Catherine “Cathy” L. Smith passed away early Friday morning, April 15, 2022, after fighting cancer with close family by her side.
Cathy was born Oct. 16, 1956, at Hamilton AFB, CA, to Jo (Cumley) and Ray Smith. Although Cathy considered Olathe her hometown, because her father was in the Air Force, Cathy’s school years were spent in a variety of places, including Olathe at times. She graduated as valedictorian from St. Mary’s High School in Colorado Springs, CO, and received her bachelor’s degree in English & theater education from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, KS, graduating as salutatorian. She later earned a master of arts in teaching from Webster University in Kansas City, MO.
She is survived by her loving husband of 38 years, Geff Moyer, children Geffrey Moyer II, Ian Smith, Kerry Durig-Smith and Gabe Moyer, and grandchildren, Ellie and Lila Smith. Few things brought Cathy more joy than her "boys," and that includes her husband, and her granddaughters
She is also survived by her mother, Jo Smith, and sisters, Beverly Smith, Barb Suter, Carol Smith, Colleen Heistand, Cheri Duffy and brothers Steve Smith and Mark Smith as well as numerous nieces and nephews and grandnieces and nephews.
There will not be a traditional funeral because she donated her body to science—in keeping with her dedication to teaching. However, a Celebration of Life will be held Friday, May 20, from 6-9 p.m. at the Olathe American Legion at 410 E. Dennis Ave, Olathe, KS. For planning purposes, the family requests that those who hope to attend RSVP here.
A scholarship is being established at Olathe South to honor Cathy’s legacy and her fierce dedication to education. The family asks that you consider donating to this scholarship in lieu of other gestures. Donations can be made at the Celebration of Life or electronically
at Olathe Public Schools Foundation.
Please note Cathy Smith in the “in memory of” field or the comment field. Donors may also send checks to the OPSF with a note or a notation in the memo. Checks can be mailed to Olathe Public Schools Foundation, 300 E. Loula, Olathe, KS 66061.
After graduating from college in 1978, Cathy began her teacher career at Lansing (KS) High School, where she taught English and debate/forensics as well coached volleyball. In 1982, she went to Olathe South High School and taught there until she retired after 36 years.
For all 36 years at Olathe South, she taught English classes and was the head coach for the forensics squad. She also started and ended her tenure at OS as the head debate coach with several years as the assistant coach in between. She mostly taught sophomore and junior English classes, but for more than 15 years she was also the AP Language and Composition teacher for juniors. She was always quite proud of those juniors who “passed” the AP test for her class. Additionally, quite a few National Merit scholars would likely thank her for prepping them outside of class for the PSAT/SAT tests.
In the debate/forensics realm, Cathy was also a significant force. She served on the National Speech and Debate Assn. (formerly NFL) district committee for 20 years and was a 6-diamond NSDA coach, indicating she coached at least 30 years and earned nearly 200,000 coaching points through service and student competition. She had approximately a dozen finalists and semifinalists at nationals, including at least one national points earner and one top 10 speaker. In 2002, her students were the Kansas Class 6A Speech and Drama Champions, and she had over 15 individual event state finalists throughout her career.
Additionally, she helped to coach OS students who competed in the Kansas City branch of the English-Speaking Union’s Shakespeare contest (three of whom went to the national competition and numerous others who placed among the top 3 in K.C.) as well as the Kansas Poetry Out Loud competition, eventually qualifying an OS student for the national competition, who was a finalist there.
She was also a fierce advocate for teachers, serving as an ONEA building representative for several terms. And, her knowledge and expertise were brought to bear on the numerous curriculum, textbook, school improvement (accreditation) committees on which she served—whether district or Olathe South. Numerous teachers benefitted from her knowledge via her many presentations for professional development days, in addition to serving as a mentor to new OS English teachers. She also helped to lead the department as co-chair for 15 years. She was never afraid to go toe-to-toe with administration to support her department. If she could find a way to eke out the time, she was happy to serve. Education was her passion.
Another passion of hers was performance, and other than coaching students in debate and forensics, she also performed in area community theaters for several years after she started her working life. That passion for performance eventually led her to be an important part of the Olathe Community (Civic) Theater Assn. She was able to share that passion with her husband Geff, who was also involved with OCTA for many years. She served on the Board of Directors, mostly as president, through the 1990’s and early 2000’s, which also made her part of the Olathe Arts Alliance. As such, she represented the arts at city council meetings in order to get their support. The theater recognized her contributions several times with their special service award and two acting awards for outstanding performance. She also performed at a variety of civic, political, personal events with her friend Vicki Kohl as the Sweeney Sisters, a parody act.
After retiring, Cathy did not fully leave education. She served two terms as a governor’s appointee on the board/executive board of the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) that administers events and state championships in sports and activities. This was a challenging appointment as it started after Covid hit and schools were trying to pivot to new procedures. Cathy enjoyed her time on this board and said it opened her eyes to its function and to the challenges of smaller Kansas schools.
Cathy was also so glad that retirement finally gave her the time she wanted to spend with and to help her mother—whether it was sharing stories and memories, listening to her mother play the piano, watching old movies, laughing at silliness, and even helping in the kitchen.
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