Katie left us suddenly June 4, 2018. Born in Lindstrom, Minnesota Jan. 19, 1923 to Albert F. Oberg and Nellie Panola Newlander, she was fourth of five kids.
A self-described “tom-boy,” she loved exploring the near-by woods, swimming, fishing (ice-fishing too!), sledding and skiing. The Methodist Church was important in family life and included a step-grandpa who preached in Swedish. The hymnals were printed in Swedish on one page, English the next. Music was also important – her Dad a trained singer – so “we sang all the time, mostly in English” at home, and all the kids had piano lessons “from the get-go.”
After business school, she worked for Montgomery Ward, joining their drum and bugle corps, which placed second in state, allowing the group to tour.
In ’42 she came West, stayed with sister Alice, and worked at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, California. “It was great fun installing electric stuff on A-26 engines” and later, hydraulic lines in B-17 wings. The plant “was covered with camouflage netting, and of course blackout was observed pretty much.”
In Olancha, California she earned her pilot’s license then joined the WAC. Various duties included aircraft mechanic, physical education instructor, lifeguard and motor pool driver.
In ’44 her hometown paper extolled the exploits of “Miss Kathryn Oberg” who piloted a plane from Taylor Falls to Lindstrom. Five transfers later in Colorado Springs, she met M/Sgt. Fred Jensen, stationed at Lowry Field AFB.
Wed in ’46, kids soon happened: Tina, May ’47 (Hamilton Field AFB, California); and Judy, Nov. ‘48 (Bong AFB) Spokane.
When Fred was transferred to the Philippines, Katie worked as secretary to the OSI Provost Marshall there (’49-’51), her “best job ever.” With daycare help she was free to explore the exotic countryside, and her love for photography – “a hobby I’d learned as a WAC” – took off. Having her own darkroom, she soon filled many photo albums! Back stateside, Eric was born, Aug. ‘53 (airchild AFB) Moses Lake. Slightly before he was born, the couple visited Orcas Island on a three-day pass, and loved it! When Fred was sent to Shemya, Alaska in Nov. ’53, they secured a rental on North Beach Road, back on Orcas.
Soon after the household goods arrived, Eber and Atlanta Bruns came to the door with a cradle for Eric (four months old), hearing there was no bed for the baby! Two years, and many wonderful neighbors later, another transfer to Pinecastle AFB, Florida, where Fred retired in ’58. The family returned to Orcas and purchased the business at Outlook Inn. Soon they bought the inn, originally with 12 rooms and a café, dating from the 1850s. It was a family business and home for nine years, well-known for farmstyle breakfasts featuring homemade bread and cinnamon rolls. During this time, Katie was secretary for the Orcas Island Resort Association, creatively involved with every map and brochure produced. On the executive board for the reactivated Chamber of Commerce, she manned the Orcas booth several times at the Travel Show in Seattle. In ’67 the inn was sold.
After Fred died on an Alaskan trip in ’73, Katie worked numerous jobs at such places as OPALCO; Rosario; Orcas Hotel; and commuted for 5+ years to work for Prosecuting Attorney Warren Russell in Friday Harbor; and later Harry Greer (Orcas).
While commuting, she met Howard Ferguson, an engineer on the Evergreen State, who gave her an autoharp. She soon mastered it and the next 20 years were filled with camping, fly fishing, gold panning at Wolf Creek, Oregon and MUSIC! “Ferg” played guitar and fiddle, and they toured with the Washington Old Time Fiddlers, playing at fairs, senior centers, nursing homes and “various other places”.
Katie was active in the Community Church, Orcas Senior Center and was a charter member of the Orcas Choral Society. Something she also loved was the annual Library Tea where she was a strolling musician – done years earlier at the Pike Place Market (Seattle PI, ’86).
Famous for her kelp pickles, she harvested young bull kelp from her kayak-usually off West Beach and sold the goodies at the Senior Center Holiday Bazaar.
Katie will be and IS greatly missed. What a great reunion now with siblings Alice, Betty, Clayton (Bus), and Evelyn (Evey)!
She is survived by Tina Davidson (Jerry) Orcas; Judy Jensen-Works (Larry) West Seattle; Eric Jensen (Linda) Lake McMurray; and much-loved granddaughter Andrea Hart (Phillip) Selah.
Remembrances may be made to Orcas Community Church, Orcas Senior Center, and the American Legion. A HUGE thank-you to our incredible EMTs and the “flight angels” at Air Lift Northwest and Island Air Ambulance in Friday Harbor.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the Community Church on Sept. 22, 2 p.m.