Catherine Gomes Snell

Catherine Gomes Snell

Born 1938

Catherine Gomes Snell. Courtesy of Deborah Snell.

Born in 1938 on the Kempton Farm, Warren’s Point, Little Compton, the 3rd of four children born to Quiteria DeAlamo Rocha Gomes and Manual Cotta Gomes Jr.  She had an older Brother, John Gomes (1924 – 2007), an older sister, Mary Gomes Kivlehan (1928 – 2013), and a younger sister, Dorothy Gomes Wilkie (1940).

Catherine resided on the Kempton farm where her father, grandfather and great uncle were laborers, with her family until 1945 when her parents purchased the Grinnell property on Pottersville Road.  She attended the Josephine F. Wilbur School with the exception of one year at “Dominican Academy” in Fall River.  At J.F. Wilbur she became best friends with her neighbor and classmate, whose family also lived on Pottersville Road.  They continue to maintain this very close friendship, more like family, and when there is no pandemic, Catherine spends time with them at their home in Florida during the winter months. 

Catherine was a good student during her tenure at J.F. Wilbur, according to her school records, although a bit on “the social side” seemed to be the consensus of her teachers.  She maintained a “perfect attendance” record throughout most of her school years.  Whether this achievement was due to her academic desire, or her social side is unclear.  During school Catherine was a member of the Cheerleading squad, on several committees and was secretary of her class, sharing class office with her best friends who were, class president and treasurer.  Catherine and her friends often shared stories of the parties and school dances that the Gomes’s hosted at the Grinnell property barn with the “beautiful mahogany loft”. During high school, at the age of 16, Catherine earned her Certified Nursing Assistant diploma, at Charlton Hospital in Fall River.  She worked at Charlton as a CNA for the year following her program.

Catherine left school in her senior year to marry classmate Richard D. Snell in 1956.  Catherine and Richard lived in Little Compton, first for a short time with Richard’s parents on Maple Avenue, then in a small apartment in town.  They then moved to Catherine’s parents’ home on Pottersville Road with their first child, Richard D. Snell II (1956), when Catherine’s father was very sick with cancer.  Her father Manual passed away later in 1956.

Catherine and Richard had a second child, Douglas C. Snell (1957), before building a small cape house on a section of the Grinnell property on Pottersville Road.  Arthur Snell and his sons Richard, Bradley and Ronald built the house, which the young family moved into in 1959, just in time to welcome their 3rd child, Deborah L. Snell (1959).  Two more children joined the family, Alan R. Snell (1962), and Susan L. Snell (1968).

Catherine was a stay at home mother during this time, maintaining the home, performing all the usual domestic duties while being very involved in activities that centered around the children.  She was at different times “co-den mother” for a Cub Scout troop, “co-troop leader” for the Girl Scouts and CCD teacher. 

Catherine and Richard separated in the late 1960s and subsequently divorced in 1970, which left Catherine to raise her five children on her own.  At this time with all but one of the children in grade school, Catherine took on domestic work including house cleaning, child care and catering & serving at cocktail parties at the homes of several summer residents.  She also opened and closed many summer homes.  During this time her children always remained her number one priority, she only took on work that allowed her to take young Susan with her, and to be at home when the other children got home from school. Catherine also took classes and received her GED. It was about this same time in the early 1970s that she took a job as a waitress at Compton Cliff’s Steak House to supplement her income.

In 1972, when at the age of four her youngest child Susan was diagnosed with “Legg-Calve Perthes”, a rare childhood hip disorder, the March of Dimes assisted with financing Susan’s treatment.  Catherine soon became “Chairman of the Local March of Dimes Campaign”, organizing a “Bike-a-thon/Walk-a-thon” in Little Compton to raise funds and awareness.  She stayed active with the March of Dimes for the next several years helping to raise funds as chairman of the “Mother’s March”.  Shortly after this, Catherine accepted a job as a home health aide, working the overnight shift four nights a week in Little Compton in the summer months, Fall River during the rest of the year.  Her mother Quiteria lived across the driveway and helped with child care.  Catherine continued in this position and with cleaning houses until 1980.

When it came time for Susan to enter school, it was recommended that she wait a year to start kindergarten, due to her being in leg braces and unable to walk.  The powers that be indicated it would be too much for the school, teacher and other children to take on.  Catherine disagreed with this, her daughter already knew how to read and write and needed the chance to learn and socialize with other kids her age.  She believed that kids are much more accepting and resilient than adults and all would be fine.  She further informed them that Susan’s father had created a wheeled cart that Susan could use to easily move herself around the classroom.  Catherine insisted that the school educate her daughter, which they did, and it turned out to be just as she expected, the teacher and other children treated Susan just like any other student. 

Throughout the years of working many different jobs, Catherine somehow found the time to attend most activities her kids were involved in.  She rarely missed a Little League, Pony League, softball or hockey game, school play, science fair, band concert, parade, half-time show, band competition or CCD play.  In 1973, Catherine joined the 8th grade class as a chaperone on a 20-mile bike ride throughout Little Compton visiting all the historical sites.  She served as a very active member of the Portsmouth High School Band Booster for four years, the final year being secretary.  Catherine also volunteered as a poll worker on Election Day for 40 years.

In 1982, Catherine accepted a position as secretary for the Little Compton Visiting Nurse Association.  The position later became secretary/bookkeeper and she remained with the VNA for 26 years, until her retirement in February 2008.  Catherine loved her job at the VNA, but especially enjoyed when they held “baby clinics”.

Catherine has been a lifelong communicant of St Catherine’s of Sienna Church, where she was a member of the Legion of Mary Rosary Society, and assisted with the Christmas and Summer Bazaars.  She often assisted with the fundraising dinners that were held in the church hall.

Like her mother, Catherine was an excellent cook, evening dinner was always mandatory unless there was a very good excuse.  She often served guests that would accompany one of her children home from college for a Sunday home cooked meal.  Sometimes she was even made aware ahead of time that she would be having guests. She always was able to stretch the meal to feed whoever showed up. 

Although Catherine has never in her 82 years lived outside of Little Compton, and has never wished to (she loves her town), she has traveled quite a bit, and is always ready to travel anywhere.  She traveled to Germany in 1978 with her mother Quiteria and her 10-year-old daughter Susan to meet her first grandchild, who was born in Wolf, Germany while her son was stationed there in the US Army.  This began Catherine’s journey as grandmother.  She enjoyed her children, but she really enjoyed her three grandchildren, Sonia, Jared and Erin.  Maybe because she had more time, or perhaps because they went home to their parents after visits.  Catherine enjoyed annual family ski trips to New Hampshire, and taking the grandchildren to Disney World.  Catherine also traveled to the Azores on four occasions, twice with her mother and sisters, once with her daughter Susan, the last time in 2007 with the L.C. Historical Society, and is ready to pack her bags to go again.  The last time she traveled to the Azores with her mother was in 1987, shortly before Quiteria’s death in 1988.  Catherine has also traveled to Ireland, London, Alaska, and has been on many cruises.  

When she wasn’t working or traveling Catherine loved spending time with her partner of many years, Phillip Wilbur.  They enjoyed quiet time at home, or loud time at home when everyone was visiting.  They took dance lessons and enjoyed dancing whenever they got the chance.  They played Bridge with three other couples, every-other week for many years.  Phil was not big on traveling, and had no desire to ever go on an airplane, but always encouraged Catherine to get away whenever the opportunity arose.  Mostly Catherine traveled with friends and her sister-in-law Dianne.  Phil did finally board a plane with Catherine in 1984 to travel to California for a visit with her daughter.  Sadly, Catherine and the family lost Phil very suddenly in 1986.

Following her retirement, Catherine began volunteering at the Little Compton Historical Society.  She thoroughly enjoys her time there and sharing the LCHS exhibits and activities with family and friends. She was recognized for her volunteer efforts as “Co-volunteer of the Year” at a ceremony in 2015.  In retirement, Catherine became somewhat of a snowbird.  She usually travels to Florida in January to spend time visiting with friends.  When not in Florida, Catherine occupies her “free” time volunteering, meeting friends for breakfast at the Commons Lunch, visiting friends who have moved into assisted living or nursing homes, lunch and movies with new friends, playing Rummikub with the girls and spending time with her family.            

Was it mentioned that Catherine really loved being a grandmother?  Well she really, really loves being a Great Grandmother.  She is great grandmother to seven great-grandchildren.  She has been looking after the two youngest since their birth in 2015.  They live the closest to her and she spends the most time with them, they can often be seen with her at the Commons Lunch or A1 Pizza when she is having them for an overnight visit.  “The twins” affectionately refer to her as GiGi.  They keep her busy, and they keep her young – and she enjoys every minute she gets to spend with them, making memories.

Catherine Gomes Snell. Courtesy of Deborah Snell.

Deborah Snell

April 30, 2020

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