Project Talent Blog

“Life was very different back then.”

The Douglas High School band with Kathy Boyd on clarinet.

Kathy Berry liked growing up in Douglas, Arizona. “It was a nice, quiet little town. . .I thought it was a good place to grow up.” An only child born to a freight conductor and housewife, Kathy spent her childhood days playing with the local kids, studying dance, and actively participating in school life.

At Douglas High School, Kathy worked on the school newspaper and on the yearbook and in the school store and played clarinet in the school band. Academically, Kathy excelled at math, although she had few ideas about where this could lead her professionally. “At that point, if you didn’t know what it was you wanted to do, a girl my age was told you should be a teacher or a nurse,” she says. Neither of these professions appealed to her at the time and, after graduating from Douglas High School in 1961 and without a specific career in mind, Kathy moved to Tucson to study mathematics at the University of Arizona.

Douglas High School, Douglas, Arizona

In her classes Kathy recalls how outnumbered the girls were. In trigonometry, she says, “I was the only girl in the class. . .and the teacher always referred to me as Mr. Boyd.” He just wasn’t accustomed to teaching a female student. After a year at University of Arizona, she was still unsure of the right career path for her. She left university and headed to business school to study typing, shorthand and bookkeeping.

With her new business skills, Kathy worked in the office of F. Ronstadt Hardware, a hardware store that sold equipment to farmers. One of her duties included switchboard relief. “They had the old-fashioned switchboards,” she says. “You had all these wires going every direction. Life was very different back then.”

Years later, while on an airplane heading home from San Francisco, Kathy had a change of heart regarding her career. “I always claimed it was a lack of oxygen to my brain,” Kathy jokes. “I swear the plane was inadequately pressurized because I’m sitting on the plane thinking to myself ‘when I get home I’m going to register in a nursing program.’” Kathy received her associate degree from Pima Community College and went on to work as a registered nurse in a neo-natal intensive care unit for 25 years!

How does life compare today to when Kathy was a kid? “Life in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s seemed simpler and slower than today,” she says. “The rapid technological advances are amazing and in some cases almost overwhelming. . .smartphones are a wonder in themselves.” With her smartphone, Kathy enjoys being able to look things up, find articles to read and podcasts to listen to, and just delve into any subject she finds interesting.

Today, Kathy and her husband of 54 years, Bob, live on a “family compound” with nine other family members, including their son, daughter-in-law and five grandchildren, ages seven to 20. She keeps in touch with many of her high school friends, and she gets to see her grandkids every day. In the 57 years that Kathy has resided in Tucson, she says it has “grown immensely.” To some it might not seem like a big city, but to a longtime resident like Kathy, “It’s amazing how spread out Tucson has become.”

So what advice does Kathy have for the rest of us? Reflecting on her winding career path, she says “it’s good if you have a fallback plan but it doesn’t mean that that’s what you have to do.” And in terms of living a happy life, she says to “know yourself. . .I’m working on it!”

Back to Our Blog

By Brianna Ellis
December 20, 2018

Share |