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Kathryn Aileen (Gallagher) Eilert, formerly from Jewell, was born on Jan. 9, 1917 on the family farm
out side of Jewell, KS. Kathryn was the second of four children born to Jo Gallagher of Jewell and Catharine (Feeney) Gallagher of Altoona, Penn.
Kathryn attended grade school at Couch School near the family farm. She graduated from Jewell High School in May, 1934. Teaching was always Kathryn’
s passion. After high school graduation, she completed Normal Training in 1938 to become a teacher. Kathryn taught in three Jewell County one
room schools, including Cyclone School, District No. 90 (Whitemound Township); South Hill School, District No. 106 (Center Township) and White School, District No. 78 (Center Township). These were followed by teaching assignments in Scottsville and Glasco, KS, again where she taught all ages. Miss. Gallagher, as she was called, attended college in the summer at Marymount College in Salina and Emporia Teacher’s College in Emporia where she earned her 2 year teaching degree. She drove dirt roads all the way to Emporia for her schooling.
She remembered seeing a sign at the 24/81 Junction that said, “Welcome to US 81 – the
Best Dirt Road in Kansas.” Kathryn taught for 12 years before meeting Francis Eilert of Mankato, KS. The new brick church was in the process of being built and there’s was not
only the first wedding in the new church, but they were married in the basement of the main body of the church was not yet completed.
Faith was very important to Kathryn and Francis or “Ike” as he was known for his friends. The Rosary was prayed daily and Mass attendance was very important.
When the polio virus spread through the nation in 1950’s, Kathryn was one of those to be affected. She was paralyzed on her left side and told that she would never walk again. Kathryn rode a tame old horse named Red that summer to get around, in spite of a fear of horses that she would never overcome. She was one of the few survivors of polio with no lasting damage although the effects of the virus would show itself again as she aged. In March of 1954, Ike and Kathryn moved back to her family farm in Jewell where Ike farmed with Kathryn’s mother.
They installed electricity in the house at that time. They continued to live with her mother, Catharine Gallagher, until her death in 1972. Joe and his wife, Kari, are now the third generation
to live in the big country home built by Joe Gallagher for his bride. Kathryn and Ike had four children. Mary Catherine was born in 1954, much of Kathryn and Ike’s delight. She was followed by Rose Elizabeth in 1956, Constance Marie in 1958, and Joseph Girard in 1960. Kathryn had hoped for a full house of children but due to their late start she was contented with
four! Kathryn taught whenever she could while the children were small, including St. John’s Catholic School in Beloit where she taught Rosin in 5th grade. She also taught Religious Education at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church for many years.
Ike died on July 2, 1975 in a harvest accident. Many friends and family left their own wheat fields during the harvest to help cut wheat for Ike and Kathryn. Suddenly a single parent Kathryn never remarried, even though Ike and she had been married less than 25 years. Kathryn taught religion at St. John’s High School in Beloit for 2 years. She also worked as a cook in the
Jewell school system for several years. Again, she was able to work with the children which continued to be her passion.
Kathryn lived on the family farm with Joe until 1983 when he married Kari Winkel.
She moved to Beloit, finally full-filling her lifetime dream of living close to the church. She attended daily Mass and
was involved in many prayer groups. She continued to live by herself until the age of 99 when a fall moved her to live with her daughter, Mary in Manhattan. This was another wonderful chapter in Kathryn’s life as she was able to see her many grandchildren who by this time were in college at Kansas State. Mary hosted “Sunday Night Dinners” and her small house was filled every time much to Grandma’s delight! During this time, she continued to be active in the church, riding her scooter to Mass and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Mary’s move to Topeka was a difficult one for Kathryn as she was a “social butterfly” and their location restricted her activities – her scooter couldn’t take her to daily Mass! In February, 2011, she moved to Hilltop Assisted Living in Beloit. While she was apprehensive of the move in the beginning, it proved to be a wonderful new home for her. She made many more friends and even started a prayer group there at the tender age of 98! One of her favorite foods was fried chicken and she was able to have that every Sunday. She was very happy during her time at Assisted Living and was loved by the residents there as well as the staff. She attended Mass at St. John’s Catholic Church in Beloit until the age of 100. She was the oldest living, attending parishioner in the Church at that time. Kathryn’s greatest joys in her later life were her 17 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren whom she visited often. Children sometimes assign names and she was known to the great grandchildren as “Old Grandma” which she delighted in. Kathryn passed away on Feb. 20, 2018 at the age of 101. She kept her smile and her sense of humor until the end. She was a living example of, “Bloom where you are planted.” Kathryn’s legacy was one of faith, family and friends. She will be loved and missed by many. Kathryn is preceded in death by Pat Gallagher of Council Bluffs, Iowa; Alice Gallagher Martin of Columbus, Georgia, and George Gallagher of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
She is survived by her children Mary Catherine DeBey of Topeka, Rose Elizabeth (Armon Jr.) Bosse of Onega, Constance Marie (Joe) Mushrush of Strong City, and Joseph Girard (Kari) Eilert of Jewell, 15 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren and many friends and family members.
Visitation will be from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018 at Kleppinger Funeral Home, 409 Broadway, Jewell, which is handling arrangements. Rosary will be at 7:00 p.m. Sunday night at St. John’s Catholic Church in Beloit. Funeral Services will be at St. John’s Catholic Church at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 26th, with burial following at St. Theresa Catholic Cemetery, Mankato. Memorials may be given to St. John’s Catholic School OR Family Choice.