Agnes Helen Barlass (1914-2001)

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Agnes Helen Barlass Catob
Catob, Karl & Agnes.jpg
Karl and Agnes
Born: 23 Jan 1914 Arena, North Dakota
Died: 10 Jan 2001 Downington, Pennsylvania
Father: Adin Leroy Barlass
Mother: Elizabeth Isabelle Coulter
Siblings: Stuart LeRoy Barlass
Irwin Alan Barlass
Edith Marie Barlass
Frank David Barlass
Agnes Helen Barlass
Elizabeth Barlass
Arthur Barlass
Robert Douglas Barlass
Joan Kathryn Barlass
Spouse: Karl August Johann Catob
Married: 1934 South Bend, Indiana
Children: Sheryl Rose Catob
Karl Johann Leroy Catob
Erik David Catob
Kurt Catob
A Meditation of Thanksgiving to God for the Life of
Agnes Helen Barlass Catob

January 23, 1914 - January 10, 2001
The Rev. Douglas C. Hoglund

The Woodside Presbyterian Church, January 20, 2001

Her name was Agnes. It's not a name that parents give to their children much these days. But it fit her perfectly. For you see 'Agnes' means 'lamb'. Like one of these gentle creatures of the pasture, Agnes was a quiet soul with a large and kind heart. Everyone she met, whose lives were touched by hers, could not help but love her.

Born on the plains, under the big sky of North Dakota, the first years of her life seemed to jump from the pages of A Little House on the Prairie. Her home was a sod house. The family car was a horse and buggy. Reading, writing and 'rithmetic were taught in a one-room school house. Why, Agnes even regularly trudged through three feet of snow. "I did those things," she admitted, "but they weren't romantic or fun." Such genuine honesty and prairie commonsense were what you would expect from Agnes.

These qualities rose not just from the soil of America's heartland but even further back to her family roots in the mist shrouded hills and lochs of Scotland. Agnes was keenly interested in her heritage. Her family name, Barlass, originated with a young woman who was willing to put her life on the line to save the king of Scotland. I believe that same inner strength and conviction lived within Agnes. They helped her endure and overcome so many of the challenges that life laid before her.

The first of these came when her family lost the farm in North Dakota and relocated to South Bend, Indiana. Then her brother Irwin went to join the Marines and fight in a conflict in Nicaragua that rarely makes it into American history books. Irwin returned not just with stories of his adventures, but also with an army buddy named Karl Catob. That was the beginning of a love that would last to the end of their days. Even Irwin was blessed by their union, since he later married Karl's sister Frieda.

Married life for this young couple in the lean times of the Great Depression was not easy. Since jobs were scarce, Karl left Agnes home with her parents while he hitched a ride by freight train across the country in pursuit of work. There would be many moves for them over the years. But the Lord also gave them great blessings through the births of their four children: Sheryl, Karl, Jr., Eric and Curt. In time, the Navy hired Karl to work at the Philadelphia Shipyard. The family moved east and eventually, in 1952, settled in the little house by the canal in Yardley. The next year they joined the Woodside Presbyterian Church.

Karl's job again separated him from Agnes when, in 1964, he worked on the desalinization plant at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She took up residence in Jamaica. With the project in Cuba complete, Karl and Agnes moved to Puerto Rico and then to Trinidad. Yet upon retirement, they chose to leave that Caribbean paradise and return to their true home here in Bucks County.

Agnes lived a simple life between the canal and the river. She was a homemaker, a child caregiver, a waitress and even an employee at Kramer's Bakery. She was a Friend of the Canal, a Friend of the Library, and naturally a friend to everyone she met. It seems appropriate that she spent her last years in the Friends Home. All her children agree that she was the glue that held her family together, the bond of love which united the generations. Perhaps Karl's love for travel and adventure, his solo drives out to Michigan may have driven her crazy with worry. But she took it all in stride with serenity and grace.

Her composure and quiet strength are all the more amazing when you consider how she struggled with the uncontrollable symptoms of Parkinson's Disease and the debilitating effects of back and joint pain. Never do I remember her complaining about the considerable burden these laid upon her. In fact, whenever I visited Agnes for the purpose of comforting and supporting her, I always left with the impression that she, instead, offered her care to me. Perhaps that is why so many in this church, this community and in the Friends Home were naturally drawn to her. When I came to serve her communion, she arranged for other residents to join us at the Lord's Table. When our youth group came to sing carols to her on what was to be her last Christmas, Agnes invited her friends to hear our songs of praise to the newborn King.

How did she endure all these trials with such joy and peace? I believe that her faith in Jesus Christ was the key. Agnes, this gentle lamb, followed the Good Shepherd through all the pathways and pastures of her life. She confided in me, during the last time that I brought her communion, that there were years when she and Karl sent their children to Sunday School but did not attend church. Then, during their days in Harbor Springs, Michigan, they found a home at a local congregation and it renewed their commitment to Jesus Christ.

Woodside was a central part of their life during the years they lived here. I remember when I first came to this church seven years ago, one of the elders pointed out that the Catobs were two of the dear saints of this congregation. I loved to see Karl and Agnes sit close beside each other in the second pew like two teens in love. Even after Karl was gone, even when the pain became almost too much to bear, Agnes still tried to worship here every Sunday. The simple fact that their were many who gladly signed up to bring her to and from church, shows how she touched all our lives.

Jesus the Good Shepherd, said that His sheep know His voice. He calls them by name and leads them out. The Good Shepherd came that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:1-18). Despite all the pain and difficulties, Agnes, this sweet lamb, lived a full life. She followed the Good Shepherd and He led her from the green pastures of North Dakota to beside the still waters of the Delaware canal. He restored her soul. He even led her through the Valley of the Shadow of Death - first when she said goodbye to Karl and then when she faced her last days. On January 10th, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, called Agnes, His dear Lamb, by name and led her home to His Father's house (Psalm 23, John 14:1-6). So great was her faith and hope in Jesus that the only request she made for this memorial service was that we sing happy songs. Now all the pain and disease, all the cancer and Parkinson's are gone. In the presence of the Lord she is free from all that burdened her. And that is a cause for joy.

Although we are thankful that she is no longer suffering, it will be difficult to say goodbye to Agnes. As you grieve, I hope that you will find comfort in the arms of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Perhaps it has been a while since you have spoken God. Perhaps, like many sheep, you put your head down in the grass and have wandered away from the Lord. But don't be afraid. No matter how far you have roamed, the Good Shepherd is calling your name. Why should you follow Him? Because the Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:15). He gives you love that is unconditional. He gives you life that is eternal.

And one Day, He will return to gather all His sheep and take them to His Kingdom. On that Day, God Himself will be with us. He will personally wipe every tear from our eyes and take away Parkinson's, cancer and death forever. At that glorious family reunion we shall be reunited with Karl and Agnes and all those who have gone on ahead of us into the Kingdom. As you wait in hope for that blessed Day, may the peace of God, which is beyond all earthly understanding, keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus, Our Lord. Amen (Phillipians 4:7).

Lakeview Cemetery, Harbor Springs

Sources

  • Hoglund, Rev. Douglas C., A Meditation of Thanksgiving for the Life of Karl A. Catob, Sr., 12 Jul 1997.
  • Death: Social Security Death Index:
Catob, Agnes
Birth Date: 23 Jan 1914
Death Date:10 Jan 2001
Social Security Number: 143-22-3179
State Number Was Issued: New Jersey
Death Residence Zip Code: 19335
Localities: Downingtown, Chester, Pennsylvania
Death Benefit Zip Code: 18940
Locality: Newtown, Bucks, Pennsylvania
  • Howse, Joanne Marie Heinz. Howse Best-Mar26,2005.paf file
  • Myfamily.com: Joanne Heinz Howse:
Agnes Catob left us this day
January 10, 2001
After a wonderful life of being a daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, grandmother, etc., Agnes Catob has gone to be with her dear husband and other loved ones. We will miss her but know she will be given all of the blessings that are reserved for special people like her. Our love and prayers go out to her family who will miss her but will always remember and cherish her memory.
and
Jan 10, 2001
Dear Joanne,
Thank you for letting everyone know. Her memorial service will be Jan 20 at 11am at Woodside Church in Newtown PA.
As you wrote, she was a special person and I cherish every moment I had with her.
One couldn't ask for a more wonderful Grandma.
Laurie