For those of you who knew her, Katey was a very strong woman early on. Humberto heard the stories of her having fun as a young girl sliding down the piles of coal in her native Taylor PA - coal country. She inherited her strength from her mother, who was widowed when Katey was seven. Mima was a school teacher, and would tell Katey to study and study hard so she could always be self sufficient
So heeding her mother’s advice when she graduated from High Schol she applied for and was admitted to the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Where she obtained the three year Nursing Diploma. Johns Hopkins always remained close to her hear because, as she said, they taught her how to be a nurse.
Following graduation from Johns Hopkins, she was admitted to NYU, where she got her Bachelor’s and then Masters in Nursing, specializing in Psychiatry. She was self-sufficient allright: she paid for all that higher education by doing per-diem nursing work at nights.
Following NYU in 1972, she joined a budding social program on the upper West Side - the Neighborhood Health Services Program (NHSP) that eventually became the William F Ryan Community Health Center. Psychiatry was her love, and schizophrenics her beloved patients: the more voices a patient would hear the more she loved that patient. By the way, schizophrenics don’t have split personalities, they just have a lot of things going on inside their heads, and sometimes they feel they need to empty their heads in order to let other things in. She rose to be Ryan’s Director of Mental Health, all the while carrying a full patient load.
She then realized that she really didn’t like administrative work, and in 1991 she joined Mount Sinai Hospital were she set up an Outpatient Mental Health Day Care program as an adjunct to one of the inpatient mental health floors. In 1996 she went back to school, this time Columbia, where she took the Advance Practice (Nurse Practitioner) Program. She was licensed as a NP (NY) and APN (NJ)
Finally she moved from the Day Care program to the emergency room staffing guess what? The psych ER. She retired from Mount Sinai in 2004.
But she didn’t stop working when she retired. She taught at Essex County Community College, consulted for Christ Hospital’s Community Resource Center, and finally kind of full circle when she consulted for Bridgeview, another community health organization like Ryan 40 years earlier. Back problems forced her to retire, and Humberto believes these problems masked the early symptoms of the cancer that eventually killed her.
But what about Humberto and Katey? They first met in a ski trip to Vermont organized by the local chapter of American Youth Hostels. They worked together in the committee that organized the trips, and went on a lot of AYH trips. Katey was an avid biker, and Humberto was a putz, so she would help him complete semi-monster rides organized by AYH. Eventually they sort of realized they should do a little more than just go on group trips, and April 1977 marked the official start of their 42 year relationship
In April 1979 Katey moved to West New York, and two fortuitous things happened, besides having Humberto: Katey’s new landlady was Cuban, and Katey interacted with her in Spanish. Katey also interacted with Humberto’s mother in Spanish. That, coupled with the spanish learned during a summer job in the south of Spain, made Katey the WASP mental professional requested by Hispanic patients because the was the only one they felt comfortable with.
Katey’s favorite sport was cycling until Humberto dragged her to Martinique and Club Med. Club Med had a great sort program and Katey decided she was going to try scuba diving. Humberto Wanted to learn windsurfing, but very quickly realized he was not meant to stand on a board and hold a sail. So he joined Katey, and both got hooked on Scuba diving. So it was skiing in the winter and scuba in the summer, and a little cycling thrown in for good measure. Katey eventually fell in love with Bonaire, and spent the winters there until the health problems didn’t let her go.
Katey is a cat lover, and infected Humberto with that love. Katey’s three black rescue cats will be joining Humberto’s two white rescue cats, resulting in an interesting family. Katey was an intelligent, strong, resourceful woman who helped many people along the way in a number of capacities. She will be sorely missed
To plant a tree in memory of Katey Ayers, please visit our tribute store.