Kathryn Roether, born Kathryn Loretta Wolfe on May 12, 1928, in Cleveland, Ohio, passed away at home in Williams, Oregon, on October 28, 2019, at the age of 91.
As a teenager attending a Presbyterian church, Kathryn recognized that the moment of silence just before the minister offered a prayer was her favorite part of the service. When she went to Swarthmore College she attended weekly worship in the meetinghouse on campus. She enjoyed teaching preschool children in First Day School. During her senior year at Swarthmore, Kathryn met Hermann Roether in a poetry class. They both became involved in leading Quaker weekend work camps with the American Friends Service Committee. Hermann went to graduate school at the University of Chicago and at Christmas time they became engaged. They were married in 1951. During their five years in Chicago, they continued their close involvement with the AFSC’s peace program and summer projects.
When the Roethers moved back to Philadelphia, Kathryn continued to volunteer with AFSC until she had her son Gordon and dedicated herself to motherhood and caring for a child with special needs. Hermann began working for an agency that served the developmentally disabled population, and Kathryn developed a newsletter on, as it was then called, retardation. Over time she worked with some neighboring towns creating summer recreation programs that included mentally challenged people. She assisted community mental health programs and churches in becoming more inclusive of people with special needs. Kathryn also volunteered at a local women’s center, where for twelve years she ran workshops to help women re-enter the work force. The Roethers were very active in Abington Friends Meeting for 40 years, serving on many committees and starting Quakerism 101 classes.
The Roethers’ daughter Evelyn, born three years after Gordon, had made her home in Williams, Oregon. In 1987 Kathryn and Hermann purchased some land next to Evelyn and Spencer’s home, and they fixed up a cabin there for their annual summer visits. After Hermann’s death in 1999, Kathryn and Gordon decided they wanted to be closer to Evelyn and Spencer; they moved to Williams in 2002. Living over an hour from the nearest Friends meeting, Kathryn found warm community in Williams. She participated happily in a meditation circle and in three different book groups, all of which met at her home when she was no longer able to drive.
Kathryn and Gordon came at least once a month to South Mountain Friends Meeting (they loved pot-luck Sundays). After Gordon’s death in 2014, Kathryn came to meeting whenever she was able, and she was very supportive to the fledgling Grants Pass Worship Group. She particularly enjoyed being present for conversations about peace and justice. For many years she corresponded regularly with a man who was in the Oregon State prison, and she continued to be a great support to him after he was released. From her home she held various F/friends in the Light and kept in touch by letter-writing and telephone calls. She always welcomed visitors and deeply appreciated her community of friends and family.
Evelyn and several friends, along with hospice, cared for Kathryn during her final months. As her body was failing, her mind remained alert and her strong interests in politics, music, ideas, friends, and family never diminished. Although she was sometimes frustrated by her failing eyesight and speech, she retained her remarkable ability to find humor even in difficult times. Kathryn took herself lightly.
Kathryn is survived by her daughter Evelyn Roether and son-in-law Spencer Lennard, her sister Ruth Seeliger, and six nieces and nephews and their families. She is deeply missed by her family, her Williams community, and friends in both Abington and South Mountain Friends meetings.