Servant, friend, mentor, listener, advocate, teacher, partner, mother, grandmother, sister, believer. None of these words is exceptional by itself, but together they weave the fabric of the unforgettable Kate Lutrey. I wish I had known her longer and better.
Kate fought cancer to a draw for 13 years. She didn’t lose the battle so much as she changed the rules of competition. She was indefatigable. As a newspaper woman, she would have liked that word to describe her but also found it impossible to include in a headline. Ink flowed in her veins — forgive the cliche.
After graduating from Metro State, Kate became The Metropolitan‘s business manager in its earliest years. She had her beloved son, Jesse, in tow a lot of the time. Jesse got to know some of Kate’s newspaper students over the years, some of whom spoke at her memorial service in the King Center on Nov. 28. Jesse eulogized his mom as “determined,” and that fits nicely with the other shared memories from former editors Kevin Vaughn, Carson Reed and Frank Mullen. Using words like “steadfast,” “courageous,” “calm,” “creative” and “dependable,” they all praised Kate’s unwavering determination to help students succeed.
Much as you see today, Kate involved students in ad sales and turned around the paper’s fortunes in a year. Kate’s students — not much younger than her — remember the typewriters, proportion wheels, pica poles, dark room chemicals, X-Acto knives and paste up on production night. The age of cold type was just beginning. There were corded phones and a morgue to check clips. VDTs and H&J were not abbreviations used in a text message. She defended the paper’s independence and encouraged reporters and editors to set high standards and follow their hearts.
Kate hired me in January 2011 at a time when Student Media needed a calming hand. I took my cues from her. She was asked to divide her time between duties in the vice president’s office and leadership at Student Media. Cancer treatments had diminished her voice. Her dominant right hand didn’t work very well. She would lose her breath. She never complained. I was blessed that she let me know her beliefs and allowed me to try to give her comfort in our conversations about faith. I have no doubt that she’s home now with our Lord.
Benjamin Franklin said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” On that scale, then, Kate’s love for students and for Metropolitan State College of Denver was only one rung down. For three decades Kate was an anchor. She personified Metro State. She knew where all the bodies were buried. It wouldn’t surprise me if she buried a few herself.
So, this isn’t the end for our friend, Kate. She believed that good works were necessary for salvation, and she racked up more than her share. She will never be forgotten. In his tribute, former student Frank Mullen wrote: “We’ll miss you Katie. You left way too soon. I don’t think I ever told you, but I think you knew: We’re so very proud of you.”