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Catherine Roesel Bishop, 98, died on November 28, 2022, surrounded by family, in the Southampton home she moved into 75 years ago. Catherine was born on July 10, 1924 to Irene and Francis Roesel in her family’s farmhouse on Hedges Lane in Sagaponack. She shared an idyllic childhood with her two sisters, Carolyn and Marylou, on a 200-acre farm that stretched to the beach. She shared fond memories of daily bike rides to the ocean, frolicking in and out of the barns and picking and enjoying fresh vegetables from the gardens. She attended the one room schoolhouse in Sagaponack (where her mother had previously taught) and graduated from Bridgehampton High School at age 16, in 1941. She loved music and was a soloist in the High school band, playing the alto sax. She was also part of a saxophone quartet, which played at many community events, as well as on the radio.
She first met her future husband, Howard “Corty” Bishop, on a joint senior trip to Washington DC, with Southampton High School. Although they hit it off right away, they went their separate ways upon returning home.
While attending Marymount College, Catherine sang in the Glee Club and continued playing the sax in the College orchestra. After graduating in 1945, she worked in Brooklyn, as a social worker for a division of Catholic Charities. After a while, she moved back to Sagaponack, where after a few months she met Corty again, in April of 1947; this time it stuck. They were engaged in July and married in November. They moved into the Bishop homestead on Elm Street in Southampton and spent the next 65 years together. Cort, their first of 5 children, arrived 10 months later, followed by Tim, Chris, Danny and Anne.
As a young mother, Catherine stayed busy with her church (Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary) and community. She was involved with the Discussion Club, Altar Rosary Society, the Sacred Hearts choir and the Southampton Study Club. After 20 years, as a stay at home mom, she resumed her Social Work career, first at Suffolk County Mental Health Clinic. She moved on to Little Flower Children’s Services, Director of Social Services at Southampton Hospital, and finally as Director of Social Services at Todd Nursing Home. She also served on several advisory boards and worked closely with AA and organizations for the prevention of elder and child abuse. After retirement, she volunteered with multiple charities and organizations - American Cancer Society, Dominican Sisters and Human Resources, which is now Heart of the Hamptons. As a breast cancer survivor, she helped raise money for the East End Breast Coalition.
None of these interests or activities could complete with the thing she cherished most – her family. She loved fiercely and unconditionally. She didn’t think twice about going toe to toe with anyone she felt had wronged one of her children. She loved a full house, and with daily baseball, basketball, football games, or band practices, it almost always was. She loved people and was a great cook. The dining room table was always at full capacity, with chairs and stools being pulled up to accommodate the many friends and family who joined the family for dinner. She loved every minute of the chaos. The house was filled with music, laughter, and an abundance of love.
Catherine reluctantly became a snowbird when her husband bought a home in Naples, FL in 1977. The first of her 11 grandchildren were starting to arrive; she didn’t want to miss that. However, she eventually came to love Florida and true to form, got involved in many recreational and civic activities, developing a water aerobics class that she taught well into her 80’s, and volunteering at the hospital in Naples until she was 90. After her husband died in 2012, she began coming back to Southampton more frequently, eventually moving back full time in 2014.
As she aged, she regretted not being able to give back in some way. She decided to volunteer at the Southampton Care Center, leading the Rosary every Thursday afternoon with the residents. When she could no longer do for others, she prayed for others. Catherine loved her independence, never wanting to be an “appendage” to anyone, most of all her children. She was selfless, caring, compassionate, intelligent and funny. She loved her life, and the people in it. She lived life to the fullest, and easily made friends wherever she went.
Catherine loved swimming (never living more than a mile of either the ocean or the Gulf), walking on the beach. playing badminton, red wine, and above all, her family. She was delighted she was able to hold each of her great grandchildren before she died. She knew how blessed she was, and yet, she was not as blessed as those who had the good fortune to know her, love her and be loved by her.
Catherine is survived by her five children, Cort Bishop (Celeste), Tim Bishop (Kathy), Chris Bishop (Jeannie), Danny Bishop (Nancy) and Anne Bishop Rachel (John), her 11 grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and three nephews. She was predeceased by her sisters: Carolyn Roesel and Marylou Laspia and by her loving husband Corty. She died one day before what would have been their 75th wedding anniversary.
Visitation was held on November 30 at the O’Connell-Rothwell Funeral Home. A funeral Mass was held on December 1 at the Basilica Parish of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Interment followed at the Southampton Cemetery.
Memorial donations may be made to:
East End Hospice, Box 1048 Westhampton Beach, NY 11978 or
Heart of the Hamptons, 168 Hill Street Southampton, NY 11968