Nov 13, 1927---Jan 08, 2023

Catherine Louise Cavanaugh Zahner passed away on January 8, 2023.  Visitation will be 9:00-10:30 AM followed by a Funeral Mass at 10:30 AM Friday, January 13, 2023 at Cure of Ars Catholic Church, 9405 Mission Road, Leawood, KS, with the Ladies of Charity praying the Rosary at 9:30 AM.  Donations can be made to Ascend Hospice and the Ladies of Charity.


Catherine Louise Cavanaugh Zahner was born on November 13, 1927 to Stella and Mark Cavanaugh in Kansas City.  She was the youngest child with two older sisters (Caroline and Patricia).  To family and friends she was known as Katy, while for some reason her husband always called her “Sam.” Katy attended St. Teresa’s High School in Kansas City.  She went on to study at Fontbonne College and then the Art Institute in Kansas City. 

On July 22, 1951 Katy married Leo W. Zahner, Jr (deceased November 15, 2007).  Together they raised eight children in Kansas City.  Katy is survived by all eight children and their spouses: Mary Zahner/Tom Kramer, Beth and Kelly Beckham, Bill and Meg Zahner, Mark and Brenda Mills-Zahner, JoAnn Zahner, Robert and Cathy Zahner, Patty Presnell, Tom and Laura Hughes Zahner.  Katy has sixteen grandchildren: Jim (Cat) Mendenhall, Laura (Bryson Funke) Mendenhall, Beth Mendenhall, Kelly (Christen) Beckham, Ben (Katy) Beckham, Sam (Stephanie) Beckham, Katy (Matt) Castilleja, Claire Zahner, Liam Zahner, Marne (Katie) Zahner, Anna (John) Elson, Will (Jollene) Zahner, Bridget (Adam) Wesche, Julia Presnell, Maddi (Jake) Goe, and Max Hughes-Zahner.  Plus she has sixteen great grandchildren:  Leo Beckham, Jack Beckham, Cam Beckham, Hudson Beckham, Cade Beckham, Everly Beckham, Brooks Beckham, Hayes Beckham, Coen Mendenhall, Alex Mendenhall, Kitty Funke, Jimmy Funke, Wren Castilleja, Robert Elson, Joan Elson, and Ada Zahner.

Throughout her life Katy was a devout Catholic who tried to attend Mass every day.  She volunteered at Seton Center, various Catholic Charity organizations, was a Eucharistic minister at Villa St. Joseph Nursing Center, and belonged to the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.  In addition, she volunteered at a Suicide Prevention Hotline Center. When she moved to Santa Marta in November 2007 she was a reader at Mass and often lead the rosary.  In addition, Katy was a talented artist.  While raising her family she dabbled in decoupage, painting bottles and wooden birds, etc.  Eventually she settled on painting in oil.  Throughout the last third of her life, Katy painted many pictures of family, friends, animals and nature scenes.  While living at Santa Marta she was often asked by friends and residents to paint their loved ones or pets.  Katy always accommodated such requests and did her best to provide a lasting memory of a loved one.  She also took part in various art shows in the Kansas City area.

In composing this memory of Katy’s life, her children and grandchildren were asked what words they would use to describe her, favorite memories of Katy, what they liked most about her, and what made Katy extra special.  Here is a summary of the responses:

·         Words to describe Katy:

o   Kind, gracious, faith filled, not wanting us to worry about her—almost to a fault (she never complained).

o   Strong, dignified, selfless, incredibly talented.

o   Caring more about others than herself. 

o   A gifted artist who saw beauty in things around her.

o   A role model for the importance of volunteering.

o   A voracious reader encouraging all to read.

o   Amazing mother, grandmother and great grandmother that set the example for the family.

o   A crossword puzzler extraordinaire.

o   Up-to-date on current events.

o   Matriarch. Tough. Sassy

o   Accepting life’s challenges with grace and modeling a faith filled life that brought her peace. 

o   Intelligent, kind, a thinker.

o   Independent.

o   Courageous, faith-filled and uncomplaining.

o   Creative.

o   Loving, loyal, faithful 

o   Incredible sense of humor and quick with smart and funny quips. 

o   Talented, above the fray.

o   Stoic.


Favorite memories of Katy:

·         At grandma and grandpas house, they always had dolls and marbles to play with in the downstairs room. She would always have them set up with furniture, clothes, etc. ready for us to play with when we visited. She always made sure we were happy. She always made us feel welcomed and loved. 

·         Watching programs about the renaissance artists while eating breakfast with her.

·         Growing up she was the real center of the family.  We took her for granted like the planets around the sun. 

·         Seeing her in her booth at the Westport Art Fair.

·         Teaching us how to ski and the hours she spent pulling us in the boat.

·         Trips to the Lake of Ozarks.

·         Sitting in the KC house sunroom when we were younger and grandma would be doing the crossword puzzle.

·         Living with Grandma and Grandpa when we were in KC and my dad was working down in Louisiana.

·         Correcting our pronunciation of a word or making sure we used the proper pronoun.

·         Her sarcastic smile (definitely a Cavanaugh thing as Aunt Caroline had it to) whenever you made fun of her.

·         Working the Westport Art Fairs, seeing her swim at the lake, "Boozy Tuesdays", and Easter Brunch at Santa Marta. Not to mention watching some really bad Chiefs teams with her and Grandpa every Sunday

·         The first thing that comes to mind about Grandma is her art.  She was so talented!  She produced dozens (hundreds?) of amazing paintings over many decades.  She mostly painted in an almost photo-realistic fashion, but she also made some more expressionistic paintings (using putty knives instead of brushes) that are among my favorites.  She was driven to always do better by a very humble (and unjustifiably critical) sense of her own talent.  When helping move Grandma to Santa Marta, I discovered a beautiful painting of a sunrise hidden behind her hot water heater.  I asked if she had any plans for it.  "That old thing?  It's terrible.  I hid it down there because it's so ugly.  Please, take it out of here!"  Needless to say, it's an incredible painting, with fantastic colors and an amazing sense of depth in how it shows clouds floating in the sky: it hangs prominently in Katie’s and my room so that we can enjoy it literally every day.  

·         Her sense of humor.  Grandma was so, so funny!  I knew her as the archetypal "sassy grandma": she looked sweet (and she was), but say something lazy and she'll surprise you with her wickedly sharp wit.  Dark, sarcastic, cutting, funny, sweet, self-deprecating...she could make you laugh in a million ways.  Underlying each was her love of family and community: she used her humor to keep things lively and everyone laughing.  This helped her function as the loving center of her sprawling, unruly, wonderful family: she kept each of us in check while also reminding us how loved we are!

·         Her and Tom doing the crossword puzzle (the Saturday New York Times, no less), her painting/art shows, seeing movies together, her one-on-one kindness with the grandchildren.


Some of Katy’s proudest accomplishments:

·         Grandma was incredibly talented. The number of people who would see and buy her artwork and were always in such awe of her talent. She had such a beautiful soul and mind. I cherish the moments I could learn from her amazing mind. I used to love to come to her art shows and celebrate her amazing talents. 

·         One thing that has always come to mind thinking of Katy is how incredible it is that she raised 8 unique children that are all absolutely wonderful human beings. Says so much about her as a mother and person. 

·         Her return to her art and the way people appreciated her art. Raising her kids. Keeping Grandpa Leo "in line"

·         Her 8 kids and Lord knows how many grandkids that have all done incredible things in their respective fields, which have carried on her work. Also, her ability to change hair colors in the 70s and 80s was pretty remarkable from what I've heard.

·         Her amazing legacy of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as well as their creativity and cultural interests, all her ART.

·         Her eye for beauty, and how she has created so much beauty in her life with the wonderful children she raised and the hundreds of paintings she made.


What people liked most about Katy:

·         Her resilience. She was incredibly strong willed and independent with an incredibly kind heart. 

·         Her laugh.

·         Her wonderful sarcasm.

·         Loving, faith and leading by example.

·         She was always honest. If you wanted her opinion, you'd get it. The humble honesty is something that I've always strived for as well because there was never any other intention behind her words except to be truthful.

·         Her strength of character, her acceptance of what life brings, her love and gratitude for family and caregivers, her humor and kindness. I never heard her complain about her losses, her suffering, the changes that occurred in her later years that robbed her of the things she loved doing - painting, bridge, crosswords. She accepted all of it with grace, dignity, and humor. 

·         Her fierce determination to not allow people to help her get up out of her chair after she had her first stroke.  She knew that getting up and walking was critical to her long term healing and health.

·         I loved that she did not judge our parenting. I loved to be part of the chaos and not feel like someone was focused on my child or my parenting.  That was a revelation for me.


Extra special memories of Katy:

·         When Julia and I were riding in the car with grandma and my mom, Julia and I were playing “punch buggie no tag backs” when we saw a volkswagon beetle. We tried to explain the game to grandma and she didn’t really understand. Then randomly, after five minutes of silence, grandma says “buggie” and Julia and I burst out laughing at her kindred spirit to join the game as best she could. 

·         Grandma always hated my eye liner as a teenager. One time at the airport, my mom went to get coffee. Before she left, she said to me and grandma, “now you two behave!” As soon as my mom left, my grandma started laughing with her silent squinting eyed laugh and said to me “your eyeliner looks a bit like an elf today” and continued her overjoyed laugh. When my mom returned, she said “now you two I can’t leave alone!” And all of us joined in on grandma’s contagious laugh. 

·         I loved to see the silliness and lightheartedness of my mom and grandma together. They always had so much fun together. Strong personalities with beautiful hearts. 

·         Love for Survivor (the show), Cross word puzzles, the church.

·         There's so many... my favorite, and one that I believe I've inherited, is the look on her face when she thoroughly disagreed with something being said but didn't want to say anything potentially rude. The combination of disgust, surprise, and all while trying to actually hide it, was always a sight to behold. That, and the way she could command a room without even saying anything or being the center of attention was remarkable to me. You know she was there just by presence alone. 

·         She is a true Matriarch that made each person in her family feel special and loved. 

·         I love her sass, her laugh, her facial expressions (especially the way she bulges her eyes) when someone makes a comment.  I also loved the story from Zahner family lore about you all returning from school and your mom remarking that one of your family cats had died that day and she didn't want to hear another word about it...haha..

·         I love your mom. She is a wonderful mother-in-law. She is always kind, always happy to see her family, always upbeat, never interfered in our lives or put pressure on us (maybe the benefit of being married to the youngest?? haha) AND she has amazing kids. I feel blessed daily that I married into the family, and married her BEST! 

·         She has been courageous as an artist, as a mother, and in handling whatever life gives her. She has a beautiful, deep relationship with God and that has been the foundation of her life. She never dwells on her misfortunes — you never hear her say, “Oh, woe is me,” but instead she makes a funny, self-deprecating quip that makes you laugh. She is one of the strongest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

·         Years of playing bridge at the Bridge Studio.  She knew I was an overly aggressive bidder and we did pretty well all things considered.

·         Walking to Catholic Mass and then breakfast at Santa Marta.  The walks were often eventful as talking to her many friends, including those that worked at Santa Marta, was part of the experience and we would always allow extra time.  She had an encouraging word for everyone - other residents but especially the staff at Santa Marta.  They all loved her and spoke kindly of her because she greeted them often by name and always warm, like friends (never like “staff”).  New people working there were sometimes taken aback but within weeks were cheerily greeting “Katy”.  Breakfast was a joy as her neighbors sometimes stopped by to complain of the bacon smell always wafting out of her door.  Great coffee (Oddly Correct) from her 3 cup coffee maker and the fruit of the season always accompanied the bacon.  Mom and I would often do the crossword.  In the early years the Saturday New York Times but as time went on, we would take on easier ones like the Sunday LA times.  Even in the later years she would opine that she was not helpful but then would answer “Jonangi” to the question about hairless dogs from India. 


If you have read all of the above, you now have an idea of the essence and spirit of Katy Zahner as mother, wife, mother-in-law, grandmother and friend. 


Over the years, many people helped Katy in numerous ways.  The staff at Santa Marta and their efforts to take care of our wonderful mother with kindness and compassion.  The staff at Ascend Hospice- who guided us every step of the way and held all our hands during this tough process.  We would particularly like to thank the angels who showed up on Katy’s doorstep when they were most needed after her first stroke in 2016 – Ellyn, Cathy and Kathy.  They were followed by two more angels – Daia and Haley as well as wonderful ones who came later – Ellie, Marissa, Celena, Yvonne, Kenna, Jo Lynn, and Allyssa.  These wonderful women made Katy’s life so much better with their patient kindness to her.  The family was blessed to have these ladies as part of the broader family surrounding Katy with love.



Carol Ann Stanton Jan 09, 2023

Niece ,Orlando ,Florida

Aunt Katy was part of my life from its beginning. As my Mom Carolyn’s only living sister she was my Godmother, She was always our beautiful young Aunt! I was in her wedding to Uncle Leo and she spent loads of time as a young mother in our house in Florida. She had her hands full with her 8 but would have us Stantons up to KC often. She taught me how to iron a shirt! When I was 6 she took me to her Art studio and I have never forgotten the smell of the paint and always marveled at her talent! She was a woman of deep faith in God and love of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Though we all have to let her go now my heart goes out to my cousins who are the wonderful people they are because of Aunt Katy and Uncle Leo. Hopefully she is with Carolyn and Jack and “Unc” and Nan and all we have loved.

john stanton Jan 09, 2023

nephew ,Titusville ,Florida

Aunt Katy was one of a kind. My brother Rob and l learned who ran the show of the KC branch of the Cavanaughs one summerL stay with them. Leo had gotten us a job at a commercial roofing company.We were a mess yet Katy put up with us, which reminded us of Her older sister back in Florida.Nanny Cav raised two great girls and was duly proud ob both. Love always Zahners and God Bless our favorite Aunt. John and Carol Stanton

Claudia Dineen Jan 09, 2023

Daughter of Carla Dineen, frequent visitor at Santa Marta ,Tioga ,Texas

My heart felt condolences to you all. Katy was a fabulous person and friend to all! I treasure the painting of Secretariat that she did for me!!! Blessings- claudia

Ellyn Tyrell Jan 10, 2023

Friend ,Overland Park ,Kansas

Pretty gutsy of me to follow the talented story tellers that are plentiful in the Zahner family, but I have a few comments to share about my time with “MISS KATY”. I first became acquainted with Katy in October 2017 when my friends Kathy, Cathy and I met with Katy’s daughters to form a “morning team” to help their Mom get ready for her day. It was originally suppose to be for a 3 month period. There are so many wonderful memories of my time with Katy but a few really stand out that I want to share. I wanted my visits with her to be fun and not just routine and she easily complied. We shared an enthusiasm for giving each other a bad time and believe me she could GIVE AS GOOD AS SHE GOT. In the early days, there were many mornings she would refuse to get up saying “I need a few more minutes” but then would tell everyone on the way to the dining room for breakfast that it was my fault she was so late, sometimes adding “I can’t believe she gets paid for this.” One of her favorite comments was to tell me she was going to report me to “that place”, but could never remember “that place”. I would fill in the blanks “Elder Abuse Hotline” and that was it. Like the time she was dressed and ready to head for breakfast and when she stood she said “my foot hurts”. We looked down and I had her shoes on the wrong feet. Even though we enjoyed a good laugh, it was an occasion that was definitely worthy of her threat again to call the hotline. I was taking her to a dental appointment and was thinking out loud about which turn to take into the parking lot. After I made the decision I then made the mistake of saying “oh I got that right”. Of course she couldn’t let that go she had to say “I’ll bet you don’t get to say that very often.” And then the little smirk appeared – she was proud of herself. A special memory was the morning I arrived and she started talking a mile a minute and when I was finally able to figure out her complaint, I realized she had awakened from a bad dream. As we discussed it, her parting shot was “I was scared and anxious for someone to get here – I didn’t even care if it was you.” Then she laughed real hard – proud of her zinger. My exaggerated reactions would always add to her satisfaction. Another time when we were bantering back and forth she called me a “harridan”. I yelled back “A WHAT” and she was thrilled that I didn’t know the meaning. Of course, I immediately goggled it and put my own spin on the definition. “A wonderful, kind, sweet lady often with the name of Ellyn” while she was shaking her head NO. Then I read the correct meaning, “strict, bossy or belligerent old woman” to that she shook her head in agreement. She even called me a harridan again a couple of times in more recent months and then gave me that devilish smile. Obviously a word stored in her crossword puzzle stockpile. Once we were discussing the weather as it had been raining several days in a row and I said I hope it doesn’t rain on Sunday because the Chiefs are playing at home. This dear sweet remarkable lady who couldn’t come up with the names of her children or her caregivers, responded “is PATRICK MAHOMES going to play”? I was stunned. There were many instances when she would grab my hand and give me a compliment or say something really sweet and I would overreact to her delight and then she would say “don’t you dare tell anyone I said that”. The illness robbed her of most of her memory but not her cute personality. Going forward my Tuesdays and Thursdays will never be the same but I am so grateful to the Zahner family that they shared their wonderful sweet Mom with me. I’m heartbroken that “my Katy” is gone – but what an incredible blessing she was to my life.

Patty Murphy LaMarr Jan 12, 2023

Friend of the family ,Leawood ,Kansas

JoAnn, Betsy told me about your mom’s passing. I’m so sorry. The night I found out I just cried. Your mom was such a darling person. Growing up she always made me feel like I was one of the Zahner clan. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers. Your life will be forever changed at this moment. God bless!!


Cure of Ars Catholic Church
9405 Mission Road
Zip Code:
Jan 13, 2023
9:00 AM
Google Map:
Funeral Mass
Cure of Ars Catholic Church
9405 Mission Road
Zip Code:
Jan 13, 2023
10:30 AM
Google Map: