Kathryn Felion

Kathryn Marie "Kitty" Felion

1925 - 2021

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Kathryn “Kitty” Knoblauch Felion Kathryn “Kitty” Marie Knoblauch Felion died on May 1, 2021 at her home in Erie, PA surrounded by the love of her family. She was born on March 22, 1925 in St. Paul, MN, the daughter of the late Marcellus W. Knoblauch and Justine Herder Knoblauch of North St. Anthony Park, MN. She was the beloved wife of the late Thomas R. Felion. A lifelong Catholic, Kitty was devoted to St. Teresa of Avila, the patron saint of her college alma mater and to Mary, Mother of God. It is of great comfort to the family that Kitty would be called to heaven on the first day of May, the month dedicated to the Virgin Mother. At her all-women Catholic college, the Sisters of St. Teresa marked the first of May by having the students dance around a Maypole as a celebration of life and motherhood. She was the proud mother of eight children – her “8-M’s” Kitty will be remembered for her clever humor, love of travel, history, the arts and for her service to her community. She was a social person eager to get involved in civic organizations, plan parties, travel, educate, write plays and poetry and to devise games to entertain at social gatherings. The middle child of three children and the only girl, Kitty displayed a unique talent at a young age to bring folks together with her childhood girls club “The Silver Spider Secret Society” and for entertaining folks with her role as the Monkey in a Minneapolis radio production of “Little Orphan Annie.” Kitty credited her love for travel and adventure to her mother who took her on long car trips from coast to coast in the 1930s and 40s. Her mother was the founder of Minnesota Girls State which encouraged young women to get involved in politics and Kitty followed her mother’s path by dedicating her life to civic engagement. Kitty served on the board of directors for many arts organizations but most notably she served on the Board of Directors of The Barber National Institute from 1970 until her retirement in 2020. She remained an honorary member of the board until her death. Kitty attended her mother’s alma mater, Saint Teresa College, in Winona, Minnesota where she served as Senior Class President of 1947. She remained active in the alumni association and planned class reunions for her college as well as her high school, Murray High ‘43, in St. Anthony Park. During WWII, Kitty spent the summer months helping the war effort by working in a factory painting panels for Quonset huts for the Army. She also worked for the Signal Corps repairing headphones. After graduating from St. Theresa’s, she moved to Toledo, Ohio where she worked as a social worker for Catholic Charities. She later returned to Minnesota to teach junior high school in Stillwater, MN where she was selected by the American Service Committee to represent Minnesota in an exchange teacher program between the UK and the United States in 1953-54. Kitty was sent to the coal mining town of Tredegar, Wales where she taught English in high school. She lived with the Williams family during her stay in Wales and the Felion family still counts them as family to this day. During her stay in the UK she had the honor of being one of five teachers invited to have tea with the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth at Lambeth Palace. The Queen Mother told her she had a lovely hat and Kitty kept that hat for decades. She still has the dress she wore. Before returning home to the US she spent five weeks with four friends from Minnesota traveling throughout Europe in an MG car that they had rented. On another summer trip she biked through Europe and North Africa with fellow girlfriends from Minnesota. After her return from Europe, she married Thomas R. Felion, a decorated WWII veteran, at Corpus Christi Church on June 11, 1955 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They had met a few years earlier in Stillwater at the insistence of her friends. They lived briefly in Duluth, Minnesota before moving to Erie, Pennsylvania for the first time. Thomas was hired as the Assistant Administrator of St. Vincent Hospital where Kitty became a lifelong member of the Saint Vincent's Women’s Auxiliary. Tom and Kitty moved to Marshfield, WI where they started the hospital auxiliary at Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Kitty also started the Marshfield Newcomers Club and was involved in creating the first Marshfield Art Show which still exists today. She formed a committee to showcase foreign films and was also a member of the Marshfield Council Parent Teacher Association. She studied painting under the celebrated Serbian priest and artist Emilian Glocar. The family moved to Battle Creek, MI where Tom was involved in the St. Luke's building project. Kitty had great friendships and fun memories in Erie, Pennsylvania, so when Tom was asked to work again at St. Vincent's Hospital in1968 they were eager to return and to spend the rest of their lives there. Kitty loved the City of Erie, its people, history, arts scene, the peninsula and as a mother of a child with Down Syndrome she greatly appreciated the life The Barber National Institute could provide for her child. When she and Tom first lived in Erie during the 50s, Kitty created a couple’s club for her friends where they’d all take turns hosting parties she called “TFFFWMFS” which stood for “The Fun-Loving Free Wheeling Folks Who Meet on Fabulous Saturdays” and upon their return they started it up again. The parties had themes and they were meant to be grand low budget affairs. They kept the party going for decades. Kitty worked as representative for Scholastic Book Company and toured Northwestern Pennsylvania reaching out to schools to build a better curriculum. She knew the ins and out of all the small towns in the region and would stop to see friends that she gained over the years then she would take friends and family on “penny hikes’ throughout the region. During the nation’s bicentennial celebration, Kitty created the “Erie Heritage Trail” and “The George Washington Trail” which showcased Erie’s history and the visit of George Washington to Waterford, PA under orders from the colonial Governor of Virginia to instruct the occupying French forces to leave the region. She also created the “Lafayette Commemorative Days” which celebrated the historic visit to Erie of the Marquis de Lafayette in 1825. Kitty was well known for taking elementary students from local school districts and visiting dignitaries on tours of the Erie region and for her involvement in the early days of the relaunch of the Flagship Niagara. She attended Tall Ships gatherings in Boston and Halifax. A lifelong lover of travel, Kitty organized group trips for mostly Erie residents to Europe, North America, and Central America from 1980 - 1995. She adored sports and the spirit of international competition and attended the Olympic Games in Munich, Montreal and Lake Placid. Kitty was involved in many civic organizations. She served as the Secretary for the Board of the Erie Playhouse, the Board of Directors of the Erie Civic Ballet, as was a member of the Erie Arts Council. She spearheaded the restoration of the Erie Land Lighthouse. In 1990 she founded the Adopt A Park program which helped volunteers to work with the city to take care of Washington, Wayne and Gridley Parks. Kitty served on the Executive board of the Erie Summer Festival of the Arts from 1971-72 as the Chairman of Performing and Visual Arts. In the 1970s Kitty participated in the “Panel of American Women” which fought against racial and religious prejudice. Kitty was very clever with words and wrote party games, historic plays that were performed at schools and she published a book of poetry. Over the years, she was host to several exchange students and teachers from the UK and France. Kitty started the study club for AAUW, the American Association of University Women, formerly known as “Women’s Daytime Variety,” now known as “Connections.” Kitty was organizing community gatherings just last week and was planning her next road adventure. She was a past nominee for the Mercy Center for Women’s “Women Making History” and AAUW Member of the Year. In addition to her parents and her husband, she was preceded in death by her daughter Margaret (Margo), brother Harry Knoblauch and his wife Pricilla and brother Joseph Knoblauch his wife Marge Knoblauch, son-in-law Lt Co William Bradford Davis (USAF ret.) and several in-laws and nephews. She is survived by seven of her children, Mary Fran Felion of Pittsburgh (Michael Domach), Michelle Felion-Davis of Pittsburgh, Matthew Felion (fiancée Courtney Smith) of Erie and Townsend, GA, Madeleine Felion, Monica Felion, both of Erie, Martin Felion and wife Jackie Koons Felion of Camp Hill, PA, Marc and husband Fausto Fernos of Chicago, IL, her Welsh family, the Williams’, Marie-Noelle Cliquot of Sete, France who stayed and traveled with her many summers over a 30 year span, her many wonderful nieces and nephews and many children who called her “Grandma Kitty.” She was grateful for the friendships and care she received from Sr. Josephine, caretakers and friends Shellie Camp and Rita Reilly. The family is especially grateful for her special friend Elizabeth Gill for her care and the spiritual comfort she provided in my mother’s final years. Friends may call at the Dusckas-Martin Funeral Home & Crematory Inc. 4216 Sterrettania Rd. Erie, PA 16506 on Friday May 7, 2021 from 2:00 - 4:00 and 6:00 - 8:00 PM. A Funeral Mass with be celebrated on Saturday Morning at 10:00 AM at St. George Roman Catholic Church, 5145 Peach St. Erie, PA 16509. Interment will follow in Mary Queen of Peace Cemetery, next to her husband and daughter Margaret In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Barber National Institute, 100 Barber Place Erie, PA 16507.
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