Mrs. Lona (Leonora Cataldo) Kiser

Obituary for Mrs. Lona (Leonora Cataldo) Kiser

January 27, 1925 - January 17, 2016
Mesa, Arizona | Age 90

Loving Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, Sister and Aunt

Obituary

Grace and Selflessness… if you were to look up these two words in the dictionary, you would learn much about our beloved mom, Lona Kiser.
She was born, Leonora Florence Cataldo, January 27, 1925, in Chicago, Illinois, youngest girl of seven children born to Italian immigrants, Isaiah and Sophie Cataldo. Leonora was gifted with an angelic, but powerful singing talent which launched her career at the young age of 15, when she took on the stage name of Lona Stevens. She traveled across the country with Bob Strong's Big Band, performed with Benny Goodman, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Peggy Lee, and was a regular radio talent, pre-television. She performed for our U.S. Military troops and was a pin-up girl for the USO. Traveling as a young teen left her homesick, and she settled back home where she sang her regular gig at The Glass Hat in Chicago's most prestigious Congress Hotel.
While singing there, she met our father, song writer and record producer, Abner Spector, whom she married in 1949. They had four children, Ida Lynn, Sherwin, David, and Lauralyn. She left her career behind in 1950, when Ida Lynn was born, and did not return to it until twenty years later when she found herself raising us all on her own.
In 1969, Mom and Dad divorced, Dad moved to California, Mom found her voice and the stage again, but this time she was looking to support her children, the only way she knew how. It wasn't long before the new and improved Lona Stevens found herself on a roll in the south suburban night clubs of Chicago. Booking Lona Stevens and a Touch of Class meant standing room only; Lona was the ultimate entertainer. She dearly loved mingling in between sets with her faithful fans and followers who soon became her friends. She played regular gigs in upscale hotel lounges and clubs for the next 23 years, most of them in the south suburbs of Chicago, where she had to drive an hour or more each way, sometimes in crazy Chicago winter weather, and sung until the wee hours of the morning. She'd come home, check on us asleep in our beds, shower off the cigarette smoke, sleep for 4 hours, wake up to make us breakfast and pack our lunches (lunches more hearty than those made by the stay-at-home-moms of my classmates). She made the most magical Christmases for us, cooked amazing dinners like only a devoted loving Italian mama can, tended to every boo-boo, taught us our manners and values, prayed for us, and remained our encouraging, supportive biggest and most loyal fan of our lives.
She wrapped her life around her children and grandchildren, forfeiting any time for friends of her own. I honored this incredible woman every Mother's Day and every Father's Day too, as she was both my Mom and my Dad for most of my life. Her strength and determination to provide for us all is still astonishing to me to this day. How she wore so many hats without complaint, and always found reasons to fill our home with laughter and the smell of something yummy cooking… and then to cherish her grandchildren in the same manner… I just don't know how she did that, seemingly effortlessly.
She walked me down the aisle to marry my husband; she was there to help me care for my babies. My mama was all of 110 lbs. of pure WonderWoman. Her heart broke and she never truly recovered when she lost her first-born son, Sherwin, 23 years ago. She carried on for all our sakes, for the love of her three surviving children, and all her grandchildren, but the hole in her heart remained. This is a woman who gave more to others than anyone else I know, exemplifying unparalleled selflessness, and whose electric smile, vivacious energy, vibrant voice, and infectious laughter hid her heartache from the world, demonstrating grace like none other.
How unjust it was that such a giant of a soul's mind and body would succumb to the horror of the most wicked condition of all, Alzheimer's Disease. Its wretchedness stole her physical abilities, robbing her of her voice and her legs… no more singing, no more dancing, no more filling our ears with her joyous laughter, and often no certainty that her sweetness to us was because she even knew who we were. We treasured those infrequent and short-lived exchanges of lucidity when she was all there; her tender touch, "I love yous", clearly spoken words, exacting facial expressions, and body language. This independent pillar of strength, now frail, weak, and dependent on others to care for her, still had so much life and light in her eyes, her face, and occasional words. Her many caregivers expressed how loved she made them feel. Somehow, even through her own suffering, her spirit still shone selflessly and gracefully, the God in her eyes still lovingly impacting those near to her, with her unforgettable gentle strength.
Her precious soul was reunited with her son, Sherwin, just 10 days shy of what would be her 91st birthday. No more suffering, restlessness, worry or heartache…. traded in for the Lord's peace, safely home in heaven at last. What grand rewards must await her there. Rest mama rest… watch over us… oh how dearly you will be missed… until we too are all reunited. Dear Lord, hold her so close eternally.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to LEEZA'S CARE CONNECTION, in Lona's honor.
http://www.leezascareconnection.org/make-a-donation-now/
This organization's mission is to prepare Alzheimer's Disease caregivers for an ever-changing life by providing innovative self-care and wellness programs and resources free of charge.

Suggested Memorial Donations

  • The family requests in lieu of flowers, donations be made to LEEZA'S CARE CONNECTION, in loving memory of Lona Kiser. Their mission is to prepare caregivers for an ever-changing life by providing innovative self-care and wellness programs and resources fr
  • Leeza's Care Connection
    9903 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 180
    Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Message from the Family

We thank you greatly for your support during this difficult time. Hug your loved ones a little tighter and speak a little sweeter.
You are welcomed to enhance this tribute to Lona by adding your personal memories, and photos too if you wish.