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1925 Barbara 2019

Barbara Cathleen (Thomas) Bretschneider

October 4, 1925 — March 5, 2019

Barbara Cathleen (Thomas) Bretschneider of Hampton, Virginia, age 93, passed away peacefully in the comfort of her home during the early hours of March 5, 2019.

Affectionately known as Cathleen, Cathy and Tommy (to family, close friends & classmates)…….  She was born to Caroline and Howard Thomas on October 4, 1925 in Spartanburg (Randolph County), Indiana.  The family moved to Tipton, Indiana when Cathleen was a toddler.  It is there she graduated from Tipton High School in 1943, attended St. Vincent Hospital School of Nursing in Indianapolis and graduated top of her class as she earned her RN Degree in 1946.  (Up until the time of her passing, Cathleen was one of few of her class to remain a member of the St. Vincent Alumni.)

She continued to work at St. Vincent’s as a Pediatric Nurse until she met & married the love of her life.  As the story is told, Cathleen and Norman met at a USO dance at the Grand Union Station in Indianapolis in 1950.   He had arrived at the dance without a date; looked across the room to see an attractive woman in a bright red coat walk in.  She stood there for a few minutes, wearing a beautiful smile and happily tapping her foot to the music.  Noticing that she was without a date, he walked on over, introduced himself, and asked if she would like to dance…..  After a whirlwind courtship, Norman asked Cathleen to marry him.  He formally asked permission of her parents, but was somewhat taken by surprise with the fact that he also needed the consent of his parents.  You see, back then the legal age for marriage was 21.  Norm was 20…. and that predicament remained a chuckle within the family for many years to come. They were married by an Army Chaplain at Camp Atterbury in Columbus, Indiana on May 4, 1951.  It was a quaint wedding with only their parents in attendance.

Soon after they married, Norman’s unit was called out to Korea, and Cathleen went to work for Dr. Robert Browning in his private medical practice in Indianapolis, Indiana.  This excellent working relationship led to a cherished lifetime friendship with the Browning and Bretschneider Families.

Norman’s U.S. Army career took them to various assignments where they met many new friends in Fort Benning, GA; Fort Carson, CO (twice); Fort Knox, KY; Fort Riley, KS; Port Whittier, Alaska before being stationed at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio.  It was there they joyfully welcomed John and Pam into their family on October 21, 1960.   It was decided that Cathleen should retire from her nursing career and remain at home with the children, and provide them with much needed support as the adoption was a difficult transition.  Shortly after the adoption became final, orders came for Fort Carson, CO.  Within a year of that assignment, the most wonderful adventure of a lifetime fell into their laps as they set off for Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany (June of 1963.)  Three years in Norman’s parents’ homeland was one of Cathleen’s most treasured memories as she learned the German language, thoroughly enjoyed sightseeing, the cuisine and European culture.  After that European tour, it was off to St. Louis, MO.  A year in Vietnam for Norm left Cathleen, John, Pam and Fritzi (the family’s dog), to embark upon their own adventures.  She made that year interesting and fun, and found ways to make Daddy’s absence less stressful.  The final trek of Cathleen’s career as an Army Officer’s wife was Fort Monroe, here in Hampton.

Cathleen stood proudly alongside other “Military Wives” who juggled two completely different worlds:   She patiently taught her children that their father’s job was demanding and different; that acceptable behavior was duly noted, and that unacceptable behavior was not an option.  Cathleen was always on call for last minute dinner plans for visiting dignitary officers, faithfully attended Officers’ Wives Club meetings, and was a diligent & cheerful U.S. Army Sponsor in welcoming families to their new assignment locations.  She valued all friendships, and keeping in touch with everyone over the years gave her such joy.  After years of faithful communication, having to remove names from her Christmas card list brought tears to her eyes.

Cathleen and Norman always believed that Civic Duty was an honor and a privilege in this great country of ours. They were dedicated members of the Hampton Republican Party, and she proudly served as Lead Poll Worker of Phillips Voting Precinct for many years.  Cathy’s gifts of yogurt pretzels were a bright topic of conversation at the Hampton Voter Registrar’s Office every Election Day.

She truly loved her life as a wife, mother and Grandmother. Her love for traveling followed her well past the military life; Canada and returning to Europe were adventures that you couldn’t pay her to pass up!  She was fantastic in the kitchen, and was always sought out for the recipes she collected from family & friends from all over the world.  Her talents went beyond the kitchen as she was a resourceful Den Mother for John’s Cub Scout Pack (Her renowned creation of the Cub Scout Cap Cake made its debut at the Blue & Gold Banquet in February 1964 at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany!!!), and was an excellent seamstress (Thanks for the cute outfits, Mom!)   Many years later, she found her passion for Count Thread Cross Stitch.  Cathleen’s employment at the Needle Works and membership with the Golden Thimble Needlecraft Guild gained her valued friendships and a talent that will always remain unmeasured.  In her living room (and in the homes of family and friends)…. there are many framed masterpieces that were created by her hand, with so much love.

For those who have remained a constant presence in her life, Cathy always felt that special friends are so very rare…. and she will forever cherish that bond.  She fondly tips her thimble to her Needle Works Family – Ann, Alice, Susan, Joan, Jackie, Vicki and countless others.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Major Norman F. Bretschneider (Retired U.S. Army) and their sweet little Doxie, Elly; parents, Caroline May Martin Thomas & Howard D. Thomas; sister –Alice “Christine” Thomas Coffey (and her husband Arthur Coffey); and brother – Robert Russell Thomas.

Cathleen is survived by her son – John H. Bretschneider and his wife, Elizabeth of Olympia, Washington; daughter – Pamela A. Bretschneider of Hampton, Virginia; five grandchildren and one great-grandson – Matthew, Anna (her husband James – affectionately known as Jay) and their son, Weston; Christine, John Thomas (known as JT) and Benjamin; Norman’s cousins – the Schaller Family in Eastern Germany (Waldenburg & surrounding areas). Close family members:  Cousins-Faye & Bob, Phil & Ginny, Gretchen, Becky & Nate… numerous family in Indiana, Florida, California & Utah; nieces & nephews in Erie, PA and North Carolina, and Pam & Johns’ Foster Sisters (and their families) in Ohio:  Sue, Nancy, Sally, Debbie & Barbara Jean.

A heart-felt “Thank You” to Grace Hospice and Dr. Worbois of Visiting Physicians for their compassion and tender care during this difficult time.

A celebration of Cathy and Normans’ lives will be at a later date.  A private interment service for both will be at Arlington National Cemetery at an undisclosed date, and a memorial marker will be placed with the Thomas Family at Fairview Cemetery in Tipton.

Memorial contributions may be donated to the Peninsula Rescue Mission, 3700 Huntington Ave, Newport News, Virginia, 23607.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Barbara Cathleen (Thomas) Bretschneider, please visit our flower store.


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