Generations: Katherine Joy Aby

Photo: Katherine in Summer 2013, George Jones took when out to lunch at 50th and France.

Inez Bergquist
“The gardener is full of patience for nature to do most of the work.”

This was one of Katherine Aby’s favorite sayings-and she had many. This creative genius was a dedicated altar guild, property committee and Sunday School teacher, who died March 26 of this year. Katherine donated a portion of her estate to St. Mark’s School age Sunday School program, which will be held as a restricted fund within St. Mark’s Foundation.

Mary Lusk, Director of Programs for Saint Mark’s said,

“It has taken me two days to pick myself up after reading (about this gift). The generosity of this unexpected gift is overwhelming!” Mary wrote, “Katherine was a Sunday School teacher for about five years, and each of those years, she grew more deeply into nurturing the spirituality of our children. One of her favorite quotes was: ‘One shapes and cares for the plant tenderly and thoughtfully, working out his ideals as he would in the training and guiding of a child.’ Tending to plants and to children were two areas where her creative talents bloomed!”

The Reverend Terry Erickson, Saint Mark’s deacon and altar guild liaison, said,

“Katherine was a dedicated member of the Altar Guild for many years, and served on multiple months during the year. Katherine was also one of the many volunteers that helped with Easter and Christmas preparation with flowers and plants.  She was always helpful and pleasant to work with and loved by all.”

Long time friend George Jones, former Generations chair, wrote,

“It was a joy to have Katherine as a friend. I first met Katherine when we were both taking a class before we joined the Cathedral. We hit it off right away. She was witty, joyful and even playful. I watched as Katherine interacted with children. You could tell this was a task of love. She was gentle, accepting and eager to share things with the children. She respected their ideas and their reflections. She was eager to use the gifts she had to further the kingdom of God.”


Katherine was also a long term member of the Property Committee, sharing her love of gardening and landscaping.

Mary Pagnucco, former Property Chair, recalls

“Katherine came to the Property Committee when I was chair, with a five year proposal to improve the grounds, shrubs, and plantings that surround the Cathedral. Naturally, the PC was thrilled and worked with her over that period of time.

“She drew up a schedule for the sextons to follow re: lawn care, edging the lawn, trimming the hedges, pruning the low branches on trees and general maintenance.

“The Cross Garden in the side lawn was looking poorly, and no one was taking care of it anymore; so Katherine took out all the plants, sold the good ones, and then had grass planted where the garden was. It was a big job.

“She split up Day Lilies…planted Hostas…spent a lot of time weeding…changed the plants under the outside sign by Hennepin Avenue..she worked on the grounds around 425 House.

“Generally speaking, the grounds were impeccable when she was working on them - her theory being that if the grounds looked attractive and inviting, people would come. She was a blessing to us all with her love of gardening and making things beautiful. She had a real talent.”

Property committee member Prentice Beadell appreciated Katherine’s love of gardening and organizational skills. She wrote,

“In addition to her many ministries at Saint Mark’s Katherine was fluent regarding native plants and vegetation suited to urban micro-climates, very useful for the Cathedral's location. Just a couple of weeks before her death the two of us agreed to develop a new landscape design to include existing healthy plant material while considering changes/simplification for certain areas. Maintainable design was important in this endeavor. She was so up to date.

“Katherine's generosity and forward thinking is certainly obvious in her very generous financial legacy she has left to Saint Mark's youth. She was a person very outside of herself and her energy, humor and forthright approach to life was/is contagious. Heaven is rockin' with Katherine in residence. If something needed doing, she just did it and she was always willing to share knowledge and engage others to do the same.

“Katherine did not stand on ceremony nor did she suffer negative thinkers. And her fashion sense and self-expression was awesome! Girly-girl and a bit Tomboy rolled into a life well lived - how fortunate I feel to have known her and to have called her my friend. While her instant passing was totally unexpected and surreal, it was also so Katherine; she would not have stood for any lingering nor any fussy attempts to intercede. God was calling. Now heaven has many more beautiful flowers... especially Katherine. Selfishly grieving her transition,” –Prentice Beadell.

Property Committee Chair Kathleen Murphy wrote,

“I remain sad but mindful that God's plan is unknown to us but perfect and holy”

In the Community

Katherine was an active member of the gardening community, and wrote a book and taught the craft of Espalier. As a master gardener, she taught pruning and espalier at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. And, she was a faithful yoga practitioner. The Garden Writers Association, Espalier Society, Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association, and Wood Chip Society counted her as a member.


It has to be mentioned that her hats were spectacular! The Saint Mark’s community is grateful for Katherine and her gifts that she shared so exhuberantly with us.

Links to articles that mention Katherine and her garden:

Thoughts from a neighbor

Northern Gardener Magazine from November-December 2013

Edina Magazine April 2011