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Volunteer who made a difference for 50 years passionate about acts of mercy

Mar. 07, 2010 @ 12:00 AM

Acts of kindness, no matter how small or simple, are perhaps the best way to create harmony at school among students. Respect and friendship with fellow employees on the job can remove stress and friction during the work week. Even within the very neighborhood you live, simple deeds like cleaning snow from a neighbor's driveway who is unable, or checking another's mail during vacation; those are little deeds that transform a street into a neighborhood that's a nice place to live.

The human animal is also capable of cruel acts like gossip, and intentionally ostracizing others simply because they appear different or come from a location that's unfamiliar. These are human deeds at their very lowest.

Cathleen "Kitty" Hage is 95 and still remembers how she hated attending a local high school in Huntington because she came from a small town with a silly name -- Lookout, West Virginia. If that were not enough, the name of her previous high school in Lookout was called Nuttall. Because Hage was poor only increased the distance between her and the other students. But she never let the remarks interfere with her good grades.

"We were Republicans during those early years in Huntington. As such, we experience more than the usual amount of difficulty finding jobs," said Hage. "Dad had trouble finding work, and even with my teaching degree, part-time teaching was all I could find. By the time I got married, and became pregnant, I was finally offered a full time teaching position. It felt so good to tell the Board of Education that I was no longer interested."

Young Cathleen lived with her parents and brother along 3rd Avenue in the area of the Robert Byrd Biotechnology Science Center. She talks about the floods of the 1930s.

"I remember Mother cooking in the kitchen wearing rubber boots, when the river came up in 1936. The water was about four to six inches over the first floor. We would get our meals and take them up stairs," she said.

Hage speaks in different tones when making reference to the flood of 1937. She and her brother stayed with friends who rescued them from the upstairs window with a row boat. Her parents were rescued in the same fashion.

"That flood ruined everything in our home. Floors and walls were warped, mud was piled up everywhere. Old appliances were floating down 3rd Avenue. It was cold and miserable, and such a sad sight to see when we returned home," she said. "It seemed that mother took it all in stride, at least she never showed her disappointment to us kids. She continued to see that we ate nutritious meals that were canned from the garden."

The marriage between Cathleen and Raymond Hage produced 2 sons. One died very early of cerebral meningitis, her other son is an Episcopal Priest. Her husband became one of the youngest principals at Meadows School. He later moved to another school and eventually started his own insurance company.

Through the years, Mrs. Hage saw the need for volunteerism throughout the city. She believed in these acts of mercy so passionately that she not only became involved in many areas where the need was great, she took charge of some of them.

Kathy Dean, manager of volunteer services at Cabell Huntington Hospital says that "Kitty" Hage was simply a volunteer like no other.

"There is a reason why her picture hangs in the main entrance to this hospital," said Dean. "For fifty years she was a sheer pleasure to work with, always smiling. She was president of our Auxiliary for years. She would even come in on days when she was not scheduled. A few minutes with her would brighten up the worst of days"

Mrs. Hage was also a member of the Women's Club of Huntington, president of the YWCA, even a member of the Lady's Auxiliary at St.Mary's Hospital. She was also one of the founding organizers of the Huntington Children Conservation League throughout areas within the city.

The time spent interviewing Kitty Hage was a pure delight. She is as genuine as they come, and do not think for a minute that her advanced years have diminished her ability to recall vivid detail. She talks about the television her son gave her.

"There's nothing on it worth watching except the news," she said. "The morals of our country have vanished."

Her memories of Huntington's trolley cars, the familiar ringing of the bell as it made each passenger stop. She recalls the trolley driver who would let her and Raymond ride the trolley for free to Guyandotte on Saturday nights. She also recalls the unmistakable sound of the horse drawn Guyan milk wagon as it made neighborhood deliveries.

This lady has indeed carved a niche in this town. She commands a position of respect because she earned it. And she earned it from those who laughed because she came from a funny sounding town.

Clyde Beal is a freelance writer always looking for a simple story of interest. A story like yours. Write him at archie350@verizon.net.

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