Ellen Kathlyn Day, 87, of Johnston, Iowa, died Feb. 4, 2016, of congestive heart failure at Mercy Hospice, Johnston. She had a malfunctioning tricuspid heart valve and an antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Whether we called her “Ellen” or “Kathy,” we know her a spiritual adventurer, artist, peace activist, farm wife, independent living advocate and nature lover.
Flag Day was her double-dip anniversary: She was born June 14, 1928, to John Edwin and Laura Smith Hoge, on their dairy farm, Springville Road in Whittier, and in 1952 she married Charles Harold Day at Whittier Friends meetinghouse.
Chuck, a member of Center Friends Church in Kellogg, met Kathy over a pile of leaves in biology class at William Penn College, Oskaloosa.
A lifelong Quaker, Kathy grew up in Whittier Friends and Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), and was a member of Des Moines Valley Friends. Some of her Hoge Quaker relatives arrived in New Jersey in 1688, and her Scottish roots can be tracked even earlier.
She attended Whittier Friends primary school, Springville Consolidated Schools, Olney (Ohio) Friends School, and William Penn.
Kathy sought Christ in all forms, with studies through White Eagle Lodge, Johrei, A Course in Miracles, Edgar Cayce, Native American wisdom and nature. Healing arts studies roamed from nutrition to crystals to essential oils and Bach Flower Infusions to massage therapy to Willard Water.
People met her zest for life through the American Friends Service Committee, Stop The Arms Race*PAC, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Iowans Against the Death Penalty, 4H and Girl Scouts, and a swath of peace and service groups. If you can add to this list, please send a reminder about the work she did.
She loved horses and rode several, from a compact Shetland pony to a 16.5-hand Tennessee Walker. Fascinated by the wild, she loved watching the deer, fox and birds from her Twin Oaks porches. She once swam with a dolphin.
The secretarial skills Kathy plied at her first jobs stayed honed in support of Chuck’s peace activism and farming. Peace politics gave Kathy access to presidential candidates and lawmakers, retired military notables and Nervous Nellies.
One of Kathy’s favorite activities was gathering people for laughter, storytelling, friendship and Iowa college sports. With like-minded pursuers of writing, painting, quilting, knitting and gardening, she founded an “artist’s way” group.
She took us in, fed us, cheered our successes, softened our losses. One neighbor wrote for others, “We don’t think she ever carried an unkind thought about anyone or any thing.”
To realize daughter Becky’s concept for intergenerational housing for people with disabilities, Kathy and Chuck founded Dream Catcher Inc., which built Lyn Circle Apartments in Waukee and Lyn Crossing in southeast Des Moines.
Believing in a future life, Kathy invited us to ponder the transition with her.
She is now with her daughter, Rebecca Lyn Day, who died Feb. 26, 1997. We wonder what fun they are cooking up with sisters Selma Hoge of Whittier, and Mary Dunbar of Homasassa, Fla., and brothers Ivan of Central City, Arnold of Bear Creek, and Morris of Springville, all in Iowa.
Surviving are Chuck, son Christopher of Houston, Texas, (soon moving to Des Moines), grandchildren Connor of Olympia, Wash., and Emma (Elias), of Seattle, Wash., and chosen daughter Marion Love of Iowa City, Iowa. Her sister, Alma (Leonard) Keen, lives in Bloomington, Ind.
We wanted to name all her nieces, nephews, great-nieces and grand-nephews, but we lost count. Besides, how would we tally her circles of bonus family? You know the local ones: Winifred and Ellis Standing of Bear Creek, great-niece Cheryl Standing and her daughters Katie and September, Bear Creek, and great-niece Kathy plus bonus guy Mike Joyner, in Beaverdale. Jackie (Russ) Leckband and the Gerstenberger boys were bonus kids in the Day mix.
Memorial services will be set for a date most auspicious for a huge clan gathering.
Until then, we are collecting well-wishes, memories, pictures and condolences at email@example.com or by mail to Twin Oaks (the Day homestead), 5325 Burr Oak Dr., Johnston, IA 50131. Des Moines Valley’s Ministry & Counsel also has a collecting box.
Each of you know a non-profit that supports something Kathy loved. Please make memorial donations to a group affiliated with the Religious Society of Friends, AFSC, White Eagle Lodge or health research.
Otherwise you are encouraged to do something “in memoriam,” perhaps planting flowers, tending animals, or laughing together. Or rearrange the living room furniture.