In the days when Nicollet Avenue was lined with locally owned department stores, fashionable women gathered for live shows that displayed the retailers’ latest styles.
And one of the stars of the runway was Kathleen Grogan Bush.
What many in the audience probably couldn’t have guessed was that this glamorous star of fashion shows and advertisements was also the mother of five, raising her brood in the absence of her husband, whose job as a corporate pilot frequently took him far from home.
“She was a busy, busy gal,” said her son, John Grogan of Flagstaff, Ariz. Juggling modeling and motherhood, Bush often brought her children to photo shoots, where they sometimes wound up appearing with her in the advertisements.
Bush died Jan. 6 at age 88, several years after developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Born and raised in Edina, Bush grew up in a rigorous Catholic family. Her father, John Gill, was one of the founders of Gill Brothers Funeral Service & Cremation. Shortly after her graduation from the Academy of Holy Angels in 1948, Bush was named the first Miss Edina, a crowning that rated a front-page photo in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune.
Her modeling career began soon after and continued after she married and started a family with James Grogan, who later became chief pilot for the Pillsbury Co.
“I have three children. I know what that’s like,” said her daughter Maureen Warner of Edina. “I cannot imagine what it was like to have five children under 10 years old.
“Somehow she managed to make this whole thing click, and gave each of us opportunities to get involved with things we really loved.”
One example of Bush’s professional and parental ingenuity came when she created a winter fashion show at Burnsville’s Buck Hill ski area — and got paid in free ski passes for her kids.
Bush was much in demand for newspaper and magazine ads produced by the Twin Cities’ thriving advertising business and often served as an official hostess at community events, including the grand opening of Southdale mall in 1956. Oddly, one of her most notable ads wasn’t much on the glamorous side, John Grogan said.
Sometime in the early ’70s, she appeared in a TV ad for Tarn-X, a miracle tarnish remover. Memorably, she dipped a tarnished spoon in a bowl of Tarn-X and it instantly came clean.
“I think she was still getting royalties from that one,” Grogan said with a chuckle.
Kathleen and James Grogan divorced in 1980. As a strict Catholic, the divorce sent her on a spiritual search that eventually brought her back to the church.
And along the way, she reconnected with Walter Bush Jr., a longtime family friend and a legend in the hockey world who was the first president of the Minnesota North Stars and later served for nearly two decades as president of USA Hockey.
The pair were married from 2006 until Walter Bush’s death in 2016.
“Yes, she was beautiful, and that took her a long way in life,” Warner said. “But life also has its bumps. My mom just dug down and found that faith, which she had been rigorously taught as a child. Her faith just got stronger and stronger and guided her.”
In addition to her son and daughter, she is survived by three other children, Sheila Grogan, Jim Grogan and Mike Grogan; eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
A burial mass is set for 10:30 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina.