CATHERINE M. BRACKETT, 78
WINTER HAVEN - Catherine M. Brackett, who with her family lived in Winter Haven for decades, died January 2, 2014 in Escondido California of Alzheimer's, surrounded by her family. She was 78.
Born Catherine Marie Michele Semichon on June 26, 1935, she spent her formative years in Paris under Nazi occupation, an era she remembered for its scarcity of food and warmth but surfeit of fear. She vividly recalled German soldiers goose-stepping the streets while she huddled in her father's strong protective embrace.
Not surprisingly, her adulthood was marked by an appreciation of peace and physical security, an intolerance of cold, and a tendency to oversupply the pantry "just in case." She cheerfully nurtured a lifelong abhorrence of rutabaga, a coarse turnip that often was her family's only wartime nutrition.
A French citizen who spoke English with a lilting accent, as a young woman she moved to Scotland as an "au pair", then was accepted to the prestigious Royal Infirmary Nursing School in Edinburgh from which she proudly graduated four years later.
Along the way she met Thomas O. Brackett, a medical student who was immediately smitten by this striking beauty with the vivacious personality. They were married in March of 1962 and sailed off for America. Their first home was hospital housing in the slums of Chicago where both she and Tom worked amid the heat, soot on their babies' faces and constant police sirens. Son Olivier and daughter Alexandra were born there.
After Tom's surgical residency in the U.S. Air Force, the family moved to Winter Haven in 1968. There they raised their children. While Tom practiced neurosurgery, Catherine attended to the kids and pursued her many interests. She soon discovered a passion for working the earth, growing so many vegetables for Meals on Wheels that she became ever more deeply involved in that organization, eventually becoming its president. Her zeal for women's rights attracted her to the local Planned Parenthood Association, where she also served as president.
She developed a keen interest in alternative everything---Indian lore, channeling, Rosicrucian thought and other philosophies as well as mysticism, constantly reading on those and many other subjects.
Catherine was a classical pianist who taught privately for several years, proud that she purchased her Yamaha grand with the fruit of her own talent and labor. She and Tom were fond of playing four-hand pieces together, often accompanying themselves in song.
In accordance with a longstanding agreement, upon retirement the pair moved to the south of France in the mid 1990s. Once settled in Provence, Catherine pursued her gardening passion, joined the local artists' society, learned to paint and assiduously developed new friendships as well as entertained old friends from America.
The onset of the disease that took her life surfaced in 2000; progress was slow but implacable. Eventually Tom and Catherine relocated to California to be near their children and medical facilities. For the last four years she was in residential care.
Her friends knew, love and remember her for her hugely generous heart, the continental passion with which she viewed the world, the bright and spirited yet unassuming personality that enlivened every gathering, and her exquisite aptitude for all things culinary. To dine at Catherine's table was to partake of an enviable gastronomic experience.
She was predeceased by a son, Christophe, who died in infancy, and a sister, Sylvie. She is survived by her husband Tom, son Olivier Brackett, daughter Alexandra Brackett, older brother Jean-Francois Semichon and younger twin brothers Alain Semichon and Bernard Semichon.
In accordance with her wishes, no services are planned. Those desiring to make memorial donations may contribute to Meals on Wheels or Planned Parenthood, both in Winter Haven, or the care facility in which she spent her final years, The Elizabeth Hospice, 150 W. Crest Street, Escondido CA 92025.
Condolences may be addressed to 4941 Demeter Way, Oceanside CA 92056.
Published in Ledger from Jan. 7 to Jan. 8, 2014