Cathy died Dec. 23, 2020, of Parkinson’s Disease and diabetes, exacerbated by COVID-19. She had been in long-term care for nearly four years. She was 68.

Cathy was the valedictorian of her high school class in Nevada, Mo. After a year at the University of Missouri, she transferred to Princeton in 1971 as a sophomore member of the Class of 1974. She eventually took a year off and then returned as a member of our class.

She graduated by the skin of her teeth, thanks to an understanding Latin professor. Her senior thesis in the English department was a biography of her grandfather, who served in World War I. Its title was “Wish Me the Courage to Be a Good Soldier.”

She met her husband, John Wilheim ’75, when she was sitting on the lawn in front of Nassau Hall in September 1972. They cohabited (illegally) beginning a year later and were married by Dean of the Chapel Ernest Gordon May 22, 1974, just before finals of their junior year, so they could get married student housing, cook for themselves, and save money.

Several of their friends said their marriage would not last a year. The couple’s joke was, “They didn’t say which year.” The answer turned out to be 2020.

After graduation Cathy worked at a wide range of jobs as she and John lived for various periods in New Jersey, Michigan, Missouri, and Kansas. She was a newspaper reporter in Michigan and Kansas; an executive secretary at the Kellogg Foundation; an executive at the nonprofit New Jersey Community Loan Fund; and the first director of the Americorps program in St. Joseph, Mo.

A lifelong Democrat, Cathy helped to run several local and county-level campaigns and ran for office herself once in Somerset County, N.J. After moving to Kansas, she became a top volunteer for the Sedgwick County Democratic Party and eventually managed the headquarters office.

The color photos show Cathy at 20; with Sedgwick County Democratic Party Chair Jason Dilts and Kansas State Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, for whom Cathy was legislative aide; and with John in October 2013.

In addition to John, Cathy is survived by their son, J.R. (Columbia ’03). The class shares this sad loss. 

Undergraduate Class of 1975