built a home in Bloomington, Minnesota. Mom and Dad were faithful Catholics, bringing home five more babies over the next 11 years. She raised her children with love, grace, laughter, and occasional wooden spoon. Ever true to her endearing character, she taught her children no education was ever wasted, so look for opportunities to learn, leave public spaces better for the next person, and in conflicts empathize rather than criticize. Best of all, she taught that “work will always be there, but fun is fleeting” and all too rare.
Our mom was an exemplary grandmother. She doted on her nine grandchildren spread across the states with surprise packages of fun stuff like silly toys, cap guns, paper dolls, newspaper comics, and home-baked cookies. She had a sharp sense of humor to the degree of earning the nickname “Gramma Tease” and easily came up with dozens of campy songs you would never hear anywhere else.
Mom was a foodie before there were foodies. She would read cookbooks cover to cover like many people read good fiction. Skills learned surviving during The Great Depression served her well during the years of The Great Expansion of our family. With eight around the table every night and always on a tight budget, she served a thrifty variety for her family and herself to avoid the boredom of repetition. She always tried at least one new recipe a week and none of us remembers ever having the same menu month to month. She also taught us that it is worth going out of your way for good bread. Mom loved to entertain, replete with tasteful decorations and epic menus ensuring that all her guests felt well honored.
When Mom and Dad retired to Hope, Idaho, Mom immersed herself in all of her varied interests. There was the Garden Club, Book Club, volunteering at the polls for elections, volunteering at Bonner General Health, and she was locally famous for her pies. Her most dear passion was being a founding member of Friends of the Hope Cemetery after the death of son Paul and his burial there. She felt personally rewarded by the improvements made by the FHC not only for it being her beloved son’s resting place, but for its importance for all who are memorialized on that hill. She led spring cleanup days and other projects to help the cemetery to reach its full, exquisitely serene potential.
Our mother was the greatest cheerleader of our lives. Her children and grandchildren know she was the one person in life who thought they are always great, all ways, no matter what drama we brought to our mama. She was happiest when her children were happy and healthy and doing what they loved. Living in Hope was quintessential joy for her. She cherished Paul Croy’s poem, “Pend d’Oreille” citing, “Content am I whose sands of time run out on Pend d’Oreille.” She was lucky enough to experience just that. We are incredibly lucky to have had this artistic, loving, humorous, sentimental, beautiful woman for our mother.
She is preceded in death by her parents, brother Russ, infant sister Marjorie, her husband Fran, and their son Paul. She is survived by her sister, Sharon Crosby; children Forrest Schuck (Mary Jo Godec), David Schuck (Jaye), Gretchen Lockwood (Brent), John Schuck, and Andrea Happe (Jonathan); nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews, and close friends.
A memorial celebration will be held Mother’s Day 2020, at The Old Church in Hope. Attendees are asked to wear something turquoise in recognition of our Mom’s signature color.