Born July 26, 1924, in Itta Bena, Mississippi to John Thomas Grantham and Mary Lillian Ray, Catherine grew up on Ashland Plantation in Anguilla, Mississippi, with her sister, Mary Ray (Grantham) Mims, and her three brothers, Paul, Sam, and J.T., Jr. Grantham, all of whom predeceased her.
Catherine was quite the “rebel” for a Southern lady. After attending Moorehead Jr. College, where she played on the basketball team, Catherine followed her brothers into military service, enlisting in the U.S Navy Waves in 1944, gaining notoriety as the 90,000th Wave to enlist. During her nearly five years of military service, she served in Bronx, NY (playing on the training center basketball team), Stillwater, OK, New Orleans, LA, Gulfport, MS, and Memphis, TN.
While stationed New Orleans as a Navy Yeoman 1st Class in 1946, Catherine met the love of her life, Allen W. Bird, at a wedding in Gulfport, MS. After her Navy service, Catherine returned to school at Delta State University as an English major, and she and Allen were married on May 4, 1948, at Ashland Plantation.
Allen’s Navy service took them to various far-flung bases, including: Key West, FL, Millington, TN, Patuxent River, MD, Sunnyvale, CA, and Naha, Okinawa. From 1961 to 1963, Catherine taught conversational English to high school students in Naha, Okinawa, as a member of the America Volunteer Teacher’s Association. While in California from 1963 to 1965, Catherine worked as an executive secretary for Lockheed Co. Missiles and Space Division, assigned to the top secret Polaris missile project.
In August 1965, after Allen had retired from the Navy, he was hired by TWA as a pilot instructor, and the family moved to Kansas City, MO. They eventually built a lakeside home at Weatherby Lake. Never to be idle, Catherine worked as an executive secretary for Herbert V. Jones, and later for Byron T. Shutz of the Byron Shutz Co. In Kansas City, MO.
From 1974 to 1976, Catherine and Allen lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, when Allen was assigned by TWA to train L-1011 pilots for Saudi Arabian Airlines. Once again, Catherine taught English to the locals to keep busy.
In 1976, they returned to their Weatherby Lake home, enjoying fishing and boating. Over the years, Catherine was an energetic volunteer with the KCI Ambassadors, St. Luke’s Northland Hospital Auxiliary, the National Association for Uniformed Services, the USS Hoggatt Bay Association, and the Society of Military Widows.
Catherine had a “wonderlust” for travel from an early age, from long driving vacations across the U.S., to camping vacations in California, Oregon and Washington, and utilizing her TWA and Saudia flight privileges to explore the world.
Catherine lived a full and charmed life. She was a loving person who will be sorely missed by her surviving family, daughter Sharon (Christopher) Bradford of Parkville, MO, son Paul “Rusty” (Renee) Bird of Parkville, MO, granddaughter Ann (Cameron) Kleier of Kansas City, MO, and great-grandson Graham Kleier of Kansas City, MO.
The family will receive friends from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., Thursday, February 26, 2015 at Meyers Northland Chapel in Parkville, MO. A Committal Service with military honors will be held at 12:30 p.m., Thursday, February 26, 2015 at Leavenworth, National Cemetery, 150 Muncie Road, Leavenworth, KS. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the American Heart Association, or to the Wounded Warrior Project.