Making a Difference: Kate Kerlin, Bay Village Garden Club member
A series of articles that aims to inspire readers to take the risk to try something new, see the positive in life, and recognize that everyday people can make a difference by following their passions.
Inspirational people are all around us. In fact, they could be right in your own back yard. Meet my neighbor, Kate Kerlin.
“I wake up happy every morning. I know that’s a blessing,” says Kate, a Bay Village newcomer. Growing up third of nine children, living in a 1,300-square-foot Parma bungalow, life could have been perceived as chaotic. Yet, Kate says, “It was such a loving place to be. I felt blessed to be raised in a family with so much support.”
Kate’s cheerful, of-service attitude is inspiring because Kate was not dealt an easy hand. At age 41, Kate’s beloved husband passed away 42 days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, requiring Kate to re-career to provide for her children, ages 12 to 21. Despite tragedy, Kate’s goal was not to survive but to thrive.
Kate began classes at Tri-C. “I was a Teacher’s Aide, so I thought I’d become a teacher. I realized that would not afford my children to go to the colleges of their choice,” says Kate. She switched to real estate courses, passing her licensing test in 1999. Kate joined a Century 21 office in Parma, quickly earning “Rookie of the Year.” She stayed a top producer every year of her 20-year career.
“I had blinders on – all I did was real estate, putting money in the bank for college. There were some scary times when you are the sole breadwinner!” says Kate. In 2014, her son-in-law, Dave Breslin, joined her and they worked side-by-side for the next five years to continue growing the business.
I asked, “How did you cope?” Kate replied, “The dear Lord took Jim away and I knew He was going to provide for me. I got up every morning ready, willing and able to work with what I was presented. I put it in the Lord’s hand. I learned early in life that I am not in charge, but someone grander than me was. I just always prayed.”
Through Kate’s hard work and dedication, she was able to send her girls to Bowling Green State University, Drexel University, Boston University and New York University.
I asked Kate what inspired her to venture from Parma to Bay Village in 2015. “My daughter, Jess Breslin, is the Branch Manager of the Bay Village Library. When I helped her with philanthropic activities for the library, I enjoyed the energy of the community,” says Kate. “Bay Village reminded me of when I was a child, my family would pack up and go to Huntington Beach. They were my favorite days of the summer,” Kate adds. Kate also wanted an active community. “Bay Village streets are crowded with walkers!” she laughs.
Kate has completely transformed her dated 1955 brick ranch into a warm, inviting home. “When I first moved in and was painting my front door, a couple walking by complimented me on my door color. I replied, ‘I wish I could finish it but I don’t have a ladder tall enough.’ Five minutes later, the gentleman came back with a ladder! I thought, ‘I moved to Mayberry, R.F.D.!’ I knew I was in the right place.”
In January, Kate was so excited to hand over the reins of her business to her son-in-law and retire to a world of play, travel and meeting new people. Then Covid-19 hit. Once again, not the plan. Did she complain? No. Instead, she looked for ways to make a difference. She consistently offered her service to neighbors – shoveling five driveways during a snowstorm, pruning bushes, dropping off food and rotating “Don’t Give Up” yard signs throughout our neighborhood. “If I see something that needs done, I do it,” says Kate.
One day, Kate was walking by the BAYarts gardens and noticed they needed weeding. “I spoke with my neighbor who works at BAYarts to inquire. She introduced me to the Bay Village Garden Club and gave me permission to do what I wanted in the gardens. I weeded, threw in some extra plants I had in my garden and worked with the amazing Garden Club women to clean up the gardens,” explains Kate. “It’s the little things you do on a daily basis with a smile on your face that gets you through life.”
Kate’s most recent addition to her home is a front patio. “I just love it when people walk by and stop and chat,” says Kate. “I am just fine making someone else’s day a little brighter.”
May we all be inspired by Kate’s motto.
Resident of Bay Village since 1987.