Heart of a Southern Woman

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Kate Kerse, Twin and Young Artist Dies at 17 –52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #37

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Stained glass window dedicated to Katie Kerse

 

This beautiful stained glass window was dedicated to Katie Kerse, twin of Marie Kerse, pronounced Kearse, who died at age 17, in 1895. She died of a burst appendix.  Kate  was a very talented artist, and her sister Marie was a talented musician, a pianist.  It is not a coincidence that the stained glass window dedicated to Katie  at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia, depicts sisters Martha and Mary.  This window is not only appropriate because it honors the twin sisters Kate and Marie, but also because  Martha and Mary begged Jesus to raise their brother Lazarus from the dead. Kate and Marie had a little brother, Andrew Leo , who died at 13 months old, in 1887. The twins would have been 9 when that happened, a very impressionable age for young girls to lose their baby brother! As good little Catholic girls, don’t you think they spent time asking Jesus to bring their little brother back to life ? I suspect they did.

Even though Kate was my Great Aunt, because she died so young, the  family living now knows little about her. We know she was an artist, a painter, whose work was admired by family and friends. Unfortunately, no one in the family has a piece of her work today. However, this stained glass window hangs in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, reminding us that a lot of people loved her.  Her sister Marie played piano beautifully, and played the organ for her church for many years, another good reason to know that the window honors both sisters.  I will write more about Marie  in a separate post.

Unfortunately, there is confusion surrounding the correct date of birth for the twins.  The 1880 census found on ancestry.com, shows the twins at one month old, living with their mother and father, Mary Catherine Botto Kerse,and James H. Kerse in the home of their grandparents–James’s parents, Robert E. and Margaret Kerse.

Name: Kate Kerse
Age: 1m
Birth Year: abt 1880
Birthplace: Virginia
Home in 1880: Richmond, Henrico, Virginia
Race: White
[daughter of James Kerse and Mary Botto Kerse, granddaughter of Robert and Margaret Kerse
Gender: Female
Relation to Head of House: Daughter
Marital Status: Single
Father’s Name: Robert Kerse
Father’s Birthplace: Italy
[Richmond, Virginia, USA
Mother’s name: Margaret Kerse
Mother’s Birthplace: Italy
Neighbors: View others on page
Cannot read/write:Blind:Deaf and Dumb:Otherwise disabled:Idiotic or insane:
Household Members:
Name Age
Robert Kerse 45
Margaret Kerse 40
James Kerse 23
Robert E. Kerse 19
Maggie Kerse 12
Lillie Kerse 10
Leo Kerse 5
Mary Kerse 22
Marie Kerse 1m
Kate Kerse 1m
View
Original
Record

View original image
V

Knowing that the Kerse family had been active in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia, I called the church and discovered that they had records going back this far and further. Making my request in writing,  I soon learned that Kate’s name  was truly Kathleen.  The church records stated:   “Citation Information Transcription of text Detail Listed parents of Kate and Mary, twins, as James H. Kerse and his wife Mary Catherine Botto. Their written records state they were born on 17 May, 1878, baptized on 25 June, 1879, and Kate died at age 17.”  The church records also state that James H. Kerse and Mary Catherine Botto married  on November 27, 1879, over a year after the twins were born! Born in 1878 or 1880, interesting conflict.

There is another part to Kate’s story that is serendipitous perhaps, or perhaps a direct result of Kate’s work from heaven on behalf of her family–what do you think? Kate’s brother, Thomas Philip Kerse was my grandfather. After losing Kate to infection from her burst appendix, the family was terrified when their only living son Tom came down with the same condition! They hired a private duty nurse to care for him around the clock at the doctor’s suggestion. That nurse was a young woman named Katherine Steptoe Houchins, already engaged to marry another man, but fated perhaps to fall in love with Tom! Katherine was also called Kate.  She helped Tom get well then married him , becoming my mother’s mother, my grandmother! Tom and Kate had seven children, one son and six daughters. They have twelve grandchildren, 15 great grands and twelve great-greats still new to the world!

Life stories are so very interesting, as our families are. With all the twists and turns we are reminded that life is an adventure, with different stories for every individual! I wish I had known Kate, I wish she had lived to be a part of our life! I wonder what it might have been like to have an artist in the family, perhaps encouraging other artists! We never know when we have lost a loved one at a young age, just what we’ve missed by not having them in our lives to learn from, to love, and to be loved by them.  Angels surround you Katie Kerse, and keep you always.

 

St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia, --available on facebook

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia, –available on facebook

 

 

 

Author: Helen Holshouser

Old enough to enjoy life, I am a Red Hatter, grandmother, gardener, and amateur genealogist. I am a retired clinical psychologist, master's level, who is disabled with heart disease, but having fun with family and friends. Married over 40 years, I have two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I have learned that grandchildren provide a joy one never knew existed---writing feeds my soul, gardening is therapy, and genealogy research makes me feel like a detective!

5 thoughts on “Kate Kerse, Twin and Young Artist Dies at 17 –52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #37

  1. A nice and thoughtful post today, as always. It is always sad when a young person dies, because the promise of what could be dies also. On a grave stone near my grandfather’s is recorded the death of a young person. Engrave on the stone is “tread softly for here lies broken dreams.”

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  2. Oh my gracious, that gives me chills! It is so true– broken dreams–for both the young person and their families and friends! Thanks for understanding Charles and for sharing. Helen

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  3. What a sweet story – I was kept glued to reading all the way on Kate! And what a beautiful window dedicated to her? I’m curious, how old is the church and when was it dedicated? Have you seen it in person? Great, great story!!!

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  4. Hi Jeanne, thanks for takingthe time to come by, read and share with me! I wish I had thought to post a picture of St. Patrick’s in this blog post! I might add one! I just discovered that they are actually on facebook. I don’t know exactly how old they are, but my great grandparents were married there in the 1870’s. It is still an active,vibrant church. I have been by the church, but unfortunately not inside! All these years, and my sisters and brothers have been in, in fact my brother took the picture of the window, but for many reasons, I have just not. I hope to correct that sooner than later next time I’m visiting Richmond! I’ve talked with their secretary so often this last few years, I feel like a member! LOL I will find out how old the church is! I couldn’t find the exact date,but it sounds like the Catholic church got started strongly after the Civil War. Richmond, as the capitalof the confederacy was devastated, and the Church helped build it back/ Thanks for asking, helen

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  5. Pingback: Marie Botto Kerse Maher- the Magnificent Musician–52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #39 | Heart of a Southern Woman

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