13 Jan Kaethe Johanna Radomski
Kaethe Johanna Radomski
The amazing Kaethe Johanna Radomski, wife, mother, and friend died January 7th, 2019 but her style, class, humor, intelligence, and trademark stubbornness will not be forgotten.
Undeviatingly spirited, plucky and tenacious, she showed all of us, over many years, her optimism, her extraordinary sweetness, and her singular gift of sincerity that could leave you overwhelmed with the kindest and brightest of smiles. Kaethe did not allow anything — shoulder replacements, knee replacements, power tool injuries — keep her from doing what she loved: woodworking, hiking, spending time with her grandkids, having whiskey and chocolate for dessert, and repeatedly and solidly defeating Rick in their many, many games of Five Crowns. She was an outspoken woman of great personal strength that impressed (and sometimes frightened) everyone she encountered.
Kaethe was born in 1940 in Waldenburg, a small Silesian town, then in eastern Germany, now Polish. In 1945, she and her mother, Ruth, were relocated as the Russian Army approached Waldenburg near the end of the war. They were placed on an army train that traveled at night and hid in tunnels during the day to avoid Allied bombers. They snuck out to steal potatoes from nearby fields when the train stopped. After many days they arrived in Aalen Germany, a city in Baden-Württemberg about 40 miles east of Stuttgart, where they were first placed with local families. They were joined by Kaethe’s cousin, Martin, who was relocated from another area. Martin essentially became Kaethe’s brother as Ruth raised the two together through the German high school system until Martin left for army service and Kaethe went to a language school in Munich. Kaethe’s first memory of encounter with an American was seeing a soldier driving a tank through their town. And she told stories of herself as a child, befriending one of the soldiers and getting to ride on a tank much to the bewilderment of her family.
She survived, endured and conquered her young life in Germany as a resilient and creative soul. She had many stories to tell, first of the hard times soon after the war ended, then of bicycle trips with friends in the country where they slept outside near the road, school dances, and train trips to visit relatives, many which she shared with us during her trip to Germany this past summer. These early experiences set the tone for her life ~ for her fierce will to live, strength to endure, gratitude for all things she had and unconditional love for family and friends.
Kaethe immigrated to Vancouver, Canada in 1961 and married Ronald Kirkby in 1962. The Kirkby family took her in, adored her, and to this day have been loving and supportive. Kaethe and Ron had a daughter (Tanya) in 1970 and due to life’s peculiar and interesting paths, were divorced a year later. Kaethe and Ron remained friends; in fact, Kaethe would later introduce Jan Burton to Ron and the two were married and started a beautiful family of their own. Even through divorce, Kaethe was unconditionally accepting and loving of all her friends and family. Kaethe and Tanya moved to La Jolla, California, where Kaethe met the love of her life, John Frederick Ash (Rick) in 1975 and they quickly became a family. They married in 1978 and together they lived a life full of unparalleled adventures; traveling, camping, hiking (that included crossing Swasey’s Leap by crawling over old, rickety planks 60 feet above Muddy Creek…in the dark…with flashlights…only to have to climb on hands and knees up another precarious rock embankment…) and eventually building the house of their combined dreams in Torrey, Utah. They filled their house openly, comfortingly, and graciously to all and always wined and dined friends till the wee hours. She would make you laugh till you cried, share stories and other things to make one blush, and cook the most amazing “puffies” (Yorkshire pudding) that would be devoured by the dozen.
Kaethe was a truly creative soul, teacher, inventor and an authentic, unconditional wife, mother and friend. One always felt warmed and welcomed in her presence and always accepted, no questions asked, no judgement made, only her limitless openness to all people and experiences that would come through her door.
She also loved taking her family and friends on “death marches” through the desert, playing games, puzzles and if you were one of the lucky ones, she would gift you one of her amazingly, creative and beautiful pieces of wood work.
Kaethe was world-renowned for her lack of a verbal filter, not holding back her opinion, and a knack for telling it like it is. She liked four-letter words just about as much as her German chocolate treats. She was a connoisseur of fine wines and whiskeys, and a firm believer that turkey could only be served with homemade cranberry sauce. She always told you the truth, even if it wasn’t what you wanted to hear. She was generous to a fault, a total softie on the inside, and yet she sugar-coated absolutely nothing.
Kaethe had strong beliefs in which she never wavered: doves are from hell; her Almond Rum cake was to only be made without almonds and without rum; chocolate and ice cream must be served with whiskey and if you didn’t like something then you shouldn’t have it or do it, period.
She deeply loved her family and together with Rick raised their daughter, Tanya, who shares their love of the outdoors, creativity and all things sparkly. When Tanya was pregnant with her first son, Kaethe said with all gruff seriousness, “If you think that I’ll be that kind of grandmother, all gooey, you’re in for a mistake.” Yet, as soon as Max was born, there was nothing you could do to keep her arms from being around him, cherishing him, applauding him and sneaking him chocolates and later the occasional sip of whiskey. Then Sam came along, and you can just imagine how “strict and serious” she was … Max and Sam affectionately called her Cadu, which then became her “new” name.
Cadu was known for her timeless words of wisdom, including “Does that hurt? Well then don’t do it,” “Well, that was dumb,” “No,” “You know that I’m always right,” and “Andy, get me a glass of wine.” Usually when we were hiking, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing and everyone else was exhausted she would say, “Let’s just go a bit further and look around the next corner.”
Kaethe’s life was exceptionally full. Beginning in high school, she became a talented painter and also starred in a remarkable film directed by the school’s art teacher. She taught German at the University of California, San Diego for several years and then worked for a software company developing programs for natural language translation. She worked as a language translator for the Russian-American Apollo-Soyuz space mission in 1975, an important event during the Cold War. Ultimately however, she went back to her artistic and creative roots and made a long and successful career in woodworking. She had an exceptional gift that will endlessly live on due to the countless and priceless woodworking items that she created. Everyone who sees her work calls her an artist, she would have none of that, “I’m a woodworker” she would insist. Her brilliant and genius design inspiration would leave one speechless. She was able to take a bland piece of wood and create, out of her mind, breathtakingly beautiful objects that have been displayed in countless galleries, traveled the world, and won numerous awards.
She is survived by her devoted and loving husband Rick, daughter Tanya, and Tanya’s husband Andy and two perfect grandchildren, Max and Sam. Kaethe and Rick have been blessed by a wide group of devoted friends, colleagues, and coworkers. The family is deeply grateful for their unwavering friendship.
A Celebration of Life Memorial service for Kaethe will be held at Red Butte Gardens, Orangerie of Salt Lake City, February 2nd beginning at 5 pm for a glass of wine or beer to toast in Cadu’s honor, the greatest wife, mom and grandma in the world.
In lieu of gifts or flowers, the family requests that any contributions be made to your own families in the form of a long and cherished hug, a kiss, a held hand and always telling those that you love ~ “I love you.”