July 18, 1920 - August 21, 2017
Kay lived an energetic life, and she brought her own unique and eloquent style to everything she did. The timing of her goodbye was so fitting: She left us Monday, August 21, 2017, right during the solar eclipse! She will be greatly missed in so many ways.
Kay was complex and alert, and she was determined to succeed in a world that had her growing up fast during the '30s Depression era. She learned to fly airplanes in Caldwell, Idaho, long before she ever drove a car. She sometimes complained, as a young woman (and occasionally as an older woman), "cars don’t bank!" – always to a receptive chuckle. Early in WWII she volunteered to fly aircraft with the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) organization, a women’s volunteer pilot group whose outstanding wartime contribution and service wasn’t fully recognized until 1979. The U.S. Air Force then took the retroactive step of including all WASP pilots as official members of the U.S. Air Force, with veterans benefits included. In 2010, the U.S. Congress held a large ceremony at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. honoring all WASP pilots and their surviving families with the Congressional gold medal for 2009, a tribute to their unsung ferrying pilot service. Kay was among those women who were applauded and escorted that day by all branches of the military. In hindsight, not many pilots got to fly all makes of legendary P-51, P-38, P-47, P-40, P-39, and P-63 fighter planes during the war; Kay did, flying such planes from the aircraft factory point of origin over to a designated departure point, all done with routine military professionalism and manner.
After the war, Kay got her master degree in Education from the University of Oregon. She went on to teach at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, where she spent her teaching career studying folk dance and modern dance, and teaching many students about the beauty of dance. She was a well-known physical education instructor, who took her students to dance down on the beach.
Kay continued with her piloting skills, and had a commercial pilot’s license. She helped fly relief missions in Northern California during the 1964 floods, floods that completely cut off the Arcata area from the rest of the world.
Kay was a long-time activist and a secretary of the Audubon Society in Northern California. She supported the Nature Conservancy, and was active in saving the standing redwood groves in Northern California from being logged off in the early '60s. Redwood National Park is part of her effort’s legacy. She was a life-long contributor to nature preservation and an active bird watcher.
Kay married her best friend, and the love of her life, Keith Chaffey, in 1960. They both loved seeing the world together, from climbing up to Machu Picchu, to seeing the bronze horses high in Venice’s St. Mark’s square, to watching moose near Mt. Denali in Alaska. They both loved the natural world and enjoyed the rich diversity of cultures offered to those who travel. Keith preceded Kay in death, but, as he might say, he was just going on ahead.
If there was a theme to Kay’s life it was this: See the world, and enjoy the moment as a gift to delight in - in dance, in art, in nature, and in knowing people from all over. She is survived by nephews, Daniel Gott and Brian Gott; niece, P.K. Gott, and their spouses and family; and many, many friends. Kay was one-of-a-kind, and her rich laughter will be greatly missed by all who knew her.