Catherine (Kitty) Bergel

BergelCatherine (Kitty) Bergel, 82, on July 29, 2022, at Carol Woods retirement community in Chapel Hill, N.C. Kitty was born on February 6, 1940, the first child of Beach and Catherine Langston, in Durham, N.C. Kitty was raised in a Quaker family, and Friends’ beliefs shaped much of her life.

The family moved to Pasadena, Calif., where Kitty grew up and lived most of her life. She attended Orange Grove Meeting in Pasadena. Kitty graduated from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., and later returned to California to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, and earn a master’s degree in art history.

Kitty’s professional life reflected her Quakerism. For 22 years, she was a fundraiser for American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), where she served on the Executive Committee and held other administrative responsibilities. She loved the people she encountered across the world as she helped foster AFSC’s peace work. Kitty reflected: “I have felt grateful for my AFSC work as it’s permitted me to work to make the world a better place while honoring the precepts of Quakerism. It’s also aided my understanding of how to make social change and how hard that is.”

Kitty married Stefano Barragato in 1965, and helped raise three stepdaughters and their daughter, Elizabeth. They divorced following 13 years of marriage. In 1999, Kitty married Kurt Bergel. They lived in Orange, Calif. Kitty and Kurt enjoyed many trips together. After Kurt’s death in 2001, Kitty continued to travel the world eager to explore other cultures. She sought out art museums and found great beauty in the countryside wherever she went. 

Kitty was a voracious reader. She wrote poetry throughout her life, especially following retirement. Kitty’s poem “Quaker Meeting” was published in the June/July 2016 issue of Friends Journal.

Kitty enthusiastically took up oil painting. Her lush pictures of nature will be cherished by friends and family.

In 2010, Kitty joined her sister at Carol Woods retirement community in Chapel Hill, N.C. She became an active, beloved member of Chapel Hill Meeting, where she co-clerked the Finance Committee, and served on Care and Council and Ministry and Worship Committees. She attended meeting for worship regularly before her health declined. She remained profoundly grateful for Quaker meeting, “where I have learned to listen to others and for the voice of the Divine, and where, over years, I’ve seen lives speak. I’ve also learned from this meeting how the will of God is sometimes all but impossible to discern, but that effort continues—with all of us, in our own way” (Kitty’s “Spiritual Journey,” 1989).

As her health deteriorated, Kitty liked going for long rides in the country. She appreciated the rolling hills, tall pines, and lush green of the piedmont, often stopping by Maple View Farm’s ice cream store.

Kitty’s last years were spent living in the Carol Woods Health Center as ovarian cancer slowly took her life. She endured her illness with grace and with gratitude for the assistance that she received.

Kitty is survived by one child, Elizabeth Barragato (Richard Freid); two stepchildren, Cellina Barragato and Fiamma Williams; two sisters, Dottie Heninger and Lewise Busch (Dick); and five grandchildren.

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