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Katherine Sternoff Beyer Dies at Age 62

419obitKatherine Sternoff Beyer, 62, died of breast cancer Sunday, June 29, surrounded by loving family members.

Kathy was born in Trieste, Italy, with an intellectual disability. She was a member of the inaugural class of The Kennedy Institute of Catholic Charities, and presented the original bouquet of roses to its founder, Mrs. Eunice Kennedy, in 1958. Growing up, she was gifted with both a phenomenal memory and the uncanny knowledge of where each and every family member had lost their keys. Many good Catholics ceased praying through St. Anthony of Padua (patron saint of lost things) and turned to Kathy instead.

Kathy worked for a few years in Arlington’s Special Occupational Center, cleaning airline headphones and folding pieces of paper – two activities she considered incredibly boring. After her repeated attempts to unionize the other workers, she was forced out and joined the family Volvo dealership in Falls Church. There Kathy surprised customers by putting them on hold indefinitely, fellow employees by mixing up their paychecks, and her siblings by offering the funniest insights that could not be repeated.

Kathy Beyer was a born leader, and never met a camera or a microphone she did not love. She was president of People First, the self-advocacy nonprofit for persons with intellectual disabilities, from which platform she gave a number of stirring speeches. She had a beautiful singing voice, and knew every beat, pause, sigh, and nuance of the original Julie Andrews “Sound of Music” score. On a trip to Salzberg to relive the Von Trapp family experience, Kathy ditched her responsible niece, Carly, and led the Austrian police on a wild train ride to recapture her.

She was politically active, and was always among the most treasured volunteers on any campaign because no one could sort, stuff, seal, and stamp as quickly as Kathy Beyer.

Kathy lived in a number of supported group homes. Her final years were spent, happily, in The Gardens at Fair Oaks.

Kathy Beyer had myriad friends who loved her humor, her kindness, her undiplomatic honesty, and her joy. The inventor of lettuce sandwiches, a taker of interminable baths, and the real-life actualization of Mary Ellen Walton, Kathy will be missed by so many.

Kathy was the oldest daughter of Colonel Don Beyer of Falls Church and the late Nancy McDonald Beyer. She is survived by devoted siblings Sherry Beyer; Weetie Beyer Hill and husband Wayne; Dr. Sandy Beyer and husband Gary; Mike Beyer and wife June; and Don Beyer Jr. and wife Megan. Twenty-six nieces and nephews adored her.

An entertaining funeral service will be held at Dulin United Methodist Church in Falls Church, this Thursday morning, July 3, at 11 a.m. Those in attendance will celebrate Kathy’s wonderful life in the church hall immediately after the service. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts be sent to Langley Residential Support Services at 2070 Chain Bridge Road, Suite G55, Vienna, VA 22181.

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