Kathleen T. MageeMay 1, 1927 ~ June 11, 2017 (age 90)
Kathleen Theresa Ward Magee
Kathleen was born on May 1, 1927 in Pontiac, Michigan to Louis B. Ward and Elizabeth Dunn. She was the third of four children that included the oldest, Eleanor (Mimi, “the sweetest thing God ever let live”), followed by John (the “terrible”), and her younger brother Neil. Her father was a World War I Army veteran, historian, biographer, lobbyist, author, educator, and politician who staged two U.S. Senate campaigns. Her mother was a nurse and served in World War I with the Red Cross. Kathleen’s childhood was highlighted by the annual summer treks to upstate New York where the family owned a cottage on Star Lake. Kathleen cherished the memories of her summers with family at the cottage throughout her life. Her dad invited her to Washington DC for one trip and while he was working hired a taxi to drive Kathleen to all the sights of the city. At the end of the day, she tipped the taxi cab driver a nickel, much to the horror of her dad. Her mom passed away when Kathleen was 13 years old and her dad followed just two years later. She moved to Port Henry, NY with her godparents (Bill Cavenaugh and ) with brother Neil. After high school she attended the Albany Business College and then Marygrove College in Detroit. One May Day she convinced all the girls to carry out an Irish tradition of washing their faces in the dew. A few hours later, they all had a peculiar and uncomfortable rash. While she dreamed of going to Cornell University, her godfather thought the coed environment would be a big distraction so he only permitted her to attend the women only Marygrove. While the rules were very strict she shared many stories of young men coming to call on her for dates as a college student.
After graduation, she began teaching in the Detroit Public Schools and in 1953 she took a sabbatical where she taught American children in post-World War II Japan. She said her principal wanted the very best from her teachers from Monday through Friday but she didn’t want to see them on the weekends, instead they were to explore Japan. Among other activities, she climbed Japan’s highest peak, Mount Fuji. Before going to Japan she was on a date with a man who was a friend of Charles Brian Magee. They met Brian and invited him to join them the next evening for a bridge game; Kathleen provided a date for Brian. After that, Brian called Kathleen and they had an epic date starting at 2 pm at Pat Flowers Piano Bar, continuing through the evening (only after Brian called his mother to say he wouldn’t be home for dinner), and ending at 2 am. Brian, who was working on his PhD at Purdue University, put Kathleen on the train to Japan.
When she returned from Japan, Kathleen and Brian’s romance resumed with her taking many trips from Detroit to West Lafayette, IN. One time she brought the Thanksgiving turkey with her; other trips were to watch the Purdue football games. On Christmas Eve 1954, Brian proposed and they were married on July 16, 1955. They honeymooned in the Bahamas where they enjoyed walks along the moonlit beach. Brian was hired by General Electric in Cincinnati, OH so they packed and moved and here their first son, Robert Marion III was born. The next year Brian’s work took them to Oak Ridge,TN where Colleen Margaret was born. Back in Cincinnati, Brian Michael was born the following year. Next stop was Deerfield, IL where Christopher John was born. Brian’s career changed at this point as he joined the faculty at University of Denver and they moved to Littleton, CO in 1961. They put down deep roots here and raised their family. Three more children were born in Colorado, James Patrick, Patrick Andrew, and finally one more girl Mary Caitlin. Despite all the demands of raising a family, Kathleen was back in the classroom earning her Master’s degree in 1968 from University of Denver. She was actively engaged with the DU Women’s faculty Club on all sorts of activities including downhill skiing. Kathleen hosted many dinner parties for neighbors and DU faculty friends and some of Brian’s graduate students. During these years the family attended the annual family night of dinner and a DU Pioneers hockey game. IN Littleton, the two story Bemis house was pretty crammed with nine family members but the backdoor was the front door and the dutch door was always open to neighbors and friends. The home was a gathering place for many and Kathleen’s generosity of spirit was always present.
The house was only the second one built in the neighborhood and sod was laid down for a lawn. Kathleen loved flowers and gardening and begin her task of cutting away the grass to make room for flowers. She employed her army of seven kids to dig up sod each summer and add just a bit more room for tulip bulbs and various annuals. Along the south fence vegetables were planted. Later in life she became an inaugural volunteer for Hudson Gardens and weekly would spend hours weeding and planting the new botanic gardens.
Another passion was hiking. She loved wildflowers and took her children on many hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Along the Fern Lake Trail she would place a can of Hawaiian Punch in the ice cold stream while we hiked or played on fallen logs and returned to a cold drink. Her love of hiking led her to join the Colorado Mountain Club and she regularly joined many outings along the Front Range with the younger children and later she travelled with CMC on their summer week-long campouts and eventually to Alaska and Norway.
Her love of nature and recreating in it was passed down to all of her children. The family spent summer vacations touring the western US in a VW bus camping in national parks in the mountains, deserts and ocean coasts. In 1965, Kathleen won a raffle at Lemke’s Meat Market on Littleton’s Main Street and she spent her winnings on a large, ten-man canvas tent that served as the family’s summer quarters on many trips to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Dinner Station along the Taylor River, Grand Teton National Park all the way to Lake Michigan and Carpenteria beach in California.
Kathleen was a devoted Catholic her entire life. She was an active parishioner at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Littleton where among other things she signed up for several trips to the Holy Land, Rome and the Vatican, Greece, Germany and Ireland.
Kathleen taught in the Littleton Public Schools for many years focusing on reading and students with learning disabilities. She was a dedicated teacher who worked diligently on curriculum and student assessment. The dining room table was frequently piled high with stacks of her school papers.
Kathleen created traditions for her family. Every holiday was a big deal. Every birthday was celebrated in a meaningful way. At Christmas she started the tradition of making the famous Magee fudge that was delivered to all the neighbors and teachers for years, a tradition that continues to this day. Every Sunday the family gathered around the dining room table for a special feast consisting of roast beef, roast potatoes, vegetables, crescent rolls, au jus, and Colleen’s apple pie. Kathleen spent hours planning menus for the week of meals and on Saturday mornings, with list in hand and 2-3 kids tagging along, she made her trek to Safeway. The kids were deployed to find bread on one aisle and cereal on another. By the time she reached the checkout the cart was piled high love-filled meals researched in cookbooks and newspaper sections.
After Brian passed away in 1983, Kathleen worked for the Air Force and then the Department of Education before retiring. Kathleen dedicated much of her life to the public education system and was a lifelong learner. In retirement she volunteered at Damon Runyon working for Carol Zimmerman in the 3rd grade for many years. She had many causes and affiliations including 4-H, the Colorado Mountain Club, Saint Mary’s, Bemis Library, the Denver Zoo, Museum and Botanical Gardens, and Hudson Gardens, among others. She loved reading and belonged to book clubs at Saint Mary’s and the Bemis Library. After leaving Littleton her book club retained her as an honorary member sending her the list of books to read and calling her during their meetings. She cherished this group. She also copiously read the Denver Post and watched the news nightly. She kept daily journals tracking her own activities and those of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Kathleen dwelled in Littleton for 55 years most of this time at 6940 South Bemis Street. In the early years Mrs. Stone was the indispensable baby sitter. The neighborhood was enriched by many wonderful families. She spent 7 years at Riverpointe and a short stint at Morningstar before moving to Gunnison, Colorado where she lived at the Senior Care Center with a deeply caring staff.
Kathleen was a social, friend-making, adventure loving, compassionate woman. She gave life to 7 children, 18 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren.
Funeral Mass to be held Monday, June 19th t 12:00 p.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church with burial to follow at Littleton Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to American Cancer Society in Kathleen's memory.