My first memory of you was in 1976 this beautiful, happy, blonde sitting on the couch at WSU with your long flowing blonde hair! You probably don’t remember this, but from the very beginning, you taught me about the bigger world. You, a sophisticated Seattleite that worked at the glamorous Washington Athletic Club going into Communications; Me, a small town farm girl from Battle Ground, Washington going into nerdly Engineering.
I remember about two months into the school year, it was October in the Palouse and starting to chill down. I was passing by the front door headed toward the living room and you came into the AXO house from the cold dark outside and you had shorts on! I reasoned, if you were outside and you had shorts on, you must have been locked out or something. I asked you “what happened?” and you said “what do you mean?”
I asked “Why were you outside with shorts on?”
You said that “I went for a run”.
“Why?” I asked.
You laughed and said “for exercise”.
I asked if you were “on the track team?”
You laughed again and said “No”.
I had never heard of anyone I knew “going for a run” except when their car broke down. Or if there was a family emergency, like the fence broke and the horses or cows got out, then people ran. Or for competition such as running with your sisters on the way home from church on Sunday.
Being from a farm and living in areas where there was a lot of ground to cover, I had the mentality that you either walked somewhere or you drove, car, tractor, motorcycle. If you were in a hurry, you would run, but, only if something was urgent or entertaining.
I ran track in high school, so I knew about running for track, but other than that, I did not know anybody that just “went for a run”. So you tried to explain to me that you were not on the track team or in training, but that you went for a run to get exercise. Hmmn, I had a hard time making sense of it. But even then, I trusted your introduction of the concept.
WSU had a big campus and lots of hills to confront every day. I could not imagine the concept of “going for a run”. It was the 70’s and all that entails. You were such a revolutionary thinker, even then.
And the years have flown by and our lives have constantly been intertwined. We have had so many great times and shared so many joys. Although we both moved away for work we returned to Seattle simultaneously and launched our careers. And we both loved working on nonprofit issues, so for over 27 year now, we have worked on the YWCA helping women & their families break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.
Then there was the matter of the brain tumor. You were so supportive when my daughter Stewart had a brain tumor. I remember when you did a story on her at Children’s and we first talked about how little money was going towards brain tumor research. I shared my dream of starting Pediatric Brain Tumor Research at Seattle Children’s Hospital and we talked about ways to get research started. You said you thought it was ironic that you were doing a story on my daughter, but what was really ironic was that you had a brain tumor then and did not even know it.
It has been wonderful to work with you on Children’s Hospital issues through the years. You have touched so many people with your stories, and you gave each patient such love, care and hope.
You have always been amazing. When you would tell me that your tumors had returned, all 10 times you mentioned that you would be heading back to surgery, you always said, “ I have nothing to complain about” . I was always inspired by your gratitude, graciousness and tremendous faith.
It has been my great joy to work with you and Rick on The Kathi Goertzen Foundation. You will continue to inspire us. And we will reach for cures.
Since Meningioma are primarily found in women we will put in extra effort to make sure that this devastating illness gets the attention and research that it deserves. Many others are joining our effort and you will continue to touch many, many lives!
You are the fiercest of all Cougars and I am so proud to call you friend. I love you!
- Rhoda Altom