obit template2018-11-29T12:10:12+00:00

Catherine Blanchard

Catherine Blanchard Cleary

After a wonderfully active and accomplished life Catherine found peace on December 4, 2010. Born December 19th 1916 to Michael J. Cleary and Bonnie Blanchard Cleary she is preceded in death by her parents, her brother James T. Cleary and sister Betty Stehlin Gallagher. Catherine was the cherished Aunt of Richard (Cheryl) Cleary, Anne (Roger) Wills, Mary Stehlin and Michael Cleary, devoted Great Aunt to Mick, Caitlin, Kris, Maggie, James and Jack. She is also survived by loving sister in law Patricia O. Cleary. Further survived by many friends.

Catherine was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School and she retired as Chairman President and CEO of First Wisconsin Trust Co.

Catherine’s 45 year career had many great accomplishments including being the first woman Board member of General Motors, AT&T, Kraft, First Wisconsin Corporation, Northwestern Mutual Board of Trustees and Kohler Company. She was named one of 10 leading women in big business in America by Fortune Magazine in 1973 and was inducted into the Wisconsin Business Hall of Fame in 1991.

Catherine served as the last Assistant Treasurer of the United Sates in the 50’s. A position that she successfully argued was unnecessary and it was abolished by President Eisenhower upon her resignation from that post.

Her commitment to her community is evidenced by the 21 non profits that she worked on over the course of her life. Actively interested in healthcare Catherine served on the board of Milwaukee’s Children’s Hospital and was President of that board from 1957 to 1961. Other health care pursuits included work on behalf of the Visiting Nurse Association as well as serving as a trustee of The Mayo Clinic Foundation.

Education was also near and dear to her heart and she served on many boards and organizations relating to education. She also taught at UWM’s business school.

She took on a very special leadership role, especially for women, in business, civic and philanthropic fields.

No matter how busy Catherine was she always made time for family and friends. She would use that same zeal and enthusiasm that she had in her professional life and carry it to her personal life. She never missed a family gathering. Family was very important to Catherine.

Her family is indebted to her for the love and leadership she provided to us all. Countless examples of her influence run through our family and we are all much better people for having had Catherine in our lives.

She selflessly gave her family countless hours over the years. Whether it was at her beloved lake cottage, travelling with nieces and nephews or simply making time for a visit or a meal we all knew we could count on Aunt Katie.

If leaving the world a better place than you found it is our ultimate goal…Catherine achieved that goal….on many different levels.

We will miss you. Thanks for the wonderful times and the great memories.

A celebration of Catherine’s life will be held on Monday December 13th from 4:00 pm until the time of a brief eulogy at 5:30 pm at the Milwaukee Athletic Club in the Superior Room, 758 N. Brodway Street Milwaukee, WI 53202

Visit to sign Catherine’s guest book or to leave a memory. The Suminski Family Funeral Home, Suminski / Weiss 414-276-5122 is assisting the family with arrangements.

Past Comments

Paul Henningsen

Both my parents knew Catherine Cleary well from her service as a Northwestern Mutual Trustee, where my Dad worked for many years. I met her several times as a youth. She was warm, strong, and interested in everything. Prompted especially by my mother, she was an inspiration to me and my 2 sisters. Accomplishments by women were never an issue in our household. She was one of Milwaukee’s great women and will be remembered.

Leave a condolence or share a memory

Go to Top