Kathleen Rose Kelley Young, 63, of Geyserville, California, passed away peacefully with loved ones at her side the morning of Sunday, January 3, 2021, after a 4-plus-year battle with colon cancer. The life expectancy for her disease was 2 years at best, but she fought with her trademark vigor and graceful hardheadedness, outlasting all medical expectations with a spirit and vivaciousness that persisted right up until her final days.
Kathleen was born in Skowhegan, Maine, in 1957, the daughter of Donna Kelley, and grew up in the small town of Madison with her mother, step-father Gordon, and brother Whitney. She would often recall fondly stories of her youth in Maine, swimming in the lake in summer, sledding in winter, and even serving as a fur trapper’s apprentice, among other bucolic New England memories worthy of Robert Frost’s poetry. Her first job was on Lindy Moore’s farm at a young age, picking peas and working the vegetable stand, which helped establish her love of nature and gardening. Gordon also taught her many trades, including splitting wood and repairing car engines. Her rural upbringing, with the influence of her mother’s charm and tenacity, helped foster a personality driven by an appreciation for the little things and keeping her hands busy with sewing, knitting, quilt-making, gardening, and especially cooking. Perhaps more than anything, she loved hosting friends and family to a home-cooked meal and a glass or two of Alexander Valley wine.
Kathleen moved to California in 1976 at the age of 19 to attend San Francisco State University as a pre-med student, and began cultivating a yearning to explore various passions and professions. Over the years and in various locations, her many careers and pursuits included mortician’s assistant, motorcycle saleswoman, shoe factory worker, accountant, egg farmer, caterer, dog breeder, B&B owner, chef, and winemaker—but with a thirst for knowledge and a razor-sharp wit, she could have excelled at any occupation or been a worthy Jeopardy contestant.
Kathleen bore two beautiful daughters—Courtney (born in 1986) and Madeline (born in 1993)—before beginning her journey with her husband and the love of her life, Jim Young, in 1996 while serving as an accountant at Robert Young Vineyards in Alexander Valley. She and Jim married in 2000, marking the beginning of a 20-year era of happiness and prosperity.
She and Jim launched their Kelley & Young wine label in 2005 and, 10 years later, opened their Wine Garden Inn in Cloverdale, where Kathleen’s daughter Madeline serves as chef and co-hostess. Kathleen was a board member for the Alexander Valley Association, Parent Teachers Association at Alexander Valley Elementary School, Northern Sonoma County Healthcare Foundation, Cloverdale Chamber of Com-merce, and Sonoma State University Accounting Forum, among other organ-izations. While Kathleen was well-known in Alexander Valley for her award-winning wine and, in Cloverdale, for her B&B and community support, she was infinitely well-loved for her kindness and hospitality, as well as for her vibrant smile and infectious laugh, both of which lit up every space she occupied.
Kathleen is survived by her husband; her brother; two daughters; step-children Maya, Joseph, Elizabeth, Nicolai, and Ethan; and her grandson Barrett, born to Courtney in November 2019. Kathleen spent countless joyous days during her final year with her family and grandson, for whom she knitted a teddy bear that Barrett sleeps with every night. She was laid to rest a week after her death during a green burial attended by her family atop a scenic knoll in the heart of Alexander Valley in view of her home. On her plot, her family will plant a Kathleen’s Rose, known for its exceptional vibrancy and will serve as a fitting tribute to Kathleen’s life.
Once COVID-related restrictions and safety concerns for large gatherings ease, hopefully in the coming months, Kathleen’s family is planning to host a memorial service open to all those whose lives she touched. Additionally, Kathleen’s daughters plan to carry on her legacy by continuing her Kelley & Young brand.
In order to help honor Kathleen’s memory, her family has partnered with the American Cancer Society to create the Kathleen Rose Fund, which directly supports lifesaving colon-cancer research, education, and care.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Kathleen Rose Fund, please visit: Cancer.org/KathleenYoung.