Obituary of Catherine Alice “Kay” (née Parchem)

Life was a beautiful party for the bright and funny Kay Pang.

If a friend stopped by the family home on Chickadee Trail, she would open the door with her arms above her head saying “the party can begin!” Kay had a wonderful life that was rich in fodder for her gift of telling stories with a touch of humor about family, friends and the gift of service. Kay turned everything she could into a party — a friend dropping by for coffee, fundraising for causes, family dinners, funerals, and even hosting small dinner parties well into the 90s at Wesley Willows. Kay would happily attend the opening of an envelope if she could make it a festive event for the guests.

Kay only stayed still when she slept. His hectic, busy schedule led to a kind of deliberate chaos and his so-called “blunders.” Her sweet, self-deprecating humor turned all of her adventures and misadventures into hilarious stories that made her and her “audience” laugh so hard the tears flowed. Kay’s stories put people at ease to form lasting friendships quickly and easily. Her style was akin to that of two of her favorite women, the columnist Erma Bombeck and the great Julia Child; the three women did not take themselves too seriously. We all have our own memories of his oft-told stories such as Kay going to the wrong wedding with one of his young daughters. Not realizing they were at the wrong wedding until the groom walked down the aisle, Kay patted the man on the pew in front of their seat and asked, “Excuse me, do you know who this belongs to? wedding?” They remained throughout High Mass, his young daughter wearing a bobby glove pinned to her head having forgotten the required hat. She was extremely social. Kay and her husband, Allen, threw the best parties, EVER. Kay’s parties were so fun that the furniture was often moved around for a twist dance or a crazy game of Guitar Hero, where she could match the passion of the rock band Cheap Trick. As the kids got older, the “hired staff” for many of these gatherings were her kids and their high school friends, who parked the cars (drivers’ license not required), chilled drinks, and cleaned up.

Kay was a force. She was born in the depths of the Great Depression in East Chicago, Indiana on June 18, 1927. Kay’s father, John, worked at Inland Steel for 50 years and her mother, Margaret, worked at home, ran a Girl Scout troop for 50 years, and was active in the Episcopal Church, while her father and siblings were practicing Catholics.

Kay was proud to have grown up in the area and loved taking the South Shore train to Marshall Field’s and Indiana Dunes Beach. Her beloved grandparents, Alice and William Freiberger, lived a short walk from the Parchems’ home on Northcote Avenue. Kay’s siblings were his best friends – his sister Marylou, his brother Jack (Eugene Pelfrey) and his amazing wife Marge. Sadly, siblings Parchem and Marge passed away in 2022. We like to think they wanted to be together.

The entire Freiberger/Parchem clan enjoyed walking to and from the homes of the many Freiberger members, often visiting aunts and uncles, Bill (Martha), Cliff (Evelyn), Florence (Russell Cox), Alice (George Sufak), their beloved spouses, 12 nieces and nephews, dozens of cousins, and all the many great and great great nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles. Growing up, there were no boundaries as family members entered each other’s bungalows, cooked together, shared their vegetable gardens or sat in the front rooms telling stories around a Cup of coffee. Kay was close to the Freiberger clan. It was through them that she learned to cherish family, religion, hard work, education, a love of sport – both playing and watching – celebrating all that is big or small, and the gift of humor.

After high school, Kay’s love of music landed her a scholarship to Carleton College. For his father, becoming a professional flautist was impractical; so she went to Wesley Memorial Nursing College in Chicago. There she met her partner in life, Allen Yun Pui Pang. Allen was a few years out of the military, where he became a bomber/navigator in a Martin B-26 Marauder, completing 68 combat missions. They fell in love and were married for 67 years, until Allen passed away in 2017. Kay and Allen grew up in very different worlds, but their shared values ​​brought them together. They had four children: Susan (Doug Hughes) born in Hawaii where they lived, Laura (Bill Wheeler), Sarah (Bruce Munies) and Steve (died 4/12/2008) were all born in Rockford, the beloved of Kay and Al, where the family made their home on Chickadee Trail. They ended up somewhat haphazardly in Rockford because Kay didn’t like Hawaii’s consistent good weather and Allen wouldn’t live in the big city of Chicago. For many, this intermarriage/mixed marriage in the 1940s was considered a failure. Allen was raised as a Buddhist in rural Hawaii, Kay was a practicing Catholic who enjoyed the turmoil of the area, but they compromised, made decisions together, and their common values ​​and interests held them together. Both families have been supportive of this unusual couple and have embraced their decisions in every way.

Kay loved to make everyday life special, celebrating with her family, her many friends and her cohorts of civic causes: Illinois Children’s Home & Aid, Women’s Club, Court Street Church, the Burpee Museum, Garden Club and political work for Representative John B. Anderson and Representative Lynn Martin. In her late 80s, she created and executed three successful fashion shows to inspire working women to join the Women’s Club and raise funds for Remedies, a non-profit organization providing services to women suffering from domestic violence. or drug addiction. It’s no wonder Kay and Allen had friends of all ages, races, religions and backgrounds.

Kay Pang was the best mom, often showing up unexpectedly at her children’s schools, pulling them out of school at different times so they could be with her one-on-one. There were regular shopping trips to Chicago or East Chicago to see Grandma and Grandpa. His parenting strategy was that if the kids were nice, polite, involved, home for dinner by 6:00 p.m., and had good grades, they were fine. While the kids mostly obeyed those rules, Kay and Allen ignored their many car accidents, missed curfews, big bills at the Rockford Country Club snack bar, and parties when they were out of town.

Kay and Allen adored their grandchildren Christian, Benjamin, Audra (married to Ben), Meaghan and Jake. She was fiercely competitive in sports, even needing to win against her very, very young grandchildren at table tennis, bowling and, as they grew up, winning at tennis, cards, Pictionary and games. of society – even Cards Against Humanity. She played golf solely for Allen’s sake, and once deliberately rolled over her clubs thinking it would end her golfing. His children have sworn to keep the “accidental” disappearance of Allen’s golf clubs. The secret held, but Kay got new clubs from Allen for her birthday. She also loved chocolate, chardonnay, her bridge club, Stitch & B *@#%, and seeing every blockbuster movie in a theater, cooking, reading, writing – including Op-Eds sent to the Rockford Register Star and at the Chicago Tribune – University of Iowa Football and Basketball, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Live American Musicals and Drafts, Trades, Roster Tracking , Chicago Cubs batting orders and scores.

It takes a whole village to help someone age gracefully and die with dignity. We are grateful for the incredible support of our friend, Jim Weber of Olson Funeral Home. He supported our family with comfort and healing on many occasions. Jim guided Kay & Allen when their son died; a feat Jim achieved with so much love for his very close friend Steve; planned Allen’s funeral with Kay and Allen in their living room on Chickadee, knowing that Allen only had a few precious days left on earth; and now Jim has joined Allen & Kay with such loving care. Kay’s friend, Sarah Bell, was a tremendous help in transitioning her from her beloved Chickadee home to Wesley Willows (WW) Suites and then to WW assisted living, making moving fun and easy for Kay. We are so grateful to the kind and knowledgeable staff at Wesley Willows for keeping Kay independent, engaged and safe, even through COVID; Visiting the angels, especially Sharon who kept her independent; Fun-loving Lora made him laugh; and Mercy Health Hospice assisted in her final peaceful transition to paradise.

In Kay’s memory, all she hoped for was being kind to each other and making someone laugh. Please, please, please forgo the memorial flowers and gifts and instead just bring a smile to someone’s day in honor of Kay.

Kay’s final resting place will be with Allen at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl, Honolulu, Hawaii. To be with Allen again, she happily agreed to get used to Hawaii’s perfect climate and gentle ocean breezes.

A private family service and memorial are planned for later this year. To share a memory or condolence, visit

Posted on November 08, 2022

Posted in Rockford Register Star

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