Katharine Collins McCandless Mayer Smith died today at Luncaster Retirement Home in Bloomfield, Connecticut of congestive heart failure. Though in failing health in her last ew days, she had been visited, on Thanksgiving Day by her son and his children and had "laughed uproariously" at the antics of her young great-grandson when he climbed on her lap and gave her a hug.
Kittie was born on May 24, 1904 in Newton Center, Massachusetts to Bertrand R. T. and Katharine Greer Collins, their second of three daughters. Stories abound of her physical prowess, her beauty and her competitive spirit, which led to her participation in all kinds of sports activities and, later, a degree from the Bouve Boston School of Physical Education.
Her first marriage, to Lowrie McCandless, ended in divorce a few years later and Kittie returned to her parents' home in Newton Center with her baby daughter, also named Katharine. There Kittie met Lt. Eldon "Rosie" Mayer and they subsequently married, Rosie electing to adopt Kittie's daughter before they moved to Annapolis, Maryland. Their son, Eldon, Jr., was born in Annapolis, where Rosie taught thermodynamics at the U.S. Naval Academy.
For the next half dozen years, Kittie enjoyed the life of a Naval officer's wife, moving from station to station, including a few years in primitive Pago Pago, Samoa. Kittie was waiting with her children at her family's home in Princeton, New Jersey, while Rosie's ship was being fitted in Honolulu, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Six months later a heart attack caused Rosie to leave the Navy and begin his role as a secondary school teacher and semi-invalid. He taught at several independent boarding schools before he and Kittie found a home at Wayland Academy, in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. She delighted in teaching physical education to the girls who went on to win honors in field hockey and synchronized swimming under her tutelage.
After a dozen happy years in Wisconsin, with summers in Maine on Kittie's treasured Chebeague Island, Rosie's health dictated a warmer climate. They moved to an Episcopal school in Vicksburg, Mississippi where they appreciated the warmth of Southern hospitality, and Kittie took students horseback riding ~n trails through the Civil War battlefield surrounding the school. After Rosie's death in 1959, Kittie returned to Wayland for a few years, then moved to Abbott Academy in Andover, Massachusetts as a housemother to be closer to her summer home on Chebeague.
Retirement found Kittie a full time resident of Chebeague with interests in a wide range of local concerns. However, snowshoeing to the store on wintry days had became too difficult for her by 1976, so she surprised everyone by moving to a small Episcopal retirement home in near-by Augusta, Maine, keeping her little red Volkswagen beetle for her frequent trips to the island. Father Raymond Smith, a recent widower, became an important part of her life shortly after she moved to Augusta. She helped him in his ministry at tiny St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, and married him in a lovely family-centered ceremony at a small church in Falmouth Foreside, Maine. They had six happy years together with St. Bartholomew's Church the center of their work and social lives, before both had medical emergencies which forced Kittie into medically supervised care at Duncaster and Father Raymond to rely on his nurse practitioner daughter to help him, from her home in Augusta.
Kittie's sma!l studio apartment at Duncaster was her pride as it was furnished with treasured antiques and bright mementos of her active life with friends and family. Initially, Kittie was active in the Garden club, nurturing flowers- in the Memorial Garden to be enjoyed by all passing the broad windows on the way to the dining hall. After the first snow fall, she could be seen cross-country skiing across the extensive grounds in her woolly cap and bright red jacket. Later, she became forgetful of time and place and sought the greater security and support of the Intermediate Care Facility at Duncaster. Then her visits to Chebeague in the summer became less frequent as getting around was increasingly difficult for her and her interest in the activities of others waned.
Fortunately, Kittie benefited from excellent medical care when she needed it most, and was able to tailor her activities to what gave her enjoyment. In the past few months, telephone, television, reading have all failed to please, only reflection and visits with friends and family have helped pass the time. We hope she will find the rest and comfort she needs, now that she can look back on a full life of service and the enjoyment she seemed to get out of living. She often said, "I have no fear, now that God and love and life are here". She leaves her daughter of Pasadena, California, her son of New York City, five grandchildren and eight grandchildren.
A July memorial service is planned at the Chebeague Island Methodist Church.