Kathleen George Allen, 1940-2023
Kathleen Allen, of Princeton, New Jersey, unexpectedly passed away at age 82 on March 5, 2023. After an inspirational life of educational service, leadership, and compassion, she rededicated her focus on her family, moving across the country to begin a new life in New Jersey. Always the center of the table, Kathleen had just celebrated her niece’s birthday the night before she died, where she talked, teased, encouraged, and laughed with her children and grandchildren. The daughter of Don and Annette George, she was a wonderful mother, grandmother, and big sister. She is survived by her daughters Kim Allen and Karmen Allen, her son, Kevin Allen and his wife Jennifer Heusen, and her grandchildren, Max Rashid, Zayna Allen, and Reyner Allen. Kathleen is also survived by her brothers and sisters, Don George and his wife Gayle George, Gretchen Dresen and her husband Bill Dresen, Larry George, and Tim George and his wife Renee George. She was predeceased in 2016 by her husband, Kenton Allen, also an educator, whom she met at Lakeland College in Wisconsin.
Kathleen’s death came as a shock to her family because she was so very much involved in life, and she embraced every moment with joy and gusto. She was an active family member and mentor, as well as an adventurous traveler, passionate gardener, avid reader, and concerned citizen, and she adored attending concerts and films. She never missed the PBS Newshour or Farid Zakharia’s Global GPS, the last program she watched the morning she passed away. Kathleen loved justice and truth, with a fervent belief in our citizenry’s capacity for Good. The two most recent books she read were a bound version of the January 6 Report, and a novel about the Sami people of Finland.
Kathleen was born in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, on December 29, 1940, and it was clear from an early age that she loved to learn. She remained very close to her siblings in Wisconsin and Oregon, a reflection of their shared experiences growing up. They gathered often and supported each other through good times and bad, in person, on Google Meet, by email, or at a beach or cabin. Being close to the ones she loved mattered more than anything else to her, as well as to her siblings. She often mentioned memorable childhood farm experiences, such as picking blueberries, milking the cows, pitting cherries, walking to a one-room schoolhouse in the coldest winter, and in the summer, catching lightning bugs. She remembered family gatherings where her father vigorously sang hymns around the piano, and she embraced her mother’s passion for flowers, birds, and the wonders of Nature.
Kathleen cherished her role as a mother, and she did her very best to ensure that her children would inherit a world where opportunity was available for all. While she and Kenton raised their family in Wichita, Kansas, she also worked tirelessly for social and educational change, from active engagement in school desegregation; to leading Quaker education classes, Friends summer camps, a community daycare center, and youth events at University Friends Church; to the founding of the Emerson Open Alternative School with a like-minded group of activist parents who were committed to equitable and progressive education. While working full-time as a school bus driver and mother of three children, including an infant, Kathleen also attended Wichita State University and graduated with an education degree. She then commenced a multi-year career as an innovative middle school math teacher and team leader at Horace Mann Middle School. As her interest in global understanding grew through the years, from co-directing educational tours in Mexico with Kenton to working closely with immigrant students from Vietnam and Mexico, she shifted her career focus to international student exchange, developing and managing an extensive Kansas network of student placements and programs. Kathleen and Kenton also hosted nearly a dozen students from across the world in their own home, and her children count many people as members of their Allen clan. We are well aware that Kathleen’s charisma and wisdom were gifts to be shared with a global family.
After retirement, Kathleen and Kenton moved to New Jersey to be nearer to her children, and especially to be a part of the lives of Max, Zayna, and Reyner, who were at the center of her heart. After Kenton passed away, she began the difficult task of building a new life in Princeton, and with the support of her family, she thrived during this new chapter of her life. She was the glue that brought everyone together, hosting most family events at her small apartment at Palmer Square and regularly picking Reyner up from school, as well as being his biggest fan. She was delighted when he played her parents’ favorite dance tune for her, “After You’re Gone,” on his trombone one day after school. She could also make a fabulous poppy seed birthday cake, beat you at dominoes, or talk to you for hours about yourself. Equally pleased by Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen, and Sarah Vaughn, Kathleen loved music. She regularly attended concerts. Her last event, a performance by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, concluded with Mahler’s “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” (I am lost to the world).
Private burial and family events will take place in Baraboo, Wisconsin in June, at the Walnut Hill Cemetery, officiated by David and Linda, our chosen big brother and sister who are also Quaker ministers. Kathleen’s ashes will be interred alongside her husband’s, and near the grave of her parents. A fundraiser for St Clement's Food Pantry has been established in her honor.
The family asks that condolences be made to the personal addresses of her family members; a card may also be addressed to her children and grandchildren at Kathleen’s current address until June 30: Allen Family, 61 Palmer Square West, Apt. A, Princeton, NJ 08542.