Katharine Tilson Murray, age 97, of Hilltop Place in New London died peacefully on January 4, 2013 after a full and accomplished life. Born on March 22, 1915 in New Haven, Connecticut, Katharine (Kay) was the youngest of the three children of former Connecticut House Speaker, U.S. Congressman and U.S. House Majority Leader John Quillen Tilson and Marguerite North Tilson. As a child and young adult, she traveled widely in the U.S. and Europe.
A graduate of Smith College, class of 1937, and a 1943 graduate of New York University Medical School, Kay worked as a pediatrician in New Haven, CT before devoting her life to her family. As a young woman in Connecticut, she also was the first female in the state to become a licensed ham radio operator.
In 1920, Kay’s parents purchased property on Lake Sunapee after which she spent much of her time at Timberlost, the family’s Lake Sunapee home. As a part-time Lake Sunapee resident, she was very active on the Summer Residents’ Committee for the New London Hospital. Kay became an accomplished Star sailor and an enthusiast of skiing, tennis and hiking. As an avid hiker, she climbed all of New Hampshire’s mountains over 4,000 feet after she reached age 50. When Kay moved to New London permanently she dedicated herself to community organizations. She chaired the New London Conservation Commission and she also served as a volunteer working on lakeshore preservation and water quality protection with the Lake Sunapee Protective Association (LSPA). She was a volunteer at Meals on Wheels for more than 35 years and was working serving meals until two weeks before her death.
Kay also was devoted to the preservation of the Tilson family homestead in Unicoi County Tennessee where she orchestrated the permanent protection of the historically-significant family homestead. In her 80s, Kay began raising goldenseal at the Tennessee property and, at age 93, decided to become part of the effort to restore the American chestnut tree. In this endeavor, she connected with researchers at The American Chestnut Foundation and secured about 130 experimental chestnut seedlings which she planted at the Tennessee homestead and tended until several months before her death.
Kay is survived by her four children Christina (Chris) McKee and husband Tom; John G. (Kip) Murray and wife Gail Kinney; daughter Margaret (Kiki) Schneider and husband Dan, and Kenneth Murray and wife Lotta; six grandchildren, Ethan McKee, Rachel McKee Willard, Amanda Schneider, Edward (Ned) Schneider, Marguerite Wakeman and Darrell Murray and four great-grandchildren, Samantha and Haley Willard, and Ellie and Charlotte McKee. She is predeceased by her great granddaughter Finley Willard and by her brother, John Q. Tilson Jr., and sister, Margaret Tilson Shafer.
Kay was a member of or strong supporter of more than 50 international and local charitable and community service organizations.
Contributions in her memory may be made to: LSPA, PO Box 683 Sunapee, NH; New England Handicapped Sports Association, PO Box 2135, Newbury NH 03755 or Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust, 71 Pleasant Street, New London, NH 03257. A spring memorial service will be held at the Tilson family homestead in Tennessee.