Catherine Bucinell Franceski Pepson of Clifford, Pa., died July 25, 2013, at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md. She was 97.
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In the early 1960s, Catherine and her late husband, Bartley Paul Pepson, became founding members of St. Pius X Catholic Chapel in Royal, Pa. They were actively involved in the growth and development of the chapel, which over a few years grew from one Sunday Mass per week into a church with Masses offered seven days per week and a full-time pastor. Their ongoing fundraising efforts helped St. Pius X build an on-site parish residence. Catherine and Bart felt blessed and honored to have their sons serve at the very first Mass in the new chapel. The older two boys were "altar boys" and lectors from 1961 until the middle 1960s and the younger two boys continued to serve Mass and lector until the early 1970s.
Born on Feb. 8, 1916, in Forest City, Pa., Catherine was the second daughter and sixth child of 14 children born to the late Cirillo "Frank" and Catherine Bucinell Franceski.
In the 1920s, Catherine joined St. Joseph's junior choir where she learned to sing Slovenian hymns including "Ves O Maria" (Beautiful Mary). After school and/or on weekends, she would, as needed, help her godmother, Sophie J. Kovacic, care for her young children.
In 1930, her father and mother purchased a farm in Clifford. When the family moved to the farm, Catherine, then 14, stayed in Forest City in order to continue her studies and take care of her maternal grandparents, Joseph and Josephine Bucinell. By June of 1933 both grandparents had died and she moved to the farm to help care for the youngest siblings and do the work that needed to be done during the Great Depression years of the 1930s and early 1940s if the farm was to be a productive operation.
In 1941, after earning a nursing diploma, Catherine was hired by City Hospital in Binghamton, N.Y., where she assisted medical doctors with surgical procedures. Within two years she was called back to the farm in order to care for her father. During the next several years Catherine was also a private duty nurse for local residents under the care of doctors Cimochowski, McAndrew and Touch. In addition, she served as assistant tax collector for Clifford Twp.
Near the end of World War II, she met her future husband with the help of her oldest brother, Edward. Kitty and Bart were married on May 11, 1946, at St. Joseph's Church. Catherine was Bart's loving and devoted wife and best friend for nearly 39 years when he died on Feb. 7, 1985.
Catherine loved to cook, bake and in the family's early years, canned home-grown vegetables and hand-picked and orchard-bought fruits that usually lasted until the new crop became available during the following season. And with six people to feed, that was not only time-consuming but also a lot of hard work.
Catherine was a positive, optimistic and joyful person. She enjoyed singing and dancing. She loved gardening, working in and designing her flower beds. She mowed acres of lawn with a hand push mower well into her 80s. And still found time to continue singing in the St. Pius X choir, writing lengthy letters and treasured spending time with family. She celebrated her 95th birthday with family and a Mass of Thankgiving celebrated by the Rev. Donald Buggert, O. Carm., a long-time family friend. In June of 2012, she attended the Franceski family reunion with 173 of her relatives in Union Dale, Pa.
Her true passion was her family. She devoted her life to her husband and her four sons. Bart told his sons many times that "marrying your mother was the best thing he had ever done." And her four sons considered their mom to be "the best mother ever."
She is survived by four sons, Robert "Bob" of Bethesda, Md.; David (Maureen) of Rockville, Md.; Ronald (Barbara) of Paramus, N.J.; and Gene (Annmarie) of Jermyn, Pa. She also is survived by six grandchildren, Michael Pepson, Jennifer Pepson Elwood, Michelle Powell, Jaime, Kyle and Kelly Pepson; and two great-grandchildren, Anneliese Pepson and Lucas Powell. In addition, she is survived by her brother, Claude Franceski and his wife, Josephine, of West Hartford, Conn.; a sister, Betty Jo and husband, Frank Bishop, of Barnegat, N.J.; many cousins, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.
She was also predeceased by eight brothers, David, Francis, Leo, Cyril, Edward, Albert, Richard and Joseph; and three sisters, Mary Franceski, Genevieve "Jean" Francisco and Winifred Lefebvre.
Catherine was a member of several Catholic organizations including the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at 10:30 a.m. in St. Joseph's Church, 741 Delaware St., Forest City, Pa., by the Rev. Patrick Albert, pastor of Ascension Parish, Forest City. Those attending are asked to go directly to the church. Interment, Our Mother of Sorrows Cemetery, Greenfield Township, Pa.
Funeral arrangements are under the care of the Shifler-Parise Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 18 Airport Road, Clifford. In lieu of flowers and in memory of Catherine, donations may be made to her memorial fund: Catherine Pepson, PO Box 5831, Bethesda, MD 20824.
Published in Scranton Times on July 29, 2013