Kathryn “Kay” Louise Fleming, a former resident of Three Rivers, died peacefully Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018, at Windsor Manor Care in Concord, Calif., where she was surrounded by family members and her loving caregivers. She was 98.
A graveside service will be held Saturday, Sept. 22, at 9 a.m., at Visalia District Cemetery, 1300 W. Goshen Ave.
Kay was particularly proud of her heritage, tracing her roots back to the American Revolution and beyond. When Kay was born on January 21, 1920, her parents, Dorothy (Lewis) Kottmeier and Wesley Louis Kottmeier were living in Corning, Calif., where they owned and operated a hardware store. Kay’s maternal grandparents, Col. Edson Arthur Lewis and Mary (Ward) Lewis, were stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco.
To receive medical care, Dorothy traveled to the Presidio where Kay was born. Two years later, her sister Constance “Connie” Lucille Kottmeier was also born at the Presidio.
Kay’s brother, Wesley Louis Kottmeier Jr. was born in Corning. Because of the Great Depression, the store in Corning closed and Kay’s father started working for the International Harvester Company as a salesman. Wes Sr.’s career with International Harvester grew and the family moved again, first to Stockton then to Fresno.
In the middle of Kay’s junior year at Fresno High, the family moved to Visalia. This is where Kay met Randall Eugene Fleming, her future and much beloved husband.
In 1938, Kay and Gene graduated from Visalia High School. At the time, Kay’s father managed the International Harvester dealership in Visalia, which was later owned by the family and renamed Kottmeier Equipment Company.
After high school, Kay started attending nursing school in San Francisco. Married students were not allowed. However, wanting to get married but also wanting to get her nursing degree, Kay and Gene married and attempted to keep it a secret from the school. In the end, their secret was revealed and she was forced to withdraw.
When Gene was shipped overseas during World War II, Kay returned to her parents’ home in Visalia. Their son, Russell Eugene Fleming, was born in 1943 but did not meet his father until he was three years old. After Gene’s return, he joined the family farm-equipment business.
Kay and Gene built a home on Westcott Street in Visalia and had two more children, Gregory Ross Fleming and Aurolyn Susan Kay Fleming (now Suzi Bachan).
Kay’s father and brother both served as mayor of the City of Visalia. Because of this community activism, Kay was also involved in many social and community activities.
She was honored to be one of the founders and first and second president of the Kaweah Delta Health Care District’s Hospital Guild. Both Gene and Kay acted as presidents of the local school’s PTAs. Both were active leaders in Boy Scouts.
In the late 1950s, Kay and Gene built a large two-story cabin in Weston Meadows in Sequoia National Forest. She and the family spent large parts of their summers at their cabin with beautiful meadow vistas overlooking Kings Canyon.
Eventually, Kay returned to nursing school and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, graduating summa cum laude. During the course of her career, Kay earned her Public Health Nurse certification and worked as a public school nurse for Visalia Unified School District’s elementary schools.
Later, she became a nurse practitioner in addition to teaching nursing at College of the Sequoias (Visalia) and California State University, Bakersfield, where she also ran the external degree program for nurses until her retirement in 1990. Kay’s students often relayed their high regard for her knowledge, skill, and teaching ability.
Kay and Gene were active members in the Presbyterian churches in Visalia and in Three Rivers, where they were deacons.
Some years before and after retiring, Kay and Gene lived in Three Rivers and continued to enjoy a wonderful social and community-service life, including church, bridge clubs, and the Three Rivers gardening club. Kay served two consecutive years as president of the Three Rivers Woman’s Club (1992 and 1993).
While living in Three Rivers, Kay survived being bitten by a rattlesnake, not once but twice! The snakes, however, did not survive.
In 1996, Kay and Gene were able to repurchase the Visalia home they built in 1951, so they left Three Rivers and moved back into their first home. Kay lived in the family home until 2008, at which time it was prudent for her to move closer to her daughter Suzi in the Bay Area.
An extraordinarily hard-working and energetic professional woman, Kay loved entertaining, seasonally decorating her home, and gardening.
Kay was preceded in death by her husband Gene (2003) and sons Greg (1965) and Russ (1995).
She is survived by daughter Suzi and her four children, Wesley Brandon, Heather Nicole, Luke George (IV), and Alexander Monroe; her late son Russell’s two children, Elizabeth Ann and Gregory Robert; seven great-grandchildren; her niece, Dorothy Davis Downing, and husband Jed
Downing; nephew Don Davis; and niece Barbara Jean Davis.
Online condolences may be made at smithfamilychapel,com.