In loving memory: Kay Skaftun

From Kansas to the Emerald City to over the rainbow

Kay Skaftun

Photo courtesy of Emily C. Skaftun
Kay Skaftun is lovingly remembered as a “goofball,” who loved Christmas and never took herself too seriously.

Catherine Ann Skaftun, known as Kay, died on Dec. 10, 2019, at age 73, while vacationing on Maui. I wish I could report that she was attacked by a shark while surfing, or that she was tragically but comically struck by a falling coconut. She actually died of peritoneal mesothelioma.

Kay was born in the tiny town of Nortonville, Kan., to Joe and Veronica Corpstein, on March 6, 1946. The youngest of three children, Kay ran wild with the chickens, often reading to them in their coop. Despite her love of The Wizard of Oz, a tornado never came to sweep her away.

Catholicism was a large part of her upbringing. As a child, Kay played the organ in church, and her father thought she would grow up to be a nun. For high school, Kay went to Mount St. Scholastica Academy, an all-girl boarding school in Atchison, Kan. 

Nursing was Kay’s profession and passion for 50 years. She was employed by many hospitals before landing at Seattle’s Northwest Hospital, where she worked for 35 years on surgical and oncology floors. In her forties, Kay went back to school, earning her bachelor’s in nursing from the University of Washington in 1995. She was awarded King County Nurses Association’s Excellence in Nursing Practice Award in 2001, volunteered as an officer for the Washington State Nurses Association, and to the end voiced strong opinions about nursing, challenging her hospice nurses to rise to her expectations. 

Kay always said the best thing she ever did was leave Kansas. For her 25th birthday, she bought herself an orange Porsche 914 that—it being a manual transmission—she didn’t know how to drive. Once she got up a slight incline and onto the street (to the cheers of everyone at the dealership), she was unstoppable. She drove south and found herself in Phoenix.

In Phoenix, she met John Skaftun. They moved to John’s American hometown of Seattle, married in 1974, and in 1980 adopted their daughter, Emily. Kay always thought it fitting that she ended up in the Emerald City.

Though not Norwegian, Kay became the family baker. For years after Kay and John’s divorce, she remained a fixture at family holiday gatherings, welcomed possibly primarily on the strength of her desserts.

Kay will be remembered as a goofball who never took herself too seriously. She had a great laugh that she used frequently and an unnerving Wicked Witch of the West laugh that she used sparingly. She loved Christmas, waiting each year for a dry day to bring her Christmas tree home riding shotgun in her green Miata. She liked to surprise people, for example by inserting tampons into red velvet cupcakes for the bookclub meeting discussing The Red Tent. She had the gift of seeing the divine in everyone she met, and could always find something to love about even the most annoying people (which was in itself often annoying).

Her last days were spent enjoying the sun and ocean in the rainbow state. She clicked her heels together, said “there’s no place like home,” and went home.

Kay is predeceased by her brother, Paul Corpstein, and sister, Agnes Lujin. She is survived by her daughter, Emily Skaftun; son-in-law, Jeremy Goodman; sister-in-law Lise Gardner; nieces Jocelyn (Bob) Jasa and Jenny (Craig) Davied; nephews Anthony and Matthew (Cindy) Corpstein, Jeff and Kevin Lujin, and Drew Gardner; great nieces/nephews Jenna, Michael, Timothy, and Julia Jasa, Madison and Caden Davied, and Haylie, Hollie, and Hazel Corpstein; grandkittens Squeezel and Astrophe; and more close friends than can be listed here.

A celebration of life will be held on Jan. 26, 3-6 p.m. in the Northwest Room at Ray’s Boathouse, 6049 Seaview Ave. N.W., Seattle, Wash. 98107. 

This article originally appeared in the January 10, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Emily C. Skaftun

Emily C. Skaftun, former editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a writer of science fiction and fantasy stories. In her spare time, Emily loves to play roller derby.