Katharine Strong

Obituary of Katharine Strong

Katharine Bonsall (Kay) Strong, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, Cub Scout den mother, and beloved matriarch of her extended family, passed away peacefully at Merwick Care and Rehabilitation Center in Plainsboro, N.J. on November 19, 2012. She was 96. Kay Strong was born in Morristown, NJ on July 6, 1916 to parents John Halsey Bonsall and Katharine Neilson Bonsall. After graduating from Kent Place in Summit, N.J., she attended Sweet Briar College, Class of 1939, where she was active in the Drama Society. Her late brother, Major John H. Bonsall, Princeton, Class of 1941, was one of three members of a Jedburgh team to be killed behind enemy lines in France in August 1944 during World War II (he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix de Guerre posthumously). Kay was so proud of her brother and established a memorial fund in his honor in the music department at Princeton U. In 1942, Kay married the late John Van Rensselaer Strong, an attorney in New Brunswick,NJ from whom she was divorced in 1963. She is survived by their four children: Katharine S.(Bonnie) Berge of Johannesburg, South Africa; John VR Strong, Jr. of Princeton, NJ; Robert L. Strong of Lincoln, CA; and Sarah Strong Drake of Belle Mead, NJ. Kay was a "people person" with a delightful wit and a gentle nature who especially enjoyed volunteering with children and the elderly. For five years she served as president of the Board of Managers of the Francis E. Parker Memorial Home in New Brunswick, N.J., and for eight years as a vice president of the Girl Scouts of Middlesex County, N.J. She belonged to the Study Club of New Brunswick for 37 years and also the Trowel Club. She was a volunteer at the Child and Family organization in New Brunswick and belonged to the Second Dutch Reformed Church of New Brunswick. Kay served as a den mother for the Milltown Cub Scouts while living there. After moving from Milltown to Princeton, Kay became a charter member and officer of the Learners Investment Club (L.I.P.) of Princeton; was a volunteer at the Princeton Nursing Home for 15 years; and participated in the reading program at the Skillman Training School for Boys. She served for five years on the Council of Friends of the Princeton Public Library, and was atrustee for the N.J. State Museum for several years. Kay belonged to the Princeton Present Day Club. She was also a member of the Junior League, the Holland Dames Society, the Lords of the Manor, the Colonial Dames of America and the Colony Club in New York City. About 25 years ago, Kay moved permanently to her coastal home and most beloved retreat on Fisher's Island Sound in Noank, CT. She became a member of the Noank Baptist Church and was co-chairman of its stewardship committee; sang in the senior choir; was secretary for its Evening Circle; and a volunteer in its fundraising activities, including the Corner Closet. In her own words, she "always relished soliciting for any worthwhile cause," from raising funds for the Pequot Sepos Nature Center in Mystic, CT to securing donations for the church's annual silent auction. Kay was a keen amateur artist, filling many sketchbooks with scenes from her travels. She also painted in oils on canvas a variety of landscapes, seascapes, animals and people. During Noank summers, she studied oil painting with the late artist Robert Brackman. She was a devoted gardener and enjoyed arranging the flowers she grew in her gardens in Princeton and Noank. Her creative expression extended to singing and playing the piano, talents that she passed on to her daughters. Kay "Gammie" was dearly loved by her six grandchildren: Matthew, Benjamin and Simon Berge, and Katharine, Emily and Alexandra Drake. She never had the chance to meet her two young South African great-grandsons, Zachary and Joshua Berge. Her family especially appreciated the devoted caregiving from Maria Ellis. Maria was a kindred spirit whose loving attention brightened Kay's final years. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to SAVE, A Friend to Homeless Animals, at 900 Herrontown Rd, Princeton, NJ 08540. A memorial service will be held at the Princeton University Chapel on January 12 at 11am. An additional memorial service will be at the Noank Baptist Church in Noank in spring.
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