Lasting Memories

Kathryn Anne Carleton
Sept. 5, 1959-Sept. 17, 2012
Palo Alto, California

Kathryn Anne Carleton, 53, of Palo Alto, Calif., died Sept. 17, 2012, surrounded by loved ones at her home. She took her last breath while a dear friend was singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to her.

Kathryn Anne Kurgas was born Sept. 5, 1959, in Hartford, Conn., the oldest daughter of Walter B. Kurgas Sr. and the late Mary Bette (Krupski) Schiloski. She lived in Puerto Rico from age five to nine, then moved with her family to Massachusetts, where she graduated from Franklin High School in 1977. She received a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 1985, with a concentration in painting. She worked as assistant art director at Sportscape magazine and later as a staff designer at Ken Silvia Design Group in the Boston area, along with doing contract design work for Walking magazine and other publications.

She moved to California in 1991, where she started her own graphic design business, contracting with Sunset Magazine among other clients. In 1993 she won a Maggie Award from the Western Publishing Association for excellence in design.

Soon after Kathryn arrived in the Bay Area, her sister Laurie Kurgas introduced her to Jeff G. Carleton of Palo Alto, Calif., and they were married on Sept. 25, 1992, in a lovely outdoor ceremony under the redwoods. They welcomed their daughter, Melissa, into the world in May 2000. The family loved spending time together in the Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel area, and Kathryn also had fond memories of trips to Hawaii, France, and Italy. She viewed being a mother as her most important job, and loved bringing joy and creativity to all around her.

Kathryn maintained her lifelong interest in art, serving on the Palo Alto Public Art Commission from 1994 to 1998, including one term as chair. She was honored by a City of Palo Alto resolution in January 2000 for her service on the commission and for giving "unselfishly of her time and talents in support of the City of Palo Alto Art in Public Places Program." According to that resolution, Kathryn "helped develop a slide presentation to inform political and community leaders of the vital role that public art can play in the city's quality of life; secured funding to support the remake of the popular Greg Brown mural 'Roofhoppers'; designed the brochure Public Art Guidelines for Developers; chaired a subcommittee to explore the feasibility of a redesign for Cogswell Park; and provided leadership and advice leading to the acquisition of one mural, ten two-dimensional works of art, and eight sculptures."

Throughout her life, Kathryn continued to enjoy doing her own painting and other creative projects. She loved to sing, took voice lessons, and had a beautiful soprano voice of operatic timbre. She participated with Melissa in several musical productions at the First Congregational Church in Palo Alto, where she was a member. She helped organize donations for Common Ground Organic Garden Supply and Education Center's 35th Anniversary FUNdraising party in 2007. The silent auction included her personal donation of a large ceramic plate with Tuscan sunflower that she had created, along with a clay cup adorned with hand-painted flowers created by then seven-year-old Melissa, and two Prius Hybrids, which she had a hand in convincing Toyota of Palo Alto to donate, one of which was then purchased by her mother-in-law, Ruth Carleton, to support Common Ground.

She was a devoted mother who was active in Melissa's education and extracurricular activities, serving on the PTA at her elementary school and middle school, and volunteering on many school projects, including organizing parent education events, starting a lunchtime art club, which, with the help of her husband, Jeff, produced a life-size dragon that still lives in the library of the elementary school, and founding an organic vegetable, herb, and flower garden -- an early example of encouraging children to develop good eating habits by helping to grow their own food, similar to efforts by Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters at schoolyards in Berkeley, Calif. She also served as a Troop Leader for the Girl Scouts, and was recognized with a Green Angel Award in May 2011 for demonstrating leadership "in the most creative or innovative way for the year."

Kathryn was diagnosed with brain cancer in early June 2011. After fifteen months of nutritional diligence, research, and receiving treatments at several leading facilities, as well as staying optimistic while she did everything she could to regain her health, she accepted hospice support at home over the last month of her life and was lovingly cared for by her husband, family, and friends until her death.

Kathryn is survived by her husband, Jeff G. Carleton; their beloved 12-year-old daughter, Melissa Carleton; three sisters, Laurie Kurgas of Los Altos, California, Robyn (and Joe) Solimando of Redondo Beach, California, and Lainie (and Slade) Johnson of Saugus, California; one brother, Walter B. Kurgas Jr. of Lebanon, New Hampshire; her mother-in-law, Ruth Carleton of Palo Alto; her sister-in-law, Nancy G. Carleton of Berkeley, California; and four nieces and three nephews. Her father, Walter B. Kurgas Sr., lives in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Kathryn will also be fondly remembered by many loving aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends

A memorial service celebrating Kathryn's life will be held on Monday, Oct. 1, at 4 p.m. at the First Congregational Church in Palo Alto (1985 Louis Road at Embarcadero). Memorials may be made to the TD Ameritrade 529 College Savings Plan, earmarked for Melissa Carleton, and sent c/o Ruth Carleton, 36 Pearce Mitchell, Stanford, CA 94305, or to the charity of the donor's choice.

From Bill Flanagan
July 30, 2013

I am very sorry to hear of Kathryn's death. I really didn't know her well. We met at the home of a mutual friend. It's funny but sometimes you meet a person who you can't forget. I happened to look her up today and this page was sadly the first one I came to. It's great to see how full a life she led and how she changed the world in her own way. We should all be so blessed. For her family and friends, I mourn your loss.

From David Chase
Jan. 23, 2013

I am deeply saddened, and regretful that I just happened on this information about Kathryns' passing. I must have spoken with her and the family only days before, and didn't realize the end was so near..She was a wonderful person, and also, one of my most favorite clients. My thoughts are with her family and friends...We have lost one of the truly blessed spirits on the earth. I'm sure that we all feel that a little piece of us, went with her....