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Mary Catherine "Katie" Fairley

January 30, 1939 - January 21, 2014

The family of Mary C. "Kate" Fairley join together to mourn her unexpected passing from heart failure on Tuesday, January 21, 2014, and to celebrate her accomplished life. Katie was a spirited woman who successfully reinvented herself repeatedly throughout her lifetime, from avid student to devoted mother and wife to dedicated attorney and businesswoman.

Born in Huntington, PA on January 30, 1939, and raised in Altoona, PA, Katie was days away from celebrating her 75th birthday with her beloved family when she was taken so suddenly. The daughter of the late Betsy Stevens Orr and Tom Orr, Sr., she is survived by her husband Tom Fairley; her son Gene Clouse, his wife, Diane, and their children, Robert, Charlie and J.P., of Fairfax, VA; son Joe Clouse, his wife Sandy, and their children, Lindsay, John and Stephen, of Ridgefield, CT; daughter Jenny Gardiner, her husband Scott, and their children, Kyle, Kendall and Gillian, of Charlottesville, VA; and son Rob Clouse, his wife Karen, and their children Billy, Chloe and Ellie, of Roswell, GA. She also leaves behind brothers Tom and Bill Orr and sisters Helen Orr Boguszewski, Becky Orr DeHaven, Patty Orr Topley, and Jani Orr, as well as 14 nieces and nephews.

Known as Katie while growing up, Kathy while raising her children, and Kate in subsequent years, she was a student extraordinaire, never one to stray long from academic pursuit. A 1956 graduate of Altoona Catholic High School (where she never did quite see eye-to-eye with the nuns), she pursued a BA on scholarship at Seton Hill College in Greensburg, PA, ultimately obtaining her teaching degree at Pittsburgh's Carlow College when pregnant with her fourth child. She received a Masters Degree in blind and handicapped education from the University of Pittsburgh. She completed all but the dissertation in a doctorate in Curriculum and Supervision, also at the University of Pittsburgh. And finally she obtained a JD from University of Pittsburgh School of Law in the mid-80's.

She balanced her educational interests in the Pittsburgh area, while raising four children with first husband, Art Clouse in Edgewood, PA, where she was involved with activities in the Edgewood School District and frequently substitute taught (occasionally to her children's chagrin). She served on the school board for Edgewood School District and it's predecessor, Woodland Hills School District. She was also elected Edgewood Borough Councilwoman. She eventually moved to Shadyside, PA, where upon graduating from law school and passing the bar, she worked in private practice with Martin Goldhaber, then on Beazer Corporation's legal team. She married Tom Fairley in 1987, and they eventually moved to Topsail Island, NC, where she hung up her own shingle, specializing in Real Estate law, with offices in Topsail and Wilmington, NC. While there she served as the town attorney for both North Topsail Beach and the Town of Holly Ridge, and was active in local organizations, including efforts to help rehabilitate injured sea turtles. She left behind a second family of staff at her former law firm, with a group of employees who saw her as their "Mama Bear" and who said she was the kindest boss they'd ever had. Her home on the sound with the beach out her front window was a beloved sanctuary for her. She was known to brook no nonsense but was a staunch defender of those she knew and loved and often the underdog.

Several years ago, Katie and Tom retired to suburban Atlanta, in Woodstock, GA, to be closer to her youngest son and his young family. There they enjoyed special time at the YMCA, spoiling their pets and getting together with family and friends to share meals. Everyone looked forward to meals prepared by Katie.

Katie was a devoted wife, daughter, sister, mother, grandmother and mother-in-law and boss who held her family in the highest esteem. She was known to forever be a lover of fashion with her own style, and she made sure to match her clothes (the brighter the better) right down to her eyeglass case. She could often be seen tooling around town in her convertible with the roof down regardless of the temperature. She loved her coffee time together with her husband, and watching movies, listening to classical music, watching Jeopardy!, or enjoying books by each others side, their beloved cats and dogs nearby. An avid and passionate reader, Katie loved to get her hands on any and everything literary. In addition she was a gifted writer, a talented cook, a onetime wedding cake maker, a skilled seamstress, and a poet. Smart as a whip, Kate's intellectual curiosity was legendary, as was her sharp wit and love of words, all hallmarks of her outgoing personality. Her thoughtful deeds touched many lives.

Katie will be admired for her courage and pluck in the face of adversity, learning to reinvent herself when things got tough. In many ways she was before her time, confined by generational expectations in an era in which women didn't so easily forge their way into the world, yet she managed to do so nonetheless.

A memorial service will be held in her honor at 10 a.m. Saturday, February 1, 2014, at Honeycreek Woodlands Monastery, in Conyers, GA. A guestbook can be signed online through Sosebee Funeral Home.

Katie's smile, laugh and generous heart will be sorely missed.

Sosebee Funeral Home, Canton, GA
is honored to serve the family.


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Memorial Service

Saturday February 1, 2014, 10 am at Honey Creek Woodlands Monastery
Click for Map and Directions

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Born: January 30, 1939
Death: January 21, 2014
Occupation: Lawyer