Remembering Katharine Coon Dunlop:  Amenia’s stylish go-getter and wonderful girl
This photo of Katharine Coon Dunlop was used on the cover of the service bulletin for her funeral, having been chosen by Katharine’s son, Robert. Dunlop passed away on Monday, Aug. 22, at the age of 87. Photo submitted

Remembering Katharine Coon Dunlop: Amenia’s stylish go-getter and wonderful girl

AMENIA — Having touched innumerable lives during her 87 years, Katharine Coon Dunlop left a positive impression on those who knew her, all witnesses to her steadfast belief in community betterment and just plain getting things done. Known by most everyone in the area, Katharine died on Monday, Aug. 22.

Her funeral was held on Saturday, Aug. 27, filling Smithfield Church in Amenia to capacity in remembrance and celebration of her life and dedication to her community. A successful Realtor for 50 years, friends noted that she had often sold the same home to successive new owners over the course of her career.

“Katharine was known by everyone and everyone loved her,” Smithfield’s Pastor Douglas Grandgeorge said. “I have known Katharine for 14 years, and we have never had an argument.”

Grandgeorge noted that this was in spite of acknowledged distinct political differences.

“We had so much respect for one another. On my first Easter Sunday at Smithfield,” he noted and in keeping with the Midwestern Easter heritage of his youth, “I was wearing light colors.”

Katharine approached him to say, “In this part of the world, we wait until Memorial Day.”

“I’ve waited until Memorial Day ever since,” he said.

Katharine was a regular at Troutbeck in Amenia, Jim Flaherty recalled, when he and partner Bob Skibsted re-opened Troutbeck following extensive restoration 43 years ago. It would quickly become a preeminent conference center and retreat.

“She arrived within the first five minutes of our opening and we became friends in the first hour,” Flaherty reported. It was a friendship that lasted.

“She was, no she ‘is’ a great lady, not just in real estate, but also in local and national politics,” Flaherty said, promising to make her a “Bloody Mary” (her favorite) annually on her birthday.

“Kathy and I laughed a lot,” he added.

“Some people are here in church because of Katharine,” said Smithfield Choir Director Denise Jordan Finley.

“So, we can add evangelist to her accomplishments,” Grandgeorge interjected.

Realtor Robert Riemer, who knew her for 50 years, recalled meeting Katharine at the old DeLavergne Farms Hotel in Amenia. As a schoolteacher he was doing photography on the side, because in those days, teachers were not paid during summers.

Katharine was teaching third grade at that point and was a wedding guest at the hotel when she spotted Riemer and his camera. She asked him to take a photo of her with her young son, Bobby, both seated in a wingback chair.

Riemer made regular use of the dark room at the school to develop his film, enabling him to present her with the black and white photo.

Moving the story to the present day, Riemer recalled that two or three years ago, Katharine asked whether he could provide her with another copy of that photo.

Riemer recalled that Katharine ran for and was elected to the Amenia Town Board in the 1980s and was instrumental in moving ideas forward. For example, she was a proponent of the idea of converting the old school to what is now the Town Hall, and she was an important supporter of the Amenia Fire Company.

Riemer said that he went on to work part-time for Katharine summers as a real estate agent, when her office had six agents.

“Katharine was not one ever to give up,” Riemer said.

Carol Coon described Katharine as “bold and outspoken.”

Katharine’s niece, Sheila Hewitt, described her as “stylish and fashionable,” seldom without a hat and beads, and always with her hair done.

Kevin McEneaney, clerk of Smithfield’s Council, said, “Katharine was the most optimistic person I ever met,” citing her “can-do” spirit in all things. She served on the church’s governing body for two decades.

Darlene Riemer said, “Katharine could argue with you and still say it with a smile.”

She remembered Katharine’s organizing and assembling the volunteers for the annual Christmas Tea, now a community tradition.

Longtime Amenia dairy farmer Joe McEnroe went through four years of Amenia High School with Katharine.

“She was a wonderful girl,” he said. “I have a lot of fond memories.”

“An awesome mother,” her son Robert said.

Amenia resident Dan Brown called her “a cornerstone of Smithfield Valley, like a big sister to me.” He noted her 20 years of service on the town’s Republican Committee for Ward 1. She was consistently elected to the committee except for one election on a Tuesday, when Brown’s broken fan belt disabled his car in New York City. His wife, Nancy, and he were unable to drive to Amenia to cast their two votes for Katharine. She lost that election by one vote but won by wider margins in other elections that were to follow.

Katharine served as a Delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1985 and attended the Inauguration of President Ronald Reagan, earning a box seat for the big parade and even attending the Inaugural Ball.

“She was a go-getter,” said Jim Murphy of Pine Plains, a friend of 30 years, adding “and how she loved her grandkids.”

Considering their grandmother, those “grandkids” Colby and Mackenzie Dunlop and Kaiden O’Brien agreed on descriptors such as “extremely supportive, helpful, very nice and very loving.”

Although now beyond the reach of mortal touch and sight, her life dedicated to service will be remembered with love by her vast and grateful Amenia community.

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