Mary Ella Cathey

COLUMBIA — Mary Ella (Todd) Cathey was born and raised in Columbia with four brothers.

Harry R. Cathey was friends with her brothers long before he met their sister, his future bride.

“He often told me the brothers kept her hidden, and then one day, he discovered her,” daughter Carole Williamson said.

Mrs. Cathey died Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011, at Boone Hospital Center. She was 87.

Mrs. Cathey was born on July 29, 1924, in Columbia to Virgil Omar and Lovey M. (Toalson) Todd.

After graduating from Hickman High School, Mrs. Cathey attended Stephens College.

On Jan. 16, 1945, she married Harry Cathey in Stockton, Calif., just before he went overseas with the Navy. The couple had a son, Steven Cathey, and a daughter, Carole Williamson.

Later, when Williamson and her husband, Bruce, lived in California, Mrs. Cathey and her husband were able to visit the state for the first time since they were married.

Mrs. Cathey worked full time for most of her life, Williamson said. She was a secretary for MFA Oil and General Telephone Company.

Mrs. Cathey eventually went to work for Columbia Public Schools. She first worked as secretary for West Junior High School. She then returned to Hickman High School as a language arts resource secretary before retiring.

“She loved it. She met a lot of great people,” Williamson said.

Every Monday, Mrs. Cathey would meet with a group of women, who also worked for Columbia Public Schools, at the Panera in Columbia Mall for coffee and chatting. Williamson said these women were “the best of friends.”

Mrs. Cathey and her family attended First Baptist Church, and she taught Sunday school there.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Mrs. Cathey spent at least one day a week volunteering as a Pink Lady at Boone County Hospital, even though she worked full time. She brought flowers and mail to hospital patients.

She and her husband were both members of a social group called the Fabulous 50’s Club, which meets twice a month on either Wednesday or Friday nights. One night, group members bring dishes to share, and the other meeting is catered.

Williamson said the same basic group has been meeting for 30 years, even after outgrowing the name. Many of the members have lived in Columbia their entire lives, including Mrs. Cathey and her husband.

“It’s a wonderful group of people that my mom and dad have known for many, many years,” Williamson said. The group, though now dwindling, started with 70 or 80 members.

Mrs. Cathey was also a member of the American Legion Auxiliary.

One of Mrs. Cathey’s hobbies was making ceramics, many of which she gave to her family.

Williamson said some of her favorite pieces her mother made are the electric Christmas trees she would often give as gifts.

“My mom made them for everyone in the family so that we would all have our own Christmas trees in our room,” Williamson said. Mrs. Cathey gave one to Williamson when she was married and made smaller versions for Williamson’s children when they were older.

“She was just really all about being a wife and a mother and a grandmother. In the last two and a half years, she became a great-grandmother,” Williamson said. “Those were my mom’s great focuses in life. Those were just the most important things to her.”

Even though Mrs. Cathey was kept busy with a job, Williamson said she was able to keep up with the family’s needs.

“She was a wonderful cook — she kept a beautiful household. It was amazing because ... she worked full time,” Williamson said.

Mrs. Cathey is survived by her husband, Harry Cathey; a son, Steven Cathey of Columbia; a daughter, Carole Williamson and her husband ,Bruce, of Bridgeton; two brothers, Jesse Todd of Columbia and Nelson Todd of San Antonio, Texas; two grandchildren, Ashley Burke and her husband, Matt, and Drew Williamson; and one great-grandchild, Emily Burke.

Two brothers, Virgil Todd and Joe Todd, died earlier.

Visitation will be held at 1 p.m. Monday at First Baptist Church, 1112 E. Broadway. Services will follow at 2 p.m. Burial will be at Memorial Park Cemetery, 1217 Business Loop 70 W.

Memorial contributions may be made to First Baptist Church.

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