Katherine Louise Matthews

October 23, 1944 - August 5, 2021

Katherine (Kathy) Matthews of St. Charles, IL passed away August 5, 2021 at age 76 after a short but fierce battle with cancer.

Kathy was born Katherine Louise Kahler on October 23, 1944 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and graduated from Bergan High School in Peoria, Illinois in 1962.  She attended Rosary College (now Dominican University), graduating in 1966 with a degree in Mathematics. As part of a generation of women for whom career options were limited, Kathy always attributed her confidence (and wry sense of humor) to her father, who impressed on his daughters that they could be anything they strove to be. 

Kathy went on to work for Western Electric/Lucent Technologies.  While there, she was “set up” on a blind date with another Western Electric employee, Thomas Matthews, whom she married in 1968. They were married for 45 years, until Tom’s death in 2013.  They were proud parents of daughter Sarah Elizabeth, and doting grandparents of Cirenya and Edwyn.

Kathy and Tom moved to Westmont, and later built a home in St. Charles, where they moved in 1970.  Kathy quickly became active in the St. Charles community, serving in many spheres from St. Charles East Music Boosters to the Pottawatomie Garden Club and Delnor Hospital, and especially at St. Patrick Church where she was a member for 51 years.

Kathy loved to teach, whether it was substitute math in St. Charles schools, early childhood at Lily Lake Elementary, ten years teaching religious education at St. Pat’s, or leading national seminars and workshops on topics from fundraising to judging needlepoint.

Her organizational skills and love for youth came together powerfully when she accepted an invitation to volunteer-manage the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra in 1999.  Over the next 17 years, as Executive Director, she helped nurture a small EYSO of 65 kids into a nationally-recognized program serving thousands of young musicians and their families.  Her restless imagination and possibility-thinking sparked many innovative ideas, including the Maud Powell String Quartet, the Sterling Brass Quintet, the Chamber Music Institute, and the 2006 concert tour to the International Youth Arts Festival in Aberdeen, Scotland where the EYSO Youth Symphony was a main stage feature. 

In 2016 Kathy was honored at the YWCA Elgin Leader Luncheon Awards for her legacy in youth arts in the Fox Valley. She also served on the boards of the Illinois Council of Orchestras and the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame.  Her passion for education, community engagement, and empowering women translated into leadership roles with multiple civic and international organizations including Altrusa International and P.E.O. Sisterhood International (JG Chapter).

Besides the EYSO, Kathy’s other great passion was the art of needlepoint, both historic and contemporary. She was a lifelong member of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America (EGA) and the American Needlepoint Guild (ANG), where she was active both nationally and in the local Fox Chapter, where she served in multiple offices including several times as president.  Kathy was known as a passionate and exacting teacher of ANG judging workshops and served as a national judge herself, attaining the highest level of Senior Master Judge (one of only two in the nation). 

Kathy’s love for needlepoint arts inspired trips to the British Isles, where she visited exclusive needlework museums and The Royal School of Needlework in London, and participated in specialized needlepoint classes. She loved to share these experiences upon return, pouring out her excitement and wealth of knowledge in lectures and presentations in the U.S.

Kathy will be vividly remembered by all who knew her for her distinctive laugh and twinkling eyes, her relentless energy, and her indomitable “of course we can” spirit.  A lifelong learner, she was forever curious about nearly everything including dogs (especially Boxers, her passion), books, Fox Valley history, classical music, and anything related to Mary Queen of Scots, about whom she was something of an armchair expert.  Mostly, though, she will be remembered as a trustworthy, loyal friend who would drop everything at a moment’s notice to help someone in need.

Kathy is survived by her daughter Sarah Matthews Jacobs, son-in-law Trent Jacobs, and grandchildren Cirenya and Edwyn Jacobs.  She is also survived by her beloved niece, Dr. Colleen Mary Noe, sister Marty Kahler Van Ness (Ronald James Long), nieces Nora Van Ness Babb, and Nina Van Ness Gemkow (Alex), brother-in-law Mike (Sue) Matthews, sister-in-law Pat Calvert and many nieces and nephews.  She was preceded in death by her parents James and Margaret Kahler, husband Tom, sister Mary Jane “Janey” Kelly, brother-in-law Jim Kelly, nephew Jim “Jimmy” Kelly, and brother-in-law Fred Matthews.  She is also survived by hundreds of friends, young and old, who were blessed by her many gifts and her love for all.

A visitation will be held Tuesday, August 10, 2021 from 4:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M.  at Moss-Norris Funeral Home, 100 S. 3rd Street, St. Charles, Illinois, including a prayer service with music between 7:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M.  A funeral Mass will be Wednesday, August 11, 2021 at 10:30 A.M. at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 6N487 Crane Rd. St. Charles, IL 60175. Preceding the Funeral at 9:30am will be a short prayer service and Last Respects at Moss Funeral Home, followed by a procession to the church.  A musical prelude by an “Orchestra of Friends” will begin at 10:00 A.M. in the sanctuary.  Following the Funeral Mass, the Service of Interment will be at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Geneva.

Memorial donations may be made to P.E.O. International, Chapter JG, and mailed to Karen Lemcke, 851 Dakota Dr. Woodstock, IL 60098.  Donations will be forwarded on to the PEO Program for Continuing Education, which provides need-based educational grants for women.

Guest Book

  • Cindy Powell Kathy was my inspiration to become a needlework judge. She accepted my application and 5 years later was my proctor for my final exam. I always learned something new when I judged with Kathy. Her expertise and kind heart is greatly missed!
  • Caroline Wilfong Our condolences to your family. We did not know Kathy, but we owe her a debt of gratitude for her work with the Elgin Youth Symphony. It is a huge and rewarding part of our daughter's life and Kathy's legacy will live on in her and in countless others.
  • Beth Boelter I am so saddened to read of Kathy's passing today. I had many, many wonderful discussions and much great advice shared with me by Kathy, during my time with Elgin Children's Chorus. She was a joy to be around, and a true mentor! I am so sorry I missed being at her service today. My sympathies to her daughter and family, and extended family. She will surely be missed!
  • Renee Ingoldsby I was so very saddened to hear of Kathy's passing. I knew Kathy through EYSO, as a parent of two violinists. I remember the year she donated Maud Powell booklets to every student. We stil have ours. During the NOTES campaign she provided USPS stamps to any student who needed them to get their Notes mailed. Funny the things you remember. Generous and kind and yes, always smiling. Kathy, you made an impact on so many young musicians.
  • Kathy Heikkinen I was blessed to spend some volunteer time with Kathy when my son was in EYSO. I remember with much respect her dedication and her smile. She will bring many happy memories to those who knew her.
  • Eric Larson Kathy was a prime architect of the foundation upon which EYSO today continues to build. And her personal welcome to me as I joined the organization, and her support afterwards, will remain with me always.
  • Missy Taphorn I knew Kathy from the Fox Chapter of needle pointing. She was always so gracious and understanding. Traveled with her several times for seminars and was so much fun. Will truly miss her.
  • Steve Duchrow Kathy's work with the EYSO at the Elgin Community College Arts Center helped create one of the leading transformative music experiences in the country. Thousands of students received a chance to experience and give the gift of music to the world. Her remarkable life lives on in all of the music that has been played and will be played. She helped change how the world sounds.
  • Dorothy Zander Kathy was such a bright light and kind soul. I’m blessed to have known her and am so sad in her parting. My prayers to her family in this time if need.
  • Marcia Jacobs I wish I had known her better and been able to share our crafting and arts.