Catherine Devine Lea, 67, died September 17, 2021 of complications from Lewy Body Disease. Cath was born in the old St. Josephs Hospital (Chippewa Falls, WI) grew up below the hill on W. Spruce St., attended Chestnut School, the old Middle School and the new Chi-Hi. She then went to Carleton College and graduated with distinction in her major (Psychology) in 1976. She married the love of her life, Bob Lea, in 1978 – the celebration at the reception for the wedding (at the old Elks Club) was so epic it’s still talked about today. Five years later she and Bob moved to Chippewa Falls, the town she loved, to raise a family.
After college Cath worked for Northwest Airlines and got to see the world. When her kids had grown, Cath worked for the Chippewa Falls School system as a Community Resource Coordinator for 15 years, retiring in 2016. She was especially fond of her work to help coordinate the fourth-grade school curriculum with “The Past Passed Here”. She was active in many community organizations including the YMCA, Cook Rutledge Mansion, Museum of Industry and Technology and PEO.
Working for the airlines ignited a love of travel for Cath, allowing her to see Europe, Asia, and New Zealand. She especially liked adventure trips that challenged her physically and connected her to nature: hiking to Maachu Pichu, hiking “Half Dome” in Yosemite National Park, hiking and rafting the Grand Canyon, and hiking the breathtaking “Angel’s Landing” in Zion National Park. Cath learned to ski as a five-year-old, progressing from Pinehurst, to Deep Woods, to Hardscrabble to Telemark, developing her remarkable ski skills, then finally honed them in her beloved Colorado. She loved teaching her kids Matt, Marty and Marian to ski and they quickly took to the hills of upper Michigan and Minnesota. Once the kids were old enough, the mountains called. Those trips to Colorado skiing with family and friends deepened Cath and her family’s passion for skiing. Cath and Bob were able to live their dream and spend the last four winters in Colorado trying to ski 100 straight days. In addition, Cath loved to run, bike, roller blade (5 marathons), water ski and hike. And, for 14 years you could find her faithfully exploring the west hill with the loyal and adventurous family dog, Malcolm.
That shy little girl turned into a strong, brave, adventurous woman. Cath was determined to live life on her own terms and not let Lewy Body Disease define who she was. And she did – approaching each day with grit, determination and purpose. Let your final image of Cath be of her standing on her skis, high on a mountaintop, peering over the rim of a double black diamond headwall, saying “I’m scared,” and then pointing her skis down and jumping off. That’s how she lived her life – letting herself acknowledge fear and bravely moving forward in spite of it.
Cath is preceded in death by her parents W. Thomas and Ellen Devine. She is survived by her husband, Robert, sons Matthew Lea, Martin (Tom Hogle) Lea, daughter, Marian Lea, brother Thomas (Jane) Devine, sister, Megan (Quentin Reimer) Devine, Aunt, Virginia (nee Devine) Buhler and other wonderful cousins and relatives whom she loved.
A family graveside service will occur at Forest Hills Cemetery on October 7, at 11 am. A celebration of Cath’s life will follow October 7 at noon, at the Heyde Center in Chippewa Falls, WI.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Heyde Center for the Arts in honor of Catherine Devine Lea are appreciated.