Kathryn Ross was born Kathryn Zimpher in Sebastopol, California, on December 23, 1925. Her parents were visiting her maternal grandparents, who had moved from Iowa to Sebastopol six years earlier. "I was a Christmas present my mother couldn’t refuse." She and her brother, who was born in Iowa, are 18 months apart.
In 1930, Kathryn’s parents auctioned-off the farm livestock and equipment in Iowa, and drove to Sebastopol to start over. Although not quite five years old at the time, Kathryn can "remember coming in the Chevrolet…sitting in the backseat of this car, blankets and everything…I remember sitting with wet towels 'cause it was so hot coming across that desert [through Utah]." They lived on a farm in a small, two-room house with no gas, electricity, or running water until additions and modernizations could be made.
Kathryn's father raised sweet corn, chickens, and sold eggs on the farm until he decided to develop the land for housing. During the summer, Kathryn remembers working on her own and neighbors' farms picking crops and working fruit stands. She and her brother would also sell cider to people traveling to the Russian River. Her brother made about 3000 gallons of apple cider every autumn, stuck it in the deepfreeze, and thawed it out the following summer. "We told them not to drink much at a time because it’ll go right through your system." Kathryn also enjoyed making ice cream.
Although Kathryn occasionally played tennis and badminton and was an avid dancer until recently, when arthritis made it impossible for her to continue, she was never fond of most sports. After two near drownings in the Russian River as a girl, she said “to heck with swimming!” and hasn’t looked back.
The only vacation that really sticks out in Kathryn's memory is from when she was about 11 years old. The whole family took a trip back to Iowa to visit her father's parents, especially his father, who was very ill. Other than that, the family occasionally took overnight trips to the coast, as it was only 18 miles from their home in Sebastopol.
Getting to school was not always easy for young Kathryn; the school was not close, and she walked or rode a bicycle regardless of the weather. “The first day I started to school, I was I think in Kindergarten…I got lost and started crying.” During her years in grammar school, Kathryn worked in the cafeteria at lunch, and continued as a cook through her first three years in high school. She refused to cook again her senior year, stating that she wanted to enjoy it, not be in a kitchen.
Kathryn was a senior in high school when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. "That was quite a shock that morning. My brother went into the service. There wasn’t a lot of young men, young boys in high school." Upon graduation, Kathryn attended a business machine school in San Francisco, where she learned bookkeeping and how to manage finances.
She was asked to stay on in the office, and as she worked her school fees were refunded. Kathryn also did all the bookkeeping for her father's construction business.
Kathryn and her first husband, who she met while square dancing, moved to Fairfield in 1954 to pursue her husband’s career as a dental technician. They thought he would have a better chance in smaller town, and his sister already lived here. However, Kathryn’s husband found it difficult to get started, and instead took a job with the city as a meter reader. He died in 1980.
Kathryn has enjoyed watching Fairfield develop, but says that “it’s gotten too big. The whole world has gotten so big. We’ve got people from all over the world…you don’t know all the people.” She remembers when the JC Penny’s store was downtown and, when they moved it out to Pennsylvania Street, it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, as the rest of the mall property was not developed.
After her husband’s death, Kathryn took up ballroom dancing and went to singles’ dances. She met her second husband while ballroom dancing. They were married sixteen years before he died of cancer. Kathryn now enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, who lives in Vallejo.