Cover photo for Kathryn Starbuck's Obituary
Kathryn Starbuck Profile Photo
1928 Kathryn 2021

Kathryn Starbuck

May 3, 1928 — January 22, 2021

HERRIN - Kathryn Jo Starbuck, 92, of Herrin died on Friday, January 22, 2021 at Herrin Hospital.

Kathryn was born on May 3, 1928, in Abilene, Kansas, the oldest of eight children, to Wallace and Maude Funston. Kathryn married Kenneth (Ken) Starbuck on June 23, 1952. They were married by Ken’s Uncle Martin Starbuck in Salina, Kansas. They had six children over a period of eight years, including triplet boys. They were together 65 years before Ken’s death in 2017.

Kathryn attended Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas. Because money was short, Kathryn took time off from school to earn tuition for school, including one year during which she taught in a one-room schoolhouse. She was a natural teacher, but her innovative techniques were sometimes frowned upon by her supervisors, including allowing the children to take off their shoes and dance and to picnic by the nearby creek. While at Baker University, Kathy met Ken, who was also a student. They were brought together by their intellect, interest in religion, deep curiosity, and similar values, all seasoned with a shared sense of humor. After they left Baker University, Kathryn supported Ken’s work as a minister in the Congregational Church. She developed her own interests, and as the children grew older, Kathryn worked as a bus driver for children with severe and profound developmental disabilities at Franklin-Williamson Bi-County Mental Health. She also worked as a Teacher’s Aide in special education classrooms for Herrin School District.

Like many families who lived through the Great Depression, the Funstons learned to make do with very little. This experience impacted Kathryn throughout her life. She appreciated nature and had great respect for the dignity of all living things. Her daughter remembers the two of them gathering Queen Anne’s lace and tiger lilies from the side of the road for Kathryn and Ken’s 25th wedding anniversary. And anyone who spent much time with Kathryn has seen her stalk a wasp, capturing it under a glass, sliding paper under the opening of the glass, and releasing the wasp outdoors. As one student said, “Mrs. Starbuck always gets her wasp.” Kathryn developed a disposition to ask questions and solve problems. She became deeply involved in genealogy, researching the ancestry of both Ken’s family and her own.

Kathryn’s creativity spanned all aspects of her life. If something was broken, she figured out how to fix it. If she didn’t have a tool she needed, she would create something to work in its place. Her granddaughter said, “Grandma can do anything.”

Kathryn told a story about being in junior high school and walking past the boy’s shop class, smelling the fresh wood shavings in the room and wishing she could take shop. She wanted to learn to work with wood, but as a girl was delegated to Home Economics. As her children began to grow older, Kathryn took woodworking classes through John A. Logan College. Over the years, she made shelves, small chests of drawers, and tables. Her masterpiece was a beautiful butcher block table with massive legs. She built it short so that, unlike her kitchen counters, it would accommodate her small stature.

Kathryn was a talented fabric artist. She began making quilts in the 1980’s. Her many quilts and wall-hangings involved all types of needle work, including piece-work, applique, embroidery, and trupunto, among other techniques. She prided herself on mastering the actual work of quilting and sometimes spent over a year quilting a piece. She won many awards for her quilts, and her Rose Garden quilt was featured in the July/August 1999 edition of the national magazine, Quiltmaker, along with a pattern and step-by-step instructions.

Kathryn Starbuck was kind and caring. She was always careful to be gentle when she felt another person might be vulnerable. Her smile and sparkling eyes lit up a room, and those who had the joy of being with her when she lost herself in a fit of giggles were truly blessed. Kathryn would probably not want to be described as sweet, although she often was. She was also a woman of principle who stood by her values, even when it was difficult to do so. She was a strong, courageous woman who felt and thought deeply.

Kathryn is survived by her sister, Anne Jones; her six children, Ruth Trygstad (John), Sara Starbuck (Charles Rudolph), Marcus Starbuck (Lorena), Kevin Starbuck, Karl Starbuck, and Cedric Starbuck; and six grandchildren, McCartney Cox, Nels Trygstad, Angelina Butler, Ivan Starbuck, Lars Trygstad, and Alex Trygstad. She is also survived by five great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild and by her cat, Abbie, who gave her much joy.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Wallace and Maude Funston, by her brothers, Stanley Funston, Wilbur Funston, Gene Funston, Earl Funston, Richard Funston and by her sister, Roberta Belding.

A public Celebration of Life will be held at the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship on Saturday, August 28. Welcome will be at 1:00 pm with the service following at 1:30. An outdoor reception will follow. Masks will be required inside the building. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship, St. Francis Care Animal Shelter, or Carbondale Interfaith Council (PO Box 854, Carbondale, IL 62903-0854).

Meredith Funeral Home assisted the family with arrangements.

To order memorial trees in memory of Kathryn Starbuck, please visit our tree store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, August 28, 2021

1:00 - 1:30 pm (Eastern time)

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Celebration of Life

Saturday, August 28, 2021

1:30 - 2:30 pm (Eastern time)

Mask will be required inside the building.

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Saturday, August 28, 2021

2:30 - 3:30 pm (Eastern time)

An outdoor reception will follow the Celebration of Life.

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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