Articles From the February 1994 Unification News


In Memoriam Catherine Lappa Chesnut

March 8, 1944 to November 25, 1993

Catherine Chesnut was born Helen Catherine Lappa, March 8, 1944 in Evanston, Illinois. She was the second of four children born to her parents, James and Mary Lappa. She has an older sister, Margaret, and two younger brothers, James and William.

Her family lived in Chicago until she was five years old and then moved to Lincolnwood, a suburb north of Chicago. Her father's parents were Greek immigrants and her mother -- of Swiss-German background -- was the fifth of 13 children born to Arkansas farmers.

Catherine attended Catholic elementary and high schools, graduating in 1961. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education from Northeastern Illinois State College in 1959. After college, Catherine taught first grade on Chicago's Westside for six years.

In the summer of 1975, Catherine was vacationing in California where she met the Unification Church. She studied the teachings for three weeks before returning to Chicago to resume her teaching post. The Chicago schools went on strike that fall and she decided to return to California to study the Principle further. She remained with the California church for about three years, during which time she worked in day care centers and with Project Volunteer, distributing excess farm produce to the poor.

In 1979, Catherine moved to New York City to work as a secretary and ad sales person for News World Communications. She lived in Harlem while with the newspaper and did volunteer community work there. She was then a secretary at Unification Church National Headquarters in Manhattan. While in New York, Catherine was wed to Jerry Chesnut in 1982 in a ceremony for 2075 couples in Madison Square Garden.

It was in 1984 that Catherine was first diagnosed with cancer. She spent six months in Ishiin Hospital in Japan receiving treatment; the disease went into remission at that time. Catherine continued work as a legal secretary until 1990. She returned to teaching in Brooklyn in 1991. Their son was born at the Brooklyn Unification Church in January 1990. A gift from close friends and fellow church members, Barry and Mariko Geller, his legal adoption was completed just as the Chesnuts moved upstate to allow Jerry to begin studies at the Unification Theological Seminary.

In late 1992, Catherine became ill while visiting her parents in Chicago and discovered that she again had cancer, this time in a very advanced stage. The last year of her earthly life was spent battling the disease which quickly spread through her body, but completely failed to dampen her spirit or alter the generosity and righteous spunk for which she was widely known. From May until November she spent almost 70 days in an Albany hospital, but was able to pass from this world in her home early Thanksgiving morning with her beloved husband and son at her side.

Catherine's Sung Hwa ceremony was held in Tarrytown, New York. Her friends and family gathered to remember her fondly as a very real person who lived a life of true value and a life of victory. One friend said he remembered her most for her feisty righteousness and the dignity and grace with which she faced death. He said that she was an example to any of us who must go through this kind of situation. Another friend described Catherine as powerful, direct, fierce and also gentle. Above all, she was a teacher. Her concern for the education of the second generation was absolute. She wanted us to inherit that desire.

Catherine taught herself to be a positive person. Her husband Jerry found a note that Catherine had written to herself in her final days: "Relax, exercise, pray, write, laugh, give, love, SMILE.''

I visited Catherine in the hospital about three weeks before her ascension. She had tubes and IV's coming out all over her body, but the first thing she said to me was, "What can I do for you, Honey?" She witnessed to our True Parents until the last moment, trying to get a lady from the hospital to a workshop. The spirit in her room was so bright and high I could feel the spirit world just through an invisible doorway. Her attitude was one of complete offering. Every day she repented for America. I know that this precious sister was giving even as she went into the spirit world and she will continue to give and help God's Providence on the other side.

Her family and friends give thanks to God and True Parents for the blessing of having our dear sister Catherine with us and for all the things she taught us.

Mereth Huemer


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