Kathryn Theresa Blum (nee Byrne) was born at home in New York, New York on October 7, 1925 and died at Lahey Hospital in Burlington, Massachusetts on June 4, 2019 from complications of stroke and pneumonia. She was 93 years old.
Born to Irish immigrant parents Patrick Pierce Byrne and Nora Wall, Kathryn grew up in Springfield Gardens, New York with three brothers Patrick, Alfred, and Robert, and stepsister, Helen (all deceased). It was her father who gave Kathryn the nickname Renee, by which she was known. The original spelling of Kathryn’s name was Katherine, but early in life she changed the spelling to Kathryn for its symmetry with the spelling of her surname Byrne.
When she was old enough to walk to grade school with her older brothers Al and Pat, they made her walk behind them. “But every now and then,” Renee said, “they would turn around to make sure I was still there.”
She graduated from Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School in Brooklyn, New York in January 1943 and remained in contact with friends from both grade and high school all her life. She attended a last reunion in 2008 with other surviving “First Graders,” as they called themselves. Once she and other classmates skipped school to hear the new singing sensation Frank Sinatra.
On September 23, 1950 she married William Henry Blum, Jr., a long-time friend of her brothers, an architect, and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. On her wedding day Renee left her nervous groom at the altar for more than an hour while the best man - her brother Pat - kept assuring him, “She’ll be here! She’ll be here!” It took a while for the wedding party to realize that when everyone had roared off to the church, everyone had left the bride at home.
Renee gave birth to her first child, Nora, ten months later. Upon learning she was pregnant she was beaming with such happiness that her doctor called his nurse into his office to see Renee’s ecstatic expression. She moved with her family – which now included a son Frederick, another daughter Eileen, and her mother Nora from Norwalk, Connecticut to Southbury, Connecticut in July 1968. She stayed in Southbury until August 2018, when she moved to Ipswich Massachusetts to be near her son.
Renee worked as a secretary, then Office Manager from 1976 to 1999 in Southbury’s First Selectman’s Office for five consecutive administrations: Mike Kenney, Harmon Andrews, Roger Clisham, Carol Herskowitz and Alfio Candido. The Selectmen will honor her with a moment of silence at their next meeting. If Southbury Town Hall employees, town residents, and other visitors and callers had questions or needed help, Renee almost always knew the answers and where to find the help. She cherished her close relationship with Ginger Salisbury, now a former Southbury Town Clerk, till the end of her days.
Renee was a member of the Southbury Commission on the Elderly (2000-2010); the Southbury Senior Center; the Southbury Historical Society; the Columbiettes, a Catholic women’s organization; and Sacred Heart Church, where after retirement, she often attended daily Mass. During her later years, she volunteered as an election-day assistant at Southbury voting sites. She also frequently visited the River Glen Health Care Center, especially on behalf of her friend and long-time Southbury resident Cecily Maver, widow of artist Alan Maver. Cecily died on May 30, 2015, one month shy of her 105th birthday.
Renee visited Ireland seven times, beginning in 1937 with her mother and the last time in 2010 with two of her children. She traveled with her husband William and daughter Eileen to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and twice to Canada with William and all their children. Renee and William also visited – in addition to Ireland – Mexico, Morocco, the Soviet Union, the Baltic States, and many other European countries.
Renee loved crossword puzzles, her cat, caramels, nuts covered with chocolate, and reading what she called “good, clean, murder mysteries,” especially those by Ellis Peters about the Medieval monk Brother Cadfael. She faithfully watched “Jeopardy” every weekday evening until she discovered “MASH” reruns airing on another channel at the same time.
Renee leaves behind her daughters Nora Blum (and her life partner Mark Monn) of Bozeman, Montana and Eileen Blum of Boston, Massachusetts; her son Frederick Blum and daughter-in-law Linda Blum of Ipswich, Massachusetts; her grandchildren Michelle Blum, a lawyer, and Dr. Austin Blum both of Chicago Illinois; her sister-in-law Ann Byrne of Vestal, New York; and many nieces and nephews.
Renee will be buried at St. John’s Cemetery in Norwalk Connecticut alongside her husband William (who died July 14, 1989), and in the same town where their children Eric and Martha, who died as infants are buried.
A funeral Mass for Renee will be celebrated on Monday June 10, 2019 at Sacred Heart Church, Southbury, Connecticut at 11:00 AM. All are welcome to visit Renee’s family in Sacred Heart’s Chapel that same morning from 9:30 AM to 10:45 AM. No other wake will be held. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Sacred Heart Church’s Mustard Seed Project, 910 Main St S, Southbury, Connecticut 06488.
The Carpino Funeral Home of Southbury has been entrusted with the arrangements. To leave a message of remembrance, please visit www.CarpinoCares.com.