Kathleen D. Baum 45 Irwin, PA
On November 6, 1977, in the quiet and picturesque Allegheny Valley, Kathleen D. Johnston Baum began her extraordinary journey—a life of love, learning, and unwavering dedication that would touch the hearts of all who knew her. Born to her adoring mother, Barbara Marshall Troutman (deceased father Robert M. Johnston, Jr.) raised and guided by her Dad, Vernon C. Troutman, Jr, Katee's path was illuminated by the love and support of her family. Today, as we tell her story to celebrate her life, we pay tribute to the indelible impact she made and the profound inspiration she leaves behind. From her early years in the riverside community of Freeport, Pennsylvania, Kathleen embraced the trials and triumphs of small-town life. Her childhood memories were etched with the sounds of clinking dishes and the warm aroma of her parents' restaurant, a place where she discovered the resilience and determination that would shape her future. Summers were filled with laughter and joy as Kathleen immersed herself in the refreshing waters of the Allegheny River, finding solace in the embrace of nature's beauty. But it was the summers spent in the coal country Appalachian region, near the West Virginia border, that ignited Kathleen's adventurous spirit. Amidst the idyllic farmland, she experienced a simpler way of life, where she cherished playing with the livestock and forged an unbreakable bond with her favorite horse. Her grandfather Web, a renowned "horse trader" and master storyteller, captivated her young imagination with tales that spun like magic. In the evenings, as the winter winds howled, Kathleen would find comfort in the glow of dim lighting, using what she fondly referred to as "the honey bucket in the closet." These humble beginnings nurtured her resilience, instilled a deep appreciation for the power of stories, and sparked her unwavering love for the outdoors. Kathleen's journey continued through her years at Freeport Area High School, where she discovered her passion for learning and teaching. It was within those hallowed halls that fate intervened, bringing her face-to-face with Brad J. Baum, the love of her life. Their connection flourished, intertwining their destinies and planting the seeds of a love that would endure for decades to come. Together, they attended junior and senior proms, their hearts entwined, and their dreams reaching toward the stars. The pursuit of knowledge led Kathleen to the breathtaking landscapes of Slippery Rock University, nestled amidst the splendor of the Allegheny plateau and the remnants of the last Ice Age. It was here that Kathleen blossomed, finding independence and strength in her studies. With unwavering determination, she graduated with a double Bachelor's degree in History, Teaching, and Special Education. Throughout this chapter, as Brad dedicated himself to work, Kathleen held onto her dreams, ensuring that every weekend was spent together. With Brad's pickup truck as their trusty steed, they embarked on unforgettable adventures, traversing national and state parks, immersing themselves in the wonders of the natural world. Their journeys took them to the forests and glacial prairies of the region, where Kathleen's heart found solace, and her passion for the Seven Years War was kindled. But as Kathleen's academic journey drew to a close, a new challenge emerged. Unable to secure a teaching position in Western Pennsylvania, Kathleen made the courageous decision to venture alone to Warsaw, Virginia. It was a bittersweet separation, as Brad supported her every step of the way, but their love remained unyielding. Kathleen embraced the unknown, eager to make a difference in the lives of students at Rappahannock High School, where she began her teaching career. There, she honed her skills and fostered deep connections, coaching the varsity cheerleading team and forging lasting friendships. Amid the rural beauty of the Northern Neck of Virginia, Kathleen's heart yearned for the familiar embrace of family and friends in her beloved Allegheny Valley. It was during this time of longing that Brad, with the blessings of Kathleen's parents, made a heartfelt proposal on a magical Christmas Eve in 2005. Their shared dreams paved the way for Kathleen's return to Western Pennsylvania, the place she always considered her heart's true home. Settling in the picturesque Pennsylvania Canal town of Saltsburg, Kathleen and Brad embarked on a new chapter of their lives, woven together by love and shared aspirations. Kathleen found her place in the world of education once again, starting her Pennsylvania teaching career at Marion Center High School. However, it was in the realm of special education, where her compassionate nature and unwavering support shone brightest, that Kathleen truly discovered her calling. Her path led her to the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, where she immersed herself in empowering students with special needs, leaving an indelible impact on their lives. Ever the seeker of knowledge, Kathleen's thirst for personal growth propelled her to pursue a Master's degree in Special Education at Benedictine University. In 2011, she proudly donned her cap and gown, becoming the first person in her family's history to achieve such a remarkable academic feat. Her achievement served as a beacon of inspiration for generations to come, a testament to the strength of her spirit and the boundless possibilities that lay within each of us. With her expanded expertise, Kathleen embraced a new chapter at Hempfield Area High School, where her students and colleagues were fortunate enough to witness her exceptional teaching skills and unwavering dedication firsthand. Her classrooms became vibrant spaces of learning, compassion, and growth, where students thrived under her guidance. The love and praise she received from those she touched were a testament to the extraordinary impact she had on their lives. Yet, beyond the confines of the classroom, Kathleen and Brad embarked on countless adventures that enriched their souls and deepened their connection. They traversed the breathtaking landscapes of the United States and Canada, exploring the wonders of national parks, state forests, and museums. From the towering forests of Maine, where majestic moose roamed, to the summit of Beartooths in Wyoming, where they embraced the grandeur of nature's beauty, Kathleen's spirit of adventure soared. The Great Smoky Mountains witnessed their awe as bears and elk played in the wild, and the vast plains and majestic mountains of the West stirred something profound within Kathleen's soul. Among the great national parks, her heart found solace, and her spirit soared like the bison roaming the plains. Through it all, Kathleen's most cherished role was that of a devoted wife and a beacon of love within her family. The bond she shared with her sister, Olivia "T-waffle" Johnston Walker, and her brother-in-law Alan "Tiddle" Walker was unbreakable, and her niece Madison R. Walker held a special place in her heart. The humor and love she shared with her mother-in-law June M. Baum and brother-in-law Mark D. Baum will never be forgotten. Family gatherings were filled with laughter, love, and the creation of cherished memories that will forever be held dear. She is preceded in death by her beloved grandparents Web & Eva Marshall and Robert & Elaine Johnston as well as several devoted aunts and uncles. As we bid farewell to Kathleen, my true love and guiding light, we celebrate a life that exemplified the power of resilience, the pursuit of knowledge, and the boundless capacity to touch the lives of others. Her story is one of inspiration, a testament to the transformative power of education and the wonder of the natural world. May her memory live on as a beacon of light, encouraging us to approach each day with enthusiasm, kindness, and a passion for learning. In her honor, let us strive to make a difference in the lives of those around us, to embrace nature's majesty, and to forge unbreakable bonds of love and support with our cherished family and friends. Rest peacefully, sweetheart.
There will be no public visitation. A private family memorial service will be held.
In lieu of flowers, please make a Tribute Donation to National Park Foundation https://www.nationalparks.org/
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