Obituary: Katharine Frankenthal McMillan, 1933-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Katharine Frankenthal McMillan, 1933-2020

Lifelong volunteer and active community member traveled the world and "rode more trains than anyone has a right to"

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Katharine McMillan and Monkey - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Katharine McMillan and Monkey

Katharine Frankenthal McMillan, 86, of South Burlington, Vt., died Tuesday, September 1, 2020. She was at Long Lake in Phelps, Wis. ("God’s country," as she called it), the summer home of her family since 1920. She was surrounded by children, grandchildren and pets.

She was born November 12, 1933, in Chicago, Ill., daughter of Dr. Lester Emmanuel Frankenthal Jr. and Katharine Anderson Frankenthal Sulzberger.

Katharine, known as Penny for most of her life, attended elementary school in the Hyde Park (Chicago) schools but claimed she was moved to private school for bad behavior. She graduated from Hollins College with a BA in English in 1955.

In 1945, Penny was diagnosed with polio. She spent a year at the hospital in Warm Springs, Ga. She told stories of racing in wheelchairs down steep hills on the hospital grounds, unattended, exhilarated and unharmed. While she always had a limp (and then a cane, a walker and, finally, back to a wheelchair), she never let this interfere with an adventurous life. As a teen she learned to slalom waterski even while being told that one must learn to drop a ski first. In retirement, she loved to snowshoe near the cabin in Phelps.

Penny met her husband, Bob, when they attended the same church in the South Side of Chicago. They were married in March 1957, in a decked-out gymnasium after St. Paul’s Hyde Park was destroyed by fire.

Penny was a "cradle-to-grave" Episcopalian and volunteer, and the two went hand in hand as she volunteered for church groups and ministries. She enjoyed traveling on many medical missions to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. She was involved in the church wherever they lived, including St. John’s Flossmoor, Grace Church Hinsdale, St. Paul’s Peoria, and Christ Church San Pablo/Jacksonville, Fla. She kept alive the spirit of her grandfather, an Episcopal priest and bishop, by organizing many years of weekly services at St. Aidan’s, the family chapel at Long Lake. She served on the board of trustees of the Bishop Anderson House in Chicago.

In addition to church, she was always active in the community. She volunteered at the Hinsdale Humane Society and was a Girl Scout leader for several years, leading camping and canoeing trips to the Boundary Waters and the Smoky Mountains, not to mention encouraging the sales of thousands of boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

She packed up the family several times to follow Bob’s career in railroading. After moving from Chicago to Kansas City, back to Chicago and finally to Peoria, they opted to not return to Chicago when asked — and made Peoria their home for 20-plus years. They made lifelong friends there, particularly with a group from the cathedral known as the GOOFS (Grand Old Order of Flamingo Society).

She was a board member at the Peoria Children’s Home (1979 to 1995) and was scuba-certified. She was a certified travel agent and owned Quality Travel, Inc. from 1987 to 2000. Bob and Penny traveled the world. They visited more Anglican cathedrals and rode more trains than anyone has a right to. One of her prized possessions was a cane (made by Bob from a tree tap root) that traveled with them to all seven continents. She even took an accidental swim in the Antarctic Ocean.

They wanted to slow down and travel more in the U.S., but Bob’s dementia interfered with those plans. She regretted not visiting more national parks. They loved Peoria but moved to Jacksonville for the weather, and reluctantly moved to Burlington to be near family.

Mom loved needlepoint, but when she could no longer do that, she passed many hours with mystery novels, westerns, cribbage, sudoku and jigsaw puzzles. These hobbies kept her sharp as she was less and less able to get out and about. Even as she had less mobility, she insisted on volunteering at the annual Humane Society of Chittenden County's rabies clinics.

Penny had a quick wit and a sometimes sharp tongue, and she didn’t suffer fools. She was a lifelong Republican ... until 2016. She was relentlessly generous.

Penny leaves two children, Stephen (Linda) and Susan (Becky Roberts); three grandchildren, Daniel, Nicholas and Ella McMillan; a brother, (Lester); two sisters-in-law, Jean and Ann; and many cousins, nieces, nephews and friends. She was predeceased by Bob, her devoted husband of 58 years; their son Mark; her brother Charlie; and many dear friends and cousins.

A family memorial service (COVID-style) was held at St. Aidan’s, and final interment was in Phelps, Wis.

The family requests that, in lieu of any flowers, a donation be made to Bishop Anderson House, 1653 W. Congress Pkwy., Chicago, IL 60612.

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