April 21, 1922 - July 15, 2013
Born Katharine Teihl Smith in Hempstead, New York, she spent her childhood in Westfield, NJ, the only child of George and Katharine Smith. After graduating from Wellesley College, she had a short professional career in the Personnel Department at Macy's Headquarters in NYC. During that time, she met US Army Captain Al Newman from California who was on his way to lead his troops in France during World War II. When he was wounded, he returned to the US and they started a lifelong romance. They were married on May 1, 1945, often considered to be the beginning of the end of WW II. Kitty and Al travelled across the United States so that Al could enter graduate school and then law school at UC Berkeley. In 1950, they moved to Vallejo where they raised their children Tish, John and Caroline and assorted animals. Al passed away in 1999 and Kitty lived in Vallejo until 2004 when she moved to The Peninsula Regent in San Mateo to be closer to family.
Kitty was a very supportive wife and involved mother. In addition, she was very involved in Vallejo's civic, cultural, and philanthropic pursuits. Among those were Ascension Episcopal Church where she was an active member for over 50 years, Solano County Lawyers' Wives, Lilac Branch of the Children's Hospital of the East Bay, Women's College Club, the Vallejo General Hospital Guild, Camp Fire Girls, and PEO. She was deeply committed to children and helped to found the Vallejo Parent Coop Nursery School and equally passionate about music serving as founding president and longtime member of the Vallejo Symphony Association.
She loved playing the piano and singing, suffering graciously for decades as family members with precious little musical talent sang with her. She was a great gardener, avid bridge player, talented dancer, enthusiastic entertainer, and did morning walks along Vallejo's waterfront for more than 25 years with two close friends. She also loved the San Francisco arts including the symphony, the museums and the theater. She and Al shared many travel adventures visiting all continents but one and instilled their children and grandchildren with a love of travel and exploration. Her favorite places outside her home were the family cabin overlooking the American River in the Sierras and an apartment in the Cotswolds in England where she and Al spent many long sojourns and made many lifelong friends.
Although never much of a correspondent, she and her Wellesley College friends kept up a 75 year Round Robin correspondence which also included many trips with husbands after the Robins' children were grown. Excerpts of their correspondence, which spanned from the 1940s to now, were the focus of an article in Real Simple and in a study of evolving women's roles by a University of Wisconsin professor.
She was predeceased by Al (1999), and by her daughter Caroline who died suddenly in 2008. Both deaths were heartbreaking. She is survived by her daughter Tish Busselle (Jim) of San Mateo; son John Newman (Nancy) of San Carlos and Caroline's husband Larry Abramson (Washington DC); five grandchildren of whom she was very proud, Christopher, Erin, Peter, Kit, and Seth; four great grandchildren (Eva, Calvin, William and Mateo); and nieces Nancy and Janet and nephew John, the children of Al's brother.
Her family celebrated her life at a family memorial service at St. Paul's Church, Burlingame where she became a member after moving to San Mateo. She and Al were both interred in St. Paul's Columbarium completing a union that began with their marriage in another St. Paul's Church in Westfield, NJ in 1945. Donations in her memory may be made to the Vallejo Symphony Association, 3467 Sonoma Blvd., Vallejo, CA 94590, PEO Chapter KL, 352 Seawind Drive, Vallejo, CA 94590 or to a
Published in TimesHeraldOnline on Aug. 17, 2013