Katherine Ann (Oliver) Friedemann

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Katharine Ann (Oliver) Friedemann was born on Nov. 1, 1935, to the sound of loud cheering in the city of Gardiner. A high school football game was being played next to the hospital and the cheering crowd welcomed Katharine into the world. She was the third daughter of Dorothy McIntire Oliver and Robert Linwood Oliver. Although Kay’s family moved several times during her childhood Kay found it easy to make and keep friends, many of whom she has kept in contact with most of her life, no matter where she was. From Gardiner, her family moved to Old Orchard Beach during WWII where her father worked in the shipyards. It was there that her great love for the ocean, beach, and sea creatures was formed and stayed with her for the rest of her life.

After WWII, her family remained in Old Orchard Beach until 1948, when they moved back to Gardiner. Her first real summer job was at an old hotel located on Pemaquid Point, quite a walk from Bristol, and even farther from home in Gardiner. Kay’s adventurous nature was piqued when she discovered an old Ford flatbed pickup truck, with a stick shift and a missing gas pedal in the hotel lot. She was able to get permission from the hotel owners to drive it, which came in handy when Kay and the other waitresses wanted to go to town. That summer she lived with the other waitresses in a dorm near the hotel. The next two summers brought Kay back to Old Orchard Beach where she worked at a hotel owned by a friend of her mother’s. One of the most important encounters of her life took place during those two summers. Kay met a handsome young man from Rhode Island who was going to college and worked at the resort as a cook during the summers. It was love at first sight for the young man who admitted to a co-worker that he felt Kay was out of his league. They officially met when Kay saved the day by throwing flour on the young man’s arms when he spilled hot oil from a tray and burned himself. Kay, being the only one that could drive a stick shift, got the young man to the hospital for treatment. The young man’s name was Richard Friedemann. Kay graduated from Gardiner H.S. June 1954 and on Nov. 26, 1954 they were married, and Kay Oliver became Katharine Ann Friedemann.

Kay and Richard moved to Warwick, R.I., close enough to her family so that she could visit them frequently. On May 3, 1956 Kay gave birth to their first child, Karen, while Richard was taking his college finals. His professors did not let him know about Karen’s birth until he had finished. He had to hitch hike to the hospital to see his wife and newborn baby. On April 10, 1960, Kay gave birth to their son, Mark, and six months later, Richard and Kay packed up their two kids and moved to Waterloo, Iowa for a better job opportunity, leaving behind their many friends and Kay’s family.

Over the 20-plus years that Kay and her family lived in Waterloo they made many friends and kept in touch with their friends back east. By 1962 they were able to buy their first home and Kay met Joann Townsend and they became close friends. That friendship has continued over the years no matter the distance between them. Richard and Kay and their children also became close friends with Jack and Fran Kerr and their family. Those friendships continue to this day. Family was always important to Kay; so, every two years Kay and family took the trip back to Maine for McIntire Family Reunions. Their adventurous spirit took Kay, Richard, and family to almost every state in the U.S. during other vacations. Kay had a sixth sense when it came to navigation and kept the family on the right roads even in cities they had never been in before.

Kay was an active member of the League of Women Voters, a local organization that rehabbed homes for low-income families and was involved with the local Civil Rights movement, helping the organization prove discriminatory hiring practices at a local grocery store.

In 1974 Richard and Kay travelled to Krakow, Poland where Richard was born. Their trip was filled with great sight-seeing and wonderful encounters with old friends who had surprisingly survived the war. It also focused on Richard’s ongoing battle to recover his home from the communists and later the Polish government. That visit in 1974 was at times harrowing for Kay as she did not speak Polish and the people they met there, who helped them, did not speak English. In those times, the English language was forbidden to be taught. Several times while in Poland, Richard publicly spoke out against Communist rule, a brave and risky action that could have led to his arrest and imprisonment. Kay nervously watched as communist troops glared at Richard, she took his arm and lead him away. Kay witnessed the ugly truth of how communism can ruin a beautiful city, a country and oppress the people who live there. More importantly, she saw the resilience and perseverance of the Polish people. Richard and Kay returned many times over those many years and shared the victory of their persistence when Richard recovered his home in 1996.

With both their children grown, Richard and Kay moved from Waterloo, Iowa to Cleveland, and then to Jacksonville, Fla., where Kay was part of the first group of people to be hired at the Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, even before the clinic was built. Kay quickly moved up the ranks to floor supervisor due to her excellent work ethic and her long experience in the dental and medical fields. During her time as a supervisor, she was involved with moving the information system from paper to a digital system. Later she moved up from supervision to a training position in charge of all new incoming desk attendants. During the 10 years that Kay worked at Mayo Clinic she made many friends and earned the respect of many of the doctors she worked with. She was a wonderful mentor to many of the young people she trained, always modeling her great work ethic along with her great sense of humor. Kay had a knack for problem solving and getting people to work together.

From the time Richard and Kay moved to Florida, until 2008, they traveled extensively including trips to Italy, Austria, Bermuda, and the Alps where they skied together and took in the sites. Their trip to England and Scotland included their longtime friends Jack and Fran Kerr. When Richard decided to write his book about his childhood and experiences during WWII, Kay was by his side helping him. They were a team, inseparable, made all decisions together, and were forever in love and committed to each other completely. She was the mediator, the peacemaker, confidant, the chef of so many delicious dishes. She was an elegant yet simple spirit. Delighting in travel, art, and being a mother. Her presence was and is a comfort to us. She was Richard’s right hand.

In 2008, at the age of 73, Kay was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Her strength, humor and grace lasted several years into her diagnosis, but in the latter years she lost the ability to speak. Even with this terrible affliction, we could tell she understood everything going on around her and was able to acknowledge that understanding. She was always the one that held our family together during our trials, tribulations, and joy. Katharine Ann Friedemann beloved mother and wife will be sorely missed by her family, friends, and those whose lives she touched.

She is survived by her sister, Janet Conroy; son, Mark, daughter, Karen; grandchildren Jessica and Shane; four great-grandchildren; six nieces, one nephew; and many cousins. Katharine lost her beloved husband, Richard, in 2019; and her oldest sister, Jean Turner, in 2006.

She loved each and every member of the family, who are too numerous to mention here, but know that you were always in her thoughts. She loved family reunions and the chance to visit with the Conroy’s, Turner’s, Ranco’s, Donnell’s, McIntire’s, Salvati’s, Davis’s and many more.

Funeral services for Katharine will be held August 7 at 10 a.m. at Culley’s MeadowWood Memorial Park, 700 Timberlane Rd., Tallahassee, Fla.

Live streaming will be provided on the Culley’s Funeral Home and MeadowWood Memorial Park facebook page https://www.facebook.com/meadowwoodmemorialpark.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to Alzheimer’s research and/or Cancer research in her name. Alzheimer’s robbed us all of her wit and wisdom as it does with so many people. Please be a part of the solution for this tragic disease.

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