Kathleen Brekke

Born: Mission San Jose on 02 August 1921

Passed away: Oakland on 19 June 2016

Aged: 94 years

Funeral Date: 24 June 2016

Service Details

The vigil will be on Thursday, June 23 at 7 pm and a memorial mass will be held on Friday, June 24 at 10:30 am. Both services will be at Our Lady of Lourdes Church (2808 Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland). In lieu of flowers, please give to one of the following organizations that serve the Oakland community: Saint Mary's Center, Native American Health Center, Studio One Art Center, Camps in Common or the Mills College School of Nursing.

The Story

A second-generation Californian and matriarch of the Brekke family, Kathleen passed away peacefully in Oakland, CA on June 19, 2016. Kathleen continues to be cherished by her beloved husband John and a host of proud children, grandchildren and even a great-grandchild who will continue to hold up her memory. They are:

Robert and Lisa, Ingrid; Johanna and Steve, Jonas, Lara and John; Katrina and Paul, Lukas and Karina, Sean; Daniel and Bonnie, Jonathan (deceased), Ryan, McKayla, Keenan; Ann and David, Matthew and Sheila, Andrew, Kathleen, Brendan and granddaughter Aylie; Kristofer and Amy, Isabel, Grace; Shawna and Don, Nicholas, Dillon; Regina and Encarnacion, Maciej, Kasia.

Kathleen grew up in Sonoma County as one of 13 children born to Robert and Rena McKay. She became a Registered Nurse at Providence Hospital in Oakland and later served as an RN in the Army during World War II.

It was during her military service that Kathleen met John Brekke on a blind date that wasn’t intended for her. She saw a tall handsome man across the room and decided then and there that John would be her husband. And so it was. Kathleen and John would marry, build a house, and own and operate Brekke’s Cafeteria in East Oakland for 22 years. She was a compassionate supporter of the underdog and passed on to her children and grandchildren a strong belief in family, community, and justice.

Even the most beautiful journeys must come to an end and as Kathleen transitions to ancestor, her family carries forward her legacy, love and light.
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"A Requiem for Kate"

Nothing reveals the body as vessel quite like death
When shallow breaths evaporate
and that twinkle shoots across the sky of your eyes
And disappears into the darkness of your infinity

I can still see your silhouette dancing on the veranda with grandpa
Or maybe you’re chasing children
Or tip-toeing along Pacific crests with your sisters
Or maybe you’re still here floating in the corners like Kenwood herbs
Smiling down as we gather and storytell
Laugh for levity
Drink to toast

Go gracefully old Kate
You are an ancestor now

Your spirit still feels of Happy Hour at Feather River
But your fingers are cooling now
like twisted branches washed upon the Dillon shore
Sculptor hands
Brick. oak. dough. flesh.

You crafted amazing works of art you called children
Named them with sounds
Blessed them with stories
Showed them ropes and hard work and love

Hoisted grand babies into your arms and laughed
Your art. Your kin. Rekindled and remade
And we will beget more in your memory.

Us grandkids have only witnessed your final chapters
We but footnotes in your story
Moons of distant planets
All of us orbiting you
(Seems somehow fitting that the moon is full tonight as you move toward Neptune)

But we are your crescendo too
Your banner men and torch bearers
Your legacy incarnate

Surrounding your bed
Holding your hand firm and your spirit aloft
Carrying you forward

All will know the gospel of your life through our love, our work, and our joy
They will know your stories and know your greatness through ours
Because no man or woman stands alone
Nobody is self-made outright
We are built brick by brick
Tempered, mixed and molded
Baked in the sun and laid to cool as you are now
Mortared by lessons and laid with purpose

You there with the mason hands
You made us possible

Thank you for everything, grandma
For always making your table longer and stretching food further
For being both generous matriarch and coupon queen
And for understanding that the latter enabled the former

Thank you for being both maker and caretaker
Cashier and culture keeper
Thank you for vodka tonics and gin rummy schoolings
For baseball cheering and rascal scoldings

For being the sacred to my profane
And the ember to our flames

We strive to live on with your zen
And to love as you did
With bounty and grace.


The Brekke Family


‌I was not fortunate to have met Kathleen, but knowing some of her incredibly wonderful family has helped me to understand what an amazing woman she must have been. Treasure all the wonderful memories; I know she will be missed. My love and sympathy goes out to John and the entire family. Hold onto each other with the love that is so much defines the Brekke family.
Paula ‌

Paula Radecki


I always remember Gramps and Grams would waltz with each other to this song up at camp. It was one of the ones, in their later years that they would dance t. Many couples would sit and just watch Grandma and Grandpa waltz together. It was one of the many ways they continued their great romance.

Grace Vaughan Brekke shared a video.


I have been blest to have witnessed and experienced the love of John, Kate and the rest of the extended Brekke clan for more than 50 years. John and Kate experienced 70 years together in a loving committed marriage. Kate may have been pint size but she filled the room with her laughter, style and zest for life. I vividly remember her facial expressions as she engaged you in conversation truly interested in what you were doing with your life. I cherish this picture because it captured John, Kate and myself sharing one more laugh and hug while catching up. God blest Kate with a long life and she took full advantage raising a wonderful family and sharing her love with us. We celebrate you and thank you Kate. Love to all.Debbie, Monte, Benji, Dusty & Chloe'.

debbie canning shared a photo.


We met Kate and John about 20 years ago while we were all sitting at tiny desks and chairs in a classroom at Redwood Heights School. It was Back-to-School night. As the years passed the time they spent in each classroom got shorter but the number of rooms they sat in increased. Both Kate and John were (and John still is) very involved with their Grandchildren's lives, attuned to what they were involved in and who their friends were. The same is true for their own children, participating whenever possible in all sorts of activities. I will never forget Kate saying at a political fund raiser; "my children's hobbies are my passion". Wow! Thanks for sharing the love. We will cherish our memories of you.

Zeva Jeff shared a photo.


Ingrid Brekke shared a photo.


We'll never forget the beautiful celebration of Kathleen and John's 70th wedding anniversary

The Brekke Family shared a photo.


The Brekke Family shared a photo.


‌Kathleen, we feel the pain of your absence yet also the awe of the 94 years you have given to your family, community, and the universe.‌

The Brekke Family


The Brekke Family shared a video.