After weeks of waiting and prayer and tears, Kathy Garrigan will finally be laid to rest this Friday.

Marian Garrigan sat in the Journal’s first floor lunchroom Monday, pleasant but tired. She wanted to talk a bit about her daughter and the search that recovered her body from an Alaskan lake, but mostly to thank the many people near and far who helped her and her family.

She talked about a thick log book in which each volunteer’s name was scratched daily as they reported to help in the search. She’s deeply grateful to all of them.

“It’s a very thick book,” she said. “There were dozens of people who devoted entire days to the effort.” People who lent their expensive boats to strangers to help find two missing people. People like those from the Seth Foundation, and Gene and Sandy Ralston, who finally found Kathy, and who refused any pay, taking only travel and lodging expenses.

And so many people back here in Oak Park and the surrounding area who donated tens of thousands of dollars at numerous fund raisers.

“The fund raising enabled us to support the organizations that came to help,” she said. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your friendship and support and prayers for Kathy. You’ve truly sustained us,” she said.

With Kathy now found, her mom can recall things previously obscured by sorrow and worry. Such as how beautiful the lake is where her daughter spent her last day.

“The lake is beautiful,” she said with a wan smile. “The pictures you see don’t capture how pretty it is.” Wild irises, foxtail and another purple flower whose name she can’t quite recall flowering everywhere, sloping down to blue water.

Like Green Lake, Wisconsin, she said, then, “Actually, it reminded me of Ireland.”

People, Garrigan said, gave her hope when there was none. The search for Kathy, she said, was like finding a penny in a field. Yet the volunteers never gave up. And came so close. Tracks from the dragging operation were found within 20 feet of Kathy’s body.

As a Fairbanks Miner-News editorial stated, “What stands out, however, is not the technology but the volunteers behind it who never gave up in a search that must have at times felt utterly hopeless.”

Marian Garrigan also wants to be clear that it was not alcohol consumed on a holiday weekend that caused the deaths of her daughter and her two friends. Nor even the lack of life vests, though they might have helped. At the end, Garrigan said, her daughter fought for her life, swimming toward shore after her canoe capsized. But the wind and current had defeated her, as had the lethally frigid water. She was found 400 feet from the shore.

Time is helping somewhat. She doesn’t think she could have talked about any of this the first week. It’s not easy yet, just barely possible.

“It’s really hard. My daughters are all so close,” she said.

Yet she’s grateful.

“We have the great gift of her life,” she said of her youngest daughter. Garrigan looked weary as she rose slowly to leave, looking as if she’s impatient for tragedy to fade and give way to more gentle memories.

And there will be joy once again, soon enough. Kathy’s sister Elizabeth is expected to give birth July 19.

In Memoriam

Kathleen Marian Garrigan, 24, Americorps volunteer, youth coach

Kathleen (Kathy) Marian Garrigan, 24, died in a boating accident on Lake Harding, near Fairbanks, Alaska, May 27. Ms. Garrigan was in Alaska serving as an Americorps volunteer for the Tanana Chiefs Council, working with Native American youth doing service projects involving the environment and the arts.

Ms. Garrigan is remembered as a good friend to all, who shared her love of music with everyone. As someone born with the gift of humor who made people laugh, as someone who brightened every room she entered.

A fourth generation Oak Parker, Ms. Garrigan attended Lincoln Elementary, Ascension Religious Education Program, Emerson Junior High School and Oak Park and River Forest High School. Her junior year at OPRF, she was selected for the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Award. In 2005 she earned her Bachelor of Communications and Theatre Arts from St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, IN.

Her love of sports began as a 4-year old by watching her older sisters play T-ball. She went on to play for the Oak Park Windmills Girls Softball organization until she was 18. Her high school team, coached by Mel Kolbusz, had one of the best records in OPRF softball history.

She also played basketball at Emerson Junior High, and was named M.V.P. in the 1997 Oak Leaves Girls Basketball Tournament in 1997. She went on to play two years, and was brought up to assist the varsity for playoffs as a freshman.

Volleyball became her main passion after she decided to play tournament ball as a 16 year old. She went on to be a 4-year varsity standout at St. Joseph’s under coach Linda Deno. While there she organized Girls in Sports Day, coached the Lady Bombers, a local Rensselaer 8th grade girls basketball team, and assisted in coaching special recreation teams. Back in Oak Park she managed and coached a 10 & under Windmill softball team.

Ms. Garrigan interned at Oak Park Hospital in the human resources department, as well as Rainbow Recovery in San Jose, where she administered a food bank to women in recovery. This past May she told her family of her plans to pursue a masters degree in not-for-profit administration.

Ms. Garrigan is survived by her mother and father Marian and Tom, her sisters, Marie (Dave) Schabow, Elizabeth (Dan) McNeilly, and Rosemary (Brian Hepner) Garrigan, her grandparents Tom and Marie Garrigan of Oak Park, aunts and uncles, Fred (Marie) Brandstrader, William (Maria) Brandstrader, Elizabeth Luby, Rosemary O’Shea, Thomas (Amy) Brandstrader, Janet (Richard) Regis, Sara (Paul) McKenna, James (Cheryl) Brandstrader, John (Marianne) Garrigan, Kathleen (Richard) Klaus, Susan (Bruce) Bulmash and James (Stephanie) Garrigan, many loving first cousins and second cousins in the area. She was blessed to be close to great-aunts Therese Golden Trankina and Nancy Ponsonby Chumbley, She is preceded in death by her grandparents Fred and Agnes Golden Brandstrader, her adoring uncles, Joseph Luby, William O’Shea and Stephen Brandstrader.

Visitation will start at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 13, followed by a memorial mass presided over by Rev. Larry McNally at 11 a.m. at Ascension Church, 801 S. East Ave., Oak Park.

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