Catherine (Wolhowe) Reistrup passed peacefully and painlessly from this life July 9, 2022, at Hospice of the Chesapeake in Pasadena, Md., after a long battle with cancer.
She is survived by her husband of 47 years, John Valdemar Reistrup; by his sons James and Olaf Reistrup; by his daughter Christine Bottagaro; and by seven grandchildren. She is also survived by her sister, Ann Wolhowe Miller, her brothers Mark Wolhowe ‘76, Erik Wolhowe, and Karl Wolhowe, and by many nieces and nephews in the Reistrup, Wolhowe and Miller clans for whom she was a loving and attentive aunt.
A memorial service was held at a later date.
Catherine Gloria Wolhowe was born on May 16, 1944, to Casper Wolhowe ’33 and Stella Larson Wolhowe in Bismarck, N.D. She kept that name once she was established in her profession as a lawyer even after she married. She also kept the byline with which she began as a young writer—Cathe Wolhowe. In recent years, after she and John moved to Annapolis, she became known to friends, neighbors and fellow choristers in the U.S. Naval Academy Protestant Chapel Chorale as Cathe Reistrup.
She was a vibrant and empathetic presence in every role she took on. Perhaps her most lasting and memorable qualities were loyalty and perseverance.
Cathe was raised in Miles City, Mont., where her father was superintendent of the Pine Hills correctional facility for youthful offenders. She graduated from Custer County High School there in 1962 and entered Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where she continued to pursue her lifelong musical interests of singing alto in the chorus and playing the clarinet.
While there Cathe was selected to be an exchange student at historically black Spelman College for women in Atlanta, where she met and interacted with prominent civil rights leaders of the period and began her lifelong pursuit of social justice.
When she wanted to join the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964, however, her father drew the line. He insisted she return to Montana and finish college at the University of Montana. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history and journalism, she went to work for the United Press International wire service in Helena.
Selected by Montana Senators Mike Mansfield and Lee Metcalf as the first female Montana Congressional Fellow, she went to work for them on Capitol Hill. While employed full time during the day she attended Georgetown University Law Center at night until she earned a Juris Doctor degree.
Afterward she worked for the Appalachian Regional Commission and the philanthropic staff of John D. Rockefeller III (which finally gave her the chance to go to Mississippi and advance the cause of civil rights). She returned briefly to journalism as a reporter for The Washington Post before being admitted to the bar in North Dakota, her native state.
Cathe started her legal career as a trial attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, handling antitrust and consumer protection cases, writing amicus briefs for the Supreme Court and developing policy for implementing new laws passed by Congress.
In 1975 she married John Reistrup and moved to Toronto, Canada, where his newspaper career had taken him. Despite retaining her American citizenship she was selected to work for the Ontario Law Commission, a group of five distinguished members of the profession appointed for life to recommend changes to provincial law. There she drafted proposed revisions on bankruptcy law that were accepted not only by the Commission but the Provincial Parliament and ultimately the federal Parliament of Canada.
Upon returning to the United States, she was selected as special assistant to the General Counsel of the Community Services Administration, where was assigned to direct the audit and inspection division in cleaning up outstanding cases of waste, fraud and abuse uncovered by the House Government Operations Committee.
Once again moving because of her husband's work, Cathe was selected to head the Seattle/King County office of public defense and clear up staffing and budget problems uncovered by the local governments. Then, upon request of the mayor of Seattle, she succeeded in settling a sex-discrimination complaint by women electrical workers against their employer, Seattle City Light.
When her family moved back to Washington, D.C., Cathe returned to Capitol Hill as Senator John Melcher’s Legislative Director. When Senator Melcher was defeated in 1988, she went to work for the two-person Office of General Counsel & Congressional Liaison at the Endowment for the Humanities under Chairman Lynn Cheney.
Leaving federal service, Cathe accepted a private contract from the Department of Education to oversee a complex backlog of 125 outstanding employment cases. Upon successful completion of that contract, she won a multi-million-dollar, set-aside contract with the Department of Defense for handling its civilian employee issues at military installations around the country and drafting its final agency decisions. Upon completion of the contract, she represented supervisory federal employees before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Office of Special Counsel, the Department of Labor and the Office of Personnel Management.
After closing her office in McLean, Va., and moving to Annapolis with her husband, she served as Legislative Director for Delegate Susan McComas, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Throughout, Cathe sustained her love of music, singing alto with the Calgary Festival Chorus, McLean Choral Society, Redeemer Lutheran Church in McLean and ultimately the U.S. Naval Academy Protestant Chapel Chorale. A gourmet cook, she delighted in bringing friends and family together over feasts she had prepared. She also remained active with women’s groups including the American Association of University Women and the P.E.O. Sisterhood, a philanthropic and educational organization with the motto “Women Helping Women.”
The family suggests that donations to honor her may be sent to an endowment she helped establish to provide scholarships for women pursuing healthcare studies at nearby Anne Arundel Community College: Women Helping Women at Anne Arundel #8555, P.E.O. Foundation, Treasurer’s Office, 3700 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50312