Born Cathryn "Kay" Colbert on November 16, 1920 in Akron, Ohio. In 1926, Kay's parents divorced. Young Kay was a head strong, determined child who spent her youth at Hathaway Brown School for Girls in Cleveland, Ohio. At the age of ten, Kay's life changed forever when her mother, Edna met and married Mr. Henderson N. White, maker of King Band Instruments. Mr. White adopted Kay at age 11 and was thrilled that Kay was an accomplished clarinet player. One of the first gifts that Henderson gave to Kay was a silver bell clarinet which was made in his factory. For the next few years, Kay played that Clarinet all year long including summer camp at Cedar Point. Mr. White also noticed that Kay loved to draw and was contently doodling on scratch paper that was just laying around. On a number of occasions, Kay's drawings appeared in Henderson's Band Instrument Catalogs, including a few catalog covers. In 1938, Henderson invited Kay to attend a convention where she met William F. Ludwig Jr (of the Ludwig Drum Company). The two married in 1941. Upon graduation from Hathaway Brown, Kay was enrolled in The Cleveland Institute of Art when trategy struck. On March 26, 1940 at the age of 65, Mr. H. N. White died suddenly. By 1941, Edna took over as President of The H. N. White Company and Kay became the de facto Vice President, although Kay did not work full time in that position until 1951. From 1941 to 1948, Kay moved to Chicago working at the WFL Drum Company, and on September 21, 1947 Cathryn gave birth to a baby girl, Ellen Ludwig. Five years later Kay divorced William F. Ludwig Jr and returned to Cleveland with her daughter and quickly changed her name back to Cathryn White. Life as a single mother was difficult for both Kay and Ellen as Edna was demanding of her daughter to meet the expectations of her position in The H. N. White Company, which by now was the second largest band instrument maker in the country. Kay met with as many as 1000 dealers in one year's time, plus did a number of band clinics on the weekends. The band industry was in its golden years during the 1950's and Kay was lucky enough to meet and know such greats as: Tommy Dorsey, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, Henry " Red" Allen, Georgie Auld, William Bell, Les Brown, Ray Conniff, Wild Bill Davison, Sam Donahue, Ziggy Elman, John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, Pee Wee Hunt, Charlie Parker Jr, Charles James "Charlie" Shavers, Frank Simon, Del Staigers, Charlie Ventura, Kai Winding, Harry James, and many more artists.
Starting in 1962, Kay spent more time at the factory located in Cleveland and less time on the road. One of the reasons for this shift in job responsibility was that Edna's health was starting to fail and she complained about frequent stomach pains. Near the middle of 1964, it became clear the current factory was outdated. King had been manufacturing in the same buildings for more than fifty years and a new location was needed. In 1964, Mrs. Edna White purchased 12.5 acres of land to put a new plant on in Eastlake, Ohio. Another big change occurred in September 1964 when Cathryn updated the King logo to the modern crown that is still used today. Then, in 1965, wiith her health fading, Edna and Kay decided to sell the company to Mr. Nate Dolan and his partners. For the next few years Mrs. White would still go to work at the Eastlake facility that she helped build, but she never grew to like it as much as the 5225 Superior location. Mrs. Edna White died in 1969.
By the end of 1965, Kay re-enrolled in The Cleveland Institute of Art and started taking classes. Kay loved painting and focused on oil and water colors. At first she was content to paint the faces of people she knew, but as tim went on, Kay struggled to find her niche. After her Mother died in 1969, Kay was invited out to Texas to visit her close friends, Mary and T.J. (Joe) Gillespie, a sales representative for The H. N. White Company. The three took a road trip out to Las Vegas. On the way, they went through northern New Mexico and the Taos region and Kay simply fell in love with the area.. The mountains and great outdoors truly inspired her and led her to find her niche in painting the great landscapes of the West. It was here that Kay was able to capture and convey her artistic essence
A few months after returning to Cleveland, Kay was set up on a blind date with a New Englander named Russell L. Sylvester, whose wife Dorothy had died. Russ was an even tempered gentleman (he really was a gentle man) with a tendency to be "frugal" with a dollar. Kay and Russ hit it off right away and were married in June of 1970 at Kay's home in Pepper Pike, Ohio. For their honeymoon, the two went to Angel Fire, New Mexico where Kay had just purchased a condo as a vacation home. Dorothy's sons and her families were guests at Kay and Russ's wedding. Her sons continued to be welcomed by both Russ and Kay for the remainder of their lives.
Russ was an excellent wood worker and soon the couple purchased an old carriage barn in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and began converting it to their new home. 65 Walnut became known as the house that Russ and Kay built. During this time, Kay continued painting two or three prints a month with her focus still on the West and its mountains.
Mr.Henderson N. White's love and care for Kay were passed down through her and her husband Russ to another generation. Russ's son Earl married Sue and had three children: Sarah born May, 1969, John Russell born November, 1974, and David born May, 1976. In 1971. Kay's daughter gave birth to a boy (C. Charvat) and by 1973 a girl (K. Charvat) was added. Kay and Russ enjoyed having both of the families come out to Angel Fire, New Mexico for trips year round. By 1975, Kay and Russ had picked out a new property in Angel Fire and construction was started on a new home. Later in 1976, Kay and Russ decided to sell their home on 65 Walnut in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and become full time residents of Angel Fire, New Mexico.
Angel Fire, at the time was almost as far from civilation as you could get, but both loved the view and the lifestyle. Once settled down in a routine, Kay would paint and Russ would build just about everything you could imagine that was made out of wood. Both immediately became involved with community building and were well-known for their community spirit, their gift for entertaining and their generosity. Russ was one of the founders of the Southern Moreno Valley Community Corporation, organized in April 1978 to handle funding for community services such as ambulance and fire protection before Angel Fire was incorporated as a municipality in 1986. Kay created High Valley Artisans in 1984, a local group of artists who had a co-op gallery. 1976 to 1996 was a very productive time for both Russ and Kay with Russ spending almost every day in his workshop and Kay in her studio. Most of the featured art work comes from this time period.
Russ and Kay lived in Angel Fire until 1996 when they moved to Santa Fe because of health issues.Russ died on Sept. 22, 1999, of Parkinson’s disease, and Kay shortly thereafter moved back to Ohio to be with her family. Kay passed away on June 26, 2005.
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