Kathryn L. Myers

November 19, 2011|By JANET HEIM |
  • Kate and Jack Myers' love for dancing and each other are evident in this picture taken at their middle son's wedding in the mid-1980s.
Submitted Photo

Kathryn "Kate" Myers' story is about a love for life and care for others. It includes a marriage to Jack Myers that was filled with joy, love, laughter — and lots of dancing.

Kate's death came two days before she and Jack would have celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary. Despite Kate's slow decline from Alzheimer's disease over the past 15 years, Jack's face still glows as he talks about their love for each other.

"Even with her Alzheimer's, she was beautiful to me. We had a connection," Jack said as he described holding her hand and making her smile and laugh when he visited her daily in the nursing home.

Kate Kendle was born in Waynesboro, Pa., but grew up on a farm in the Funkstown area on Alternate U.S. 40. The couple met at a carnival in Williamsport, Jack's hometown.

"She was coming down the midway with some other girlfriends — that was it," said Jack, who was smitten.

They married in November 1942 when Kate was 20 and Jack was 19. He had been drafted and knew he was being called up two months later, in January 1943.

Jack was sent to Europe and was in the Battle of the Bulge. He was discharged in October 1945.

The couple had four sons, but lost one to pneumonia when he was 1 month old while Jack was away at war. There are nine grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson.

Each was one of 13 children. Neither graduated from high school, although Kate later earned her GED.

Jack said he quit high school after two years to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps so he could help his parents out financially.

Before and after the war, Jack worked in the furniture business, first at Maidstone, then opening his own furniture store, with Kate's help, called Park and Shop, on Pennsylvania Avenue. After selling the business, he worked for another furniture store for 21 years.

"She helped me with everything," Jack said.

When they married, Kate was working at Sears, which then was in Hagerstown's Public Square.

Kate stayed home to raised their sons, but after the boys graduated and moved out, she returned to her retail roots. She worked at Ingram's Men's Shop, Katy O'Connell's Dress Shop and The Windmill Shop.

"She was quite the saleslady and a lot of people remember her from that," Jack said.

With an empty nest, the couple took up square dancing and ballroom dancing. They always had delighted in dancing together, but decided to take lessons from Mary Smith.

Even though they learned to dance "by the numbers," Jack said he still liked to do things his own way sometimes.

"Boy, she was right there with me," Jack said.

Jack said they jitterbugged and did the cha cha, but favored the waltz. They went to Pen Mar Park most Sundays during the park's dance season.

"Our favorite dance was the waltz," Jack said. "It was so romantic."

He remembers their last dance together, an impromptu spin in Valley Mall about two years ago. Jack said he tried to get Kate out as long as he could — for drives, to get ice cream and to shop.

Kate loved to shop at The Bon-Ton, so he took her there and a clarinetist was playing outside the store.

They asked if the musician could play a waltz, and as the notes of "Tennessee Waltz" began, Jack and Kate took their positions and shared their last dance, unaware that they had attracted a crowd.

The couple had an active lifestyle of dancing, tennis, bowling and travel, including several cruises with their dance group.

"We met so many nice people being involved in so many things," Jack said.

Church was an important part of their life, and they were members of Williamsport United Methodist Church.

"Our faith was important and helped us live a long life together," Jack wrote in remembrances of Kate.

Kate also was an avid crocheter and made doilies and sun catchers that the couple gave to the shut-ins they visited. She also sewed for her family, and loved having her grandchildren for weekend and overnight visits.  

"Even though we did all those activities, she was a wonderful housekeeper. She kept the house clean and organized. The lawn was immaculate," said Jack, adding that Kate trimmed by hand and had a "no weeds allowed" policy.

"She was a worker inside and out of the home," Jack said.

Besides being a wonderful cook, Jack said Kate loved planning for the holidays.

"Oh man, we had beautiful holiday dinners, especially at Christmas," he said.

She also was known for her baking and made everything from scratch.

"I still say I haven't had a piece of pie like she made," Jack said. "She made a delicious applesauce cake and cinnamon rolls."

The couple lived in their Van Lear Manor home in Williamsport for 43 years, then Jack moved to a cottage at Ravenwood about four years ago.

It no longer was safe for Kate to be at home, so she lived in several local nursing homes. After breaking both hips at another facility, she was moved to Ravenwood Nursing Home about 18 months ago.

In 2003, Jack wrote a book for their family titled "A Journey of Love and Devotion." He said it showed what a devoted mother and wife Kate was and the love she had for life.

He just finished writing a book of encouragement for families dealing with Alzheimer's disease.

"I think we had a wonderful life," Jack said. "We had a long life, a great family, wonderful friends. I think we had everything."

He said he would brush Kate's hair when he visited her.

"She had beautiful hair always, until the end," Jack said.

She also was a "sharp dresser" because that was her business.

During Jack's visits, he talked to Kate, whether she understood what he was saying or not.

"I told her our love would never die," Jack said.


Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Kathryn L. Myers, who died Nov. 8 at the age of 89. Her obituary was published in the Nov. 9 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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