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James P. McDonald » News » Goodbye, Dear Sister

Goodbye, Dear Sister

Last Monday, 11/26/12, I lost my sister. She passed from congestive heart failure and passed quickly, so quickly that we did not have time to say goodbye. She was the last remaining part of my immediate family and now I feel alone and abandoned.

I will not dwell in self-pity nor will I crawl into a hole and cease to exist. Instead, I will carry on, as my sister would have wanted, and I will share my memories with her children and grandchildren. I will smile again, maybe not for awhile, but it will come and I will be happy once again.

She loved her children and her animals, especially her horses. She filled her world with laughter and happiness, loved all her children and her children’s children, and taught us all a valuable lesson: Never take anyone for granted because they might not be there the next day. Treat every day as if it is your last, love everyone who matters, and embrace the spirituality of the soul.
A copy of my eulogy from Kathy’s service held on 11/30/12:

My sister had one hell of a ride.

She was strong when she needed to be and yet had more compassion than many people. She learned by trial and error and whenever she became passionate about something, she went all out to get it, keep it, and love it.

Born on October 19, 1952, our parents named her Kathleen Ann for the sole purpose of calling her “Katie Ann.” This was fine as long as she stayed little but by the 7th grade she had discarded the Katie Ann completely and became Kathy.

Mama had a cute nickname for her – “Kitten-Catten-Purr-Meow.” Don’t ask me why or where that came from. Only Mama knows the answer to that question.

I was born 2 1/2 years later and we lived in Santa Monica for a bit until we moved to Redondo Beach. We grew up in our little house at 2908 Perkins Lane and had plenty of neighborhood children to play with. We would play ‘Red Light, Green Light’, ‘Mother May I?’, ‘Simon Says’, ‘Hide and Seek’, and a bunch of other games. It was the 60s so we had no computer, no cable, and no video games. We played outside until it got dark. After dark, we had a total of 7 channels of TV to choose from. Our favorite show at that time was Twilight Zone – in black and white.

While Kathy & I were happy, our parents were not. Dad used to hit Mama and that scared Kathy and I. Once, while they were doing taxes in the kitchen and us kids were watching TV in the living room, Dad stood up and smacked Mama across the face. Well, Kathy didn’t like that so she opened the front door and took off, screaming her head off.

Since there was nothing else she could do, in 1964 Mama filed for divorce and moved us to South L.A. We moved to 11612 Cimarron Street when I was 9 and Kathy was 11 or 12. This was the beginning of Kathy’s rebellious stage. She had her own bathroom with a connection to the back door. She used to sneak out at night often and hardly ever got caught. We only lived there for a year because of the Watts riots. Angry black people were coming down our street in trucks with guns and Molotov Cocktails in their hands. In September of 1965, we moved to Torrance.

Our house at 809 Cranbrook Avenue was where Kathy became a woman and turned feisty. She defied authority, ditched school, hung around with the Mexican gangs, started wearing tons of make-up, and drove her friends around in her 1961 Rambler. I remember us all ditching school as Kathy let one of her friends drive the car. We were coming back from the beach when we drove right through a red light and hit another car. That was the end of the Rambler.

In 1968, Kathy met a military man who was nuts for her. He gave her a brand new Datsun sports car! I loved that car but Kathy did not. After she ditched the guy, she traded the sports car for a ’57 Chevy, all-electric, purple metal flake paint job, with white tuck and roll interior. All of her Mexican friends loved that car but when it started to break down, she quickly traded it for her first horse, Tonka.

Kathy and Mama had some terrible fights causing Kathy to eventually quit school during her senior year and move out of our house. She continued to be around horse people, doing menial jobs like cleaning out stalls and such as payment to keep Tonka boarded there. In the process, she met Michael Weisen, her future husband. Mike was heavily into horse shows, “Gymkana” they called it. They got married in 1971, when Kathy was only 19, and the marriage was performed on horseback. Kathy’s first child, Brandi, was born in September 1972. They lived in Cerritos with their horses, goats, chickens, cats and dogs.

Mike turned out to be a wife-beater so that marriage did not last longer than a few years.

In 1976, after college, I stayed with Kathy at her apartment in Rosemead. She was able to get me a job at the place she worked in downtown L.A. and life was good. During this time, she met Frank Vasquez, they got married, and I got kicked out of the apartment.

Some background:

Our mother was a keypunch operator and our father, who was a submariner in the Navy, was involved with the Coast Guard Reserve. He kept himself busy by servicing fire extinguishers for a living. Mom and Dad each had their own Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the 50s and early 60s. Dad would put one of us kids on the handlebars and slowly cruise the street we lived on. That is a fun memory for me. Unfortunately, when Dad decided to get into boating, they had to sell the bikes.

Dad built his first boat in our back yard and named her “Hafta.” I almost burned that boat to the ground but that’s another story.

Kathy and I would go boating with Mom and Dad, usually going to Catalina for the weekend. Kathy enjoyed making me sick by eating her scrambled eggs with ketchup. Seeing that plus the rolling waves that constantly rocked the boat, would make me hurl almost every time!

Things you probably don’t know about Kathy:

1. When she was young, she was a total girly-girl. She had the Barbie dolls, the Barbie dollhouse, the Barbie car, etc. She loved dressing up in pretty dresses and experimented with make-up at an early age.

2. She loved the Beatles, had every record, and even had the 4 Beatle dolls that, if she had kept them, would be worth a lot of money today.

3. Her love of horses came from the company that went around the neighborhood, door-to-door, taking pictures of kids on a pony. She always had the biggest smile when she was on a horse.

Kathy’s love of animals was common knowledge, especially her horses. But the greatest loves of her life were her children.

Brandi, Joey, Craig, and Kristina – Your mother loved you with all her heart and soul. Like her mother before her, Kathy would lay down her life for any one of you. The is a special type of love that only comes from within a very special person. Kathy had it and she helped to spread that love far and wide.

Though I hadn’t seen Kathy in 9 years, since Mama’s funeral service in 2003, we had become very close through Facebook and emails. We messaged each other, confided in one another, and I felt that we finally cemented that bond that I was searching for. I discovered how content she had finally become as she settled into her new life of horses and family.

I was very happy to be reconnected with my sister and, at her request, was going to search through my garage full of boxes to find the one box full of pictures of Mama and other family members. I was dreading having to do this but I wanted to see the pictures also. I had just chatted with her about her heater situation and she was very satisfied to get a second opinion that would save her a ton of money. And the fact that her horse that was in danger of dieing but was showing improvement.

The next thing I knew, she was gone.

Kathy was my sister, my only sibling, my confidant, my teacher, my protector, and my best friend growing up. I will miss her every day of my life.

Goodbye, Katie Ann. I will see you soon.

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