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Catherine Abate, 1955-2015, wife, mother, friend
Catherine Abate, a wife, mother and friend, died Monday, February 16, surrounded by her family. Catherine was 60 years old. She is survived by her husband Michael, her two stepchildren Angelena and Antonio and her five sisters.
Catherine Jenkins was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the second oldest of six girls. Her mother Sibyl, originally from Mississippi, and her father Alfred Lewis (known to everyone as Lew) raised their girls in a variety of cities across the U.S. including Dearborn, MI,; Cincinnati and Columbus, OH; Annapolis, MD and Rochester, NY. Catherine loved to tell the story of how her parents would have the six girls call out their names once they were all loaded into the car: Jan, Cathy, Jaye, Kelly, Becky, Sara.
Catherine returned to Michigan for college, graduating from Central Michigan University with a degree in broadcast and cinematic arts. While at CMU, Catherine DJ-ed at the university radio station, earning her a nickname that stayed with her: CJ the DJ. Her lifelong love of music – old standards, rock and roll, jazz and even choral songs may be a remnant of her grandparents’ Vaudeville careers.
Shortly after graduation, she moved to Florida and became a reporter and anchor for a small local ABC affiliate. She recalled being a “one woman band” – having to lug a giant video camera around to cover stories, shooting her own standups and interviews as well as writing, producing and being the on-air talent for the stories she reported.
Rather than continuing the TV journalism route, Catherine made a turn and started to work as a producer of corporate films, most notably spending significant time working on training films for Ford Motor Company, which again brought her to Dearborn.
Catherine then headed to New York City where she spent almost two decades in TV advertising, producing award-winning TV commercials for Little Caesars Pizza, Staples and many more. This work took her to far off places including Africa, Europe and Hollywood and earned her too many friendships to count, too many working girl stories and career insights to recount with her stepdaughter as she chose her own career path.
She retired from this career in the early 2000s and found her next chapter in community activism. Catherine worked in both communities she called home – Harlem and the Catskills – to make them better in ways she found important. From spearheading a grassroots campaign to prevent a 300-foot cellphone tower from being erected in a protected scenic corridor of the Catskills to getting a stop sign installed in Harlem so those tending a community garden would be able to safely cross the street, Catherine made big and small changes that most of us would never have known how to do.
But more important was the family she helped to build. Meeting Michael Abate, Catherine knew almost immediately that she wanted to marry him, and she did in 1990.
Catherine and Michael were married for almost 25 years. In that time she saw her stepchildren graduate from high school and college, her stepdaughter get married, her stepson sing on some of the most prestigious stages across the globe and so much more. She supported her husband as he designed and built countless public and private spaces in New York City. They all say that much of their success, big and small, would not have been possible had it not been for Catherine.
The end of Catherine’s life stands in stark contrast to the way she lived – she left us and this world without saying a word. And for all of us that knew her well and for those that just encountered her once, one thing was constant: Catherine always had something to say, something to share and something to contribute.
Catherine was outgoing and funny, smart, quick and bold. She took on any challenge that came her way simply because she believed it was the right thing to do. The 60 years she spent on earth were full of so much Catherine – when she walked into a room, everyone knew it and everyone had a story to tell long after she had gone. To all of us that knew her – whether it was for just a day or in passing or whether she was in our life as family or friend – Catherine was, simply and so singularly Catherine. Gone but not forgotten, her presence will be felt in so many ways and in so many settings. Catherine believed that once one’s soul left its earthly vessel, it lived on and popped in from time to time on the people that mattered. We’ll be waiting for you, Catherine, at Lake Minnewaska for a swim, at the community boards for an opinion on what to push for, or at your beloved Spring Glen farm for a homegrown apple or tomato.
Funeral arrangements were made with Loucks Funeral Home for further information please visit www.loucksfh.com .
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