November 15 2017

Obituary: Beloved Family Woman Dedicated to Helping Others, Kathleen Rae Ward Abouzahra

A longtime Burlington resident with a long history of volunteering to help others passed away last week.

 

 Kathleen Rae Ward Abouzahra passed away after a life of adventure, family and charity.

 

Kathy had a spirit for adventure mixed with a dedication for service. This brought her to experiences ranging from substitute teaching in Burlington Public Schools to living on the Marshall Islands and serving as the Vice President of the Marshallese Cultural Center and volunteering time with the Yokwe Yuk Women's Club.

Later in life Kathy was a dedicated volunteer for the Burlington Food Pantry. As the Director of the Pantry, she took the pantry to the next level. Re-organizing many components of the operation to increase the impact on her community. Changes included adding multiple food sources, increasing the number of healthy choices available and enhancing the distribution method. She was able to increase the hours the pantry was open which allows families to pick up and select their food and do so within timelines they are able to. These changes created a friendlier environment and helped empower the very families who were in need.

Read her full obituary from Sullivan Funeral Home:

Kathleen Rae Ward Abouzahra was born to Milton and Louise Ward in Denver Colorado. Two years later a sister, Lauri came to the family followed by a brother Marty. Growing up, an important message her dad shared was that anything worth doing, it is worth doing right.

In adulthood, her first husband helped her bring her first two boys; Greg and Nate into the world. Life is not without its challenges, and the marriage was preventing growth. If having kids is worth doing, she needed to make a change to do what she felt was right. With her future and her children in mind, she made a difficult choice. Working thirty hours a week, she supported her children as a single mom while taking courses toward the Anthropology degree that she finished in six years.

While the boys experienced changes in their life, Kathy ensured they always felt loved and supported.

Along that path, she met the man that would take her on a series of adventures and help her leave a mark on the world. Mohamed and Kathy were married while they finished their coursework. Upon completion of their degrees the big move came. Off to Boston, well Burlington to be exact.

From the U.S., Mohamed was the sole provider to his parents and his deceased brother’s four kids in Lebanon. Kathy immediately embraced that extended family and she cared about their wellbeing and education. Everytime Mohamed would visit Lebanon, Kathy would send gifts and clothes to everyone. She would even ask Greg and Nate to send gifts.  Kathy was loved dearly by them and they held her in high regard.

After the move, Kathy first worked as a substitute teacher in the Burlington school system before joining M.I.T Lincoln Lab in the travel office. Her skills led her from an entry level position to become the department’s lead auditor with a strong potential to become the Department Manager. Soon, they welcomed Ramsey into the world and decided that they were able to allow Kathy to devote her days to his upbringing. While Ramsey was an infant, the next adventure presented itself. Mohamed was offered a position in the Marshall Islands. While on the island the family grew by two more boys. Ryan was born and... the next adventure presented itself!

Houssam (Sam), born to Mohamed’s brother, was brought to the island and adopted.

This phase of her life led to Kathy wanting to do things worth doing. Sound familiar? While living on the Marshall Islands, Kathy served as the Vice President of the Marshallese Cultural Center, and volunteering time with the Yokwe Yuk Women's Club, leaving her footprint in the sands of those islands.

While living on the island Kathy and Mohamed welcomed their first grandson Brandan to the family. After the years on the island drew to a close, the family moved back to Burlington, MA. Soon after Nate added two more BOYS; Josh and Alex to the family. As Ryan started the transition from High School to College, Kathy was left a new challenge. Having been out of the workforce, trying to find engaging meaningful work might be a challenge.

Kathy decided to volunteer for the Burlington Food Pantry. Her unique ability to look at a situation, see patterns and ways to improve led her into a leadership role at the Pantry. As the Director of the Pantry, she took the pantry to the next level. Re-organizing many components of the operation to increase the impact on her community. Changes included adding multiple food sources (Boston Food Bank, local grocers, etc), increasing the number of healthy choices available and enhancing the distribution method. She was able to increase the hours the pantry was open which allows families to pick up and select their food and do so within timelines they are able to. These changes created a friendlier environment and helped empower the very families who were in need. The increased hours were achieved by changing the focus of the volunteers. Rather than volunteers spending time pre-selecting and bagging food items, they are focused on being available to the community through extended hours. The layout of the pantry was changed streamlining the food pick-up process. The changes have had a measureable impact on families in her community to this day.

While working at the food pantry Sam and Dina added a boy and a girl to the family. Jad went to her house after school and this is where he learned how to sew, play ping pong, and play monopoly. Mia was the first girl in the family so it seemed only fitting for Mia to have Kathy’s middle name Rae. After Mia’s birth Kathy ended her tenure at the food pantry and wanted to be a full time grandma to these kids.

Through a life filled with challenges, love, giving, she found ways to grow personally and impart some of that knowledge to her kids. Always a challenge, but always growth.

With all of this she still found time to: travel the world and explore different cultures, create numerous quilts for her family and friends, enjoy a glass of wine (or two) with Jazz or Classical music.

There is one theme to her entire life… To give, share, and love.

Kathy was the beloved wife of Mohamed Deeb Abouzahra.    Loving and devoted mother of Greg Wise of AZ, Nate Wise of CO, Sam Abouzahra & his wife Dina Wassaf of Burlington, Ramsey Abouzahra of CA and Ryan Abouzahra of Burlington. Loving daughter of Louise Ward & the late Milton Ward of CO.  Proud grandmother of Joe & Alex Wise, Jad & Mia Abouzahra and the late Brandan Wise.  Sister of Marty Ward of CO and Laurie Copeland of CO.  Funeral Services were private.  In lieu of flowers, donations in Kathy’s name may be made to People Helping People, a charity that was close to her heart and where she made many contributions, PO Box 343, Burlington, MA 01803.


 

 
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