April 23, 1954 – January 15, 2023, age 68
Cathy and her husband Ben planned that the first one to pass would be cremated, hoping that the crematory didn’t get them mixed up. According to her wishes, there was no traditional funeral service. In the spring or summer, 2023, a celebration of her life will take place so family and friends can gather to tell stories, share food, music, laugh, cry, and to honor the memory of the amazing person she was.
Cathy was preceded in death by her parents, Frank Peter DiGeorge, Jr. and Cora Davis DiGeorge. Cathy lives forever in the presence of God, welcomed by her sister, Cora DiGeorge Blackwell (Dennis), and her pups, Prissy, Cricket, Maggie, Lil’ Bit, and TC. memories of her family and friends. She is survived by her husband, Ben Rushing, Jr. of Natchitoches, siblings, Capt. Frank Peter DiGeorge, III USN Ret (Cynthia) of Gulfport, MS, Capt. David DiGeorge (Jeri) USAF Ret. of Colorado Springs, CO, Michael DiGeorge of Sulphur, LA, Frances DiGeorge Veal of West Virginia, and Marietta DiGeorge Cryer (Ralph) of South Carolina, stepchildren, Jessica Rushing Odom (Aaron) of Natchitoches, Jonathan Rushing of Baton Rouge, and the best grandson on the planet Andrew Odom, a superstar in her heart. She leaves a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
The dates 04/23/1954 – 01/15/2023 mark the start of Cathy’s earthly journey and the day when she passed to a better eternity. This writing will address the dash between the numbers.
She was born in Beaumont, Texas. Though she moved from Texas to Sulphur, LA as a child, her DNA was infused with Texas pride. A Texas flag always flew over her home in Natchitoches. She loved to return to Texas whenever possible to get her “Texas” fix.
Cathy relished her Irish and Italian heritage. When her brother, David, was stationed in Aviano, Italy, she, and her sister Frances toured Europe for a month. They traveled to Sicily by train, managed to reconnect with long, lost relatives while creating a lifetime of memories. She always hoped to return there.
Cathy’s teen years were spent caring for her younger brother at the insistence of her mother. Because she missed many of the joys of high school, she married a soldier as an escape from this involuntary servitude. She left Sulphur for Hawaii, later to Maine, finally to Pennsylvania. Seemingly trapped in a life with a mentally and physically abusive husband, she sought help from a Catholic priest. He betrayed her trust, and she was returned to her life of abuse. Her strong will, fueled by her Irish, Italian, and Texas DNA, and the assistance of her older brother, Frank, facilitated her escape from that horror. She returned to Sulphur. Her Catholic days were forever done. Her spiritual journey continued. She was Baptist, then Methodist, and finally, confident in her salvation and firm in her faith, she lived without need for affiliation.
Cathy worked several jobs in Lake Charles and Sulphur, never losing her sense of self. She married a good old country boy, Monroe Penrod, moved to Bellwood, then to Natchitoches. During their marriage, she worked in the loan department of Exchange Bank, then later as Executive Assistant to the Director at Red River Waterway Commission until her retirement.
Several years after her divorce from Monroe, Cathy met the love of her life, Ben. They were introduced by one of his math students who worked with her at RRWC. On July 17,1990 they met for lunch at Nicki’s Mexican Restaurant. When she returned to work after lunch, she asked her coworker, “Can you fall in love over a taco salad?” Clearly, in retrospect, the answer is absolutely, YES! They married on November 4, 1995.
Cathy loved old westerns. She and Ben shared a common love for Lonesome Dove and would watch it over and over, so much so that the dialogue became part of their conversation. This was also the case for Oh, Brother Where Art Thou, and the latest addition, Yellowstone. She learned her passionate integrity for doing the right thing from her maternal grandfather, summarized in the Edmund Burke quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” At times, her commitment to unwavering integrity was the only barrier protecting some supervisors from incarceration. Integrity is honorable among people of honor but anathema among those without. In her work, she was a Woodrow Call among a plethora of Jake Spoons. In her dealings with the Jakes, she would channel Ruby from Cold Mountain, “They call this war a cloud over the land. But they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say, Sh*t, it’s raining!”
Cathy was passionate about cooking, a serious student of the craft. She drew from all her experiences and influences and was an Angel of Her Kitchen. She was obstinately opinionated, particularly about bad cooking. Ben learned quickly that if he wanted excellent gumbo, the plan was simple. When dining out, he would order gumbo. Cathy would taste it. Whether the restaurant gumbo was good or bad, (the embarrassing type with a consistency of weak tea), she would make her gumbo and outshine them both. She taught Ben to make gumbo and, though his was good, they both knew hers was better. She enjoyed creating in the kitchen. She developed a low salt, dry rub seasoning for grilling. As others tasted her creation, they suggested that it should be made and sold to others. Dr. Ben’s Belly Rub Spice was the result. Her kindness in allowing his name on her recipe reflects who she was. The spice was marketed until government bureaucracy made it impractical. They continued to have it mixed and gave it to friends and family.
Cathy was passionately patriotic. The American flag always flew at her home above her Texas flag. She loved the greatness of America and cherished the freedoms she enjoyed. She was saddened and frustrated to see patriotism and American pride demeaned and degraded by people choosing victimhood over gratitude. One of her greatest fears was that upon her passing, she would join the multitudes of the dead who vote democratic.
Cancer is a devastating evil. The disease may kill you. If it doesn’t, the cure steals quality of life. At times she wondered if the disease was a better option. She was first diagnosed in 2014, was moving toward being cancer free, diagnosed again in 2018, again made progress toward normalcy. She was diagnosed a third time in 2021 with a more aggressive form of cancer. At her first diagnosis, her oncologist told her two things. “I’m going to be a part of your life from now on,” and “I’m going to cure you.” Her scans at the end of 2022 were clear and she was declared cancer free. It turned out that he was true to his commitment. The celebration was short lived as the side effects of the treatments and pain management took her with a brief, non-cancer illness. Though the battles she fought were challenging, she kept faith and maximized all the life that she had. She was blessed with caregivers whose professionalism was only exceeded by their kindness and compassion. Special thanks to these amazing professionals who were with her through the years of her treatment. Dr. Scott Boniol, her oncologist a professional of the highest order and one of the finest humans on this planet. Her exceptional surgeon, Dr. Kevin Marler, with whom she shared a delightful repartee. Her reconstruct surgeon, Dr. Paul Davis, who saved her life with an early diagnosis. Dr. Mashood Olatinwo, along with the fine care givers who worked with her in the outstanding NRMC wound care center, Dr. Warren Botnick, aka Dr. Superman, her pulmonologist with whom she shared a delightful connection, and Dr. Kathleen Kautz, her GP whose compassionate care was comforting. The entire staff of physicians, nurses, and staff at NRMC who treated her during her final days were outstanding, professional, kind, and caring.
The family asks that those who choose to honor her memory with donation, make donations to her favorite charities, TSR LA Baby Mommas or FAUNA (Friends All United for Natchitoches Animals).