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Founder of Peterborough’s Kids Together passes at 75

  • Kathy Mottau of Lyndeborough, with her husband, Ed Mottau.  Courtesy photos

  • Kathy Mottau of Lyndeborough, who started the Peterborough drop-in center Kids Together, died at home on Friday, shortly after her diagnosis of lung cancer. Courtesy photo



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, December 19, 2018 4:41PM

For twenty years, Kathy Mottau of Lyndeborough provided a safe place for children to go.

Mottau, one of the founders of Kids Together, a drop-in program for elementary and middle-school children in Peterborough, died on Dec. 14, a few weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Mottau and her husband, Ed Mottau, moved to Lyndeborough in 1973 from New York City. The two had known each other since they were children, and were high school sweethearts who had been married for 55 years this month.

Mottau led Kids Together, a no-fee drop-in center that ran under the nonprofit The Place to Go on Concord Street in Peterborough.

“Her whole philosophy was about love and service,” Mottau’s daughter, Christine Mottau of New York City, New York, said in an interview Tuesday. 

“She was just the kindest and most caring person,” said Mottau’s husband, Ed. “She passed very peacefully and very suddenly. We were in absolute shock.”

When she originally conceived Kids Together, Christine said, Mottau wanted to give children who were most at-risk a safe place to spend their afternoons. In many ways, she filled the gaps – she had nurses come in to talk about hygiene, police and fire officers to talk about safety, and at providing at least one healthy meal.

But she also fed their souls, Christine said.

Mottau was an avid volunteer herself, giving her time over the years to the food bank, a girl’s shelter in Antrim, the Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter, and the women’s prison in Marlborough. She brought that philosophy of service to Kids Together, who were always, as a group, involved in some service project. They helped to put on community dinners, raked leaved on Main Street in the fall and visited the elderly.

“Her life was dedicated to helping improve the conditions of the neediest and most disenfranchised,” Christine said. “She brought that philosophy to everything she did, because the love in her own life.”

Christine said her mother often said that because she had an “abundance of love, more than most people have,” she felt it was her duty to share it. And the children she cared for responded to that, Christine said.

Mottau made sure the children at Kids Together had what they needed, while maintaining their dignity, Christine said. There was one child who came to the program wearing his mother’s hand-me-down clothes, because he couldn’t afford any of his own. Mottau held a raffle drawing for a $500 Old Navy gift card that had been donated, and made sure the child most in need was the “winner.”

“Of course, there was no donor. There was no gift card,” Christine said. “She just took this kid shopping and bought him a wardrobe. She was just exceedingly generous of spirit,” Christine said.

While much of what she did was behind the scenes, there are those who grew up in her program that have acknowledged how deeply Mottau impacted them. 

“I’ve run into kids – adults now – who’ve said, ‘Your mother changed my life,’ or ‘Your mother saved me,’” Christine said. “That’s where her heart was.”

Kids Together closed in 2017, but Mottau didn’t stay “retired” for long, Christine said. After a summer off, she started volunteering at the J. A. Tarbell Library in Lyndeborough, and eventually began working there part-time. 

At the end of November, the family got a shock when she was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. It was especially shocking, Christine said, because her mother was a healthy person whose hobbies included running and yoga, who ate organic food and avoided sugar and gluten.

“She was the picture of health,” Christine said. “We were absolutely floored. It was mind-blowing.”

Mottau died two weeks after her diagnosis, in her home, with her family around her.

“She had no unfinished business, she was not afraid, and she died as she lived, with a lot of acceptance, a lot of faith and a lot of love,” Christine said.

Mottau will be honored during a celebration of her life at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Jan. 5 at 1 p.m., followed by a reception. Her family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.