Australian contacts Cadiz family after 61 years
by Hawkins Teague
Jul 24, 2007 | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Katherine “Kitty” (Bowton) Gurski and her sister Ata in an undated photo.  Kitty left Australia in 1946 married to an American G.I.
Katherine “Kitty” (Bowton) Gurski and her sister Ata in an undated photo. Kitty left Australia in 1946 married to an American G.I.
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Katherine “Kitty” Gurski’s granddaughter Shelly Oliver and Great Granddaughter Jessica Perry.  Jessica’s middle name is Katherine in honor of her great grandmother.
Katherine “Kitty” Gurski’s granddaughter Shelly Oliver and Great Granddaughter Jessica Perry. Jessica’s middle name is Katherine in honor of her great grandmother.
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When people think of family reunions, images of fried chicken picnics, and seeing second cousins from across the country may come to mind. What if a family member left the home country 61 years ago as a war bride to start a new life in the United States? Boyd Rich of Queensland, Australia sent the Cadiz Record an Email on July 16 in search of information of his aunt, a war bride named Katherine Bowton. Rich is the son of Esme Elsie Ata Bowton.

According to Rich, his aunt married an American soldier named Charles R. Wallar and moved into Peoria, Ill. after leaving Australia. At some point, she divorced Wallar and married Chester Gurski. Rich said that he believed his aunt passed away on January 17, 2002, in Cadiz.

The Cadiz Record searched its archives and found an obituary for Katherine Gurski. Survivors’ names in the obituary were crosschecked with local telephone listings, and the information relayed to Rich in a response.

The next day, Rich wrote back, happy to have found his aunt’s daughter-in-law, Joan Steinwachs. “It is quite amazing to thing that when Joan and I both got out of bed yesterday, that some hours later, we would be making contact from one side of the world to the other discussing a person who we have been looking for many years, related to both of us and left Australia in 1946 for the USA, never to return to Australia.”

Steinwachs, previously married to Katherine “Kitty” Gurski’s late son Richard, arranged for her mother-in-law to live her final years in Cadiz. In life, Gurski worked as a foreman for the Skil Power Tool Company.

Steinwachs said that she married Gurski’s only son, raising three children with him. She has added five of her grandchildren to Kitty Gurski’s growing American family.

“I used to call her ‘Annie Oakley,’ because she was a formidable woman,” said Steinwachs. “I was never her daughter-in-law, but her daughter. I marred the boy-next-door in 1966,” said Steinwachs. “She used to tell me stories of life in Australia. Her family owned what they called a station, but we would call a ranch. It took a two-day ride by horse to get from her house to her grandmothers, and she had to sleep outside, with a gun next to her for protection. She was a phenomenal woman.”

Gurski’s granddaughter Shelly Oliver said, “She was one of the strongest-or the strongest woman I have known through my life. The way she was raised to live off the land in the middle of nowhere leaves me in awe. When she was 70-something, after she retired, two men attempted to mug her and steal her car. She was fierce.”

Oliver’s daughter, and Gurski’s great-granddaughter Jessica Perry said, “I remember once she said she was in a boat or a raft shooting sharks with a shotgun. She had a sophisticated way to her.”

For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.
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