Katherine “Kay” Mary Walsh was born to Joseph and Evangeline Walsh on February 2, 1937 in Syracuse, NY. She was the youngest and the last of 4 children; Margaret “Peggy” Walsh Dryer, Joseph Walsh, and Barbara Walsh Schreck. She passed away due to liver failure on October 13, 2021, at Fredericka Manor’s Summer House Memory Care, with her niece, Barbara, at her side. Kay never married and had no children of her own, but is survived by six nieces and nephews; Mary Walsh, Michael Schreck, Barbara Walsh Hawk, Jim Schreck, Mary Schreck Goralski, and Tom Walsh.
Kay grew up in Marcellus, New York. After high school she worked for Western Electric for a year, and then attended Marywood College in Pennsylvania for a year. She returned and entered a cloistered convent, but was forced to leave due to health issues. In the summer of 1960, Kay joined her sister Peggy and their mother in La Mesa, California.
In 1963, Kay graduated from San Diego State College with a B.S. in Home Economics. For the next few years she worked as the Patient Food Supervisor at the brand new Scripps Memorial Hospital, helping to establish a new method of food service, utilizing microwave ovens. She then started teaching Home Economics to junior high students in the La Mesa Spring Valley School District.
From 1973 to 1975, Kay studied at Sacramento State University and received her Masters Degree in Counseling. She then returned to teaching junior high in La Mesa. She continued to teach Home Economics and later switched to teaching math and science.
Kay and her sister, Peggy, who was also a teacher, loved to travel and go on adventures around the world during their summers off. She was very active in the sailing community and once sailed to the South Pacific to witness an eclipse from the best place on Earth. Unfortunately, her sailing adventures stopped after a bad car accident left her unable to continue. She traveled to Papua, New Guinea with a friend from her Women’s Group in which she was an active member for nearly 40 years. She loved their get-togethers and benefitted from their support and enjoyed supporting others, too. She enjoyed arranging flowers for their events and even had a little flower business called Kay’s Bouquets for a while.
Kay conquered many adversities in her life, including several different cancers, but her biggest challenge was identifying and receiving treatment for her sleep apnea. She’d been diagnosed with chronic fatigue, and other ailments, but through her own research she realized that she had obstructive sleep apnea. She had to work hard to educate doctors about this under-diagnosed condition, and receive the correct treatment with a C-PAP machine. She was passionate about getting the word out about this dangerous condition and started a non-profit (A.W.A.K.E.) to help bring education and support to others with sleep apnea.
Despite all her troubles, Kay was quite the extrovert and loved being around people and activity, especially out in nature. The pictures she kept near were of her feeding a baby bengal tiger, doing a ropes course, being a duck in a parade, and many with friends and family having fun. She was always busy and creative, and loved building and fixing things, and was an excellent seamstress. She was innovative and resourceful and helpful to friends and family. She built on to her home and created an oasis in her back yard. She pursued many artistic endeavors including watercolor, origami, and Japanese brush painting.
Kay decided to sell her home of 45 years and move to an apartment at Fredericka Manor, a retirement community in Chula Vista, CA, in September, 2014. She took full advantage of the active senior life they offered and loved dining and socializing with many, many new friends there. She was often the one reminding people of events, encouraging others to stay active and enjoy life. Fredericka’s large pond with lots of ducks, turtles, and fish was a favorite of hers.
When Covid hit, it was the beginning of a marked decline in Kay’s physical and mental health. Sitting in her room alone was the worst thing in the world for her, especially with the beginnings of dementia. In January of this year, she went to the hospital and was treated for end-stage liver failure. She went back and forth between the hospital and a skilled nursing facility before coming home on hospice in early March to her new place at Fredericka’s Summer House, a small memory care facility, but by then she was too weak to walk. She became a favorite of many of the caregivers, due to her sunny disposition, despite her worsening situation. She was relieved of her suffering and passed peacefully on Wednesday afternoon, October 13th.
Kay will be missed by family and friends due to the positive way she enriched all of our lives. Her energy, kindness, compassion, sassiness, and pursuit of fun will keep her memory alive in all who knew her.