Kathrin Eleanore Wilbur
A graveside service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 2 at the East Line Street Cemetery in Bishop for Kathrin Eleanore Wilbur. A celebration of her life will follow at the Bishop Elks Lodge, 151 E. Lone St. in Bishop.
Born in March 30, 1925 in San Pedro to Rosanna Laura Henley and Davis Robert Henley, Kathy died peacefully in her sleep with her son David in a bedroom nearby on March 27, 2011 after a courageous, years long battle with emphysema.
Kathy was 18 when she discovered that she was “Kathrin” and not “Catherine.” Throughout her life she mused that the doctor who certified her birth simply did not know how to spell.
Kathy began manifesting her extraordinary nature and athleticism as a youngster at a time when neither girls nor women were encouraged to pursue sports. By 18 years of age she became an amateur tennis champion in Long Beach – the more amazing having come from a family where her father forbade his four daughters to learn to ride bicycles because “girls don’t ride bikes.”
At the close of World War II, after a 13-day courtship, she married her childhood family friend, Mel, on July 6, 1945, one week before Mel’s 21st birthday. Their young age was tempered by Kathy’s work at Douglas Aircraft on the war effort while Mel was the captain and pilot of a B-17 Bomber in the European Theater. They had both graduated from David Jordan High School in Long Beach.
Continuing with his love of airplanes, Mel, Kathy and young daughter, Claudia, would move to Santa Maria where the campus of the University of Southern California’s School of Engineering was located so Mel could study to become an aeronautical engineer. During their stay there, son David was born.
They moved to Long Beach when the school was moved to the main campus in Los Angeles. Mel graduated with a degree as a bachelor of engineering on June 16, 1951. Nine months later their son, Mark, was born. Mel went to work for Northorp Corporation where, among his many other achievements, he helped to send Telstar, the first active communications satellite, into space. Mel remained in the Air Force Reserves and he and Kathy frequently traveled to the annual 351st Bomber Reunions around the country.
When their youngest son Mark went off to kindergarten at the tender age of five, Kathy and Mel struck a happy bargain that placed them both ahead of their time – Mel had the self confidence to allow Kathy a level of personal freedom that was uncommon at the time and that allowed for a life changing event for Kathy. While Mel was helping America conquer the heavens, Kathy discovered the game of golf and thus began her life-long love affair with a sport that was finally come into its own in recent years. The public at large has begun to recognize what golfers since the beginning have known – it takes the highest level of focus, fortitude and courage to succeed in this sport.
Kathy's evolution as a golfer took her from the Alondra Park Golf Club in Lawndale, where she served as president of the Lady's Club; then simultaneously to the Meadow Lark Country Club in Huntington Beach, where she served another stint as president and she was also a member of the Los Alamitos Country Club; then on to the San Vincente Country Club in Ramona; and finally to the Bishop Country Club where she was active in the Lady's Club until her health no longer permitted her participation. During the period before San Vincente, Kathy played several tournaments at the Costa Mesa Country Club where the friendship she cultivated with the owner, Harry Green, led to her becoming the manager of the club for some dozen years.
Kathy exemplified the qualities of focus, fortitude and courage to the core of her being. Her den in the San Vincent Estates in Ramona where she and Mel lived before relocating to Bishop, was a tribute to her many low net victories in her handicap: an entire wall was filled with trophies. Kathy was a true ambassador for the sport. For more than 50 years she played her sport throughout the Southwest with rare and inspiring determination. Until her disease took a serious turn for the worse Kathy could be seen out on the course at Bishop Country Club carrying her oxygen tank while she played her game.
Her three children are proud beyond expression of their mom’s years long dedication to the sport she so loved and recently gave her a bronze sculpture acknowledging her lifelong dedication to the sport of golf.
All her friends and family recognized what an extraordinary person Kathy was. And her family saw up close the remarkable dignity and courage with which she handled her insidious disease. She rarely complained and right up to the end she lived as normal a life as possible. As the disease ran its course to the end, Kathy was surrounded by the love of her children, Claudia, David and Mark as well as the loving friendship of her golfing buddies the Lady Bills, and her Red Hat Society friends.
Her three children wish to offer a heartfelt thank you to Dr. Boo and the entire staff at the Rural Health Clinic; Dwayne, Jeff, Paul and Clay at Dwayne’s Friendly Pharmacy, as well as the entire staff; her nurse, Michelle Shibley, and all her friends who gave Kathy such loving support, as well as to the town of Bishop for being such a friendly, welcoming place where the townspeople still look out for each other.
Kathy was preceded in death by her husband of 62 years, Claude Melvin “Mel” Wilbur, Jr.; her parents; sisters, Rosanna Laura Whittaker, Dorothey Esther Brown and Elizabeth Mae Murphy; and her nephew, Michael Whittaker.
She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Claudia Myers and Charles Myers; sons and daughter-in-law, David Wilbur and Mark and Noreen Wilbur; grandchildren, Ariel Kathrin Wilbur and Usha Wilbur; sister-in-law, Suzanne Jonson; nieces, Deyon Jonson, Nancy Thompson and Cecilia Cochems; and nephew, Christopher Cochems.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Kathy’s memory may be made to the Bishop Elks Lodge, Hospice of the Owens Valley, the Inyo County Animal Shelter, P.O. Box 76 Bishop, CA 93515 or the Bishop Country Club Junior Golf Program.