Kathryn (“Kitty”) Cole was born in Chicago, Illinois and graduated from Evanston Township High School and the University of Wisconsin. As a nurse, she was Head of Pediatrics of Highland Park Hospital at one time. She lived a full life, including nine years in Japan with her husband, Steve, and her two children, Steve and Brenda. She was a wonderful mother. She and her husband traveled extensively, including to Europe, Japan, the Far East, as well as Australia and New Zealand. She attended Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, IL, where she and her husband lived for many years. Prior to that, she lived in Evanston IL, Wilmette IL, Cedar Rapids IA, Richmond VA, and Japan. She loved animals, including her cat Lulu, and had an amazing sense of humor.
Kitty spent many years volunteering with the Institute of Cultural Affairs. A highlight of her work was creating the program, “Standing Tall in the 80s”, where she and Georgianna McBurney visited all 77 of Chicago’s communities and offered either a Town Meeting, Global Woman’s Forum, Youth Forum or LENS. As a result 50 communities held events.
Then she followed her passion for the development of low-income housing including the homeless. She has a street named after her in Dungannon, VA, ‘Kitty Cole Lane’, because of her dedication to this work. She served on many Boards in her work in the housing for low-income families and the homeless. These included the Partnership to End Homelessness, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the Chicago Rehab Network, and the Bexley Seabury Seminary where she was a board member and also a trustee associate. She was a recipient of the LaSalle Bank Tom Gobby Award as well as the Black Pearl Award. The Illinois House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring her.
Kitty Cole passed away at her home in Lake Forest surrounded by her family after a battle with recurrent breast cancer. She is survived by her husband of 62 years, Steve, her two children, Brenda and Steve (Debbie), her granddaughter, Maureen (Travis), and her brother Terry Fish and his family. The funeral was held at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, Illinois.
When Joe, David McCleskey and I were assigned to recruit (by teaching RSI and PLC courses in Southeast Asia) participants for the first International Training Institute (ITI) in Singapore in 1969, colleagues like Kitty Cole were crucial. Kitty hosted us in her home in Kobe, and invited Japanese and international colleagues to meet with us and learn about our work.
One night when Kitty was hosting a Japanese/American couple (who eventually moved to the US), David excused himself to visit the restroom, and didn’t realize the children were sleeping on the floor. David, unintentionally, but sadly stepped on “Markeo, (the child of a future guardian couple,) whose lusty lungs sang out DANGER, DANGER. Kitty, thankfully with her training as a nurse, was able to calm the child and his parents, as well as David — and the evening proceeded as planned.
This was the kind of gal she was: knowledgable, smart, responsive, and ready to tell it the way is was! I doubt we would have ever encouraged Japanese colleagues to join us if Kitty Cole had not been the international pioneer.
~~. Marilyn Crocker
I imagine Kitty, and all the other Guardians who have completed their earthly journey, are now still our Guardians on another plane. Journey on, oh gracious and brilliant one,
~~ Sunny Walker
Kitty was a wonderful colleague and quite a character. I very much appreciated crossing paths when visiting Kobe from Tokyo a couple years later than Marilyn’s story.
~~ Ronnie Seagren
Kitty was a friend to our family in Kobe and Osaka – and a warm, caring person to all she met.
~~ Bill and Carol Scheisinger
I first worked with Kitty in Osaka, Japan, during the summer of 1976 and then for many years in Chicago. She was a great spirit and will be greatly missed.
~~ Terry Bergdall
Kitty Cole and Georgianna McBurney’s work on the “Standing Tall in the 80s” program influenced me personally. In 2012 I was working with ICA Chicago to decide what our next work would be. Sustainability was on our radar. I reminded our staff about the work Georgianna and Kitty did in ALL 77 communities by themselves – setting up more than 50 forums of every type. We were inspired by that comprehensive approach – that impossible challenge of two women covering all that geography together. So we took up the challenge in a program we called Accelerate77 – visiting all 77 communities to identify more than 900 sustainability projects in 2012 – when few people thought anyone was doing anything about the climate challenge. The “Standing Tall” 50 events in Chicago in the 1980s of Kitty and Georgianna as well as Accelerate77 inspires me to this day.