Obituary: Kathleen Dourley

Loving mother, grandmother, devoted friend, lifelong learner, quietly lived her faith

Kathleen Dourley (Catherine Norah McMullen) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on December 9, 1928, to a large Catholic family with roots in Scotland and Ireland. Kathleen lived through the British home front of the Second World War as a young girl. This was a time of hardships, Luftwaffe bombings of British cities, and uncertainties. In her early twenties, she married John Dourley, a fellow Edinburgh native, and the two had a son, John Gerard, before emigrating to the United States. In America, John Sr. became a respected horticulturist, and after years on the East Coast, his profession took the family of eight to Claremont, where she would live until her death on May 15.

Just as in Scotland, her home away from home was the church. Her dedication to Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Claremont was unwavering, and for 54 years there, she joyfully volunteered and welcomed converts, reverts, and seekers into the fold, playing a vital role in the continual growth of the parish. She was a sponsor for Rite of Catholic Initiation and a member of the hospitality committee; she was a fervent supporter of Catholic schools and made certain she was involved at any institution her six children attended. She was an original OLA “pizza mom” for over a decade, and the friends she made there and everywhere followed her into old age.

“A dedicated wife and mother, Kathleen was also the power behind the throne,” her family shared. “Her husband, John, trusted only her to edit his publications, prepare lectures, and support his work. Had she been born in a more progressive era, Kathleen’s mathematical brain and financial management skills could have taken her far in any career of her choosing. Her dislike of television and the hours she spent reading and researching famous historical figures, places, and philosophies made her extremely well-rounded and a great conversationalist. Her life’s work became her children, whom she raised to read, write, and challenge injustice whenever it was found. Dourley children were expected to live by a strict moral code, whether or not they chose to believe in heaven or hell. Kathleen led by example, fearlessly questioning everything she found objectionable, and as a naturalized citizen, valued her freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”

Active in the democratic process, she championed the causes of equal pay for equal work and human rights around the globe. No grapes were allowed in the house out of respect for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. She supported sanctuary and political asylum for Salvadoran refugees fleeing military death squads during the 1980s and sponsored teenage runaways and trafficking victims through Covenant House.

“While she did search the Bible for answers, Kathleen didn’t need the church to tell her what was right or wrong. She was guided by heart and logic,” her family said.

“Kathleen placed her faith in God and was devoted to the Blessed Mother. Her willingness to engage and her open-mindedness made interacting with her a joy for almost everybody. She valued her wits and kept her mind sharp.” For 50 years, she made sure to complete no fewer than one crossword puzzle per day. Up until her final week of life she was active on various social media platforms and up to date on current events and the lives of those closest to her. In the twilight of her life, Kathleen moved into independent living at Mt. San Antonio Gardens, where she had worked years earlier as a private duty nurse. “She reveled in her independence, and friends and acquaintances came easily,” her family added. “Amongst her children, the running joke was that no one could ever catch her at home. Kathleen was retirement home royalty and never missed an opportunity to socialize. Up until her final weeks on earth, Kathleen had been content coming and going on her own terms and living a full life surrounded by community. Her neighbors and friends would always say, ‘Your mother is the kindest person I’ve ever met; she never has a bad thing to say about anyone.’ Born in a nation divided by sectarianism and an immigrant to the United States, Kathleen knew what marginalization looked and felt like. Because of this, her world was open to everybody, and those who needed a helping hand, a sympathetic ear, or advice could reach out to her day or night. Secrets were sacred. Judgment never came.

“Kathleen put everybody before herself and was devoted to her family. With six children, 10 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, she never forgot a birthday, Christmas, or special occasion. Holidays brought a full house with friends, family, and neighbors all around.”

She was preceded in death by her husband, John; son, Christopher; parents, Molly and James McMullen; brothers, Jimmy and Bill; and sisters, Mary and Elma.

She is survived by her sisters Rita Johnstone of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Anna Kaczka of Aurora, Colorado; children John Dourley (Marianne), Angela Clinton (Stuart), Elaine Tait (Douglas),  Paul Dourley (Caroline), and Elizabeth Dourley; granddaughters Jamie, Laura, Madison, Erin, Anisa, and Angelina; grandsons Jeremy, Ian, Ethan, and Kian; great-grandchildren Kaden, Callum and Adelyn; and many, many nieces and nephews around the world.

“Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her.”

A rosary will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 4, followed by a 10:30 Mass, at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 435 Berkeley Ave., Claremont, CA 91711.


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