Catherine West, Obituary


After a brief stay at the SECU Hospice House, Catherine ‘Teeta’ West (96) died June 1, 2023, attended by her daughters.

Teeta was born in 1926, in Charlotte, NC, the daughter of The Rev. Dr. Esper Valentine Hudson and Margaret Elizabeth Rucker Hudson. Teeta and her three siblings, the late Dr. William R. Hudson, Sally Hudson Gulley, and Edward Valentine Hudson, grew up in the small mill town of Cramerton, N.C., ‘between a railroad and a river’, where their father was pastor of First Baptist Church. Although a child of the Great Depression, Teeta often said that they were ‘too poor to know there was a Depression on’; her stories of Cramerton were funny and poignant. Her mother’s strong character and sense of humor got them through hard times; their father hunted and fished, repaired their shoes, and for Christmas gave them new wheels for their skates. Teeta remembered bags of fruit being distributed by the owner of the mill, destitute people at their back door being given something to eat by her mother, and the occasional visits from missionaries on sabbatical, who were ‘poorer than we were.’

After Pearl Harbor, Teeta and her school friends rolled bandages for the Red Cross, helped issue ration books, and watched the men of her community leave for basic training as they were drafted into service. In 1944, this would include her brother Bill, who was wounded in Italy and sent back home.

Teeta’s own children were amazed to discover that their youthful mother had a sporty side; she was a forward on the Cramerton High School basketball team, played a decent game of snooker and a mean game of tennis. An accomplished pianist, she graduated high school in 1943 at age 16 and went on to attend Flora McDonald College in Red Springs, N.C., studying piano under Wilgus Eberly.

In 1945, Teeta entered Furman University, where she earned a B.S. degree in Biology, and met her future husband, Marion Walter West, Jr. The couple eventually settled in High Point, N.C. and raised four daughters, Catherine Devaney, Sally Kann, Missy West, and Ellen Darst. The family attended Emerywood Baptist Church. Teeta’s extended family lived close by, with cousins, aunts and uncles visiting often, sharing holidays and special occasions, taking annual vacations together at the beach. It was one of the great joys of her life that hers and her sister’s and brothers’ children grew up together as a close-knit family. Her nieces and nephews were as dear to her as her own children, and she celebrated their accomplishments as their proud Aunt Teeta.

After 30 years of marriage, Teeta and Marion divorced, and as their lives changed, Teeta made a commitment to maintaining normalcy, protection, and care for her children. She helped her daughters raise their families, becoming the adored ‘Grand Teeta’, who loved spending time with her grandchildren and great nieces and nephews.

Teeta was never afraid to take on new challenges. At age 40, she went back to school to earn a master’s degree in education from UNC-Greensboro, and for the next 25 years, taught 6th grade math and science in the High Point city schools. She enjoyed being in the classroom. A lifetime member of NEA and NCEA, she also worked for many years as an advisor in curriculum development.

After retiring from teaching, Teeta moved to Chapel Hill, N.C. in 1999, where she soon became a member of Binkley Baptist Church. Her upbringing made her a volunteer by nature; she generously gave time and money to Binkley causes and projects dear to her heart. She was an office volunteer for many years and was a member of Primetimers and the Daytime Book Group.

Teeta lived every day of her life eager to learn something new. At age 96, she was still an avid reader, music lover, Jeopardy fan, and crosswords buff. She regularly attended concerts and plays with friends. But her true passion was travel. Over the past 40 years, her travels took her to the Galapagos, Kenya, Greece, and many times to Europe and Scandinavia. One memorable summer she was a member of a sailing ship crew off the U.S. west coast. She loved annual theater trips to London with her sister, opera trips to San Diego and Santa Fe, symphony trips to Atlanta. She took her children and grandchildren on adventure trips, to Alaska, the Caribbean, Disney World. Her little apartment, filled with pictures and mementos of her travels, delighted all visitors, and inspired her children and grandchildren to go out and experience the world.

She will be remembered for the love and enthusiasm she brought to her friendships, her kindness, her love of good conversation. Her wonderfully dry sense of humor was evident as soon as you met her. Her curiosity, strong connection to the world around her, and willingness to listen made her a great friend to people of every age.

She will be remembered for how she met her diagnosis with courage, and how, when her illness tested her in ways no one could have possibly foreseen, she drew upon the lessons of her childhood, and just got on with it.

Teeta is survived by her daughters Catherine (Mike) Devaney, Sally (Jim) Kann, Missy, and Ellen (Tom) Darst; grandchildren Maggie (Jason) Ketchel, Cate Devaney, Jessica (Brian) Giagiozis, Phoebe Kann, Adin Kann, Hannah (Chris) Leslie, Emily (Josh) Baez, and Brian Darst. She was blessed with five great-grandchildren Molly Ketchel, Samantha Ketchel, James Ketchel, James Giagiozis and Ruby Giagiozis.

Teeta is also survived by her sister Sally (the late Dr. Marcus) Gulley and brother Ed (the late Della Fredrickson) Hudson, and by her beloved nieces and nephews and their families: Margaret (David) Trosper, Billy Hudson, Anne (Rob) Macintosh, Paul (Anne) Gulley, Larry (Sharon) Gulley, Sheila (Craig) Pleasants, Marcia (Joe) Gutekanst, John (Elizabeth) Gulley, Ned (the late Wendy James) Gulley, Jessica Hudson, Andy Hudson.

There are no words that can express how grateful we are to her dear friends Stephenie Sanders and Marcus McFaul, and to the UNC Palliative care and Hospice community staff and volunteers, who were there for her, and for us, every stage of her final journey. A heartfelt thank you to Dawne Haley, Brian Chamberlain, Martha Cordell, Chris Tabon, Brittany Strunks, Carla Porter, Lynsie King, Vera Whitley, Tonia Stroman, and Clarissa Edwards, not only for expert care, but for taking the time to get to know Teeta as a person.

Those who wish to remember Teeta with a memorial are asked to make gifts in her name to SECU Jim & Betsy Bryan Hospice Home, 100 Roundtree Way, Pittsboro, N.C. 27312

I Looked Up

I looked up and there it was
among the green branches of the pitchpines –
thick bird,
a ruffle of fire trailing over the shoulders and down the back –
color of copper, iron, bronze –
lighting up the dark branches of the pine.
What misery to be afraid of death.
What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.
When I made a little sound
it looked at me, then it looked past me.
Then it rose, the wings enormous and opulent,
and, as I said, wreathed in fire.

– Mary Oliver

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