We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp Funeral Home
Kathleen, who we all affectionally have known and called Kat, was born on January 15, 1947, to Gisele and Lawrence Busey. Her mother hailed from France and her father was French American making her a Franco-American baby – a first in CT. She was the oldest of 6 children and was followed by Jacqueline, Philip, Daniel, Guy – who preceded her in death and Gisele.
As a young child Kat traveled and spent time in France often where she got to know her maternal grandparents. She talked of memories of being there with family. At 8, the family relocated to California where she spent her formative elementary school years. The family again relocated to Dayton, OH when Kat was 13. It was here she graduated from Belmont Senior High School.
Kat came to New Orleans in 1970. She discovered Shir Chadash and began to attend eventually becoming a member. She taught Sunday school which we now identify as Shul School. She held the position of teacher here until 1985. It was during her tenure of teaching here, she was hired as, an Executive Secretary/Assistant to Rabbi Hillel A. Fine, OBM. In her own immortalized tribute online to him she stated, “I was associated with Rabbi Hillel A. Fine for over 15 years. He was my teacher starting in 1970 where he taught me beginning Hebrew and Torah. He was my teacher and mentor.” She worked at Hillel House from 1975-1985. He influenced and helped her become successful professionally and personally. She has always been extremely grateful for his kindness and direction while taking her under his wing. She expressed of her career paths; it was there at Hillel that were the most fulfilling. Rabbi Fine, OBM, was instrumental in her college matriculation. It began with his support of her auditing classes at Tulane. He had only one requirement; she also had to take the examinations the students were administered. This increased her confidence and enabled her to make concrete decisions about her future. With much sadness she left a job she LOVED and always referred to herself as a “Hillel Princess” from her many years of employment there.
She went on to attend the University of New Orleans. It was here she got a taste of engineering and was determined to become a mechanical engineer. She pursued that path and took the opportunity of being a student worker intern for the Army Corp of Engineers. It took several years but she did earn her Bachelor of Science in 1988. For those familiar with the group Guns ‘N Roses and there breakout hit, “Welcome to the Jungle” hers was Welcome to the Secular World at Boh Brothers. She worked in the pipe yard and expressed employment there was very traumatic. However, like the title of Chelsea Clinton’s children’s book, “She Persisted”.
After the tragedy of the space shuttle, she continued her education by attending Delgado and earned credentials in safety and inspection. She went on to work for Owenbsy & Krikos in the capacity of non-destructive testing. Her final employer before retirement was Southern Natural Gas currently known as Kinder Morgan with their gas pipeline.
Kat was married to John Robbins who went by Jack, who preceded her in death in 2020. From this union they were blessed with Shawn, who was born November 6, 1966. After becoming a divorcee, she met and married John Kay, who preceded her in death in 2002. They were blessed with Sharon, who was born May 27, 1975. Although they divorced, she was always grateful to John for being an exceptionally great parent and father to both Shawn and Sharon. It was Kat’s last husband, John Huerkamp, also known as Jack, who she credits for being that support and resource to enable her to finish college. She benefited from a sound career and enjoyed a stable retirement.
Kat had a zest for life and learning. Kat wanted everyone to know she was a former smoker but more importantly a fiercely devoted mother. She lived a challenging, purposeful, rewarding and incredibly fun life.
Kat loved Mardi Gras! One year after the inception of Krewe du Jieux, she became a member. She excitedly each year decorated their coveted bagel throws and walked the famed Marigny and French Quarter route. She became their Krewe Web Mistress and maintained their website until leaving. She continued to be a part of Mardi Gras merriment becoming a founding member of Krewe du Mishigas. She was a member of their decorating committee and was instrumental in the creativity process to develop unique designs of their signature throws. She LOVED the krewe and made original throws not only for herself but other members and did it year-round.
In retirement, she also enjoyed the online game Second Life. For fifteen years, she was Kat Caronet via her avatar. The last ten years she had been an administrator and enjoyed playing with her friend, Sarah Gordon of Florida.
As I briefly mentioned earlier of her time as a Sunday school teacher, it was here she enjoyed her religious family - especially the Sisterhood! Minyans and activities surrounding the shul were important and you could find her at many of them. Kat was religiously observant and lit Shabbos candles in addition to keeping kosher.
Another activity she loved was the People Program where she had opportunities to gain more knowledge. She was a longtime participant until Covid-19. She found kindred spirits along with a variety of classes of interest. Her favorite classes had to do with Art and especially painting.
One of her favorite artists is Jacek Yerka, a polish surrealist painter. Her favorite of his vast catalog can be found in her dining room and is titled, “A picture within a picture”. It was this work that was especially poignant as she shared with me over 2 years ago she would not survive her diagnosis.
Kay leaves behind two children: Shawn, who she unconditionally loved, respected and was continuously proud of; Sharon who brought her so much joy and she fiercely LOVED; daughter-in-law, Jessica Robbins; grandsons: Hayden Robbins and fiancée Alise Kelehan; Hunter Robbins and wife Oksana Balabanova; Ethan Smith and Eric Forseth and her great-grand-daughter, Amelia Fae.
A Service was held at Shir Chadash Conservative Synagogue in Metairie, LA. Interment was at Tikvat Shalom in St. Rose, LA.