Homeland resident Katherine Harrity: Self-sufficiency and a sense of humor


Homeland resident Katherine HarringtonKatherine Harrity calls herself a smart aleck, but in reality, she is a satisfied Homeland resident with a quick, self-deprecating wit.

“I’ve been here for a while, and they haven’t put me out on the street with a sign that said, ‘Take me,'” she said with a laugh.

In her spacious personal care end unit, Kathie enjoys the comfort and security of life at Homeland.

Kathie grew up in the western New York village of Hamburg, outside of Buffalo and near the beaches of Lake Erie.

“Hamburg was a nice community to live in,” she said. “The people that lived in the village looked after each other. When you lived in Hamburg, New York, you’d better mind your P’s and Q’s because it wouldn’t be a secret. At least, not when I was growing up.”

The keepsakes in her room include a framed advertisement for the 1940s “Design for Happiness” home model. It’s not just any home, though. Kathie’s father, an architect, designed it and built one for his family.

“We were the first family to live in that house,” she said.

She remembers her father’s patient ways. When he was laying the home’s flagstone patio, Kathie would bring stones as he needed them from a pile by the breezeway.

“If it wasn’t the right size or shape, he wouldn’t fuss at me,” she said. “He would just put it aside and ask me to get another one.”

Kathie was active in intramural sports in school, “not very well, but I was pitching in there and doing my share,” she said.

In her high school yearbook, filled with well-wishes from classmates, Kathie is described as having: “Graceful feet dancing to the song in her heart.”

That’s because she had dance training, even dancing in toe shoes. She would also fill in when her dance teacher took dinner breaks during evening ballroom dancing lessons, donning one of the lovely dresses she bought with her babysitting money and demonstrating ballroom steps with the teacher’s husband.

Kathie’s Class of ’56 was the first to graduate from a brand-new high school, a centralized school for Baby Boomers and an influx of students from the surrounding countryside.

“I graduated on Friday night and went to work on Monday morning in an office,” she said.

Adept at shorthand and typing 120 words a minute, she worked in office administration until her children were born. When they were old enough, she returned to work.

Married soon after graduating from high school, Kathie had four children. The family moved to Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and back to Hamburg.

When Kathie was in her 40s, she decided it was time to get the college degree she bypassed after high school. She enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh, older than many of her teachers, and earned her bachelor’s degree in information science.

After earning her degree, she returned to work in office administration, “showing up on time and working when I was there.”

“I made a decent living,” she said. “I’ve taken care of myself.”

Kathie’s parents died young – her father at 44, her mother at 67. Both were smokers, but Kathie is not, “and I’m an octogenarian!” she said today.

Her room is filled with the mysteries she likes to read and also with penguins. Her love of penguins started when she was chaperoning her daughter’s Campfire Girls group, and she needed a camp name.

“Knowing where I was raised in Western New York, which had terrible weather, I picked ‘Penguin,’” she said. “Kids will remember a name like that. Somehow or other, the penguins followed me.”

She is happy at Homeland, adding that she likes the food and the mealtime table seatings with only two or three other people.

“If you don’t feel like you’re part of a mob, you can get acquainted with people,” she said. “I’ve been very, very comfortable here.”