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von HARTZ--Kathy Hughes. 86, who died peacefully surrounded by family on October 2nd, got the most from life. Traveler - 89 countries including North Korea and Iran. Hitchhiker - all over Europe, Cairo to Cape Town and back. Renovator of buildings in the East Village, world-class bargain hunter, knitter of baby sweaters she gave out freely. Bungee jumper and risk taker. A teacher, she was fluent in Spanish and spoke four other languages. An avid birder she roamed Central Park. She bicycled all over the city before bike lanes existed. She was an activist, pacifist and community organizer. After surviving esophageal cancer, she battled MSA, a neurological disorder and left on her own terms. She is survived by her husband of 58 years John, (they married in Gibraltar with two Bobbies as witnesses); her two children Maria and William, son-in-law Jay, grandchildren Katie and Nicky and two sisters, Gretchen Sandback of San Diego, CA and Sarah Pappas of Sarasota, FL. Forever the optimist, as she lay dying she said, "Now I'm going to see all the places I've never seen."

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Published in New York Times on Nov. 22, 2020.
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13 entries
December 29, 2020
We loved the stories of her travels. And anyone who biked NYC before bike lanes is courageous, someone who helped change our world and will always be in our hearts.
Marga and Taylor
December 29, 2020
Tonight I checked an old email address that's still alive and i check on now and then. I keep it because I've been blessed with friendships from around the world and people I met ages ago still reach out now and then and tell me about their lives.
Tonight I found out an angel died in December. Too long ago I was traveling overland on a motorcycle from San Francisco, Ca to Tierra del Fuego at the bottom of Chile in South America, and back. I took a rare tourist detour to see Iguacu Falls in Brazil, and ran into Kathy and John von Hartz from East Villiage in New York City. We talked for a good hour and a half, at the falls, and I fell in love with them. I was in my mid 40s, they were in their early 70s and it was so lovely to speak English to a couple of educated, intelligent, world traveling Americans. I hadn't had a conversation in English in at least a month, and it was like dessert and coffee at the end of a fine meal.
I later visited them in NYC and have had a 20 year plus email relationship with Kathy. Hearing of her passing filled me with joy and sadness at the same time. I'm including her obit below. Let's all hope we live such a full, rewarding and relevant life. God bless you Kathy, and John. Two of the nicest humans I have ever met.
Dean Bordigioni
December 22, 2020
Hard to face Kathy’s death.
And we think of the beautiful and extraordinary closeness of her family.
We loved the way John-and-Kathy were (was) one entity.
Still there.

One of my most recent memories is that extraordinary monologue of Kathy’s life.
And to see her modesty, in the audience, during the show, smiling but not preening (of course).
It was also not hard to see Kathy’s pride in Maria and William.
Even with her regal reserve (she had such wonderful posture).

She was an important part of our lives — first as teacher, then as friend.
We went way back with Kathy, and she meant so much to us.
That warm feeling goes nowhere, and remains.
We love you, Kathy.
Nick (& Elspeth)
Nick Macdonald
December 19, 2020
I am so very sorry to hear this news. Kathy left a legacy of good humor and positive thinking wherever she went. My deepest condolences to John, Maria, and William. And one day I 'd love to hear the Gibraltar Wedding story.
Adam Redfield
December 18, 2020
I first met Kathy when she and her roommate Pat lived across the hall from me my Sophomore year at Middlebury College. I connected right away with both of them. Kathy would become one of my dearest, life-long friends. Several years later, she and I lived, worked, played and hitchiked all over Europe. We shared an apartment together while working for the World's Fair in Brussels, Belgium in 1958. I always felt she was like another sister. The year we were traveling one incident
(there were so many!) that popped into my brain recently was the trip on a rickety banana boat chugginng and lurching from Gran Canaria to an adjoining island, Lanzarote. Back then in 1958, the island was bare, dusty and desolate. Sort of like a moonscape. No tourists, a very small population and no hostels, B and B's, inns, ---nothing of the sort! Because our return transport would not be leaving until the next day, after our "sight-seeing" of most of the island, that night we ended up sleeping on a couple of tables in the one small cafe that we found. But being with Kathy was like that....fun, adventurous, lively and filled with humor. We have not been mileage close in these later years but I always enjoyed keeping up with her more recent life and travels through the internet. I think of her almost everyday. She is and will be missed by so many. I miss her a lot. Love you, sweets! Diane "Deenie" Matthews
Diane Matthews
December 18, 2020
I have known Kathy since I was born, I called her and John,
Aunt and Uncle and truly thought they were my blood relatives until much later in my teens. John was my fathers Best Friend but more than that they were family. Kathy was an icon. A true feminist. Kind. Smart. Funny. Generous with her time and spirit. I learned more about life from one evening in NYC just looking through their book shelves.
I was fortunate to speak to Kathy weeks before she passed, she was strong and brave and brilliant! Her spirit and her energy live on in John, Maria and William. And I am a better person for having known Kathy. Rest in Peace Aunt Kathy.
Michele Meny Decker
December 17, 2020
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Jerome Doolittle
December 17, 2020
She was a bold dancer too! Yet always good natured! I think it was hard for her to be sick..
Naomi Goldberg Haas
December 17, 2020
She was always so energetic and warm. Really sorry I didn't stay more in touch. Will miss her.
rande johnson
December 11, 2020
william vonhartz
December 10, 2020
william von hartz
November 25, 2020
My boyfriend lives on 2nd Street, next door and as soon as he moved in, Kathy gave him a rose bush. This act of kindness felt so unheard of in New York City sometimes. I took that to heart and knew she was a very kind person. I wish I got to know her better. Sending condolences to John and family.
Lizzi Bougatsos
November 23, 2020
Kathy was wonderful! Truly loved life and all its possibilities. One year ago right now, we were planning her visit to me on Sanibel Island, Florida where I had rented a house. She came, and made the most of every opportunity for enjoyment...watching birds, and strolling the beach watching all its lively activity. Great in conversation, she’ll be forever missed by all of us left behind.
Junie DeCoster
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