Obituary for Kathleen Carlson (Brick)
Kathleen Carlson’s full and dynamic life story is best described in her own words. With the assistance of a dear friend Anya Shuda, Kathleen communicated her life’s narrative, achievements and passions in the following self composed obituary.
Kathleen Ann Brick Carlson died March 23, 2017 at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, Iowa. She was almost 92.
Kathleen was born May 7, 1925 to Irish immigrants Bridget Agnes Cavenaugh Brick and Thomas William Brick. Kathleen was born and raised in her home (built by her cousins, the Sullivan family) located at 210 East Main Street in Vermillion. Her siblings included a sister, Mary (who died in infancy) and brother Donald (who died at age 9 while on vacation in Ireland), and brothers William and James Thomas who survived to adulthood.
At age six, Kathleen’s first employment was at Brick’s Confectionary, the candy, ice cream, newspaper, and tobacco shop owned by her father and located near the current Scoop’s Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street in Vermillion. At age 12, Kathleen was a cashier in her father’s off-sale liquor store (located in the current Carey’s Bar) where she convinced the State Liquor Inspector that she was 18.
In 1939, Kathleen was sent to Mount Marty boarding school in Yankton for one year following the death of her mother. Neither the nuns nor Kathleen were ready for each other. The first of their numerous conflicts occurred during a track meet, the Vermillion Boys’ Track Team began knocking on dormitory doors searching for their friend Kathleen and found the nuns’ private quarters instead.
The University of South Dakota was a great and life-long influence on Kathleen’s life. She first began piano, then violin lessons in Slagle Hall along with her neighborhood friends, Bob Brown and Bob Stark (who had the ‘talent’ in the group). Kathleen began classes at the University when she was a freshman in high school. Her instructors included Dr. Beckwith for History of Western Civilization, and Dr. Partee for Chemistry. Kathleen was the captain of the University Women’s Rifle team. A fond memory was playing golf with all the men from the Beta House; Kathleen was proud to know she was able out-putt many of them. Kathleen’s campus employment paid 10 cents/hour during the first year, 15 cents/hour in the second year, and 25 and 50 cents/hour respectively during her last two years at USD. Kathleen earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 1948 and began to experience the world.
Immediately after graduation, Kathleen accepted a position as Assistant Director of Merchandising for Rike-Kumler in Dayton, Ohio. From there, Kathleen worked as a Buyer for Dayton’s Corporation in Minneapolis. In the early 1950’s Kathleen decided the West Coast held her destiny. Along the way, her car broke down in Salt Lake City, where she met The Dean of the University of Utah Graduate School. Kathleen stayed in Salt Lake to complete a double Master’s Degree in Chemistry and Fashion Design (“It was fun!”), and was immediately offered a job with Monsanto Chemical based out of San Francisco, New York, St. Louis, and Seattle. Kathleen traveled and worked the ten western states where she wrote numerous radio and television shows, and traveled internationally. Eventually Kathleen accepted a Writer/Producer position with Radio Free Europe. She was elected President of the American Women in Radio and Television for the State of California, was a Charter member of the California National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was on the Board of Directors for American Women for Radio and Television, and a member of the World Affairs Counsel for the City of San Francisco.
In the mid-1950’s, concurrent with a position as Research Manager for Monsanto Chemical and Recipe Development for Good Housekeeping magazine, Kathleen attended post-graduate studies and taught history and home economics at Mercy High School in Burlingame, CA. Once again, the nuns were not prepared for Kathleen. The nuns did not understand why the students liked Kathleen’s classes. In addition, Kathleen organized and chaperoned a bus trip across the United States for 12 high school girls, and a bicycle tour of Europe for the same group of students during their summer vacation. During this time, Kathleen frequently earned Bay Area Teacher of the Week due to nominations by Episcopalian Bishop Pike. Despite the nuns, Kathleen considered teaching to be one of her most memorable and rewarding experiences.
A chance meeting with the President of Mining and Engineering in San Francisco resulted in Kathleen being hired by the Los Angles County Museum of Art as Membership Director. Kathleen organized and spoke at a number of national conventions in San Francisco and New York. Membership increased from 30,000 to 70,000 members in four years under her guidance. Kathleen maintained her interest in the Arts and dedicated her time to the Los Gatos County Museum of Art, Historical Preservation Society, and San Francisco Symphony when she lived in Los Gatos, California.
Kathleen became an investment and annuities representative for Northwestern Mutual in Milwaukee and New York, and Guardian Equities in New York. She also worked for a number of other investment companies across the nation.
On June 29, 1969, Kathleen married Andy Carlson in Los Gatos, California.
Andy was an international pilot for Pan Am Airlines, and owned a tool and die company in California. Approached by the president of Pan Am Airlines, Kathleen organized volunteer programs to assist international travelers passing through Los Angles, San Francisco, and New York’s Kennedy airports.
Kathleen was an avid downhill skier, golfer, and an enthusiastic albeit terrible tennis player. Kathleen loved all sporting events, particularly swimming. She followed collegiate women’s sports on television, and was thrilled to attend USD’s Women’s Basketball WNIT championship game in 2016. She chaperoned a group of high school students to the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal. Kathleen absolutely loved children of all ages and made a point of engaging them in conversation. Kathleen respected strong, successful, and well-educated women who had good common sense, and were able to read and understand a profit-and-loss statement.
A few of Kathleen’s adventures in life included meeting the Lipizzaner Stallions in Austria shortly after WWII. She helped to organized the first NATO meeting at The Hague in Paris in 1949. Kathleen worked as a Special Agent for the FBI and CIA in San Francisco during The Cold War. She survived terrorist bombings in Brussels, Belgium, and in Beirut, Lebanon in the 1970’s. When employed by Good Housekeeping test kitchens, Kathleen was responsible for recipe development in the early days of microwave cooking. She was the first person to explode an egg in a microwave, and the first person to clean up the mess.
Life experiences provided Kathleen with the opportunity to cross paths with friends, neighbors and business associates including Julia Child, Shirley Temple, Harry Truman, Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Margaret Thatcher, Shirley McClaine, Rosemary Clooney, Kathryn Hepburn, Mary Lee Duehring (the original Betty Crocker), Senator John Kennedy, cartoon artist Charles Schulz, Tom Brokaw, Al Neuharth, and Jim and Collette Abbott (whom she considered to be treasured friends).
At the end of the Vietnam War, Kathleen worked with The Friends of the Quakers, and assisted in the transportation and adoption of more than 200 Vietnamese orphans to new homes across Oregon. Kathleen considered this as her most significant legacy and contribution to humanity.
Kathleen was the last of her siblings. She is survived by many generations of cousins, grandnieces and grandnephews. Included in her family of friends are Ed Stahl and family of Los Gatos, CA, Thomas and Barbara Dowd of Enfield CT, MaryGert McCallum of Bethel, CT, Peggy Fallon of San Francisco, CA, and her treasured students throughout the years.
Locally, Kathleen was deeply appreciative of the kindnesses that were offered to her by Jim Abbott, Rob Tiggert, Scot Ouellette, Peggy Lund, Anya Shuda, and the numerous USD college students who visited as they passed by her house.
“Well, the TV’s turned off. God knows I tried.”