“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa.
As people in the U.S. and the world find ourselves in the middle of chaos, fear, and hunger, it’s nice to know that there are small oases of hope, camaraderie, and fun. This little atheist seems to be running into a lot of church folks these days, but I’m happy to champion anyone out there trying to make positive change, including this week’s portrait, Kathy Hobson. Working with Imago Dei Metropolitan Community Church, Hobson has been busy attending rallies, making music, and helping distribute food.
PGN: What’s the Kathy Hobson story?
KH: I am from Newtown Square my entire life. I like the area and I like knowing where I’m going, what’s going on. I’m an only child. My mom was a homemaker, kind of crazy and spontaneous, like me. My father died when I was 20 and I took over the house. Until 12 years ago I either lived with my mother or she lived with me. She got sick and had to have her leg amputated, so it’s been interesting. My first real job was at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and after 35 years I had enough to retire. I was into all kinds of other things that I wanted to explore, like silversmithing and pottery, creative things, so I retired 5 years ago. I was also doing a lot of volunteering for different organizations and this allowed me to devote more time to pursue those passions too.
PGN: How did you get involved in your church, Imago Dei?
KH: I was taking a pottery class and this crazy lady named Gwen and I made friends. She kept saying, “You need to go to gay church!” She was such a character that my wife and I decided to check it out. I met my wife 22 years ago at church when she was a Cub Scout leader and I was the church council president. We were both married and she had two boys and I had a boy and a girl. We became best friends and ended up leaving our husbands and getting married! But anyway, we hadn’t been involved with a church for some time. Gwen told us that her daughter Cecilia was gay and she wanted a church that would welcome her daughter if anything happened to her. So we went to the church and right away we started getting involved. I started singing with them, I got involved with handi-crafters, which is a workshop for specially-abled adults, and all sorts of programs. I also got involved through the church with Delco United for Sensible Gun Laws, where I’m on the board now. I like to do what I call ‘leading from behind.’ I meet young people and like to support them and their passions without needing to be in the spotlight myself. Right now at the church we have music ministries and there’s a young man with a lot of talent, he’s been helping us build a virtual church. We’ve been doing crazy game nights and virtual church services, FaceBook Live, all sorts of things.
PGN: Did you grow up in a religious home?
KH: My grandmother was a really cool woman. She was the head buyer at Strawbridge’s department store in Ardmore, which was really impressive at the time. After my grandfather died she really got into Christian Science. Sadly, she died of breast cancer because she refused to go to a doctor. But was true to her faith and she believed that whatever happened to her was what was meant to be. My mother wasn’t very religious, but I was always spiritual. I would go to services with my friends; it didn’t matter what kind of church. I’ve always been a joiner! I believe in Jesus, but I also read tarot cards. As a human being I’m never going to know what greater power created us. That’s man trying to explain his own ego. I’m open to what’s out there.
PGN: How did you get into working at a pharmaceutical company?
KH: After high school, I went to Keystone Secretarial School. It was after graduation and I had no idea what I wanted to do and one of my friends said, “I’m going to business school, want to come?” I thought, ‘I got nothing else to do,’ so I went. That seems to be how I get into everything; I just say ‘yes’ to things! You can always change your mind, but if you say no in the beginning you could be turning down an opportunity that could go who knows where. From Keystone I was offered a job in pharmaceuticals. I was a statistical secretary, mainly because no one else wanted to deal with numbers on a typewriter. I was there when the IT industry boomed and I ran their first database. I ended up managing the data department by the time I retired at 55. It was a good career. And now I feel like my life has begun again! I’m doing all sorts of new things.
PGN: That’s great. I hear one of those new things involves drums.
KH: Yes, I met a young guy who was doing a drum circle with 10,000 Villages. I wanted to start a drum circle at the church because it’s very meditative and then the pandemic hit so we never really got it started. But 2 weeks ago we decided to do a socially distant drum circle in Rose Treaty park. People loved it and started participating spontaneously. I put out a Black Lives Matter sign that I had in my car from a rally I went to, and people asked me how they could get involved. So we did another one and I brought all sorts of instruments with me and we got a lot of kids. A young woman from BLM came because her mother told her there was something going on in the park that she needed to see. It was like something out of a dream. She invited us to participate in a rally at the courthouse that I’m excited to go to. I’m buying shekeres [a percussion instrument] to hand out to everyone!
PGN: And what was that I saw about Roller Derby on your Facebook page?
KH: Oh, well, my daughter’s always been very athletic, but for the past year she’s been recovering from a domestic abuse situation that really blew us all away. She’s always been the most stable and she just got trapped. It was like something out of a movie. She’s a nurse and is doing much better now, but she is still dealing with the aftermath. Anyway, she was on the rugby team at York. I miss going to all the kids’ games, little league and everything, so when I saw information about the Philly Roller Girls, I tried to get her involved. She hasn’t been able to get really involved because of her work schedule, but we’ve been to a few games and we love seeing all the strong women out there!
PGN: Is she okay with me sharing her story?
KH: Oh yeah. We’re going to do a fundraiser next year. It changed her a lot, but she’s even stronger now.
PGN: So much going on!
KH: Yes, I’m especially excited about the food bank that we’re doing through the church. Our motto is “Neighbors Feeding Neighbors.” My friend, Bill Farnham, is really into feeding people, his background is in the food industry. In the past, we often brought food to the Ronald McDonald House and Bernardine Center. Our church had to move, so when we got to the new spot, he said, “We need to start a food pantry!” He’s an amazing guy. He’s fostered around 50 kids, does volunteer work and works full time for UPS!
PGN: Why did you have to move?
KH: We were renting space in a small, dying Methodist church and we weren’t allowed to have weddings there, we couldn’t play music or dance. They wanted our rent money but we weren’t free to be gay. So now we’re at a new location in Aston and it’s much better. When the pandemic hit we were able to expand our pantry and do some real outreach. Tiffany DuBois-Morales helped us get news coverage from 6ABC. They did a nice piece on us. It’s a drive-thru program so people can just drive up, pop the trunk and we’ll load them up. No contact. In addition to the non-perishables, we try to include organic fruits and vegetables from a garden on-site and one that a congregant has let us use to grow food. We have a room chock full of goods that looks like a grocery store! Just call or email us and we’ll prepare a big box for anyone who wants it. The response has been phenomenal. Eventually, we’d like to be able to deliver boxes as well.
PGN: That’s great! So let’s jump back a bit. When you met your wife, how did that situation unfold?
KH: We were both happily married, my husband worked the night shift and I did a lot of stuff with the kids. I got involved with Cub Scouts, where I met Murph who was a scout leader. We started doing volunteer stuff together, making brownies for the homeless, taking the kids to activities. We took craft classes together and became best friends. One day she just said, “I told my husband I wanted a divorce” and I was like, “Oh shit!” 9 months later we bought a house together. My husband and the kids stayed in our old house with my mom. It actually went very smoothly. We never fought with our husbands; it never got ugly. I don’t do drama, it just evolved and 22 years later we’re happily married.
PGN: When did you get married?
KH: In May of 2014. When they made it legal in Pennsylvania, we were the first women at the courthouse and it was funny because they didn’t know what to do. They had the paperwork for two men to get married, but since we were two women and both married before, they had to scratch off different sections and figure out what to write. But it was a great day. It’s funny, my daughter had to go to the doctors the other day and they asked her if she was still living with her mom and she said, yes, her mom and stepmom. And the woman said, “Wow, that’s weird. Do they get along?” My daughter said, “They fight once in a while but yeah, they love each other.” They were confused until she explained the situation that we were a lesbian couple. They assumed a husband’s current wife was living with his first wife!
PGN: That is funny.
KH: Yeah, you know it was strange at first to say, ‘my wife’, but I make a point to do it. When you meet other couples, people say, “Have you met my wife/husband?” so I make sure I use the term as well. And most times people are shocked to hear it, but I feel it’s an obligation. And my wife’s name is Murph, so if I don’t say something they assume she’s a man until they meet her!
PGN: Any pets?
KH: Two Chihuahuas, Bella and Dante. They’re my favorite little buddies.
PGN: If you hit the lottery, what sports team would you buy?
KH: None, I hate sports. I have a whole thing about the idea of competition and the goal of beating people for entertainment. I don’t think people should be paid millions of dollars to knock somebody to the ground or hit a ball. I don’t think we need all that testosterone in the world. Though I have to say, most of my friends now are gay men. It’s like I have a band of brothers and it’s awesome.
PGN: Something that’s given you pause lately?
KH: You know I went to a roller derby match with my posse of gay guys. I brought these wigs that I had for fun and I was wearing a shiny blue one. Before the match we went to dinner in Broomall and I had an interesting experience. I forgot that I was wearing the wig! I usually like to dress well, and I generally look like a nice little suburban mom, but with the blue wig on people were looking at me like I was garbage and I thought, ‘wow, that’s how a lot of people who may look a little different must feel.’ I got just a little taste of being judged by my appearance. It was an interesting experience.
PGN: Did you have a stuffed animal as a kid?
KH: Mildred, my rabbit. My uncle bought her for me when he was in the service. She still sits on the shelf in my bedroom, and she talks to me and gets very angry sometimes if I ignore her. I also have a 60-year-old feather pillow handed down from my great-grandmother. She was an artist who lived in Woodstock. I still sleep with it and my wife calls it ‘the rock’ because it’s so hard. My daughter’s really attached to it too.
PGN: What keeps you optimistic?
KH: I don’t like being angry, I like to appreciate and enjoy the good things. I’m never in a bad mood for more than 10 minutes. I see potential and fun in anything and it keeps me going.