Katherine (Kathy) Willis Crosby Bowman died peacefully, surrounded by her family on Jan. 31 at her home in South Orange, N.J., after a long illness. She was 91.

She was born on Jan. 1, 1926, in Covington, Ky., the eldest of three children born to Katherine Vivian Lambkins Crosby and James H. Crosby Sr. At a young age, Kathy and her family moved across the river to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she spent her formative years. In 1996 Kathy put her life experiences in writing in a book titled Across the River.

She graduated from Walnut Hills High School in 1943 and was admitted to Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. where she spent some of the happiest years of her life. In her book, she describes Fisk as “Black Heaven.” She received a bachelor’s degree from Fisk in 1947 and later a master’s in education in from the University of Dayton.

Her first position after graduating from Fisk was as a YWCA program director in Dayton, Ohio. She also worked as a divorce investigator, teacher, and high school guidance counselor. Her final and most satisfying position began in 1977 when she became executive director of the YM/YWCA in Dayton. It was the first such joint facility in the country and through her leadership it became a successful template for other such programs.

During her life, Kathy supported many civic and community organizations. She was a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, like her mother and her daughter Sondra. Many other organizations benefited from her service over the years including The Links Inc., Jack and Jill of America, Girl Scouts of America and her beloved Carrousels of which she was an emeritus member.

She joined St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Cincinnati at age14, and was a devoted Episcopalian for the rest of her life. She was a member of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church for 64 years serving in many capacities including the vestry, Episcopal Churchwomen, Young Churchmen and Sunday school.

In her book, Kathy shares many experiences from her life growing up in still segregated America:

“There were differences in my life when compared to a white child of the same age. I had never attended a downtown movie theatre, only segregated ones in the black sections of town. I had never been to Coney Island or any of the popular large public swimming pools. I had never been to a restaurant or a sit-down eating-place other than a black restaurant. I had never stayed in a first class hotel. I would not be able to swim with my class at the high school (Walnut Hills) that I was so proudly looking forward to attending.”

She was a woman of faith, grace and love, and sometimes tough love. Friends and family, could count on her to always say what she thought, whether or not it was something we wanted to hear. One of her favorite sayings as a piece of advice was: “Denial is not just a river in Egypt.” She was Aunt Kathy to many, and her love was all-encompassing and unconditional.

She embraced life enthusiastically. She considered herself a great dancer and was always first on the floor to do the latest line dance. Bridge was a big part of her weekly activities. She loved to travel, and in her early years, Idlewild provided many fun summers. She especially loved Martha’s Vineyard where she spent a part of every summer with family and friends for 23 wonderful years.

She faced her life challenges with great faith. She taught her girls that your happiness and character are not defined by challenges in life, but rather how the challenges are faced and overcome.

On Sept. 1, 1990, she joyfully married William Lawrence Bowman with whom she shared a loving, fun filled, active life for 17 years until his death in 2007.

She is survived by her three adoring daughters, Teri Lynn Trotter and her husband Lloyd, Wendy Marie Johnson and her husband Larry, and Sondra Camille Ford; granddaughter Tiffani Katherine Whittaker; great-grandson Spencer Lloyd Millien and great-granddaughter Katherine Raye Millien; two nephews, Gregory Crosby and Anthony Dorsey and his wife Monica; and two nieces, Tashamee Dorsey and Letitia Lee.

In addition to her beloved husband, she was predeceased by her brother James H. Crosby Jr. and sister Barbara Ann Dorsey. She also leaves behind many devoted friends including her friend and caregiver for many years, Joyce Frasier, her Vineyard angels, Mara Santos, Ohana Oliveira and Rosa Otten, and her New Jersey angels, Phoenicia Henderson, Dani Alce and Katrise Adams, as well as many other loving caregivers.

A celebration of her life was be held on Monday, Feb. 6 in Dayton, Ohio.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in remembrance of Katherine Willis Crosby Bowman to St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, 5301 Free Pike, Dayton, Ohio 45426.