THE FAMILY ALBUM: Growing up with neighbors


Kathy Wolff

I was so lucky to grow up in the neighborhood I did, and with some of the greatest folks for neighbors.  On the opposite corner of our block lived my mother’s parents, and even their neighbors were still dear family friends especially since Mother had grown up with nearly all of them.

Directly across the alley from where I grew up were the Wolff family, Dutch and Kate.  Dutch owned Wolff’s Tavern which was more of a restaurant with a 1880s style bar, back alcohol sideboard with a huge mirror, and the tin-tiled ceilings at least 20+ feet high.  On the other corner down the street from us lived Nick and Kathy Wolff, Dutch and Kate’s son and daughter-in-law.

Mother grew up with Nick and his sister, Kay, and knew Kathy in high school.  The Wolffs, like our other immediate neighbors, were more like extensions to our family and not just folks living next door.

I have little recollection of Dutch as he died when I was about three or four years old.  Dutch was ill all the years I knew him and I remember Mother and Kathy, a nurse, administering shots of morphine to him as he neared death.

Before long, Nick and Kathy traded homes with Kate; their home down the street from us was smaller and easier for Kate to get around.  The Wolff home behind us was larger and seemed ready for Nick and Kathy’s soon-to-be family.

I don’t recall ever seeing Nick without his pipe in his mouth as though an attempt to hold back the very peppered phrasing he was apt to use.  I don’t recall Nick being a foundation for my own cussing, prompted by my uncles who were ten and twelve years older than me, but I’ve always been delighted by this witty role model.

Kathy was a gem: gentle but strong, terribly funny but extremely compassionate, tender grit, and always the soul of kindness.  Nothing was more engaging than seeing Kathy throw back her head and let loose the loudest, most penetrating laugh that seemed impossible from such a tiny lady.

Kathy had been under the baton twirling tutelage of the legendary Tudy Smith and was often in her driveway twirling her batons.  For this future band geek and drum-major, it was a combination of heaven, the circus, and the Indiana State Fair Band Day.  I loved it.  Kathy even taught me basic signal-baton directions that would later serve me well in a dual capacity at Smith-Wallbridge Drum-Major Camp as a field commander in both corps and signal-baton styles.

Wednesday afternoon, Kathy, 71, passed away from a sudden illness.

The world seems a little smaller this morning but the ring of Kathy’s laughter has not ceased, nor has the example of her genuine caring heart been stopped.  Examples.  She always demonstrated ex

Examples.  She always demonstrated examples of kindness, laughter, tenderness, laughter, sturdiness, laughter, love, laughter, and a true servant’s heart that never failed to find the humor in some of this life’s screwiest moments.

Ahhh… what a wonderful little lady who’s been a family friend for over 50 years.  Tears, yes.  Smiles and laughter, always.  Thank you for sharing your laughter, humor, kindness, and love with us, Dear Lady.


Kathy, right, with her sister, Pat, and her nephew, Marty.



About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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