A love of language drew Kathy Moran to learn to sign for the deaf. Her doggedness made her one of that community’s fiercest advocates.
“She wanted to make sure that deaf folks could participate in life as fully and as equally as possible,” said Mark Alan English, part-owner of Middle English Interpreting in Minneapolis. “The deaf community adored her. … She danced to her own drum, and everyone knew her. She was part of their community.”
Moran, 59, of Minneapolis, died Dec. 30, weeks after a cancer diagnosis.
Her death leaves a hole in a community that depended on her to be their voice, said Jennifer Rutschke, assistant housing manager for Ebenezer Park Apartments in Minneapolis. Moran began working for Ebenezer Society 32 years ago and “pretty much developed the deaf services program,” Rutschke said. She made a difference in a lot of people’s lives, including teaching those outside the deaf community about a culture they often knew little about, she said.
Moran was born in New Rochelle, N.Y., and grew up in Larchmont, N.Y., and came to Minnesota to attend Carleton College in Northfield. She became a Minnesota convert who loved it when winter was cold and disappointed when it was unseasonably warm, said her older brother, Doug Moran of Denver.
She was brilliant in an unassuming way, creative and clever with a love for words and puzzles that made her a “monster” Scrabble player and a devotee of Sherlock Holmes. She was a “language nerd” who loved problem solving, her brother said.
Moran, who could speak Spanish, some Russian and a bit of French, had an adventurous spirit, allowing her to easily move between diverse interests and people, said family and friends.
In college, she was a competitive player in field hockey, basketball and softball. Afterward, she turned to modern dance, melding her love of music and movement and finding yet another way to communicate.
“She was always bouncing around from one thing to another, introducing everybody to something new,” said longtime friend Kathy Farnell.
People were drawn to Moran because she was authentic, always positive, and a little bit quirky. She was the one who owned high-top sneakers in every color and eschewed driving and owning a car. Instead, she hopped buses and bicycles to navigate the cities where she lived and visited.
Although she was a private person, she easily could strike up a conversation with anyone — people at the bus stop, the usher who led her to her theater seat or the folks who served her daily six-shot Americano order.
“She developed instant deep connections with people,” her older brother said.
And those connections lasted a lifetime. “She always kept engaged with those the rest of us would consider passing acquaintances,” said her younger brother, Cliff, of Ridgefield, Conn.
For those in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, the mark she left was indelible. She was a “master facilitator of communication,” said Liz Brown, a longtime friend and a specialist in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services division in the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
“She wanted the people she served to have equal access to everything that was available to everybody else,” Brown said. “She was a force to be reckoned with.”
In addition to her brothers and many other relatives, she is survived by her mother, Nancy Houghton, of Ridgefield.
Services will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Elmer L. Andersen Library, 222 21st Av. S. in Minneapolis.