Claire (Freedman) and Tom Stouffer
My earliest memories of my Aunt Kathy were when Paul, Laney, and I were small children living in Connecticut. Kathy was attending classes at a local university so we saw her often and loved having her around. For some reason, we gave her the nickname “Ratfink”, which we used fondly and thought was very funny. Kathy played along with us and enjoyed it as much as we did. Kathy was my godmother and while she wasn’t a particularly religious person she took the role seriously. To Kathy, the role meant that as my godmother she was responsible for looking out for me. She was always reminding me that she was my godmother and this was her job, even when I was an adult with my own family.
Shortly after I had graduated from college I spent several weekends with Kathy at her apartment in New York City; enjoying the local restaurants, taking in the sites, and spending hours at her little kitchen table talking. My mom had passed away a few years earlier and I was at an age where I needed a female adult with whom I could share things. This was one of those times when Kathy would remind me that she was my godmother and it was her job to look out for me. She filled a painful void for me, gave me a shoulder to cry on, and helped me get through a difficult time. Kathy visited me shortly after my first child was born. I hadn’t given Alison a real bath yet because I was terrified I’d drop her but Kathy was there for me once again. We put Alison's baby tub in the kitchen sink and awkwardly bathed her together, getting completely soaked. Kathy loved that memory and would often bring it up when we were together and we would have a good laugh.
Kathy was passionate about nurturing a love for books and reading in our children. She would shop for books for our kids at her favorite bookstore while she and Alex were in England. She took great care in selecting the perfect book for each great-niece or nephew depending on their age and interests. She always made the perfect choices for my kids and they would get so excited when their special packages would arrive. I loved reading those books with them and we became quite fond of some of the characters, looking forward to the next book in the series. Alison and Danny saved their favorite ones, stored away for their own children to enjoy one day. The gift of books will be something they will always remember fondly about their Great Aunt Kathy and Uncle Alex.
Growing up we did not see our “Texas” cousins very often, knowing them mostly from photos. Having a close-knit family was important to Kathy. She wanted that for all the members of the Freedman family so when we were adults with our own families she made it her mission to build that connection. In 2001 she orchestrated our first family reunion, complete with “Freedman Family Reunion” t-shirts. Unfortunately, Michelle wasn’t able to make it, but the rest of us were all there, along with our 10 children. Thanks to her efforts these family gatherings became more common in the following years as we celebrated special occasions together. She gave us the gift of family and it is one of Kathy’s legacies that we will always be thankful for.
Kathy wanted to help her family in any way she could and was always very generous, but she didn’t like to make a big deal out of it or draw attention to it. I am sure each of us has a story we could tell about what Kathy and Alex have done for our families to support us over the years. I know it meant a lot to Kathy to be able to have an important impact, in one way or another, on our lives. I am sure we would all agree that she succeeded, they both did. We will all be forever grateful for the mark Kathy and Alex made on our lives with their caring and generosity.
In 2014 Kathy came back to New York City for the last time and Paul, Kerry, Laney, and I visited with her over the weekend. We hadn’t seen her since 2010 and it was clear that her Parkinson’s had advanced. Kathy was very thin, walked with a cane, and looked very fragile. This was all very misleading though because she was still tough as nails and we spent the weekend trying to keep up with her! She had us moving all weekend long; going to museums, out to lunch and dinners, and shopping for clothes to take back to Israel. We nicknamed her the “Energizer Bunny”, after the battery commercial, and she lived up to that name for the rest of her life! I was grateful to have visited Kathy and Alex in Israel, along with my sister Laney, each year for the past few years. It was nice to finally see how they lived, share some of their day-to-day experiences, and spend time with them talking about their life in Israel. Alex set up a bistro table for us in the garden by the pool and that is where you could usually find Kathy, Laney, and me drinking coffee in the morning, or vodka tonics in the evening, and hooting it up like three teenagers. Alex would putter in his gardens and try to stay far away from the three crazy ladies, but Greisha was always by our side!
We sold our house at the beginning of this year, just before the pandemic started, and have been looking for a house to buy ever since. Every time I spoke to Kathy the first thing she would ask me is “did you get a house?” It was typical of Kathy to worry about everyone else first. She was more concerned about me finding a house than her failing health! Maybe, as my godmother, she still felt like she had to look out for me. I was fortunate enough to have been able to speak to her the day before she passed. She wasn’t speaking anymore but they held the phone up to her and I gave her the good news that we had finally put a contract on a house. I was told that her eyes were moving under her eyelids when I spoke to her so it appeared she heard and understood me. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to ease her mind.
As a child, Kathy was our “Ratfink”. As an adult, she was our “Energizer Bunny”. She was tough, determined, critical, funny, loyal, caring, and generous. And despite her ailments and constant pain, like the Energizer Bunny, she just kept going and going. We admired her, we loved her, and we will miss her. Rest in peace Kathy, you will always be in our hearts.
We love you Alex and share in your pain. You are in our thoughts every day and we hope you can find some comfort knowing how you and Kathy have touched our lives and how much you mean to us.