Kathleen Louise Van Veen, 70, known to everybody as Kathy, passed away peacefully at her home in Southeast Portland April 26, 36 weeks after she was told she had an inoperable brain tumor and only eight weeks to live. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 11, at St Ignatius Church in Southeast Portland. A catered reception will follow.

Born Jan. 6, 1947, to Theodore and Frances (Ackerman) Van Veen in Portland, Ms. Van Veen attended St. Ignatius School until her family moved to Denver. Returning to Portland, she graduated from Marycrest High School, attended the University of Portland for one year and then the University of Washington in Seattle where she ran track and graduated with a doctorate. She was a life-long member of Mensa.

Rhododendrons were Ms. Van Veen’s life. Her career began when she was still in high school, working part time at the family rhododendron nursery, the Van Veen Nursery, that her grandfather had started in 1926 and which had been handed down to her father. Ms. Van Veen became involved full time after graduating. When her father died in 2003, Ms. Van Veen took control. With her work and innovation in rhododendron propagation, she soon became a respected leader in the international rhododendron community, as were her father and grandfather before her.

She also served as president of the Portland Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society, and as chairman of Friends of Crystal Springs.  She never stopped learning and teaching about rhododendrons, and always enjoyed volunteering on the subject. 

In addition to the nursery, Ms. Van Veen, who was a bit of a nonconformist, loved her family and friends, her several cats and her two garrulous cockatiels. She regularly jogged to the top of Mount Tabor, had a wicked sense of humor, a ready smile, and walked her daily errands. She was always happy and found humor everywhere.

Kathy was preceded in death by her parents. She leaves behind her sister, Diane Barnes of Seattle, two nephews and a niece, numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and colleagues. Gone too soon, she will be missed.

Kathy was interred next to her parents at Mount Calvary Cemetery on May 2 without ceremony, in accordance with her wishes.