Kathleen was born in Philadelphia on September 30, 1922. She was the fourth child of James and Julia Duff and, eventually, one of nine. After graduating from high school, with the highest grade point average in her class we’re told, Kathleen began working in the offices of Dun and Bradstreet. It was there she met the man who would become her husband of 54 years, George.
Their courtship was interrupted by the start of World War II, when George joined the Army and left to serve in Europe. They were far apart, but their relationship continued in a long series of cards and letters ... one in which George wrote he missed her so much he found himself writing her name in his mashed potatoes.
After the war, Kathleen and George were married and held a reception at the Kensington Bubble Club. They made a cute pair – George standing 6-feet tall and Kathleen just 5-foot-2. You could find them jitterbugging on any dance floor – sometimes to her peril. There was the time her heel got caught in the hem of her dress and she fell to the floor, breaking her wrist in the process. She spent the night in the hospital but didn’t sleep. She was up using her good hand to slowly roll down her girdle. She wouldn’t let the nurse help, because, while getting dressed to go out that night, she realized there was a rip in that girdle. George, ever the clever one, fixed it with a bright red bicycle patch.
It was not unusual to find Kathleen singing along as George played the organ in the living room after dinner each night. Bungalow for Two was their favorite number, but no song was off limits. Each was usually accompanied by Kathleen’s signature move–snapping her fingers and doing a bit of a backstroke at the same time. She’d often sing unaccompanied as well. She rocked many a baby to sleep with a rendition of Tantum Ergo. And she’d treat her grandchildren to uplifting songs from her mother, such as I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Solider and the ever popular World War 1 favorite Please Mister Take Me in Your Car.
Kathleen and George were devoted parents to four children, George, Jim, Kathy and Nancy. When the children were young, Kathleen stayed home. Later, she went back to work ... first at a bank, then at doctors’ offices. All the while, she was very active in her local church. She ran the annual clothing drive, served as head of the Women’s Sodality, made meals for the poor, and volunteered in many other ways. She was never too busy for a friend...or to bake her famous apple or chocolate cakes. Many times, she’d take a piece from those cakes before she served them. But she made sure to push them back together so we wouldn’t notice. She just couldn’t help herself.
Kathleen was a self-proclaimed chocoholic. She never met a chocolate she didn’t like. She loved TastyKakes and Whitman’s chocolates. Some of her best years were the ones when George went to the Whitman plant to fix machines and could buy the reject chocolates at a good price. The freezer was full of them. As the Bollinger family grew, Kathleen was always a willing babysitter. First George, Jamie and Mary Kay added a new level of excitement. They were soon joined by Jimmy, Katie, Billy, Christine, Melissa, Lauren, Brian, Keith, Dustin, Becky, Caitlin. Then came Alex, Quinn and a number of great-grandchildren.
Kathleen loved the home she lived in for more than 50 years on Ronnald Drive. And she loved filling it with her brothers, sisters and many nieces and nephews. For years she hosted a sit down dinner for 40 at Thanksgiving. It was a tight fit, but a happy time.
Once she and George retired, they spent a lot of time traveling here and abroad. When the family was young, they enjoyed vacations in Ocean City, New Jersey. While her children frolicked on the beach under the hot summer sun, often without sunscreen, Kathleen spent her time underneath the boardwalk, wearing a hat and slathered in Sea and Ski. That explains the flawless complexion that stayed with her even in her 90s.
Kathleen had a great smile and, when she found something really funny, she had the most interesting laugh. She would laugh so hard tears would come to her eyes and she couldn’t talk. It was an amazing reaction, and one we’ve missed.
Over the last 17 years, Alzheimer’s disease slowly took Kathleen from us. We watched in sadness as her memory failed and the last flicker of recognition was lost. But we never lost sight of who she was...and we’ll forever be grateful for having the good fortune of being a part of her life. We’d like to thank the staff at Symphony Manor for the kindness and care they provided Kathleen. It did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Services and burial will be held privately.
Family kindly asks for donations in Kathleen's honor to the Alzheimer's Association, Delaware Valley Chapter, 399 Market Street, #102, Philadelphia, PA 19106, 1-800-272-3900, http://www.alz.org/delval/donate.
To share condolences with Kathleen’s family, please go to www.hollenfuneralhome.com.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Kathleen A. (Duff) Bollinger, please visit our floral store.
Alzheimers Association, Delaware Valley Chapter
399 Market Street #102, Philadelphia PA 19106