Kathryn (Kathy) Eileen Yonning Richardson
November 23, 1952 - February 6, 2023
Loving wife and life partner of Daniel (Dan) Craig Richardson
Wonderful mother of Nikolaus Drake Richardson
Looking back on our lives we probably all wish we had done some things differently. We can languish in self-pity for hardships we face along the way but looking around there is someone, somewhere that is truly worse off than ourselves. My wife and life partner had every right to self-pity and bitterness, but she chose not to go down that dark path. Kathryn (Kathy) Eileen Yonning Richardson left her broken body behind and passed on Monday, February 6, 2023, to join our son to watch over me.
Kathy was born on November 23, 1952, in Onaga, Kansas to James and Marylin (Wegner) Yonning. She grew up in Manhattan, Kansas and graduated from Kansas State University. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Wayne Yonning, and our son, Nikolaus Drake Richardson. Her closest surviving relatives are her aunt, Arletta Bennett, of Aurora, CO, her sister-in-law, Janet Yonning (Wayne’s wife) of St. George, KS, brothers and sisters-in-law David Richardson (Sharon) of Cleveland Heights, OH, Ralph Richardson (Beverly), of Olathe, KS, and me.
Kathy and I met in 1973 in downtown Manhattan, Kansas at the Vista Villager. It was a chance meeting on a very warm summer night, introduced by a mutual friend, Cindy (Anderson) Stitt, when we all were having the urge for ice cream. Thinking she was way out of my league, it took quite some time for me to get the courage to ask her out. The rest is truly history. We were married in 1975 in Manhattan while we both were attending Kansas State University. She completed both undergraduate and graduate studies. She received her Master’s degree in Biology soon after we were married. She was an active member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority as well as with her fellow Biology graduate students. Thanks to her frugal nature, and skill at budgeting (and sticking to it!), we were able to live on her research and teaching assistantship stipend. Her research was in pancreatic regeneration and was leading edge research that has been the basis of techniques used today. Her major professor, Brian Spooner, never forgave me from stealing her away before he could get her to follow up on her work with a PhD.
After graduation our life journey took us to Auburn University, the University of Tennessee, Purdue, North Carolina State University, and then back to Kansas. She worked in research in labs at Auburn and the University of Tennessee. At Auburn, working in a lab at the Veterinary School, she interacted with many students from around the US and the world. She was the instigator of several “international” potluck dinners in our relatively cramped mobile home in Conway’s Trailer Park. When in Tennessee she loved our trips into the Smoky Mountains where we enjoyed camping, trying to catch enough trout for a meal, sliding down the mountain ravines on piles of Fall leaves in Cades Cove, and playing tourist in Gatlinburg and surrounding areas. Our son, Nikolaus, was born in Knoxville just before the World’s Fair. Nik’s god parents are our close friends Lyda and DJ Krahwinkel.
We then made our first “post being a student” move to Lafayette, IN where I took my first faculty position and Kathy settled into being the most wonderful mother our son could ever have. She was very active in the church choir and helping with vacation bible school. My brother, Ralph and his family, were in Lafayette where he too was on the faculty at Purdue. It was wonderful having family near and the chance for cousins to get to know one another. Her one harrowing experience in Indiana was a frozen gas line stalling the car on a country road in the midst of a frigid winter storm. Pre-cell phone era, Kathy, ever prepared, bundled Nik in a blanket and hiked to a farmhouse where all turned out fine.
Our next move was to North Carolina where I was on faculty. In 1989 she was diagnosed with a tumor within her spinal cord. Her recovery following surgery was nothing short of miraculous. 1991 found us back in Kansas, close to home and able to be close and provide support for aging parents. Soon to follow was a recurrence of her tumor and a diagnosis of MS. A second surgery in 1993 resulted in her requiring a wheelchair and the MS kept her in the chair for the remainder of her life. Kathy’s personality was such that she absorbed the negative and reflected the positive throughout her life. She didn’t have the time, and ultimately didn’t have the energy to put up with arguing or outright negativity.
Even when trapped inside a physical body broken by a spinal cord tumor and MS, those that knew her know she never complained. She was kind, smart, and gracious. She always smiled, which our son Nik inherited. She was a very strong individual that quietly inspired others by her actions, not her words. She fought fearlessly to maintain her independence and was very self-sufficient up until the very latest years of her life. Besides the challenging physical constraints, in 1999 she had to deal with the loss of our son. Nikolaus, the high school student body president, the kid that everyone liked, the son that was our pride and joy, smart, effervescent, loving, kind, compassionate, and smart, became a victim of suicide. This forever changed us. We only had 2 choices, go forward or not. Kathy battled through and we chose to go forward, not give up. We were and have always been a team, leaning on each other for support. In 2008 we were asked by Kansas State University to lead the development of the new Kansas State University Olathe campus. I say “we” because the leadership at KSU knew we were a team. So, while I worked on getting the campus built, she became involved with the Olathe Persons with Disabilities Advisory Board (PDAB). This was one of the happiest times of her life. She was the instigator and integral to the establishment of a voluntary review process in Olathe for new or remodeled buildings to help exceed the minimum requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in order to achieve a more universal design for accessibility. The new KSU Olathe campus was one of the first to benefit from this review process. The campus received the first award for accessibility given out by the board and the city of Olathe.
Unknown to most, Kathy was an accomplished artist and writer. I was the sole beneficiary of her art as she was quite private and did not choose to “exhibit” her work. I received hand painted cards on Christmas, Valentines, birthdays, and anniversaries with her original personal, heartfelt verses that were thematic with the picture. The painting always represented something current in our life together.
Slowly her body became her limiting force. Losing her ability to paint was probably the greatest loss for her. However, she still did not complain. She cherished the visits from friends and family. My brother David and sister-in-law Sharon as well as their son, our nephew Mark Richardson, and his family, made numerous trips from Ohio and Maryland respectively over the last few years to be with her. Their daughter, our niece Helena, never missed communicating with Kathy on Mother’s Day, Nik’s Birthday, nor the anniversary of Nik’s death. My brother Ralph and sister-in-law Beverly in Olathe were ever at our beck and call whenever we needed them. She loved those visits, even when she wasn’t able to interact and visit to the time and level she would have wished.
These last few years have been challenging to everyone. We need to remember being shut in, unable to get out and socialize are hardships but nothing like what Kathy and others in her situation endure for life. My greatest joy in life is knowing that when people see me, they see Kathy. We were a team and always will be forever and ever. Amen
Kathryn's service will be livestreamed at the scheduled service time. Click Here
to view the service.
Visitation will be held Friday, February 17, 2023, 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm at Mount Hope Cemetery & Funeral Chapel in Topeka.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, February 18, 2023, 11:00 am at the Mount Hope Cemetery & Funeral Chapel.
Inurnment will take place in the Mount Hope Cemetery at a later date.
Memorial contributions may be made to the 'KSU Foundation' sent in care to:
1800 Kimball Ave., Ste 200,
Manhattan, KS 66502,
*please indicate fundM47434 (Kathy and Dan Richardson Graduate Student Support for the Division of Biology) or to make a gift online, go to www.ksufoundation.org/give/memorials.
Or to the 'Greater Kansas City Community Foundation', for her son, write "Nikolaus Drake Richardson Memorial Scholarship Fund" on the memo line, and sent in care to:
Greater Kansas City Community Foundation,
1055 Broadway Blvd., Suite 130,
Kansas City, MO 64105
or to make a gift online go to https://gkccf.kimbia.com/rich17.