Kathryn Loretta Wolfe Roether

Roether—Kathryn Loretta Wolfe Roether, 91, on October 28, 2019, at home in Williams, Ore. Kathryn was born on May 12, 1928, in Cleveland, Ohio. As a teenager attending a Presbyterian church, she recognized that the moment of silence just before the minister offered a prayer was her favorite part of the service. As a student at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa., she attended weekly worship in the meetinghouse on campus and enjoyed teaching preschool children in First-day school. During her Swarthmore senior year, she met Hermann Roether in a poetry class, and they began leading Quaker weekend workcamps with American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). They married in 1951, and Hermann went to graduate school at the University of Chicago. During their five years in Chicago, Ill., they continued their close involvement with AFSC’s peace program and summer projects.

Back in Philadelphia, Pa., Kathryn continued to volunteer with AFSC until their son, Gordon, was born, and she dedicated herself to motherhood and caring for a child with special needs. Hermann began working for an agency that served the developmentally disabled, and she developed a newsletter on retardation (as it was then called). Their daughter, Evelyn, was born three years after Gordon. Over time Kathryn worked with neighboring towns creating summer recreation programs for community mental health programs and churches that included mentally challenged people. She also volunteered at a local women’s center, giving workshops for 12 years to help women re-enter the workforce. The Roethers were active in Abington (Pa.) Meeting for 40 years, serving on many committees and starting Quakerism 101 classes.

In 1987 Kathryn and Hermann bought land in Williams next to Evelyn’s home and fixed up a cabin there for their annual summer visits. Hermann died in 1999, and Kathryn and Gordon moved to Williams in 2002. Although she was over an hour from the nearest Friends meeting, she found a warm community in Williams. She participated happily in a meditation circle and in three book groups, all of which met at her home when she was no longer able to drive. For many years she corresponded regularly with a man who was in Oregon State Penitentiary, and she continued to be a great support to him after he was released. She and Gordon came at least once a month to South Mountain Meeting in Ashland, Ore., especially enjoying potluck Sundays. After Gordon’s death in 2014, she came to meeting whenever she was able, and she was very supportive of the fledgling Grants Pass Worship Group under the care of South Mountain Meeting, and particularly interested in conversations about peace and justice. From her home she held f/Friends in the Light and kept in touch by letter writing and telephone calls, always welcoming visitors and appreciating her friends and family.

Kathryn took herself lightly. Evelyn and several friends, along with hospice, cared for her during her final months. Although sometimes frustrated by her failing eyesight and speech, she retained her remarkable ability to find humor even in difficult times. As her body was failing, her mind remained alert and her strong interests in politics, music, ideas, friends, and family never diminished. Her family, her Williams community, and Abington and South Mountain Friends miss her.

Kathryn is survived by her daughter, Evelyn Roether (Spencer Lennard); her sister, Ruth Seeliger; and six nieces and nephews and their families.

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