April 19, 1936-September 18, 2009
When San Francisco's Kathleen McKenzie was hospitalized for the first time with metastatic breast cancer, her illness had been mis-diagnosed for months, leaving her in unbearable pain. But one look out of her fourteenth floor window at UCSF Medical Center on Parnassus, with its sweeping view of the city from the ocean to the bay, made her laugh.
"They should tear down the hospital and build condos," she said. "Can you imagine what people would pay for a view like this?"
Kathleen lost her struggle with cancer on September 18, in the palliative care suite on the same floor of the hospital. Her family knew her time was short when the view no longer incited her to tell a story about some landmark emerging from the morning fog.
They knew most of the stories already, of course. Knew that her father was a baby when the 1906 earthquake struck, and his family sheltered in Golden Gate Park from the fire that almost destroyed the city in its aftermath. That he grew up to be one of the workers who built the Golden Gate Bridge. Knew about watching games at Kezar Stadium, and playing in the vast tracts of forest that covered the hill the hospital now occupied. About how she grew up in a house on Bernal Heights, with farms as neighbors.
A third generation native of the city, Kathleen attended St. Peter's grammar school, and high school at the Immaculate Conception Academy in the Mission. One of her first jobs was as a gift wrapper at the iconic City of Paris department store on Union Square.
Kathleen began dating the best friend of her brother James, Edward Keith, while still in high school. They attended her senior prom together and married in 1958. Their first child, a daughter they named Christiann, was born in 1959, followed by son James in 1961 and McKenzie in 1967.
When, after Kathleen and Edward divorced, their youngest son convinced them to let him get a dog, she discovered what was to be one of the greatest loves of her life, Scottish Deerhounds. She and her daughter Christie went on to raise many beloved deerhounds, the last of whom passed away just a few weeks before Kathleen did.
A lifelong love of old houses and antique furniture led to a successful career as an antiques dealer on Sacramento Street, founder of one of San Francisco's first bed and breakfast inns, and a charter member of the San Francisco Bed and Breakfast Association. She also was a partner with Jeremiah Tower in a restaurant at 690 Van Ness.
Kathleen is survived by her daughter, Christie Keith, a columnist for SFGate.com; her son and daughter-in-law James and Julie Keith; her son and daughter-in-law McKenzie and Meewon Keith; her grandsons Conrad, Harrison, and Ronan Keith; and her brother, Henry L. McKenzie, all of San Francisco, as well as dozens of nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews and cousins all over the city and the greater Bay Area.
A rosary will be held at Duggan's Mortuary in Daly City on Thursday, Sept. 24 at 7 PM.
Kathleen's only surviving sibling, Henry, is a longtime volunteer at San Francisco Suicide Prevention, and donations in her memory to that organization would be appreciated by the family, in gratitude for his love, strength and support during Kathleen's long illness. Animal lovers who want to honor her life are invited to donate to Muttville, a San Francisco charity that finds homes for elderly dogs and those with medical problems.