ASHOKAN, N.Y. – Catherine Compton Chase, of Ashokan, N.Y., died Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, at Kingston Hospital, in Kingston, N.Y.
Catherine, or "Kenny," was born Nov. 21, 1921, in Washington, D.C., the second child of four to parents Wilson Martindale Compton and Helen Mar Harrington Compton.
She grew up in Washington, D.C., leaving only when she married her husband of 69 years. She attended the Oyster School, Sidwell Friends School and The Madeira School, graduating in 1940 before going on to The College of Wooster, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in 1944.
She married Sherret Spaulding Chase on Nov. 27, 1943, in Sea Island, Ga. When her husband, Sherry, went overseas as a navigator of a B-24, she returned to The College of Wooster to finish her senior year – the first married woman to live in a women's dormitory on campus.
Kenny was a volunteer for many organizations that related to her children, her interests in education and her communities – she was interested in people; the human dimension of her communities. One day she was dressed in her beautiful orange suit and getting ready to go off to a meeting when her son said that "she was going off to make new friends with people she had never met before."
During World War II, she was an activities director for the USO in Washington, D.C. She served at all levels of the Girl Scouts, from troop leader to serving on the Area Council Board; she was den mother for the Boy Scouts; in Sycamore, for The Federated Church, she served as church school teacher, chairwoman of the Board of Christian Education, member of the Board of Trustees and as president of the Women's Fellowship. Other service included the State Board of the Illinois Conference of the Congregational Church; the American Field Service as co-chair of the local group, host mother for one year to a student from Sweden and friend to many additional exchange students; the Sycamore Community Lecture and Concert Series (the Stevens Lecture Series) as chairwoman, inviting such speakers as Eleanor Roosevelt; the PTA as president; and the Lay Advisory Committee of the Sycamore School Board as secretary and chairwoman.
Of particular interest to Kenny were the following: the Illinois Citizens' Education Council, the Citizens' Committee of the University of Illinois
and the Citizens' Committee of the Illinois State Board of Higher Education. It was within this structure that she participated in the creation in the state of Illinois' Junior College System, now better known as the Community College System. Illinois was the first state to have such a system as part of the University of Illinois.
Higher education was very important to Kenny. She was active in the American Association of University Women, the Alumnae Council of The Madeira School, the Development Council for The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, and member of the Board of Trustees of Pikeville College in Pikeville, Ky.
She loved handmade crafts, acknowledging the human creative effort. Her experience as saleswoman in Fibreforms and Pots (her daughter's business) in Woodstock, N.Y., held her in good stead when she moved with Sherry to Philadelphia, where she worked in the Artisans Cooperative on Society Hill. While living in San Carlos, Calif., she was a community assistant to Congressman Tom Lantos. She is listed in Who's Who of American Women.
Because of her husband's profession, Kenny created homes in 12 locations. Her husband Sherret S. Chase received his Ph.D. from Cornell in botanical cytogenetics. He was a professor at Iowa State University, a company executive in the DeKalb Agricultural Research Corporation, a fellow at the Botanical Museum at Harvard University
, a professor at SUNY Oswego, founding president of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, and developer of the "Doubled Haploid" method of corn (maize) breeding.
Family residences in support of Sherry's career were made in Savannah, Ga., Houston, Texas, Ithaca, N.Y. (Cornell), Ames, Iowa (Iowa State University), Sycamore, Ill. (DeKalb Ag), Woodbridge, Conn. (Yale School of Forestry), Cambridge, Mass. (Harvard University), Oswego, N.Y. (SUNY Oswego), San Carlos (IPRI – International Plant Research Institute), Philadelphia, Penn. (DNAP – DNA Plant Research Corporation) and Ashokan (retirement).
Kenny was granddaughter, daughter, and niece of a highly talented family. She put great store on the heritage given to her by her grandparents, Elias and Otelia Augspurger Compton. Otelia was the daughter of Mennonites with a history of education and great ability. Simultaneously, her uncle, Karl Compton, was president of MIT; her uncle, Arthur Compton (Nobel Prize winner), was chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis; her father, Wilson Compton, was president of Washington State University; and her aunt, Mary, wife of an education missionary in India and herself a very accomplished educator, was married to Herbert Rice, chancellor of the University of the Punjab (then the largest university system in the world).
The Compton family has a summer cottage at Otsego Lake, Mich. The family started camping there in 1897. Kenny has missed only two summers in her 91 years – one summer during World War II and one summer when her granddaughter Jessica was born – a very special event.
Family travels and camping trips were always a delight – across the U.S. in various directions and to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. International travels were part of Sherry's work and Kenny was able to accompany him to France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Argentina, Indonesia, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the People's Republic of China.
Kenny's "center" was her love of family and friends. Her dear group of Magpies was a source of deep affection. The most important part of her life was in the intertwining threads of the tapestry of her life and that of her husband, family and friends. There were unlimited possibilities for making connections between people – coincidences were always occurring. There was something rare about Kenny's way of making every person within the circle of her friendship feel recognized. She brought out the best in people. She was optimistic and always positive. Before the Internet, she created a world wide web of friendship. She knew there was a vital connection between people, and she could prove it. Not only did she discover connections, she sustained them with letters and words and with generosity of spirit. She reached out to others many times and included them within her charmed circle. Her bright smile and sparkling eyes were ready for any person.
Kenny is survived by her husband, Sherry; five children, Catherine Harrington Chase Peters (Jeffrey Blair Peters) of Tepoztlan, Mexico, Helen Kelsey Chase (Edward Grant Zellefrow) of Ashokan, Sherret Edwards Chase (Kathleen Edwards Chase) of Pompton Plains, N.J., Wilson Compton Chase-Lansdale (Lindsay Chase-Lansdale) of Evanston, Ill., and Alice Ross Chase Robeson (Robert Robeson) of Annapolis, Md.; eight grandchildren, Tisha Fang, Christopher Long (Katie), Kate Chase-Lansdale Hays (Jay), Compton Page Chase-Lansdale, Page Kathleen Chase, Jessica Long, Emersen Kelsey Chase and Caden Edwards Chase; six great-grandchildren, Etienne Fang, Harrison Fang, Chase Fang, Ethan Long, Henry Long and Charles Long; and many nieces and nephews who were all very special to her. Her sister, Helen Compton Graham lives in Santa Fe, N.M.
She was predeceased by two brothers, Wilson M. Compton Jr., and Ross H. Compton.
Kenny was a member of the Woodstock Reformed Church. A memorial service is being planned for 1 p.m. Dec. 8, at Woodstock Reformed Church, Woodstock, N.Y.
Donations in her memory can be made to Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center (special instructions: make the donation out to The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and specify in the memo line Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center) in Arkville, NY 12406, or Woodstock Reformed Church in Woodstock, NY 12498.
For information, call 845-657-2107.