Catherine McKeon

March 23, 1953 - September 15, 2020
Catherine McKeon

Catherine McKeon, a pioneer in genetic research, loving wife and mother of two, died in New Hanover Medical Center on Sept 15, 2020 after collapsing suddenly in the garden of her home. She was 67.

Born in 1953 to Donald and Alba McKeon, Catherine grew up in Massapequa, Long Island with her two sisters, Maureen and Sharon, and brother Michael. As the eldest of four children, Catherine was always a caretaker. A love of music runs in the family and Catherine enjoyed playing the piano. Her favorite piece was “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy.

She attended SUNY Buffalo for her undergraduate degree and the Medical College of Virginia for her Master’s degree where she graduated with a PhD in Human Genetics in 1980. While studying in Virginia she met Richard (Rick) Michek and they married July 28th 1984 in a small ceremony in Connecticut. Catherine always wanted a family and she and Rick have two daughters, Alyssa and Jessica. Of all her accomplishments, she was proudest of her girls.

Catherine spent 33 years at the National Institutes of Health where she became the Senior Advisor for Genetic Research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). She played a vital role in the evolution of gene therapy, administering a variety of research programs on the genetics of multiple disorders such as type 2 diabetes, genetic metabolic diseases and cystic fibrosis. She oversaw grants for Nobel Prize winning research and was a recipient of the inaugural Distinguished Service Award from The American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy.

In her retirement years she moved to Wilmington, NC with her husband Rick where they enjoyed the quiet life. Catherine loved making pottery at Cameron Art Museum and Orange Street Pottery. She designed her dream home on the North East Cape Fear River where she spent her last days.

She was loved and will be deeply missed.

A time of visitation will be held on Sunday, September 20, 2020 at the Wilmington Funeral Chapel from 1:00PM till 3:00PM.

Donations can be made in her name to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina: https://foodbankcenc.org/

Please share memories and condolences with the family by clicking on the “Post a Condolence” tab below.

Wilmington Funeral & Cremation, 1535 S.41st Street Wilmington, NC 28403. 910.791.9099.

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  • September 19, 2020
    susan schlegel says:
    Rick, Alyssa, and Jessica- Such a shock! My sincerest condolences. Cathy was taken away much too soon. I worked closely with her on Cystic Fibrosis and considered her a friend and colleague. We shared a love of applying our knowledge of science to help make lives better for those suffering from devastating genetic diseases such as CF. We also sat together in a retirement class as she expressed her excitement to be going to Wilmington for her “golden years” and I’m happy she had some time there but would have hoped for more. Hopefully, wonderful memories will help lessen the pain now and help sustain us. Susan

  • September 18, 2020
    Rebekah Rasooly says:
    My wonderful colleague at NIH, a mentor who became a good friend. I am devastated and wish only good things to come for her family.

  • September 18, 2020
    Bev Haley says:
    I am so happy that I had the opportunity to get to know Catherine. We made pottery together at Orange Street Pottery. She alway had a quick smile, we shared great experiences and quite a few laughs. She also made some very nice pots. Catherine will be missed by many.

  • September 18, 2020
    Judy Dickerson says:
    I will always treasure my memories of Cathy & our times together as a family. She is truly missed.

  • September 18, 2020
    Dave and Jan Michek says:
    We love Cathy like a sister, not a sister-in-law. She has done so much for people totally unselfishly and will be missed forever......