Even as a college student, it seemed Kathleen Anne Daily (nee O’Brien) was destined to stand out. For those who attended her funeral at St. Mary Visitation, Elm Grove, Saturday, March 19, it wasn’t only the many photos that crowded the room (including one of her as the 1963 prom queen while she was a journalism student at Marquette University), nor was it the touching memorials that her family and close friends shared. Rather, it was through service that she made her mark on the world.
Daily, 68, who died March 16 after a 23-month battle with pancreatic cancer, was a graduate of Divine Savior High School, Milwaukee (1960), and Marquette University (1964). She worked in the development office of the Sisters of the Divine Savior, for 25 years, where colleagues say she gave much more than was expected of her as director of public relations.
“There was an energy and a liveliness and a real personableness about Kathie,” recalled Sister of the Divine Savior Carol Thresher, who graduated one year before Daily at Divine Savior High School. “She carried those straight through, through her 25 years of working with us as sisters also. She was special then (and) she then came on board with us as sisters about 25 years ago. She was the same warm, wonderful person.”
Daily’s thoughtfulness allowed her to stand apart from most others, Sr. Carol added. Daily wrote media releases and coordinated newsletters and advertising for the U.S. Provincial.
“She was always thinking about other people. I think this was the most impressive thing,” Sr. Carol explained. “We have this custom here; we pull names to honor someone for their birthday, and she happened to have mine last year. I had to leave the office a little earlier, and so she followed me home and brought a plant just to make sure that I knew that my birthday was remembered on a very personal level. That was just the kind of person she was.”
While Sr. Carol acknowledged that Daily rarely if ever trumpeted her own accomplishments, she was known for her work with Hadley Terrace Apartments for the elderly, which offer affordable and supportive housing to low income seniors in Milwaukee and actively recruited students from Divine Savior Holy Angels and Marquette University high schools, for various volunteer activities. She was also actively involved with Repairers of the Breach, the women’s shelter at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, and the Working Boys Center in Quito, Ecuador.
Volunteering at her home parish of St. Mary Visitation was also a passion for her, according to longtime friend and neighbor Pat Parks, who served on the parish council, Christian Women, Human Concerns and Christian Formation alongside her.
“We would be on a committee, and then we would come together or go together, she and I, and sit in the driveway in the car and talk about the world,” she recalled fondly. “She was wise and loving and she was one of the most caring women you will ever know. … Any charity within a 20 miles radius of Kathie had her number.”
Bringing people together was a talent of Daily’s, according to Parks.
“She would organize the neatest things,” she explained. “For many years, we had an open house at Christmas time at our rectory, and Kathie headed that up. It was just a feel good thing, you know? A little Christmas open house, but the whole parish really, really did come together there.”
Sr. Virginia Honish, coordinator for the Salvatorian Sisters’ residence, and a classmate, said she looked forward to Daily’s personable attitude and flare for life.
“I hired her 25 years ago to work for the Sisters of the Divine Savior, and I had known her and known about her from her being a student at Divine Savior,” Sr. Virginia explained. “I knew from our sisters who have taught her, who described her as just a wonderful student, a wonderful person, full of fun, full of ambition, just a lot of ‘get up and go.’”
“I would just say that nothing was ever too much for Kathie. She led a very busy life but she was never too busy to help anyone. If you called her on short notice and said, ‘Kathie, we have this going, we have that going, could you write a story on it or cover it?’ she’d say, ‘I have dinner in the oven, I have kids to pick up, but give me a half hour and I’ll be happy to be there,’” Sr. Virginia remembered.
Working for the Sisters of the Divine Savior proved to be a great fit for Daily, according to Sr. Carol.
“In terms of her working with us as sisters for the last 25 years, I would say that we always trusted Kathie because she understood our mission as sisters, and there was never any doubt in any of our minds that she was going to put our best foot forward in any kind of communication she did with the press, writing articles,” Sr. Carol explained. “She was just very trustworthy. (She was) someone whose strong faith and values always came out.
“She always saw the best in people, so when she was going to write a story about them – she always wrote about our jubilarians – it was like we would kind of say, ‘Hey, is that me she wrote about?’ because it was always the best of every person who came through the article.”
While Daily was devoted to her family and her job, her faith made her the kind of person she was, said Sr. Virginia.
“She saw the good in everyone, and helped all of us to see that goodness in people. That’s a fabulous trait to have, and I would have to say she was very focused, she was very focused on her family, she was focused on her job, but most of all she was really focused on the Gospel message of bringing the goodness and kindness of Jesus to everyone. That’s how she lived and that’s who she was,” Sr. Virginia added.
While she was involved in many organizations and charities, it was her family that was her true focus.
“Mom was our anchor,” daughter Katie Daily Pickart wrote in an email interview with your Catholic Herald, describing one instance when Daily had been praying in the Sisters of the Divine Savior chapel.
“She had an epiphany of sorts – that everyone suffered on earth,” she wrote. “No one, including her or the people she loved, was exempt from pain, from suffering. She understood that suffering united us with Christ, so she began to accept the crosses that arose during her life.”
Daily’s son, William Daily, was also greatly impacted by her acceptance of suffering.
“Kathie’s life, like all of ours, was filled with suffering,” he wrote in an email interview with your Catholic Herald. “However, she didn’t just endure it. The normal human reaction to pain and suffering is to turn inward and focus on the self. She did this, but mainly to become a better person.”
As Daily’s physical mobility decreased as her cancer grew, it was her love of others that help her endure, he added.
“Her circle of love expanded and strengthened, across the street and across continents, through family divides and personal conflicts. Ultimately, I think this circle of love is her legacy.”
“Mom died during Lent, modeling for us kids how to weave suffering and joy and gratitude into life,” Pickart remembered. “She showed us to always keep faith, to pray through the crosses of life, to enjoy every moment of life.”
Preceded in death by parents William and Mariellen (nee McKay) O’Brien, her step-mother Trudy (nee Wutschek), her sister Mariellen Good and her niece Lisa Czerniak, Daily is survived by her children Katie (Joe) Pickart; Eileen Daily (Uki Pejanovic); Frank Daily, William (Iliana Castillo Daily); and Michael Daily. She was also grandmother to Sam, Lily, Max, Maeve and Lucy Pickart, and Ava, Declan and Sasha Pejanovic.