Catharina Melehy was born Catharina Petrina Raadersma in Hengelo, an industrial city near the eastern border of the Netherlands. When she was fifteen years old the German military invaded the country, establishing an occupation that was to last five years. The Raadersma family was fortunate enough to stay together for the entirety of the war: her younger brother, Jan Raadersma, was forced to work in the local machine manufacturing company where their father, Jan Raadersma, was an engineer. An arms production center, Hengelo was a frequent target of Allied bombing missions. In 1944 the Raadersma house was destroyed; the family then moved in with two other families. During the occupation Catharina maintained close ties to the Resistance, serving briefly as a messenger.
After the war she moved to Amsterdam to study nutritional science. When she began work as a dietician, among her first clients were concentration camp survivors. In the mid-1950s, planning an academic career, she won a Kellogg Foundation fellowship for graduate study at Michigan State University. During her second year she met a young assistant professor from Egypt, Mahmoud A. Melehy, and their whirlwind courtship changed her mind about returning to the Netherlands. In the fall of 1957 they married, and in the spring of 1958, when she defended her MS thesis, she was pregnant with their first child. Omar was born that fall, shortly after their move to Connecticut, where Mahmoud began a long and rewarding career as Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Connecticut.
They had two more sons, Hassan in 1960 and Essam in 1963. The young family settled in Scotland, CT, in a house deep in the woods where the three boys played heartily. Catharina was active in town politics, serving on the School Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals; she also founded the library at Scotland Elementary School. She maintained a large vegetable garden, the source of many family dinners during summers, and took long walks in the woods with Mahmoud, the boys, and the family dogs. After about fifteen years of working as a homemaker she decided to resume her career as a dietician: she attended UConn as a non-degree-seeking graduate student in nutritional science, then worked with the elderly and mentally disabled. For nearly two decades she was chief dietician at the John Dempsey Center in Putnam, CT, until she retired in 1994.
When Mahmoud was diagnosed with a serious illness in 2006, the couple moved to a retirement community near the UConn campus in Storrs. For the next eight years she dedicated herself to his health and happiness, welcoming visits from their extended family. In 2014 Mahmoud passed away, and in 2016 she moved to Silver Spring, MD, near the home of Omar and his family. For several years she lived an energetic, happy life, eagerly awaiting the next family holiday celebration.
Earlier this year, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic prohibited the visits she cherished, her health began to deteriorate. She moved in with Omar’s family, spending her last few months in comfort and peace, frequently on the phone with Hassan and Essam. Besides Omar, Hassan of Chapel Hill, NC, and Essam of Encinitas, CA, surviving her are their wives, respectively Suvita Melehy, Dorothea Heitsch, and Holly Melehy, four grandchildren, Alexander, Andrew, Christina, and Melissa Melehy, her brother Jan Raadersma of Zierikzee, the Netherlands, a niece, Marijke Raadersma of Zierikzee, and a nephew, Onno Raadersma of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Burial will be private. When the pandemic subsides, a memorial will take place in the Willimantic-Storrs, CT area. Please send donations to either the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, 383 Main Ave., 5th floor, Norwalk, CT 06851, or the Covenant Soup Kitchen, 220 Valley St., Willimantic, CT 06226.
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