A farewell to one of the college’s best, Kathee Natole

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Kathee Natole will retire on July 1. Natole, who worked at Union for over 30 years, will leave behind great memories and fond times. (Courtsey of Erin Wade)
Kathee Natole will retire on July 1. Natole, who worked at Union for over 30 years, will leave behind great memories and fond times. (Courtesy of Erin Wade)

Kathee Natole says her craziest Union Hockey story is from “the day I was catapulted down the ice on a bungee cord.”

Kathee is the business and ticket manager for Union’s Athletic Department, and she will retire on July 1, after working at Union for almost 39 years. She worked at Achilles Center for 28 years as the director of Frank L. Messa Rink, before moving to the Alumni Gymnasium for the rest of her time at Union.

Her ice-catapult story goes something like this: The folks at the rink hadn’t yet begun to provide between-period entertainment to hockey fans, and the Athletic Department decided Kathee needed to figure out a way to implement a new system to get fans involved and engaged when the team wasn’t on the ice. So she looked online, “and they had a human catapult.”

The human catapult was a system of large bungee cords that hooked into the doorways of the Union team entrance and the penalty box in the rink. The bungee cords were stretched back to the goal net underneath the press box, and, as Kathee said, “They needed to have a test run done, other than a dummy, so guess who the dummy was.”

Clad in a lacrosse helmet, football pads and a chest pad, she was flung down the ice on a plastic saucer as a human bowling ball, knocking over blow-up dummies dressed as hockey players that were set up on the other side of the rink.

Kathee says, “The best thing about the whole story is my son, Shawn, was bringing his girlfriend, Cristina, now his wife, into the building because we were going to go out to lunch. He wanted to introduce me to his girlfriend.” Shawn couldn’t find Kathee in her office, so he went out into the rink, “and he sees me getting catapulted down the ice. ‘See that woman? That’s my mother.’ ”

Kathee has more than a few fond memories from her almost 39 years working at Union, including the time the hockey team and the other staff at Achilles Center decorated her office in black streamers and drapes on her 40th birthday and, of course, the day Union won the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in 2014.

Kathee and her daughter-in-law, Cristina, went with the team to the Frozen Four in Philadelphia to work in the box office for Union. She said that when Union won the championship game, Mark Haley ’80, a Union Hockey alumnus, was in a leg immobilizer, but he was so excited that he “leapt over two rows of seats” to celebrate the victory with her and the other Union Hockey alumni nearby.

Kathee and her husband, Tom, have been married for 42 years. Their son, Shawn, and daughter-in-law, Cristina, recently had a son of their own, Anthony John, “A.J.,” whom Kathee is excited to spend more time with when she retires.

She says she has other big plans for her retirement, as well, joking, “The first thing is to get a frozen margarita and lay on a hot, sandy beach, anyplace and anywhere.”

She intends to cross quite a few things off of her bucket list, including a transcontinental railroad ride through the Rocky Mountains, ending in Seattle, where she hopes to embark on a cruise to Alaska. She also plans to take a European river cruise and a Mississippi River paddlewheel riverboat cruise.

Prior to working at Union, Kathee worked for the New York State Thruway Authority for 11 years.

For the purposes of full disclosure, Kathee is my work-study supervisor, and she is an absolute delight.

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