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Kathleen Ross

kathleen ross

Kathleen Marie Ross, 85, of Murrieta, California, died July 10, 2023 at Manor Care in Hemet, California. Kathleen was an award-winning painter, dress designer, master gardener, world traveler, and beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She was born Kathleen Marie Thompson on September 4, 1937 into an Italian-American household in Melrose Park, Illinois to Grace and Phillip Thompson. Kathleen’s grandmother had immigrated from Italy as a teenager in the late 19th century.

Kathy made her first fashion statement when she was three years old by cutting all the belts off of her mother’s dresses. She was inspired to design her own dresses by her Aunt Helen, who gave Kathy an industrial sewing machine along with fabric samples in silk and lace. As a teen, she worked with her family at her father’s Midwest Grocery Store in Berwyn, Illinois. After graduating high school, she pursued dress design in Chicago, but then decided she wanted to work for the National Park Service the summer of 1956. She wrote a letter to their headquarters in Washington D.C. asking for a job, and they assigned her to Acadia National Park in Maine, where she took a position at the Jordan Pond House. The job included housing, and she loved it there so much, she decided to extend her stay through the fall. That summer she developed a new friendship with another adventurous young woman, and both of them had dreams of driving together to California.

Shortly after she returned home, she met her future husband, Robert E. Ross, at a church dance in the suburbs of Chicago. That night Robert noticed Kathy from across the room, and told his friend, Al, “that’s the woman I’m going to marry.”  And indeed he did. After a short courtship, Robert proposed to Kathy, pledging they would travel the world together and have a big family. They kept their pledge, marrying on June 8, 1957, and began their journey with a honeymoon road trip, before many of the interstates were built. They rented their first home in Berkeley, California. After their eldest son, Michael, was born, they moved to the South Bay, where they continued to have children every 18 months until they reached the lucky number 7.

Kathleen and Robert took their children on many road trips, including to Mexico City, and lived in several places around the United States: Illinois, Virginia, Florida, and eventually back to California. As a couple, Robert and Kathy traveled abroad to Italy, Germany, France, and England. Many of Kathy’s paintings depict scenes of their travels.

She also continued her clothing design passion, and Italian frugality, by making clothes for all of her children as they grew up.

Kathy eventually earned her bachelor’s degree in home economics from California State University Fresno. When her children were grown, she pursued a second bachelor’s degree in industrial design, and a master’s degree in fine arts at Pasadena Art Center College of Design. She eventually became a celebrated artist in watercolor, oil, and acrylic painting. Kathy was a member of the Redlands Art Association and she earned signature status in the  Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas Watercolor Societies. She has exhibited and been honored with major awards from the Art Council of Southwest Florida, Charlotte County Art Guild, Fort Myers Beach Art Association, Cape Coral Art League, Big Arts Sanibel, League of Reston Artists in Virginia, Gem of the Valley Art Association (Murrieta), and a one-woman show at the Alliance for the Arts, Fort Myers. Her work hangs in private collections in the United States and England. She continued painting up a storm until she suffered a stroke in 2022. Recently some of her paintings were accepted into the collections at the future Museum of Redlands and the Temecula Valley Museum in California.

Her family was lucky to learn so many wonderful things from her guidance. Some of her favorite encouraging words were: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” “The world is your oyster.” And her favorite from Joseph Campbell: “Follow your bliss.” And, thanks to her, they all have a strong moral compass and work ethic that may seem rare; with direction to always do the right thing.

She is survived by her seven children: son Michael Gerard Ross and his wife, Lydia Qunhua Li of Morgan Hill, California; daughter Mary Margaret Ross Gilbert, and her husband, Simon Derek Gilbert of Palos Verdes, California; possibly her son Patrick Francis Ross; her daughter Maureen Christine Ross and her husband Tony Palmer of Cape Coral, Florida; her son Francis Thomas Ross and his partner Coral Thayer of Groveland, California; her daughter Anne Grace Isabella Callahan and her husband, Johnny Callahan of Murrieta, California; and her daughter Sharon Elizabeth Ross of Westbrook, Maine. She is also survived by six amazing grandchildren: Jonathan Michael, Tyler Patrick, and Andrew Thomas Dubnicka; Harrison Derek William Gilbert; Isabel Annie Ross; and Morgan Li Ross; and two great-grandchildren: Brixtyn and Violet Dubnicka. She is also survived by one brother, Bill Thompson, and her younger sister, Mary Parks and her husband Tony Parks, and countless wonderful nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her husband of 59 years, Robert E. Ross, her brother Phillip R. Thompson, and grandson Richard Simon Gilbert.

A memorial service in her honor will be held at St. Martha Catholic Church in Murrieta on Monday, July 24, 2023 at 11 a.m. Memorial masses said in Kathleen’s memory are welcomed. Kathleen will join her beloved husband, Robert E. Ross at the Sarasota National Cemetery in Florida. In lieu of flowers, donations to arts-based nonprofits in her honor are encouraged, including the Fort Myers Beach Art Association and Gallery, Museum of Redlands, and the Temecula Valley Museum.

Funeral arrangements were entrusted to England Family Mortuary, Inc.

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