Catherine Kirchner Roth passed away at the age of 101 on April 20, 2022. She was the last surviving Kirchner triplet as well as the first born; she and her two sisters Frances and Marguerite Kirchner were born on August 23, 1920 in Brooklyn in a third floor walkup. Together with their older sister Grace, they grew up in Floral Park, NY on Long Island.
As triplets they had a special relationship with each other and a certain amount of celebrity. They were offered an arrangement at William Smith College in the Finger Lakes: 3 college educations for the price of two which they accepted. Summers they worked at the Borden Milk Pavilion at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair. Borden had been hiring twins, and was happy to add triplets to their serving staff. This gained the sisters more fame and contact with visiting celebrities.
All three sisters graduated from College in 1942; all of them also found husbands there at the adjoining campus of Hobart College. With marriage, the triplets began to go their separate ways although they maintained their special relationship with periodic family gatherings and other events, including an appearance on the Rachel Ray show in their 90’s.
Catherine married Laurence G. Roth of Batavia, NY in 1942. As so many men did at the time, he entered the military, the U.S. Navy. The Navy put him through an accelerated education, and upon his graduation from Yale Medical School, he was commissioned as an officer. He was deployed to the Pacific for a number of months on the Island of Peleliu before returning to the U.S. after the war ended. Remaining in the reserves afterwards, he was the first man in his unit called up with the outbreak of the Korean War, for another year of service.
The early years of their marriage were spent moving to locations around New England and Long Island while the Navy kept her husband on duty. Afterwards, they settled in Batavia, New York where Laurence (Larry) established a practice in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Catherine adjusted to living in upstate New York.
Although she had worked as a teacher after graduation, she became a full-time homemaker with the arrival of her first child, Marcia. In the decades that followed Catherine and Larry would raise two more children (Larry Jr. and James) and become firmly established in the community. Theirs was a marriage of mutual respect and support that enriched all with whom they came in contact.
Catherine supported the arts through groups like the Genesee Symphony Orchestra, where Larry was a violinist for many years. She attended many baseball games with him, a big baseball fan. Both of them served leadership roles in Scouting. She also baked hundreds of pies over the years as a contribution to the snack bar at Genesee Memorial Hospital as a member of the Hospital League.
Catherine also pursued a number of interests on her own. She was one of founders of the Landmark Society of Genesee County, working to preserve the legacy of the area. She belonged to many local history groups. She transcribed the diaries of Martin Curtis Tyler, a Civil War Veteran and contributed to the Stafford Town Museum. She started a summer program of swimming instruction for the Red Cross using volunteered backyard pools for 25 years, starting in 1971. She was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church, serving as a deacon and a trustee. The list of groups that she belonged to is remarkable. (See below.)
She took an active part in civic affairs. She was a member and chairman of the City Planning Board, the Architectural Review Board, and served on the City Council of Batavia as a Councilman at Large and as Council person for the First Ward. For 12 years she was a member of the SUNY Brockport College Council.
When Catherine and Larry lost their youngest son James in a car accident in 1991 caused by an elderly driver who had become confused, they responded by working to urge people to recognize when they should give up their car keys and make other arrangements.
Larry passed away in 2008; in 2015 Catherine made the decision at age 95 to move to the Albany area to be close to surviving family. Despite her age, she remained involved in trying to help others, knitting squares for blankets and making tray favors to brighten the days of veterans in the local VA hospital. To the end of her life she maintained a largely cheerful manner – although she reserved the right to be concerned over events. She remained an active voter up through the 2020 election.
Catherine is survived by a son, four grandchildren, one great grandson, and an array of nephews and nieces and their children.
Partial List of Organizations and Awards:
Girl Scout leader for 19 years, Den Mother.
Charter Member and past president of the Landmark Society of Genesee County
Genesee Memorial Hospital League member
Member and past president of the Batavia branch of the American Association of University Women
Editor of the book “The Architectural Heritage of Genesee County”
Red Cross Summer Swimming Program 1971-1996
Deacon and Trustee First Presbyterian Church
President of CARD, Inc – Concerned American for Responsible Driving
Member of the board of directors of:
• The American Red Cross, local chapter
• The United Way
• The YMCA
• Genesee Symphony Orchestra
• Genesee County Chamber of Commerce
• Landmark Society of Western New York
• Batavia Cemetery Association
• Holland Purchase Historical Society
• LeRoy Historical Society
• Cobblestone Society
• Preservation league of New York
• National Historic Trust
• Genesee Valley Civil War Round Table
• Association for Grave Studies
• The Stafford Museum of History
Batavia City Council, both as First Ward Councilman and At-Large Councilman
Member and Chair of the City Planning Board
Member and Chair of the Architectural Review Board.
Member of the SUNY Brockport College Council, 12 years
ZONTA Woman of the Year 1975
Community Service Award, Girl Scouts of Genesee Valley 1977
Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year 1987
Citation from the William Smith College Alumnae Association 1992
Presidential Citation for Community Service
Suggestions for Contributions in the memory Catherine Kirchner Roth
– click on the donate button for information
1-855-789-7723 to donate by phone
Landmark Society of Genesee County
P.O. Box 342
Batavia, New York 14020
585-343-1481 - phone
First Presbyterian Church
300 East Main Street
Batavia, NY 14020
Historic Batavia Cemetery Association
Treasurer Brian Daviu
16 Park Avenue
Batavia, NY 14020
Catherine's funeral will be Saturday at 10:00 a.m. at the Batavia First Presbyterian Church, 300 East Main Street. She will be laid to rest in a private service at Grandview Cemetery, Batavia.
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Arrangements for Catherine were entrusted to the H.E. Turner & Co. Funeral Home, Batavia, (585) 343-8868.