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Labor Day, 2022—Old Mission Peninsula winery overlooking Lake Michigan. Cathy Jane Learnard, of Richmond VA, passed away at 6PM on October 2, 2022, at age 66, having been born on July 20, 1956. Cathy was always proud that Neil Armstrong selected her birthday for the astronaut’s first moon landing. Cathy grew up in Colonial Heights, VA, and attended The College of William and Mary in Virginia despite being told by a Colonial Heights High School counselor that W&M would be too difficult for her and she should apply to an easier elementary education college like Martha Washington. Anyone who tried to tell Cathy what she should do, or couldn’t do, had a fight on their hands; her dad taught her that she could do whatever she wanted and not to take lip from anyone. After graduating from W&M, Cathy wondered if she should return to CHHS and ask the counselor to read the Latin text on her W&M diploma. Cathy was a lively woman. Her first love was her daughter Dawn, adopted in Hubei Province, China, after Cathy exerted determined will and energy to overcome an arduous process of bureaucratic hurdles. Dawn was the “apple of her eye” from preschool thru elementary and intermediate school at Luther Memorial School, and high school at St. Gertrude’s in Richmond, capped off with Dawn’s education at Ohio University’s nursing school. Cathy’s second love was theater, especially the Fort Lee Playhouse and the Festival of the Arts in Byrd Park where Cathy worked behind the scenes, and occasionally acted. Cathy actively worked with the Nativity Pageant at the Carillon and Amahl and the Night Visitors at the Mosque Theater. Cathy was friends with those sharing her third loves; her two champion Samoyeds, Sasha and Lacey, whom she was proud to show in competitions and just cuddle at home. Her fourth love was a potpourri of museums, wineries, craft festivals, and football games—the Dennos Museum in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Smithsonian being favorites. Finally, her husband, David Karns, whom she waited a long time to meet at an American Marketing Association lunch in Richmond was Cathy’s fifth love. They married on October 8, 1994, following Cathy’s precise instructions to the officiating pastor (David’s beloved Uncle Bill) about how the ceremony would be conducted (including having her mom sing the Lord’s Prayer). Cathy’s wedding was scheduled to occur during the Michigan-Michigan State football game. A rollicking reception at Mayfield Cottage in Colonial Heights was timed to celebrate both the joyous wedding and the Wolverines’ inevitable victory. During their marriage Cathy and David enjoyed many trips to museums, and wineries. And, to Ann Arbor for Michigan Wolverine football and the extended Wolverine family, which she joined with fervor. Cathy, extrovert and upbeat, was truly the Yang to David’s Yin. Cathy was born July 20, 1956, in Petersburg, VA, to Joyce (née Orcutt) and Ralph Learnard. Ralph worked for the U.S. Post Office at various locations near Colonial Heights; Joyce worked in the Colonial Heights Public Library. After graduating from W&M, Cathy taught first-grade for several years, but then realized that elementary school teaching was not adequately financially remunerative around 1990. Cathy returned to W&M to earn a Master’s in Business Administration and entered the world of banking as Vice President working with Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations. Unfortunately, her first Richmond bank was bought by a larger bank with its own CRA office; her second Richmond bank was also bought by a larger out-of-state bank. Cathy became a Vice President for CRA in yet another Virginia headquartered bank, Jefferson Federal Bank. Jefferson was bought by a North Carolina Bank, Wachovia. Cathy tired of the game of musical banks and joined the Virginia Department of Education, Office of Student Assessment, opining that the Commonwealth of Virginia was unlikely to be bought by North Carolina! As usual, Cathy was correct, and North Carolina did not buy Virginia. Cathy suffered progressive complications from Multiple Sclerosis during the last decade of the 24 years she worked for the Department of Education; ultimately, her body gave up. She lived life fully, even with her MS. Cathy is survived by her daughter, Dawn; mother, Joyce Learnard of Colonial Heights; husband of 28 years, David Karns; stepson, Paul Karns of Somerville, MA, Step granddaughter, Anna Karns of Bar Harbor, ME; and several Orcutt and Turner cousins. Cathy was predeceased by her father, Ralph Learnard. Cathy is also survived by her Ginter Place friends over the last eight years, and friends and acquaintances everywhere whose lives she brightened. As a former VDOE colleague and GP friend said, “Cathy was always so friendly and cheerful, and she made VDOE a much more pleasant place.” Other Ginter Place residents said, “Cathy was a vibrant, caring and valued member of Ginter Place.” “Cathy was such a kind person. One of the ‘good people’ in this world. And our lives were made richer because of her presence.” Cathy can be memorialized with donations to the Muscarelle Museum of Art, the Dennos Museum Center, or the Theater Company at Fort Lee. A celebration of Cathy’s life will be held at a future date.
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