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.
1880 United States Federal Census about Kate Kerse
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.
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