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Lake Nebagamon loses champion, storyteller, friend

Deb Krieg

There was a hush over Lake Nebagamon on Monday morning as word was received of the death of Catherine Coletta, known by most of us as Kay.

The heartbreaking news spread quickly — well beyond the village limits, where we all took pause.

I don’t think I have ever known a more courageous, genuine or giving person than Kay.

She was as good as it gets, in life and humanity.

Kay was the real deal. She told it like it was, and I loved that about her.

She had fire. She had spirit. And she had so many talents and connections, and always had irons in the fire.

Kay was a great storyteller and writer. She was a real mover — a shaker, a play maker.

She was one of those rare people in life that you could count on always to be there.

And now, she’s not.

That makes me mad and sad — but so darn glad our paths crossed.

I didn’t get to say goodbye. A snowbird, she was supposed to be back soon from Sun City, Ariz., to finish that book, another play, to enjoy another day in Lake Nebagamon and a glass of scotch with an old friend.

My heart goes out to her entire family — which included not only her husband and kids and relatives from all over the place — but an entire community of people she adopted in one way or another. Or maybe we adopted and gravitated toward her. All I know for sure is I couldn’t get enough of her. None of us could. It’s such a loss.

She made us laugh and cry, like right now.

To her husband Tony — what-a-woman, eh?

How I loved how she said your name — An-THO-ny. She had such a way with words, didn’t she?

And the stories she would tell about you, the man she fell in love with as a teenager — from that first date to a lifetime of memories, she would share uncensored and laugh hysterically on the front porch. And you would, too, at the tales she would retell over and over — to the point we wondered what was fact or fiction as the conversations with her were better than any movie or juicy best-seller.

To those great kids of hers, who all have that same deep passion, fire and spark — the best of both their mom and dad — ignited in each, please accept our deepest sympathies for your great loss.

Kay and I went way back — to our University of Wisconsin-Superior days of journalism, the John Knight era, our writing, reporting and yards of yarns.

The stories we could tell then and now. We both enjoyed early careers at the Telegram, where we learned a lot about each other and our town and its people.

Kay had her finger on the pulse of a community and her hand in just about everything else.

She had such faith and touched so many lives and causes that for the next few days and weeks and months, people will surely share their favorite story about how she helped this kid and that one and the family down the road, across the lake, and around the county and state, because she really cared. She did. And it showed in ways none of us will ever really know.

Kay didn’t let the pain or the cane or walker, a busted this or that, slow her down. She was strong — mind-over-matter until the very end.

She was always a step ahead of the rest and never whined. She didn’t have the time or tolerance.

Anyone who knew her could not, would not, say no to her. You didn’t dare. It wasn’t in her vocabulary, and she made sure it wasn’t in yours.

Those in her inner circle knew her ground rules and we abided by them — including the big one. Under no circumstance were we ever to call her or stop by before 11 a.m. — no matter what the emergency or situation might be.

One could go on and on but that would just tick her off — we know it would.

So, as we take time to remember in our own time and way — look upwards with a glass held high to life, faith, family, friends and living with a lot of giving. May Kay rest in peace.

Deb Krieg has been Kay Coletta’s friend for more than 45 years.

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