Obituary: Kathryn “Kay” Louise Fleming
Kathryn “Kay” Louise (Kottmeier) Fleming, formerly of Visalia, Calif., passed away peacefully on Sept. 9, 2018 in Concord, Calif., where she was a resident of Windsor Manor Care, surrounded by family and loving caregivers. She was 98 years old.
Kay was particularly proud of her heritage, tracing her roots back to the American Revolution and beyond. When Kay was born on Jan. 21, 1920, her parents, Dorothy (Lewis) Kottmeier, and Wesley Louis Kottmeier, were living in Corning, Calif. where they owned and operated a hardware store. Kay’s maternal grandparents, Col. Edson Arthur Lewis and Mary (Ward) Lewis, were stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco. To receive medical care, Dorothy traveled to the Presidio and Kay was born there and two years later, her sister Constance “Connie” Lucille Kottmeier. Kay’s brother, Wesley Louis Kottmeier, Jr., was born in Corning.
Because of the Great Depression, the store in Corning closed and her father, Wes Kottmeier, started working for the International Harvester Company as a salesman. Wes senior’s career with International Harvester grew and the family moved again, first to Stockton, and on to Fresno. In the middle of her Junior year at Fresno High, the family moved to Visalia where Kay met Randall Eugene Fleming, her future and much beloved husband. They both graduated from Visalia High in 1938. At the time, Kay’s father managed the International Harvester dealership in Visalia which was later owned by the family and known as Kottmeier Equipment Company.
After high school, Kay started attending a nursing school in San Francisco. Married students were not allowed. However, wanting to get married but also wanting to get her nursing degree, Kay and Gene married and attempted to keep it a secret from the school. In the end their secret was revealed and she was forced to withdraw.
When Gene was shipped overseas during WWII, Kay returned to her parents’ home in Visalia. Son Russell Eugene Fleming, born in 1943, did not meet his father until he was 3 years old.
After Gene’s return, he joined the family farm equipment business. Kay and Gene built a home on Westcott Street in Visalia and had two more children, Gregory Ross Fleming and Aurolyn Susan Kay Fleming (now Suzi Bachan).
Kay’s father and brother being mayors of the City of Visalia, Kay was naturally active in many social and community activities, and was honored to be one of the founders and first and second President of the Kaweah Delta Health Care District Hospital Guild. Both Gene and Kay acted as Presidents of the local school PTAs and were active leaders in Boy Scouts. In the late 1950s, Kay and Gene built a large two-story cabin in Weston Meadows in Sequoia National Forest. She and the family could often be found spending large parts of their summers at their cabin with beautiful meadow vistas and skies over Kings Canyon.
Eventually, Kay returned to nursing and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree graduating Summa Cum Laude. During the course of her career she earned her Public Health Nurse certification and worked for a time as a public school nurse for Visalia elementary schools. She became a Nurse Practitioner in addition to teaching nursing at College of the Sequoias and California State College Bakersfield where she also ran the External Degree program for nurses until her retirement in 1990. Her students often relayed their high regard for her knowledge, skill and teaching ability.
Outside of work, Kay and Gene were active members of the Presbyterian church in Visalia and in Three Rivers where they were deacons. Some years before and after retiring, Kay and Gene lived in Three Rivers and continued to enjoy a wonderful social and community service life including church and bridge clubs. She was President of the Redbud Garden Club between 1998 and 2000, and twice President of the Three Rivers Women’s Club (1992 and 1993). As a testament to her tenacity to keep living life to the fullest, Kay survived being bitten by a Three Rivers rattlesnake in the ‘80s, then again by another Three Rivers rattlesnake in the ‘90s. The snakes did not survive.
In a stroke of happy serendipity, in 1996, Kay and Gene were able to re-purchase and move back into the Visalia home they built in 1951. Kay lived in the family home until 2008, at which time it was prudent for her to move closer to her daughter Suzi in the Bay Area.
She was preceded in death by her husband Gene (2003) and sons Greg (1965) and Russ (1995). She is survived by her daughter, Suzi, and Suzi’s four children Wesley Brandon, Heather Nicole, Luke George (IV), and Alexander Monroe; as well by her son Russell’s two children, Elizabeth Ann and Gregory Robert. Kay has seven great-grandchildren who have been lucky enough to have known her. She kept a close and loving relationship with her surviving niece, Dorothy Davis Downing and her husband Jed Downing, and her nephew Don Davis. Niece Barbara Jean Davis Jenke resides in Montana.
An extraordinarily hard-working and energetic professional woman, Kay loved entertaining, seasonally decorating her home, and gardening.
Graveside Services will be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 at the Visalia District Cemetery, 1300 W. Goshen Ave. in Visalia. Arrangements by Smith Family Chapel in Exeter, Calif. Online Condolences may be made at www.smithfamilychapel.com.