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Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017 12:00 am

Everybody called her Aunt Catherine

CATHERINE L. STAAB: Nov. 20, 1925 - May 21, 2017

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Catherine Staab had just seven nieces and nephews, but if you included the people who called her “Aunt Catherine,” that number would have been in the triple digits. She never knew a stranger – everyone called her Aunt Catherine. A woman dedicated to her career as funeral director, Aunt Catherine served the Springfield community alongside her family at Staab Funeral Homes for more than 50 years, comforting thousands of families over the years. But her professionalism belied a fun-loving spirit and generous heart.

Born in 1925, she and her four siblings grew up in the family’s funeral home at 1109 South Fifth Street. In fact, that was the only place Aunt Catherine called home, as she and her family of funeral directors always wanted to be on hand in case they were needed. The dining room in her upstairs apartment was the setting for countless dinners and coffee breaks filled with laughter, kind words and the occasional bad joke.

For more than five decades Aunt Catherine cared for families whose loved ones died. She considered this a corporal work of mercy, routinely overlooking every detail prior to the first viewing. She always tried to bring the most peaceful appearance, which often included makeup application and hair styling, of which she was truly gifted. In fact, on a getaway to the Kentucky Derby, one of the girlfriends she was traveling with lamented the fact that she didn’t have time to get her hair done. Aunt Catherine offered to help out, though her friend responded, “But I am not laying down,” with a chuckle.

She may have worked with the deceased, but Aunt Catherine had a zest for life that was unmatched. She loved a good martini and playing cards, but her true character showed in her generosity. Aunt Catherine enjoyed seeing others happy, so she was always quick to share a smile, a hug, a friendly wave to all she encountered. She was also generous with her personal earnings; once she doled out $500 for a home-baked apple pie at a church fundraiser. Of course, she shared.

While she never married nor had children of her own, Aunt Catherine was devoted to her great nieces and nephews. “Aunt Tata” as she was called, was their biggest cheerleader, always showing her support to the youngest members of the family. Great nephew Paul John Staab III says she was incredibly patient and caring, the kind of person you could talk to about anything and she wouldn’t pass judgment. She once told him God made us all to love as He loved. Aunt Catherine remained a pillar of strength on which to lean, not only for Paul John, but for his siblings and cousins as well.

And Rosie. How could anyone forget her beloved dog Rosie? The meticulously groomed Bichon Maltese was never far from Aunt Catherine’s side; most of the time she sat on her lap. The two were a perfect match – spunky, yet loving, with infectious personalities.

Aunt Catherine was a devout member of the Catholic Church, regularly attending Mass at Cathedral, even when her health began to decline. She counted members of the clergy as good friends and they often visited her. She prayed the rosary every single night. When she began hospice care in the spring of 2017, her niece, Suanne Staab Palazzolo, located a recording of the rosary on cd to play for her, so Aunt Catherine could continue her prayers even when she couldn’t speak. Her faith and trust in God comforted her throughout her life and she continually expressed her gratefulness to the church.

Aunt Catherine died at her home at the age of 91. Though she lived a long and meaningful life, the sense of loss by her family and all those who knew her was tremendous. Her wisdom and encouragement is sorely missed. Family gatherings just aren’t the same. But there is comfort knowing she is with God and her love shines down on all of us.

Jessica McGee has worked with the Staab Family for five years. She, like so many Staab associates, loved to start her day with a chat with Aunt Catherine, who always passed along kind words and encouragement.

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