Kathryn Clark Cates
Kathy Cates, 53, died July 2 at home of complications following successful back surgery earlier in the week. Her passing leaves a hole in the hearts of her husband Greg, daughters Lauren, 24, and Kendall, 20, and a host of family and dear friends.
A lifelong resident of Durham, Kathy was born on October 4, 1962 to the late Marian Speed Long Clark and Claud Cleveland Clark Jr. She was the youngest of 23 cousins on her mother’s side, and she loved the summer beach trips of her youth and the annual Long Family Dinners where up to 100 members of all generations gathered. She kept her mother’s spirit alive by her devotion to that large and loving family, as well as by her almost daily reflections of what Nana would have said or done in any situation.
Kathy attended Morehead School, Carr and Whitted Junior High Schools, and graduated from Durham High School in the Class of 1980. She met her soulmate and husband of 27 years in their sophomore year at Durham High, telling a friend that she would marry him someday. Though she kept forever the dress she wore to prom with him, the romance didn’t bloom until he had returned from college at Georgia Tech and she had spent a year testing her young wings in Hawaii (where her primary possession was a box full of shoes). Once back in each other’s lives, theirs became an enduring and steadfast love that honored all parts of their vows to love and cherish one another “for better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health.”
Her devotion to and pride in her treasured daughters was clear to anyone who knew Kathy. She was a perpetual homeroom mom and fundraising volunteer for their projects and their schools. She was also a ferocious advocate for these schools, particularly the City of Medicine Academy in its early years, putting her on a first-name basis with School Board members and administrators who grew to admire her tenacity and passion.
She and Greg built a home that was always filled with love for their girls, their extended family, their friends, and a host of dogs and cats, beginning with a Bassett hound named Bud. Kathy always had a soft spot for animals, dating back to her childhood with dogs she named Fuzzle and Fizzle, and she was active with rescue organizations, particularly for Golden Retrievers. She was an enthusiastic horsewoman, and her horses were often rescue projects as well. Their age and declining health never bothered her, and in recent years she took pleasure in just being in a pasture alongside her mare Kassy.
With the gift of an angel’s voice, Kathy found her church home at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian through the welcoming arms of the choir, with whom she sang soprano for many years. She and her family were deeply engaged with church youth projects, fellowship activities and outreach ministries, and her talents for organization and activism were put to good use by her “church family,” as she always called them.
Kathy took very seriously her career in banking, following her mother’s footsteps. Her first job was with Wachovia, but for almost 30 years she was with Welcome Federal Credit Union where she held increasingly important positions, most recently as an NCCO certified Compliance/BSA Officer. She was dedicated, disciplined and fastidious, with a reputation for going in early, working late, and staying with each step until it was through. Last week, she was at her office late the evening prior to surgery and spent time the day she came home from the hospital catching up. Her desk was always neat and her work meticulous. She loved her WFCU friends, and was proud to have recruited several of them.
But Kathy was known equally for her hard work and for her bubbly personality, adventurous spirit and fun-loving nature. If she started to tell a story it would circle around to another story and then another. “I’m getting to it,” she would say as the account went from the Soul Train years of her youth, to some bar in Key West, to a calf on the porch at a friend’s farm. By the end you no longer cared what the original point was, you had given in to the art of the tale and her infectious joy in the memories.
Kathy was a loyal and loving friend to all who became part of her world. She could maintain more old friendships than anyone could keep track of, and still find time to make new ones because of her truly selfless interest in other people and their lives. Among those dear to her were the doctors and nurses who became part of her life in recent years, for whom the family is most grateful.
In addition to Greg, Lauren, and Kendall, Kathy is survived by her sister Karen Rice and her husband Doug of Clifton, VA and their sons Andrew and Matthew; her brother Ken Clark and his wife Bernadette of Raleigh and their children Ian and Sarah; her brother-in-law Tim Cates and his wife Brenda of Kenansville and their children Samantha and Daniel; and her mother-in-law Peggy Cates of Durham. She is also survived by her stepmother-in-law Leigh Cates, her stepbrothers-in-law Kris Ostrander and Kirby Ostrander and his children Kirsty and Dalton, a host of cousins, and her church family.
Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday July 11 at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church, with a reception to follow in the fellowship hall. The Rev. Katie Crowe will officiate, with the Rev. Graham McChesney assisting and the Chancel Choir singing joyfully for her.
In lieu of flowers, friends who wish to do so may make contributions to the Linda Ross-Thaxton/Kathy Clark Cates Endowment Fund at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church, 927 West Trinity Avenue, Durham 27701.