NORMAN — Catherine Anna Spink Alexander, nee Svobada, 89, was called by the angels in response to her prayers early Tuesday, March 19, 2013, following a long illness. She passed peacefully in the presence of family.
Catherine was a devout Catholic all her life. A memorial service will be 2 p.m. today at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 421 E. Acres St. in Norman. There will be no graveside services.
Catherine was a strong, intelligent and determined woman, an inspiration to her family and others. She was a doctor when most doctors were men and women in the medical field were nurses. Catherine was born in a farmhouse in Kingfisher to Karl Svobada and Hanna Newer Svobada. She was orphaned at age 10 and she and her brother, Charlie, went to live at the Catholic orphanage in Guthrie, where there were no chairs at the tables and no pillows on the beds. While attending the St. Joseph Convent and Academy, she met her second family, the Maginnises. She graduated the academy at 16 and went to Oklahoma A&M University, where she studied pre-med, paying her way by doing various odd jobs such as tutoring, sewing and barbering. After graduating from Oklahoma A&M, she worked as a chemist for the war effort.
She went on to earn a degree in medicine at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. She contracted tuberculosis while she was an intern at the Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Clinton, where she also met the love of her life, John Russell Spink. She married John in 1957 and moved to Norman. She obtained work at Griffin Memorial Hospital, where she worked on the tuberculosis ward. After the ward was closed, she practiced general medicine for the entire hospital, learning psychiatric medicine in the process. Dr. Alexander strove to treat all her patients as normal people. She had the patience of Job, even with those with the gravest psychiatric defects. She often said that we were all just a fall down the stairs away from being psychiatric patients ourselves.
Catherine and John had four children and many assorted pets. They enjoyed growing roses and cacti and planting trees on their small plot of land in western Norman until John’s death in 1969. In 1972, she married Andrew “Andy” Alexander. After 10 years of marriage, they separated but eventually reunited and moved to a small home outside Seminole, where they lived happily until Andy’s death in 2009. In 2010, she moved back to Norman to stay with her son, Russell and his wife Cynthia.
After her retirement from Griffin Memorial Hospital in 1985, she continued to learn all that she could about medicine. Catherine took a particular interest in the study of natural and alternative medicine. She loved dogs, bird watching, walking in the country, quilting and a good cordial argument (she usually won). Catherine loved her children and grandchildren. She never gave up on them, helping them when she could and even housing them if necessary. She never grew bored with life and lived it to its fullest. She will be greatly missed. A special thanks to Holiday Heights Nursing Home and Faith Hospice for their wonderful care.
She was preceded in death by her parents; and husbands John and Andrew.
Catherine is survived by her brothers Charles of Claremore and Roy of Buffalo, Mich.; sister, Agnes Falkner of Castle Rock, Colo.; children Miriam Peters of Slaughterville and her three children, Shane Marsh, Jason Marsh and Clarissa Hites; son, Russell Spink and his wife Cynthia and children Christa Haywood, Cathy Van Winkle and John Spink; daughter, Carol and her children Sarah Boehme, Joseph McKinzey, Vanessa McKinzey and April Kunselman; and son, Paul; six grandchildren; and Andy’s children and grandchildren and the Maginnises.
Norman Transcript, Friday, March 22, 2013