Catherine Yaeger Mendelsohn


Honored By

Honored by: Mendelsohn, Jr., Sidney N.
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Leaf Tile, Large

Mary Catherine Yaeger was born in Phoenix, Arizona on February 5, 1947 to Olive and Horton Yaeger. She had an older sister Terrell, and an older brother, Tom, all of whom were members of a respected pioneer family in the state. Her paternal grandfather, Benjamin Horton Yaeger, Sr., came to the territory in 1887. He was a prosperous sheep rancher in the Prescott area and her grandmother, Isabel O'Hara, arrived in 1903 to teach at what is now ASU. They married and had 3 children. A serious ranching accident left Ben an invalid and after his death in 1924, Isabel began a teaching career at Phoenix Union High School. She was an important force in the community and her family until her death in 1963. Catherine's mother's family immigrated to Douglas, Arizona from Wales in 1914. Her father, Tom, was the manager of the Phelps Dodge Mercantile store and her mother, May, was its women's wear manager. They lived happy, active lives in Douglas. Unfortunately, those lives were not long enough. They both died in their fifties of natural causes.

Catherine's parents met while they were students at the University of Arizona. Her father was an economics major and her mother's major was physical education. They graduated in the middle of the Great Depression and married in 1936 in a small ceremony in Douglas. They moved to Phoenix, had two children and Horton worked in a variety of jobs until WWII broke out. Though his age and family status could have exempted him from the service, he enlisted in the Navy and served as a gunnery officer in the South Pacific. Catherine entered the world about 10 months after his return from the war.

Her early years were filled with fun with her older siblings and lots of independence. She especially enjoyed acrobatics, sports, riding her bike and the usual games of childhood. She attended Encanto and Clarendon Elementary Schools and graduated from West Phoenix High School in 1965. While at West, she was a good student and in lots of school activities. She was a delegate to Girl's State and served as its Speaker of the House.

After high school, Catherine enrolled at the University of Arizona, her parents' alma mater. She followed in her mother's footsteps there and pledged Gamma Phi Beta sorority. Catherine was a member of Spurs, Chimes, Morta Board, Angel Flight, UA Hostesses, was president of Gamma Phi Beta, and was listed in Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities. She graduated with honors in 1969 with a degree in social studies/secondary education. After a great graduation trip to Europe with 3 girlfriends, Catherine returned to UA for a master's degree in education. During that time, she met and fell in love with a young lawyer named Pete Mendelsohn (Sidney). She prolonged her stay in Tucson by enrolling in the history PhD program. After a year, she decided that Pete might propose if she were a little farther away, so she moved to Phoenix and taught at Apollo High in Glendale. Pete finally got the message and they were married in 1973.

Their early years of marriage were filled with employment (Catherine was the assistant sales manager of the Doubletree Inn, and an educational specialist with the Career Guidance Project), travel, volunteering with the Junior League of Tucson, a little tennis and making a comfortable home. Finally, after 11 years of marriage, their routine was broken by the arrival of their son, David Benjamin Mendelsohn. He was a joy and Catherine quit work to become a full-time mother. They continued to travel, built a home in Skyline Country Club, stayed active in the community and devoted themselves to being the best parents they could. Catherine was especially involved in David's school and sports activities, but made time later to return to work as a job skills trainer for PHASE (the Project for Homemakers Seeking Employment) at UA. It was a terrific project and suited her desire to work with women in need. She retired from PHASE in 2003, but stayed active on its board for several more years. She was also president of WOSAC (Women's Studies Advisory Council), a support group for the UA Women's Studies Department, and was active in her book club. As a lifelong Democrat, she was involved in Emily's List and Planned Parenthood. Her major energy was directed to her family and friends, though. She loved to be surrounded by them and stay engaged in their lives. She took particular pride in her home and enjoyed nothing more than having friends over and sharing her thoughts, a glass of wine and lots of laughter with them. She has been blessed with a wonderful husband and son, incredible travel experiences, close friends, meaningful work and good health. At 60 it is a great life... may it continue like that for many years to come!

--April 2007