Catherine Vasterling Wolfe died peacefully on Wednesday August 26, 2020; she was 84. She was the wife of the late George C. Wolfe; the mother of three sons, David, Michael and Philip; and the grandmother of six, including two granddaughters. She worked for many years as a librarian at the New Orleans Public Library Main Branch where she served many patrons from her perch in Information and Reference. She was a friend of any dog with a fluffy tail, and her rabbits over years were all named Attila the Bun. If the joke’s funny, don’t mess with it.
The story goes that LSU-UNO admitted her to graduate school because she scored the maximum in Verbal and a Zero in Math. Dad swore it was true but doubters exist. When I was young I remembered what happened and what didn’t. As I’ve grown old, I only remembered what didn’t.
How do you sum up a person’s life? With mom, her quirky sayings seem appropriate.
“A Place for Everything, and Everything in its Place”: wife of an art teacher and mother of three sons: sorry, this never happened. “Neat but not Gaudy, as the Devil Painted his Tail Pea Green.” Raising children who all went their own ways leads to many missteps and questionable fashion choices. Mom smiled and said: “Neat but not gaudy…” It took many years to figure out what she was talking about, and even a few more to appreciate her patience in letting her children make their own mistakes as they charted their own course. “K.I.S.S.”: “Aw, thanks mom. That’s so sweet.” Cue the look, and then she’d write Keep it Simple, Stupid. And, of course, there was the inevitable: Eat Dessert First; You Might Not Make it Through Dinner.
Catherine was a lady who enjoyed a Whiskey Sour, and a great meal someone else cooked. When she asked how her children learned to cook, “Right next to you at the stove, mom.” She’s still laughing at that one. Mom’s menu for the eternal banquet: Pizza! Trout Almandine, Fried Shrimp, Fried Oysters, Fried Soft Shell Crab, Peanut Butter, Pizza, Pasta, Rice, Potatoes, Crawfish Monica, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Fried Chicken, Beef Bourguignon, and Pizza. What will never be on the table: Turnips. Did mom ever serve any of that for dinner? Not unless she’d made reservations.
For dessert: everything, but the centerpiece would have to be K&B’s Chocolate Pecan Divinity as a never-ending ice cream sculpture. Doberge Cake, MacKenzie’s King Cake, Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce, Brocato’s Cannolis, and Pecan Pie would all be welcome on the dessert table served with some CDM Coffee.
Catherine reigned as Queen of the Freret Parade, supported her husband and children in their endeavors, and was more diplomat than firebrand in the great tradition of Lindy Boggs. During their retirement in Natchitoches, LA Catherine attended faithfully First United Methodist Church, joined both Hysterical Societies because she liked the dresses, and appeared regularly on the morning radio call-in show as “the New Orleans Lady” sweetly correcting some of the more feisty regulars who espoused some nutty ideas about some of our fellow citizens. Gifts and personal purchases over the years yielded no less than 1,000 bunny figurines and paintings before her move back to New Orleans - we are down to about 100 now.
In the last decade of her fruitful life, Catherine could be found watching War Movies and Lectures, reading - along with her friend Barbara - for hours on end, and being just the coolest patient any nurse or caregiver could have. She was, in truth, always hungry. “It’s my natural state.” Sometimes a war movie could distract her, but not for long. “If I ever don’t want my dinner, you should call the undertaker.” Turns out she was serious. If this seems a little too personal, “Well, someone has to be Erma Bombeck’s mother.” What a sweetie.
Mom outlasted most of her friends and family members, so the family will gather at an appropriate time for quiet tombside service, sing a hymn if able, and retire to a favorite restaurant like Liuzza’s, Reginelli’s, or whatever delicious eatery than will welcome us. In lieu of flowers, please do something that helps others (like become a Friend of the Library), raise a cocktail, and eat something yummy at your favorite restaurant. Always remember, Eat Dessert First; You Might Not Make it Through Dinner.
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