Catherine R. Myers, 87, a professor of English literature who retired to Wellfleet for a second act as a volunteer and grandmother, died at home on Jan. 27, 2021 of complications related to a stroke.
Cate was born in Fair Lawn, N.J. to Joseph and Charlotte Rodgers, and grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y. Though she was not one to be impressed by flaunted success, Cate excelled in her studies at Scarsdale High School and went on to graduate from Bryn Mawr College in 1955.
After being awarded a Fulbright scholarship, she studied at St. Hilda’s College, a part of the University of Oxford in England. Her journey across the pond began aboard the Cunard Line. The poet Sylvia Plath, also a Fulbright scholar that year, was on the same ship. Cate always said that Plath got a lot more attention from young men than she did.
Cate went on to earn a Ph.D. from Brown University. After a stint teaching at Bryn Mawr, she joined the English dept. of Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. in 1968, retiring in 2005. In addition to teaching Shakespeare, Chaucer, and authors from all over the world, she served over the years as dean of students and dean of faculty, and twice as provost.
Cate’s 14 years as a college administrator taught her that she was more of a people person than she had ever imagined. She told hilarious stories at the dinner table about the eccentricities of her fellow academics.
In 1966, Cate married her former English teacher from Scarsdale High School, Franklin G. Myers. Their union was not as scandalous as it sounds. Though they met when Cate was in high school, they did not begin dating until both were teachers, reviewing college entrance exams at an annual conference.
Even with their 18-year age difference, Cate and Frank had a beautiful relationship. On his deathbed in 1999, Frank told his daughters, “Marrying your mother was the best decision I ever made.” On her own deathbed, Cate could barely look at a picture of Frank. “It’s just too sad,” she would say, then gently lay down the photo.
After Frank’s death, Cate sold their home in Ridgefield, Conn. and moved to the Manhattanville campus. She also bought a condominium on Commercial Street in Wellfleet, just down the hill from where her daughter, K.C., lived with her own family.
For the next 20 years, Cate embraced Wellfleet. She adored the town’s combination of theater, art, nature, and the A.I.M. Thrift Shop, where she volunteered and eventually became president of the board.
Cate also volunteered at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, giving lectures introducing Metropolitan Opera simulcasts on the Julie Harris Stage, and at the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and Wellfleet Public Library.
She pursued many intellectual interests, but could also drop everything and spend six hours clothes shopping. She loved fine fabrics, jewelry, and shoes. She also understood what was important in life. Much to her daughters’ exasperation — and eventual acceptance — she always said that helping others is the key to happiness.
Cate’s over-the-top observance of Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and all other holidays will never be forgotten by her children and grandchildren. A long succession of cats likewise benefited from her generosity.
Her children and grandchildren also remember her stringing together cuss words during otherwise peaceful moments, such as retrieving Christmas ornaments from the basement or balancing a tray on a windy day at Mac’s on the Pier.
Cate is survived by her daughters, Anna Myers of Lodi, Calif. and K.C. Myers and husband Eric Williams of Wellfleet; her grandchildren, Diana and Tess Williams; and her nephew, Jeff Rodgers of Lake Oswego, Ore. Cate had many dear friends. Her family especially thanks her caregiver and best friend, Amanda Young of Eastham.
Donations in Cate’s memory may be made to the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, P.O. Box 797, Wellfleet 02667 or to doctorswithoutborders.org. To share a memory or leave an online condolence for the family, visit gatelyfuneralservice.com.