Born in Detroit, Michigan on Aug. 4, 1935, to William R. and Azalia C. Bishop, Kathryn was the oldest of three girls. She and her sisters spent every summer of their youth at Camp Chippewa Trail for Girls on Elk Lake. In the bucolic splendor of northern Michigan, she discovered her passion for horses, the pleasure of swimming and golf and developed her interest in art.
Kathryn attended Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she made lifelong friendships and graduated with a degree in the History of Religion. She continued her studies at the University of Michigan and earned an Art History MA and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Michigan State University.
From 1970 until 1997, Kathryn served as Michigan's State Historic Preservation Officer, assisting communities throughout the state with local and regional preservation activities. She was a founding member of Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear, the Keweenaw National Historical Park Commission, and Friends of the Michigan State Capitol. She also served as an advisor to the Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
In 1994 Kathryn received Honorary Affiliate Member awards for distinguished service to the profession of architecture from the Michigan and Detroit Chapters of the American Institute of Architects, as well as the President's Award for contribution to Michigan's architectural heritage from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network.
Kathryn was a 2012 Fellow of the Society of Architectural Historians, and a trustee of the Americana Foundation. She served as the Board Chair of the Fishtown Preservation Society. As the FPS Board Past Chair, she was integral to the Fishtown Historic District being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in January 2022.
She was the author of several books about state and regional architecture including Buildings of Michigan, first and revised editions (Oxford University and University of Virginia Presses), The Sandstone Architecture of the Lake Superior Region (Wayne State University Press), and The Campus Guide: Cranbrook (Princeton Architectural Press).
She married her longtime partner Sadayoshi Omoto, the Art Department Chair of Michigan State University, in 1986. Maintaining a vacation home in Leland since the 1970s, they moved permanently to the area in 1997. Sada preceded her in death in 2013.
A devoted equestrienne, her daily routine for the last thirty years included a visit to her horse at Black Star Farms. Kathryn possessed a keen intellect and razor-sharp wit, remaining well-informed and interested in current events throughout her life. She also loved music, becoming a late-in-life Elvis fan.
She maintained a strong bond with her sisters and their families. Playing the role of family matriarch, Kathryn encouraged her niece and nephews not to settle for the ordinary. To aim for the extraordinary. She celebrated achievements, both big and small.
Kathryn was beloved by her family and will be greatly missed by her sisters, Elizabeth Elliott, of Leland and Susan (Thomas) Kulick, of Okemos; her nephews, Peter J. Kulick, Esq. and Matthew B. Kulick, Esq. both, of East Lansing; her niece, Sarah (Kevin) Tompkins, of Valencia, California; as well as her horse, Marieke; and her "buddy," a lively tuxedo cat named Jett.
A celebration of Kathryn's life will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, August 4, 2022, at the Leland Country Club, 184 N. 5th Street, Leland, MI 49654.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Kathryn's name can be made to Fishtown Preservation Society, P.O. Box 721, Leland, MI 49654, or online at: https://www.fishtownmi.org/donate/ ; and to Promedica-Heartland Hospice, 4000 Eastern Sky Drive, Suite 2, Traverse City, MI 49684.
Read "Author remembered for penning 'The Bible' of Michigan Architecture" from the Lansing City Post here
Kathryn B. Eckert joined SAH in 1963. In addition to the Buildings of Michigan volume and becoming an SAH Fellow as mentioned above, she served a total of six years on the Charles E. Peterson Fellowship Committee.