Katie “Chet” “Katjak” “Marlena” Mellow Gross, 42, of Middletown, RI passed away on October 19, 2018 surrounded by family in the home where she grew up. Gone way too soon, Kat was a favorite human to just about everyone, including and especially her family who would do anything to have her back.
Kat was first and foremost mama to Savannah “Savvy” Jeanne Gross and Evangeline “Eva” Lynne Gross and “step-monster” (a term of endearment they used because it was never the case) to Ronnie Gross. She was a loving and most supportive wife to Gary Alan Gross, the man she called her soul mate. She was sissle extraordinaire to Tara Mellow, Becky Breslin, Cherie Waluk and Laura Mellow and Rockstar-In-Law to Angelo Gordon, Jeff Breslin, Peter Waluk and Dan Lederer. She held a spot in the “Auntie Hall of Fame” for Ben Gordon, Alex and Samuel Breslin, Molly Carlson, and Waverly, Brixton and Calix Waluk. She was devoted cat-mother to Theodore “Ted” Pablo Mellow Gross Von Doodle III, the late Tigger Mellow and Pumpkins One and Two. Katie was preceded in death by her parents Jeanne and Barry Mellow who, we can only hope, were waiting for their Katesy with a hot slice of Steve’s Pizza and some answers.
An obituary for a 42-year-old woman tells one story from the outset: Kat’s life was one that should have lasted longer. And when a life is cut so short, the standard obituary language and a summary of a story unfinished—especially for a mold-breaker like Katie—just don’t feel fitting. If an obituary is public notice of a life and its ending, a published account for later reference, then let this be one in which Katie’s little girls—as they hit their tenth birthdays, grow into teenagers, and reach adulthood—may recognize and relate to their mom.
Savvy and Eva: your mom was the best. She was her own special species – a kind and brilliant and beautiful weirdo who could distinguish a hawk from an osprey and do a back walkover well into adulthood. She was irreverent and compassionate and the best kind of mischievous brat. She spoke Spanish and loved crossword puzzles. She was good at poker. She often slid effortlessly into a Southern or British accent at restaurants or stores or at the kitchen table (though you of course know this as she passed this particular talent on to you already). Her thoughtfulness was unrivaled.
Your mom was born in Newport, RI, though your aunties were unsure of this fact for a minute because, as she was the middle child, such details of your mom’s life were sometimes lost in the chaos that comes with a big family. (Though she would have undoubtedly known where each of her siblings was born because your mom listened to everyone and retained everything.) What will never be forgotten is the animal lover she always was as a child and continued to be. She became a vegetarian at the age of 8, as soon as she recognized the connection between Porky Pig and Easter ham. As a kid she was genuinely conflicted by her love for cats and Tom’s aggressive pursuit of Jerry but, as came to be a central tenet of who she was, she believed that there is compassion and understanding to be found for everyone – underdogs and bullies alike.
In school your mom was voted the most humorous and also the friendliest kid in her class. She would be so embarrassed that we are including that in her obituary but this speaks to the magical blend of her special sauciness. She did gymnastics, took dance classes and starred in school plays, though what many remember most is her endless devotion to The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger especially. (You will appreciate this later; ‘twas not the norm for a 1990’s teenager.)
Your mom was as smart as she was quirky and kind. After years of poring over National Geographic magazines as a kid (a subscription that was hers alone) she double-majored in Anthropology and Sociology. Though her interests were vast, she was especially curious about humans – how we came to be and how we came to interact. She graduated as the top student in her anthropology major, a fact that she would again be horrified to have included here (but which we are keeping in because it’s the exact kind of detail that she wouldn’t advertise and which went undiscovered for many years). After graduating college she traveled to Panama with a research group where she trekked into the jungle each day to study Dendrobates pumilio: poison dart frog. (Your mom studied poisonous frogs!)
As much as she loved adventure and learning, your mom also treasured family and friends. Some of her best friends were those she’d known since elementary school. She had an open heart for everyone and this was part of what led her to later study nursing where her love of biology and people intersected. It was not long after that when she moved to Memphis to be with your dad, and later to Ohio to be near Ronnie. This is where you girls came into the picture. There was nothing your mom loved more or was prouder of than being your mom. She sang Christmas carols to you in the car and danced with you in the kitchen – sometimes one of you on each hip. (Ronnie, you were likely taller than her by then or she would have gotten you up there too.) She loved introducing you to nature and was always thrilled when she could point out a hummingbird for you all to watch together.
When you girls were two and four you all relocated to RI where, almost immediately, your mom was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. “Mommy has cancer in her belly,” you used to tell people. Savvy and Eva, your mom fought so hard to stay here with you. She made it through five years of survival that most who receive such a diagnosis rarely get. She attended to her health in every way she could, utilizing western and eastern medicine and everything in between. (You will remember a lot of carrots and celery from this period of your life.) Every available ounce of energy your mom had went to trying to live and, when that seemed unlikely, to trying to live well in what time there was left. She used every minute of wellness available to love you girls up – to take you on hikes at the Norman Bird Sanctuary, walks to Sweet Berry Farm and to snuggle and listen and read to you. She felt grateful for every second she had with you and we all felt grateful for every second we had with her. She left a mark on so many hearts and will never be forgotten. Your mom was, as they say, somethin’ else.
Calling hours will be held on October 26, 2018 from 4-9pm at the Connors Funeral Home in Portsmouth. A remembrance ceremony will be held on October 27, 2018 at 10:30am at the Memorial Funeral Home in Newport. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Norman Bird Sanctuary.