A Loving Tribute

Kathleen (Kaye) Elaine Hanlon

December 19, 1939 – May 19, 2023
Submitted by The Hanlon Family


“You don’t get elected Homecoming Queen twice unless you’re both pretty and nice… The day I met her was the best day of my life.” 

-Clay Hanlon

Born in the small farming town of Ione, California, to Luther and Irma Goddard in 1939, Kaye was the youngest of two daughters and looked up to her older sister, Lenore. The family soon moved to Olathe, Colorado, where Luther was a ditch rider and sheep rancher, and Irma was a waitress. As a member of 4H, young Kaye raised Columbia ewes and a Suffolk ram named Buster, the champion of the Delta County Fair in 1952. 

At Delta High School, she was a majorette and the Homecoming Queen. And it’s where she met Clay Hanlon, the wrestler with the coal black, curly hair. She found him to be funny, smart, ambitious, and thrilling. On a milkshake date in high school, with Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” playing on the jukebox, they scribbled on a paper napkin: “Kaye loves Clay! Let’s get married, okay? When? Soon as possible!”  

After graduating from Delta High in the class of ’57, they both attended Mesa Junior College (CMU) where Kaye was a student council member and, once again, elected Homecoming Queen. On July 17, 1960, they made good on their napkin pact and headed off to the University of Colorado, where Kaye earned a degree in education. To help Clay finish his law degree, Kaye took a job as a cocktail waitress at the Boulder Harvest House, where she also earned her PhT (Putting Hubby Through Law School). 

After Boulder, Grand Junction became their permanent home. With Clay practicing law and Kaye teaching elementary school, they soon welcomed their two sons, Justin, and Drew. It was a good life, and their home was filled with love & laughter. She was effortlessly stylish in any activity – snow skiing in the winter, family water skiing & camping trips in the summer, and many adventures in between. 

Kaye was a highly respected and beloved schoolteacher & mentor for many years in Mesa County School District 51. Spending most of her teaching career at Fruitvale, Clifton, and then Orchard Avenue Elementary. After retiring, she continued as a valued volunteer for the school district. Through the years, Kaye’s devotions, interests, and hobbies ranged from volunteering, volleyball, tennis, biking, skiing, classical & bluegrass music, Unity Church, toll painting, and her beautiful calligraphy. Her favorite movie was Dr. Zhivago.

Justin and Drew followed in their parent’s footsteps by marrying their high school sweethearts. Kaye welcomed Laini and Sherry into her life as if they were her own daughters. Never an unkind word, she was always your biggest supporter, and her tinkling laugh made her your best audience. As a daughter, mother, grandmother, wife, teacher, neighbor & friend, she was forever gracious, kind, and an incredible hostess. Kaye was fun to talk to because she was much more interested in you than she was in herself. In her kitchen hangs the sign: “Grandma’s my name, spoiling is my game!” This arts and crafts Grandma of Conner, Emmy, Carli, Cal, and Dolcie had a knack for doing fun projects with her grandkids while sneaking in a little learning. She hosted many tea parties which both princesses and pirates were invited.

Clay and Kaye’s 50th anniversary was marked with a memorable family trip to Ireland, where Kaye kissed the Blarney Stone, biked the Inis Mor Aran Island, rode a horse in Killarney, slept in the Knappogue Castle, and was most enchanted by a harpist playing a beautiful Gaelic tune at the Cliffs of Moher. On the last night of the trip, in the lobby of a Dublin hotel, with their sons, daughters-in-law, and grandkids looking on, Clay and Kaye danced to Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill.”

Their retirement years were spent traveling the world with good friends – A European cruise, Grand Canyon rafting, Costa Rica, and the American South. But it was the lighthouses of Nova Scotia that inspired Kaye the most. She vowed to learn how to watercolor paint her memories of these lighthouses, but unfortunately, like an uninvited guest, Alzheimer’s crept in. 

She fought this vicious disease for over a decade while Clay tirelessly cared for his high school sweetheart. She also received wonderful care from Aspen Ridge Memory Center, where she was a resident for the past three years. Clay visited every day and still took her out for milkshake dates. As the disease progressed, he visited every evening to help feed her. He said, “After everything she’s done for me, it’s the least I can do for her.” 

It was a valiant fight, but Alzheimer’s always wins. When Kaye stopped eating, HopeWest Hospice lovingly guided her transition. Surrounded by her family and on her last day, a kind hospice volunteer came into her room and played her a beautiful Gaelic tune on her harp, just like that soft day at the Cliffs of Moher. 

As Kaye started to lose her memory, she made a point always to tell her kids and grandkids, “You are the light of my life!” Well, Mom, we only reflected the light you were shining on us. You are our guiding light. Our lighthouse.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to HopeWest Hospice of Grand Junction at www.hopewestco.org/donate


Honor Kaye with a donation to HopeWest

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