She was way ahead of Princess Leia.
She is my maternal grandmother and she meant so much to me that I named my first-born after her out of my memory of her strengths as well as homage to my mother – Grandmother Katherine’s only daughter. There sure are a mess of Katherine’s in my family tree.
Katherine Calahan Murrison Hovorka was born October 22, 1902 in Abilene, Kansas. She was the 4th born in a family of eight children. Her father was a Scottish immigrant who came to Kansas via Canada as a horse trader and trainer. Her mother left her Pennsylvania birthplace to find domestic work in rural Kansas. They met, married and raised their family through hard work and self-sufficiency.
Katherine left home after the eighth grade to work her way through high school in Chapman, Kansas, by providing nanny service for a more affluent town family. After graduation from high school and the subsequent and early death of her mother she was employed as a switchboard operator in Topeka.
In 1923, she met and married Earl Hovorka who was employed at the Topeka Post Office and they moved into their Topeka home, constructed by Earl. In the next eight years, they had three children, two boys and a girl. They lived in Topeka surrounded by extended family until 1956, when Earl suffered two severe heart attacks and was forced to retire on disability. At this time, they moved to Lake Quinault, Washington. Earl passed away in 1971. Katherine stayed in Quinault until 1983 when she returned to Topeka. She moved to the Presbyterian Manor in the 1990’s.
During WWI, she worked at Seymour Packing Company and was later employed by Rosemary Gardens Floral Shop for a number of years.
One of the qualities that made Katherine a very special and memorable person was her great joy and sense of fun. She neither took herself nor life too seriously but she tempered all the frivolity with a strong sense of responsibility and a belief in hard work. She could spend all day canning peaches or hoeing in the garden and still have the energy left for card playing into the evening. Card playing was a life long hobby. During the depression and later it was an easily available and inexpensive form of fun that provided socializing and relief from boredom. She liked all kinds of card games. She was as happy at the bridge table as she was playing fish with the grandchildren and anything in between. She played canasta, pinochle, hearts, pitch, poker and other card games the names and rules now forgotten. She wan an inexhaustible card player but it was always for the fun of it and she never lost a friend from it that I know of.
Her second passion was her family. She always had time for family duties and she took them seriously. Both her own brother and sisters as well as Earl’s extended family could count on her generosity with her time, her resources, and her home. During the depression years, nearly every sibling lived in the Topeka home with Katherine for days, weeks, or months at a time dependent on their need for shelter. Everyone shared equally in the work and the meals. No one was a freeloader but it was her home, her privacy and her domain that was shared. During WW II, she opened her home to a neighbor and her two children whose husband was in the service overseas. Later, another neighbor passed away leaving a teenage girl in need of temporary housing. Once again, Katherine found room in her life and home for someone in need. She wasn’t looking for gratitude, she just saw a need and acted.
Finally, she spent her years in Lake Quinault continuing to welcome people to her home and provide them with hospitality and entertainment. Her house was nearly always full of friends and relatives. Her grandchildren have many fond memories of fun-filled days with Grandma. No effort was too great. She cooked, cleaned, planned and schemed to make days fun and full. She passed away January 13, 1995 in Topeka Kansas.
Here are all the grandchildren at Lake Quinault on a picnic…I seem to be wandering away from the group. Picture taken in 1962.
This picture was taken in Topeka, Kansas in 1988, Top: Katie Hauck (my Mom), Katherine Calahan Murrison Hovorka, and C1 (also a Calahan).