Eulogy for Gretchen

Today we celebrate the life of our mother, Gretchen Bruner Catterall

Gretchen died peacefully in her sleep, at the age of 81, on February 24, 2009. The consensus is almost unanimous that there is no better way to pass onto the next life. We will miss her inner beauty and loving ways, but we know her spirit will be with us always. Some would say she has gone to heaven, but I believe that every person and animal goes to the same spiritual realm, and that she has been reunited with her sisters, parents and friends.

Gretchen was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on August 24, 1927, to Harold and Marie Bruner. She and her three sisters were taught early in life to love nature and outdoor adventures. As far as I know she had an ideal childhood, with lots of interesting things to see and do, and many loving family members and friends to share those experiences with. All four of the girls married professionals, and raised beautiful and productive children.

Her mother was a socialite, involved in many church activities as well as many social gatherings. Because of her many other interests and responsibilities, a nanny was hired to help take care of the four girls. Vide was her name and she became a very loved member of the family.

My grandfather Harold was a partner in a manufacturing firm in Iowa and decided in 1937 to sell his interest in that business and take his family on a trip around the world. The family spent an entire year traveling, starting in 1938, by steamboat, train, puddle jumper planes, camel and elephant, and visited many different cultures and countries. Harold took thousands of feet of 16mm movie film on this trip, along with countless slides. He was also very skillful at documenting our family gatherings, and I still have many of these treasured movies.

When they returned to the United States they settled in Claremont CA. After finishing high school, Mom attended Pomona College and earned a degree in music, as a voice major. She had a beautiful voice and shared her gift, and love of music, throughout her life.

Gretchen married Calvin Dennis Catterall, a graduate student in psychology, in 1950. She served as a grade school teacher for several years before starting a family. They had three children in San Gabriel, CA and were loving parents, sharing adventures through scouting, church events, family camping and travel. The family traveled each summer, logging more than 100,000 miles in our Chevy station wagon, on family trips all over the US. We also spent wonderful summers in Mexico, Japan and Europe.

We moved to Sunnyvale, CA in 1960 where dad worked as a psychologist and then became Director of Special Services for the Santa Clara Unified School District. In 1964 he completed his PhD after nearly 14 years. Gretchen was very supportive of course, and jokes about earning her PHT, which stands for Pushing Hubby Through.

Gretchen was also a full time mother and did an exemplarily job of raising her three children, Garth Bruner, Caren Diane and Laura Lynn. Among other things, she taught us all about music and introduced us to the piano. We were very involved in the Palo Alto First United Methodist Church for many years, where she was often a soloist in the choir. She also sang in the chorus of a San Jose Civic Light Opera production of My Fair Lady and other musical productions.

Gretchen and Cal were active in the International Christian Youth Exchange and Youth for Understanding programs, and we hosted two exchange students, Roar Sakshaug from Norway in 1968, and Claes Enander from Sweden in 1969. These two young men were each a part of our family for a year, and became "adopted sons". She continued very close relationships with each of them and their families throughout her life. She also helped place many other foreign exchange students into other homes.

My fondest memories of this time of our lives, were family vacation and reunions. Each Thanksgiving we would spend with Dad’s relatives and at least at Christmas we would gather at Mom’s parent’s big house in Pomona, where each of the four families had private suites, and we could easily spend several days together. There was much music, laughter, and games of all sorts.

Another skill that Gretchen became very well known for was cake decorating. It is estimated that she created over 100 beautiful and delicious cakes during her lifetime, for weddings, birthday parties and other occasions.

In 1971 we moved to Bexley, OH where Calvin took a job as an Associate Professor in the graduate department of Ohio State University. Mom continued singing at the Bexley United Methodist Church and joined a new PEO Group. She also resumed her teaching career while in Columbus, working with learning disabled kids of many ages. By 1976 both Caren and Garth had returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, while Laura continued living in the Columbus, OH area.

Gretchen and Cal always loved to entertain, and often had company for dinner. In Columbus they were part of a music appreciation group, that consisted of about 4 couples, and met once a month at one of the couple’s house for a potluck dinner and music program.

In about 1973, Cal left Ohio State and started consulting, which led to the founding of the International School Psychology Association. Mom acted as secretary and proofreader of several books. During this time they traveled together to many countries, putting on conferences, and leading tours of psychologists around the world. In 1980 Cal contracted bacterial meningitis, almost died, and never fully recovered. Gretchen and Cal were divorced in 1982 and Calvin died in 1984 in Orleans, France.

Caren and her husband Greg have two sons, Merlin and Casidy. Laura and her ex-husband Kenny had a daughter named Amanda. Amanda presented mom with a great granddaughter, named Korina. By 1989 we had all moved back to California.

Gretchen moved to Concord, CA in 1991 to be closer to her children. She attended church, PEO, and taught in the school systems at all levels, often helping with special education and the most challenging students that needed extra tutoring.

She lived a full life there for many years, square dancing with the Concord Stompers, decorating her condo, communicating with friends around the world and enjoying new friendships. One highlight was a Windjammer Barefoot sailing cruise in the Caribbean. Failing health required a move to Sunrise Senior Living in Santa Rosa, CA. in 2005. Her health issues at first looked critical, but ultimately resolved when properly diagnosed, which gave her three extra years.

Mom was great at keeping in touch with old friends and making new ones. Until very recently she still communicated regularly with friends from college, the Sunnyvale area, and from Bexley and Concord too. She was a member of several chapters of the PEO Sisterhood for over 60 years.

Gretchen Bruner Catterall goes home to the loving arms of her family, who have all preceded her in death, including her parents Harold Bruner and Marie Buxton Bruner, her sisters Betty Crowell, Marilyn Adkins, and Marguerite Miller. She is survived by her three children, and her friends and family, many of whom are here today.

This service is intentionally filled with music because that was such an important part of Gretchen’s life. Some of the songs were requested by her, but most just remind us of her, and others who have passed, yet remain with us in spirit.

We would now like to invite you all to tell us of your memories of Gretchen. Caren will go first and then whoever would like to share can come up and speak to us from here.