Cathy Carstensen - 1931 - 2019


Cathy Carstensen passed away peacefully from natural causes on March 17, 2019. She was preceded in death by her son, Brian, who passed away at age 2 in 1964. She is survived by her husband, Gus Carstensen; her children, Carol and David; her son-in-law, Jon; her grandchildren, Alea, Miranda and Rachel; as well as by the many friends, colleagues and students whose lives she touched in so many ways.
Cathy was born January 19, 1931, in Salem, Oregon, where her family had farmed since the 1860s. She grew up in Kooskia, Idaho, where her father owned the local pharmacy.
She moved back to Salem in 1945 and lived in Oregon for the rest of her life. She studied at Willamette University, as had her mother and grandmother, and obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Western Oregon University.
In 1955, she married Gus Carstensen, a fellow school teacher and the love of her life. They taught together in Portland and moved to McMinnville, Oregon, in 1964 to teach and raise their family.
In McMinnville, Cathy taught remedial reading to children at several elementary schools, as well as tutoring migrant children and adults. She was a patient, playful teacher who always sought to make learning fun. She found special joy in helping children unlock the magic of reading.
Cathy was not only a teacher but a lifelong student of life; she loved exploring new lands, learning new things, and having new artistic and cultural experiences. She and Gus traveled extensively, journeying to Europe, China, Japan, Australia and many other places, as well as roaming across North America. They frequently attended museums, concerts, plays and art walks. In McMinnville, they were active in church, local and national politics, discussion groups and adult swimming class.
More than anything else, Cathy loved spending time with people she cared about. Her friends and family will remember forever her kindness, enthusiasm, her irreverent sense of humor, and her irrepressible laugher, which was both a defense against sorrow and an outpouring of the boundless joy that was a key part of who she was. She was fun, witty, original, adventurous and endlessly generous. We will miss her more than we can say, but we will carry the memory of her laugh and spirit until the end of our days.
There will be an informal celebration of Cathy’s life at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 31, at First Baptist Church, 125 S.E. Cowls Street, McMinnville. To leave condolences, visit


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