Catherine Claire "Kitty" Kruse
Catherine C. "Kitty" Kruse was born on January 1, 1931 in Toledo, Ohio, the fifth of six children to Vitus and Helen (Denny) Hoeffel. She died Sunday, October 7, 2018 at the Franciscan Care Center in Sylvania, Ohio where she has resided for the last 10 months.
Kitty and her family of origin endured many hardships. She lost a brother when she was two years old, and her mother died when Kitty was seven. Three years later, she lost her only sister who was several years older. It was during this time that her father put her and two of her brothers in the St. Anthony Villa orphanage. They remained there for two years, as he was unable to adequately provide for their care. Already exhibiting an indominable spirit, Monsignor Michael Doyle, the head of St. Anthony Villa nicknamed her "Happy" because of her joyful demeanor. She carried a soft spot in her heart for him for the rest of her life and saw him as a secondary father figure.
Soon after her 13th birthday, her father suffered a heart attack while on his mail route, and died a short time later in her arms. Kitty and brothers Jim and Bob then lived with an aunt and uncle until they completed their high school years. She was a graduate of Central Catholic High School, class of 1948, a cheerleader who prided herself on being able to outrun the boy cheerleaders across the field. After graduation she attended business college and worked in a clothing store.
In 1950 she married Herman D. "David" Kruse and together they raised seven children. Mike, Jim, Cathie, Matthew, TJ, Sean and Chris. When Matthew was born in 1960 with Down Syndrome, she saw a pattern too strong to be coincidence. She had two brothers with Down Syndrome, as well as several cousins, and felt compelled to see if there was a hereditary link. Her OBGYN connected her with Dr. Margery Shaw, a geneticist from the U of M, and a multi-year study was initiated. Through this family study, Down Syndrome through the Robertsonian Translocation was proven, confirming that a form of Down Syndrome was hereditary. Her second son with the syndrome, Sean, was born in 1967.
As Matthew grew, she sought religious education and sacramental preparation for him in the Catholic faith. Kitty soon found out that there weren't any programs to draw from for the Mentally Retarded and Developmentally Disabled (MRDD) population. Her pastor suggested that she start a program within Little Flower parish, and what started as a parish program quickly grew to other parishes. Many Catholic high school students volunteered in her program and several of them went on to vocations as priests and nuns. Through the support of Rev. John Hiltz and Sister Louise Marie Skoch, Kitty started the Equal Access Ministry Office for the Diocese of Toledo, which is now renamed the Office of Persons with Disabilities.
Her ministry would span some 45 years and ultimately become national in scope. Kitty became a national authority on designing religious education programs for special needs people, and methods of inclusion. She was a former board member of the National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry, now known as the National Catholic Foundation on Disabilities. She led retreats and pilgrimages that included MRDD, hearing impaired, sight impaired people and those with functional limitations. Kitty was a strong advocate in adding ramps and promoting physical changes to make churches more accessible to wheelchairs and walkers. A pilgrimage she led to Rome in 2000 was the first group ever to be permitted to admit a seeing eye dog into the Vatican. She was also part of a committee that brought Mother Teresa to Toledo in 1976.
Kitty was recognized by the Vatican in 2011 when she was chosen to receive the Papal Benemerenti Medal from Pope Benedict XVI for her service to others. She also was chosen as a subject for the Real Saints of Toledo expo in the early 2000s. That was a collaboration between Corpus Christi Parish and the University of Toledo where the artist depicted her as a seed planter. She relished that analogy as she truly saw herself as someone who worked hard, but could only do so much. By planting seeds, the talents of others could ultimately grow her ideas beyond what she could envision.
She prayed daily and attended Mass regularly, but did not see herself as religious. She did however, consider herself quite spiritual. To her there was a difference, in that spirituality went beyond religion to a real relationship with God. Her favorite quip back when someone would say to her "God bless you," was "He has… abundantly".
But first and foremost, Kitty was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She wanted to be remembered as a mother and for being full of love and joy. It would be impossible to remember her any other way. She was relentless in her love of people, not just family, but all people, and was a strong advocate for those who needed her.
Kitty was preceded in death by her parents; and siblings, Mary Ellen Taylor, Larry, Eugene, Jim and Bob; husband, David; son, Matthew; and daughter-in-law, Linda. She is survived by daughter, Cathie Meade; sons, Mike (Lyn), Jim, TJ (Ellen), Sean and Chris; grandchildren, Andrew (Megan), Peter, Aaron, Amanda (Paul) Dwyer, Sarah (Andrew) Derminer, Daniel Meade, Mary (Tom) Szymanski, Ben Meade, Emily, Abby, Lauren (Mike) Anderson, Danica Baumert and Lindsay Kruse; great-grandchildren, Zoë Derminer, Will and Claire Dwyer, JT and Harper Szymanski, Kara Kruse-Swolsky, and Everett Anderson.
The family will receive visitors at Wisniewski Funeral Home, 2426 N. Reynolds Rd., Toledo, OH 43615 on Friday, October 12th from 2:00 to 8:00 p.m., with scripture service at 7:00 p.m. Visitation will resume from 10:00 to 11:00 at Little Flower Catholic Church, 5522 Dorr St., Toledo, OH 43615 where The Rite of Christian Burial Mass will occur Saturday, October 13th at 11:00 a.m. Interment immediately afterward at Resurrection Cemetery.
Donations in Kitty's name may be made to The Office of Persons with Disabilities of Diocese of Toledo, Little Flower Catholic Church or Hospice of NW Ohio. Her consummate retort was "Life goes on and the world keeps spinning around." Her earthly life is done, but there is no doubt that her heavenly life will go on through eternity.