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Memorial honors avalanche victim

Renee Shadforth
Photo by Colin FisherHundreds gathered at the Cottonwood Restaurant Sunday to celebrate the life of Kathy Palucha-Kessler.
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It was more like a celebration or a party than a memorial service, really.

A couple hundred of Kathy Polucha-Kessler’s friends and family crammed into Cottonwood Restaurant on Sunday to eat, drink, laugh and remember Polucha-Kessler, who died less than a week earlier while backcountry skiing in British Columbia on Jan. 20 at the age of 39.

Those in attendance said they remembered Polucha-Kessler as a caring and adventurous spirit, who loved the mountains. In fact, many of her friends spent Sunday morning outside to remember Polucha-Kessler.

“To all of her good friends who went out this morning for a ski or a skate or to hike – amen,” said Scott Kessler, her husband, to the standing-room-only crowd. “That’s Kathy saying, ‘Come out. Come play with me.”

He said that he wanted to thank the community for rallying together.

“Putting this (service) together only took a few phone calls,” he said.

Marcus Taylor, a friend of the Kesslers, recounted the courtship of the couple and noted Polucha-Kessler’s impact on Truckee and its citizens.

“Everything we can say positive about this community was embodied by Kathy Polucha-Kessler,” he said.

Although there were a lot of tears, there were many times when the restaurant was roaring with laughter, especially when Polucha-Kessler’s father, Charles Polucha, spoke about his children and extended family, with his wife, Madeline, standing at his side.

“We are thrilled that Kathy touched so many people,” he said.

Dr. Annie Polucha, Polucha-Kessler’s older sister and best friend, told the crowd a story about one of many childhood adventures she went on with her sister.

“I always felt like I had a sidekick, and my sidekick always had me,” she said. “People always ask me why I’m so strong. I say it’s because of my sidekick, Kathy.”

“All of you have a little bit of Kathy in you,” she said to the crowd. “You’ve all went on some sort of adventure with her.”

Polucha-Kessler’s younger sister, Janice, sang a Buddhist song about eternal life.

Brother Ken Polucha read a poem in reverence to his sister.

“Kathy was never closer to God then the last days of her life,” he added.

A fund has been set up in Kathy Polucha-Kessler’s name to fund a section of the Donner Lake Rim Trial. Donations may be sent to the Kathy Polucha-Kessler Memorial, Truckee Donner Land Trail, P.O. Box 8816, Truckee, CA 96162.


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