News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Kate Aspen Catherine Janicki, January 13, 1956 — February 13, 2021

“A Life that touches others goes on forever.”

Kate passed away peacefully the evening of February 13, 2021 with her loving family by her side and the thoughts and prayers of her many friends going with her.

How many words can you think of to describe Kate? A few that come to mind are supportive, thoughtful, generous, a real pal, confidant, giving, kind, big-hearted, sympathetic, helpful, beautiful and a born seeker. She would just laugh at these words and would probably say, “Oh, I am just who I am!”

She was born Catherine Beal, with a twin brother Rod, and she had two younger sisters, Carol and Patti Jo. She married Harry Janicki in 1991, and they had a daughter, Nicole. Nicole and Greg Gehring gave Kate and Harry two wonderful grandsons they adored, Thor and Oden Gehring-Scagliotti. It would be remiss not to mention her beloved dog, Dixie.

One day, in 1987, hand-painting one of her famously beautiful gourds that found their way into prestigious art galleries and museums, she was thinking about her favorite tree, the Aspen —and presto! Kate changed her name to suit who she really felt she was — an artist and a cowgirl — Kate Aspen. With her long, flaming red hair, high cheekbones, and eyes that sparkled, she was a beautiful woman and she was loved by so many!

She took a deep breath and submitted one of her painted gourds to the Birds in Art Show in 2001, held at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. To no one’s surprise, she was accepted. She said, “All the ‘big dogs’ were there! To me, they were like movie stars!”

Kate sewed and painted the scenes on the famous teepees made by Nomadic Tipi Makers located in Tumalo. She said that was one of her “best jobs.” Those large canvases were a work of art, and a true depiction of the symbols, colors, and legends of the Native American.

Asked what things she loved, she replied that she loved riding motorcycles with Harry. They roared their way to Utah, Joseph, Oregon, and the Coast. She loved haunting antique and junk stores and pawn shops. She especially loved going to the Oregon Coast. But what she loved most of all was her family.

She was a true artist at designing and making jewelry. She opened a bead shop in Sisters 17 years ago and imported rare and beautiful trade beads, which she turned into stunning and now collectible pieces of jewelry. She studied books about Native American Jewelry, especially turquoise and silver. She was largely self-taught and quickly became familiar with those artisans past and present, as well as the mines that beautiful stone comes from, many now closed.

Branching out, Kate realizing there was no resale for quality Western Wear. Cowgirls and Indians Resale was born, selling designer clothing at a competitive cost, as well as turquoise jewelry and art.

She made many, many friends who loved stopping by, sitting on the large leather couch and talking with her. She hosted book signings and other gatherings. She was always ready for a chat. Many of us can still hear her greeting, “Hi there...”

She felt her greatest achievement was being accepted into the prestigious C.M. Russell Art Week in Great Falls, Montana, 12 years ago, with the first of what became her “Red Necklace Series.” Rare African Red Hearts trade beads, interspersed with silver charms or turquoise and always with a “theme,” these necklaces were a source of hot bidding by the collectors.

She had an “auxiliary Cowgirls & Indians shop” in Montana during the Russell show and made even more friends with the women who shopped her beautiful Western Designer clothes and jewelry.

Always busy, she finished the last of the Red Necklace Series called “Cracker Jacks Last Ride.” The Russell Museum accepted it for the auction and art show this coming Fall.

Kate will be there in spirit, you can bet on that.

Kate knew that life can change in a split second. She said, ”I feel I have lived a full life and I hope I’ve left a small mark on earth.”

One of her friends, and there are many, said, “Kate is the most giving person in the world.” Her generosity was legendary. She would literally give you the shirt off her back, as many can attest.

Kate’s life, so very well lived for herself, her family, as well as those lucky enough to be in her ever-growing circle, will go forward. Her faith in God was strong. She was especially fond of two sayings from the old-time cowgirls in the rodeo. When they went into the arena to mount a bucking bronc, a friend would always go with the rider. Just before the horse was turned loose, the friend would grip the rider’s knee and say, “Don’t weaken.” Kate never did.

But “Let ‘er Buck” was her favorite motto and she lived by it.

There will be a celebration of her life at a later time. Her family suggests that you donate to Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance at in Kate Aspen’s name.

It is said that when a cowgirl dies and goes to Heaven, she does not get a halo. Instead, she gets a big sterling silver trophy belt buckle with her name engraved it. It is by no stretch of the imagination that Kate’s buckle is being made by all the Navajo artisans she so admired and the engraving says, “Champion of all.”


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