Cover photo for Catherine Elaine Riehn's Obituary
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Catherine Elaine Riehn

November 23, 1947 — January 7, 2024

Catherine Elaine Riehn

Catherine Elaine Riehn 

 “I love you, a bushel and a peck, A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck …”

Doris Day may have made that song famous, but Cathy Riehn made it ours. She sang it to her granddaughters often when they were young, every word a reflection of her love, every note - even those that were slightly off-key - a tinkling reminder of the light, love, and happiness that Cathy bestowed upon every person lucky enough to know her.

Catherine Elaine Fink arrived, a beautiful baby, a sometimes-spoiled third child born to love and be loved, on November 23, 1947, filling out Neil and Anna Belle Fink’s family of five. She left this world, after a battle with dementia and successive strokes, on January 7, 2024, still a beautiful soul, and still surrounded by love.

A natural beauty with sea green eyes - a trait passed down to her son, Chris, and granddaughter, Ashley - and strawberry blonde hair, she was, in the words of her older sister, Barbara, “The cutest child I have ever seen in my entire life.”

Anna Belle Fink had her own unique sense of style, always well made-up, hair dyed red (that should sound familiar), fancy blouse tucked into a pair of long slacks, and she loved to dress up her baby daughter.

Berets, saddle shoes, frilly dresses - from the beginning, Cathy was dressed to the nines. She loved playing with dolls, dressing them up, accessorizing with itty bitty shoes, and people often looked at the littlest Fink sister as a doll herself.

Cathy’s older siblings, Barbara and Neil (Jr.), loved the outdoors. Neil was an Eagle Scout, and Barbara was crazy about horses. But Cathy, well, “she wasn’t like we were,” laughs Barbara.

Neil took flying lessons and learned to shoot a rifle. Barbara loved working with horses and was always going out to ride. Cathy got handed down a lot of beautiful equestrian equipment - “all the stuff I wish I could have had when I was younger!” - Barbara laments, but Cathy didn’t much care for riding. Horses, after all, demand a certain tolerance for getting dirty. And that was not going to work for Cathy.

Growing up in Arlington, Virginia, the Fink home was often full of animals - cats, birds, rabbits, chicken, hamsters. Neil (Sr.) surprised the family one night when he came home with a Great Dane. That may have raised Anna Belle’s ire a bit, but nothing like the time that Barbara showed up with a mouse on her shoulder. She had bought the rodent for 25 cents at school, and thought it was “darling,” but her mother stopped Barbara at the door and said, “You’re not coming in my house with that thing!”

Neil was particularly fond of cats. Barbara loved anything with four legs and fur or feathers. And while Cathy often did have pets throughout her life, and nurtured a sincere love of dogs in particular, she did so in a way that kept even the most unruly of canines in check. Nero was a 120 pound Rottweiler - bigger than Cathy herself - that could drool with the best of them and that once chewed through the legs of several antique chairs. But you would never see wisps of black and tan hair sticking to the carpet or suspect that a huge hulking dog was wreaking havoc on the household, because Cathy was always there to clean up the mess.

This is a woman, after all, who actually liked to clean. She came to live with her son, Chris, when he and his wife, Jenn, had their first child. And even with a newborn and three (yes - three!) big dogs all under one roof, their house was never cleaner. She even got a vacuum cleaner for Christmas one year, and was genuinely happy about it!

Cathy was always tiny, never topping five feet unless she wore a particularly high heel. And Lord, could she dress! She never much cared for her mother’s particular sense of style, but Cathy was quick to develop her own fashion sense and certainly inherited Annabelle’s love of clothing. And shopping.

You have never seen a wardrobe like the one Cathy collected over the years. When she moved to Georgia, and eventually into assisted living, there was a seemingly never-ending supply of boxes (and boxes and boxes) filled with neatly folded clothes, purses, belts, jewelry, and shoes. Cathy spent several years working as a sales associate at Talbots - where she laughingly complained about the old ladies who would pass gas in the dressing rooms - and there is no doubt that the amount she spent on Talbots clothes for herself far exceeded that which she earned selling them to others.

Cathy’s first line of work was as a secretary in Washington, DC. She worked in the Department of Justice, for the law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson - where she brushed elbows with the likes of Sargent Shriver and his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver - and for Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas.

At the time, the legal drinking age in Washington, DC, was 18. In 1966, Cathy was out at a DC bar called “The Campus Club,” where she met a young German who was fairly new to the country and who was immediately smitten. Cathy was cute, bubbly, and, before long, she, too, was in love. On September 23, 1967, two months shy of her 20th birthday, Cathy married Thomas Riehn at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia. Though neither Tom nor Cathy much liked to dance, they both loved Sonny and Cher’s iconic duet, “I Got You Babe.”

Cathy became a mother when Chris came along in 1974, and again with Marisa in 1980. She was tender and loving, and doted upon her children. Cathy was the one sitting in the stands for all of Chris’s tennis lessons and matches, and traveling all around the country for Marisa’s skating competitions. There wasn’t anything Cathy would not do for her children, and she loved to make them happy.  Trips to McDonald’s,Toys R Us, Walt Disney World over the summer. A day of skipping school so 8-year-old Chris could go see “Return of the Jedi.” Rooms filled with Star Wars figures, Transformers, Steiff stuffed animals, American Girl dolls, Care Bears and Cabbage Patch Kids. 

But don’t be fooled; as both Chris and Marisa can attest - especially when they were fighting with one another - there was a pretty feisty temper inside that pretty little woman! One time when Chris and his friend were late to meet Cathy at the mall, Cathy let them both have it - loud enough for everyone around them to hear - and she didn’t spare the curse words.

Both kids, like their mother, were always well-dressed. Once, when Cathy brought the children to visit their Aunt Barbara, and Chris was about 7 years old, Barbara told him that she thought he was the best-dressed kid in his class. He agreed.

Cathy’s generosity was always bigger than her pocketbook - and she had plenty of those - but when it came to spoiling the ones she loved, she just couldn’t help herself. Of course, she adored her two granddaughters, Ashley and Madison, and the feeling was mutual. Living close by, and sometimes in the same house, Cathy cared for them and got to share so many special moments. She kept all of their cards and drawings, sometimes sticking them up on her wall or refrigerator, and was so proud to share any of their pictures and accomplishments with all whom she met.

Cathy wasn’t much one for cooking, but she loved her ice cream, and McDonald’s, and meals together with family at Chris’s house. After a visit with Barbara, where her sister would make her famous apple pie, Cathy would take home the leftovers, then call Barbara the next day and say, “Guess what I had for breakfast? Pie!” 

That was Cathy. Add in a glass of Clos du Bois chardonnay, a manicure, a Coach bag, a trip to Talbots and a “hug around the neck” from one of her grandchildren, and you’d have a pretty perfect Cathy day.

Even in her final days, confined to a wheelchair, her signature red hair fading into gray and her words coming only in single syllables, you could still feel her emotions through her eyes. Those beautiful green eyes that often sparkled with laughter, that had always been lined and shaded to perfection, that could still light up a room. The wonderful people at The Phoenix, who loved and cared for Cathy as her health declined, often called out to her, “Hey, beautiful.” Cathy took pains to make herself beautiful throughout her life. She was, as Barbara noted, always well put together and extremely well-dressed. But even when all of that was taken away, her true beauty continued to shine through.

Cathy was preceded in death by her older brother, Neil. She leaves behind her sister, Barbara; her son, Chris, and his family - wife, Jenn, daughters, Ashley and Madison; and her daughter, Marisa. 

Cathy’s family will hold a Celebration of Life on January 27 at Chris’s home in Cumming, GA, from 4-6 pm. All family and friends are welcome to attend. Inquiries may be directed to Ingram Funeral Home. 


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