By Tony Kreuch, her eldest son
Kathryn "Kitty" Smith, our beloved wife, mother, sister, and friend, went home to be with the Lord on Monday, August 16, 2004. She is preceded in death by her parents, Sophia and Roy Landwehr, and a brother, Roy Jr. She is survived by her beloved husband of 22 years, Michael Smith; in addition to her three sons, Tony, Jim and Bob; her daughter-in-law, Carol; grandchildren, Alissa Kreuch, Tony Kreuch, Jr., Tal Kreuch, Patrick Kreuch, and Alex Kreuch; brother and sister-in-law, Jack and Joanne Landwehr; brother and sister-in-law, Patrick and Dee Riley; sister and brother-in-law, Joan and Jim Harrigan; sister, Judy Moxey; sister and brother-in-law, Peggy and Michael Quinn; sister, Sr. Judith Ann; and many nephews and nieces.
Kitty will always be remembered as a caring and compassionate person who bore her chronic illnesses with dignity and strength. She had a love of life and an unquenchable thirst for learning. After raising her three sons, Kitty returned to college and obtained a Bachelor's Degree, with Honors, in Communicative Disorders from the University of New Mexico in 1979. She was an avid reader who, later in life, made the decision to re-read as many of the classic literary works as she could, and in so doing gained a new appreciation for these works. She was a wonderful homemaker, and she also was employed for several years as a bookkeeper in the accountancy and healthcare fields, and as a secretary.
Kitty had many and varied talents. She raised African Violets for many years and was a member and judge of the African Violet Club, winning awards for her flowers that are too numerous to count. She frequently won awards at the New Mexico State Fair for her afghans and her jam. She also was on the Board of Directors and volunteer for Habitat for Humanity for several years.
The family would like to thank Kitty's many friends for their kindness, prayers and support. In celebration of her life a Rosary will be recited Thursday, August 19, 2004, 7:00 p.m., at French Mortuary, 7121 Wyoming Blvd. NE and a Mass will be celebrated on Friday, August 20, 2004, 10:30 a.m. at Sangre de Cristo Catholic Church, 8901 Candelaria Rd. NE. Cremation will follow. Friends may visit Thursday, August 19, 2004 from 6:00 p.m. until the time of the Rosary.
By Tony Kreuch, her eldest son
Kathryn Louise Landwehr Smith, my mother, will always be known to those she loved as "Kitty". And, no one in the world has ever been quite like her. Truly, she was and always will be, Kitty. This evening, I would like to share with all of you gathered here, family and friends, a few of my thoughts, reflections and memories of her as my tribute to the woman I have always called "Mom". And, Mom, I promise that I won't talk for too long...
Kitty was born in a small town in Kansas, Coffeyville, in the early 1930's, to my grandparents, Sophia and Roy Landwehr. When she was a young girl, the family moved to New Mexico because of the health of her oldest brother, Roy Jr., and she has lived the rest of her life here, as a New Mexican, in both Santa Fe and then Albuquerque. She comes from a loving and special family - my grandparents and my Uncle Roy are now gone, and my mother is with them. Along with them, my aunts & uncles - Sr. Judith Ann, Joan, Judy, Peggy, Jack and Pat, along with their spouses - Jim Harrigan, Michael Quinn, Joanne Landwehr and Dee Riley, have formed the nucleus of this most wonderful family that I am a part of. Each of you, in your own way, has been a special part of my mom's life for so long. Her many nieces and nephews, both here this evening and away have also been a part of her life. She was a beautiful, intelligent young woman who excelled in academics and graduated from Loretto Academy in Santa Fe. She was in the choir there, sang and sang well, and she left me with my own enduring love of music as one of her life gifts to me.
My earliest memory of my mother is one of her face looking down at me in my crib. I do not know how old I was, perhaps about two years old. I carry with me today more of the feeling of that memory than anything else - the warmth of her face, the care of her smile, and yes, her touch - always tender and loving. She was truly an exceptional mother and she really earned the title "Mom". She did everything a mother does and more. When I was diagnosed with asthma as a young child, she would faithfully take me, by bus, with my two brothers in tow, all the way to the doctor's office downtown (quite a trek in those days) twice a week for allergy shots and treatment. When we still lived in Santa Fe and I had pneumonia as a child, I remember her diligent watchfulness during my hospitalization and the weeks of recovery afterwards. Since I was out of school for quite some time, she went to my teacher every day and brought my schoolwork home so that she could make certain that I could stay caught up, much to my dismay. She was a woman of faith, a dedicated church member, a Cub Scout den mother, a PTA volunteer, a helper in the classroom and the mom with the reputation as the best cookie maker on the block. My brothers and I always knew that our friends were welcome in our home because of her. We remember that all of the kids in the neighborhood were so comfortable at our house that they used it as a short cut on their way to school. She developed her circle of coffee-drinking friends, and these friendships have endured to this day - I know many of you are here this evening, and I want to thank you for your friendship to her all these years.
One thing I might mention is that, while my mother did like dogs and we always seemed to have a family pet, she did not have quite the same "love of critters" that my brothers and I had. And, three boys growing up on the west side of Albuquerque in the early 1960's could certainly bring home their share of lizards, horned toads, snakes, guinea pigs and rabbits. She was I think very patient with our escapades with animals, but I do remember her drawing the line the time when we brought home a baby alligator that we had bought downtown at Woolworth's (back in the days when you could actually buy an alligator at a department store). My brother Jim still bears the scar where he was bitten. I remember that we didn't keep that alligator for very long.
My mother taught us a set of core values that are still crystal clear to me to this day, values that have in so many ways shaped the fabric of my own life. She taught me the importance of tolerance, acceptance of everyone despite differences, the importance of family, the importance of giving of yourself (to those you love and even to those you do not know), the importance of compassion and passion for life, and of living life with integrity and dignity. She also taught us the value of education and learning. My mother was truly a student of life and of the world. Her insatiable curiosity, inquisitiveness and desire to learn remained an important part of her life until her very last days. She read, she learned, she asked questions and she wanted to know the answer, even if there wasn't one to be found. This desire to learn was but one aspect of her love and her passion for life, a passion that kept her going for so very long despite the frailty of her physical body. I will tell you, there was nothing frail about my mother's spirit or her will, and she did not know the meaning of the word "quit". That word simply did not register for her, and she lived her life that way until the end.
My sister-in-law, Carol, Kitty's daughter-in-law, asked me to share a few of her thoughts as well as part of this remembrance. These are her thoughts: "I don't know if I can express how blessed by God and how lucky I feel to have Kitty as my mother-in-law. She made me feel so special. She made special beds for my children when we came to visit. She took them to Old Town and had a birthday party in the summer for all of us. Alex, her grandson, would wait for hours for the party to start. She took care of me when my dad was dying. We talked for hours sometimes on the phone. I felt so loved and I loved her. God was good to let me have Kitty as a second mom and I will miss her. She made life special, an ability she kindly passed to Bob, so I can still treasure her."
In addition, my mom was also a special grandmother to her five grandchildren - my two children and my brother's three children. My daughter, Alissa, Kitty's only granddaughter and her oldest grandchild, summarized her impressions of her grandmother's relationship with her grandchildren for me. She said she has always been struck by her grandmother's incredible strength, her desire to improve herself and he willingness to try new things. She mentioned that, even very recently she was helping her grandmother learn about computers. Alissa also talked about what a loving person her grandmother was, never shy about showing how she felt about her grandchildren and how she will miss her the rest of her life.
After my parents divorced, my mother struggled to find meaning in her life for a time, and in a way reinvented herself to begin the second half of her life. She returned to school, obtained a Bachelor's Degree from UNM (with Honors, naturally), and carried on with her work as a bookkeeper and her life. Her proclivity for African Violets is well known. I remember going to her house during the years when she was raising African Violets, looking at the rows upon rows of these most beautiful and delicate flowers and wondering to myself - how in the world is she able to do this? How is she able to raise these, so beautifully and, so many? Well, the answer to that is really a statement of her approach to life in general. She pretty much did what she set her mind to do - and there wasn't much apart from her physical limitations that got in her way. She even tried skiing a few years ago (probably to Michael's dismay).
A large and important part of my mother's second half of life renaissance has been Michael. You know, when you are a son, perhaps especially the oldest son, you are going to scrutinize carefully any new man in your mother's life - it's only natural as your protective instincts come to bear. Well, it turned out that any early concerns and fears I had about Michael being in my mother's life were entirely unfounded. He has been a devoted, loving and caring husband to my mother for the last 22 years, and he, really more than any of the rest of us, has borne the burden of her final years - always with patience, always with love. One meaningful punctuation mark in particular for me was having Michael and my father Don working together on my fence at my new house last year ...pretty crazy, huh, Mom? Michael, thank you for being there for her and for being all that you have been to her - for this I (and I can also speak for my brothers) will be eternally grateful.
One clear measure of a person's life is the extent to which he or she has loved and been loved. If this gathering this evening is any indication, then it is true that my mother lived as successful a life as anyone can imagine. On behalf of all of the members of my family, I thank you all for your support, love and kindness during this most difficult time of transition for us. Mom, thank you so much for being the special woman that you have been. Thank you for all the gifts you have given me, and all of the lessons I have learned from you. Rest well, now, with God, free of struggle. We will miss you, but we know that you will be with us forever.