LAST SATURDAY WAS a very sad day for me. It may not seem to make much sense to say it, but at the same time, it was a very happy day for me.

Along with many other people who knew Kathryn Reed during her nearly 104 years, I entered the room where her funeral service was held feeling great sadness that she was gone, but feeling equally great happiness that I got to know her and become one of her countless friends.

A sign of just how high she was regarded by everyone was immediately evident when my wife and I entered the visitation room and found six female Vilas County sheriff’s deputies, plus one K-9 deputy standing in honor in a line in front of and to the sides of her casket.

If you didn’t know Kathryn, you might have wondered why those deputies were there. They were there because of how much those women owed to her for the opportunity she opened up for them years ago, and by the fact that decades after her retirement from the sheriff’s department, she is still held in extremely high esteem by all those who serve there today.

Kathryn, you see, was the very first female deputy when she was hired in 1967; not just the first in Vilas County, but in all of northern Wisconsin. She carried a revolver and I guarantee you that though she never had to, she knew very well how to use it.

Everyone I’ve ever known who worked in the sheriff’s department and knew her from back then expressed nothing but love and admiration for the job she did.

But there was much more to Kathryn than being a sheriff’s deputy. She was, first and foremost, a lady in the finest sense of the word. She was kind, compassionate and when necessary, stern.

Knowing her sons, Tom and Jack as well as I do, especially Tom, I figure there were several times during their growing up years that the stern side showed up, probably much to their dismay. Jack was two years ahead of me in high school, Tom a year behind.

Like most of the jack pine rapscallions who grew up roaming the woods and waters of this part of north Wisconsin, including yours truly, they found ways to test her patience. They dragged home critters and fish for her to clean, tramped mud across clean floors and generally acted like north Wisconsin boys were expected to act.

Kathryn was a woman of north Wisconsin in her own right. She could handle a fishing rod better than either of her sons or her beloved husband, Bud. As both sons pointed out during the service, she delighted in letting people know that she consistently caught more fish than Bud or her boys, which she usually did.

She and Bud spent close to 40 years making multiple trips to Canada not far north of the Minnesota border where they caught, according to Tom, thousands of perch and walleyes. Kathryn not only caught the majority of them, she cleaned all of them. From what I’ve heard, she was very proficient with a fillet knife.

Over the past 40 years, I had the pleasure of seeing Kathryn very often at Ducks Unlimited (DU) events. A staunch supporter of DU, at our Sayner banquets alone she spent thousands of dollars on auction items and raffle boards.

I truly believed her monetary support alone was probably enough to fund two or three large DU habitat improvement projects.

One thing about Kathryn and DU, she really loved to win prizes. Over the years, each of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren received their first shotgun, deer rifle and .22 courtesy of her winnings.

When she didn’t win or even if she just didn’t win something she especially wanted to win, she let you know it. Many times while attending DU events in Land O’ Lakes, Sayner and Ironwood, Mich., among others, Tom, his wife, Karen, Kathryn and my wife and I shared rides to the dinners and the tables where we sat.

As the boys pointed out during the service, she was not hesitant to lament her lack of winnings on some of those trips. One time I remember in particular was when I won a fancy over/under 20-gauge shotgun that she dearly wanted to win to give to one of her grandchildren.

Do you know how long a ride it is from Ironwood to Sayner with a lady who was unhappy about not winning it? Thankfully, she did not begrudge the fact I won it.

She was a star at every one of our Sayner events. She attended her last one two years ago and I swear that every person there, whether they knew her or not, stopped by her table to take her hand or squeeze her shoulder while telling her how much they admired her loyalty and support of DU.

In coming years, our dinners won’t be quite the same without Kathryn being there, but while being sad she isn’t there, I will be ever so happy we had her there with us for all those many years.

Kathryn, we are all glad we knew ye.