Feb 5, 2024

Kathleen Anne Harris Hespelt, 87, of Flat Rock, North Carolina, died peacefully at her home on February 5, 2024. She was surrounded by her loving family.

Kathleen was born on March 23, 1936, in New York City, the daughter of the late Anne (Cronin) Harris and Matthew Breen.  She spent her childhood in Setauket, New York, on the North Shore of Long Island, and raised her family in upstate New York and Asheville, North Carolina.  She lived in Flat Rock since 1999.

A dedicated teacher, Kathleen taught elementary school for 40 years, in both New York and North Carolina, before retiring in 1998.  She served as President of the Hendersonville branch of the American Association of University Women, and was an active member of the League of Women Voters, the Henderson County Democratic Party, the Rhododendron Society of North Carolina, and Compassion & Choices.

Kathleen was an avid gardener, always carrying an empty envelope for seed collection should she come across an interesting plant or flower. She cultivated native plants before it became a trend, planting a meadow instead of grass on the slope to her home.

Kathleen was also an enthusiastic traveler, visiting over 50 countries during her lifetime, often accompanied by her great friends Rena Austin of Cambridge, New York and the late Carol Meehan of Asheville. Travel highlights included trips to Australia and New Zealand, a hot air balloon ride over the pyramids of Egypt to celebrate her 70th birthday, and a 3-month trip across Alaska. Every trip was documented in a scrap book and in pictures on the walls of her home.

Kathleen was a famous raconteur, regaling all with stories about whatever she was reading, her trips, her childhood, and funny anecdotes about what had recently happened to her, with herself most often the butt of the joke.

In addition to her parents, Kathleen was preceded in death by her brother, David Harris; her niece, Whitney Harris; and her grandchildren, Jordan and Christopher Hespelt.

Those left to cherish her loving memory are her children; son, Douglas of Flat Rock; son, Steven and wife, Jacqueline of Sparta, New Jersey; daughter, Suzanne Meyers and husband Mark of Bluffton, South Carolina; daughter, Karen Baker of Fletcher; and son, Paul of Flat Rock; four grandchildren, Brent Baker, Kevin Holmes, Mathew Hespelt, and Melissa Hespelt; two great-grandsons, Huxley and Grayson; and numerous nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Kathleen’s life will be held at 1:00 pm Saturday, March 23, 2024 in The Chapel in The Pines of Jackson Funeral Services in Hendersonville.  Her family gives deepest thanks to MountainCare and Four Seasons Hospice.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to MountainCare, PO BOX 5956, Asheville, NC, 28813, 828-277-3399, https://mountaincareservices.org/donate/.

The family has entrusted Jackson Funeral Service of Hendersonville, North Carolina with the arrangements.