What Katherine Westmoreland Learned from her Grandmother

By Katherine Westmoreland Richards

Some people grab the attention of others just by the smile in their eyes. Those who walk toward Kitsy Westmoreland are always walk away with that same genuine and contagious smile.

Kitsy, who was married to William Westmoreland, four-star general and commander of the Vietnam War, and who raised three children in military bases around the world – faced criticism and challenges with grace and respect. She became a master at taking some of the most difficult and unpleasant situations and making them comfortable for all.

Her experiences and the stories she tells have us sitting on the edge of our seats, as we envision the life of Mrs. Westmoreland, when she would host the presidents, soldiers and foreign leaders of the world. Among such stories: the time she hosted a dinner for President John F. Kennedy and tried desperately to hide her mischievous son. After dinner President Kennedy complimented Mrs. Westmoreland on the meal, and remarked about her clever son, who had been hiding in a tree with a basket and a rope, pulling up all the deserts he could acquire from the president’s Secret Service.

Kitsy was known to have some of the best parties in Washington, D.C., at her Quarters 1 home in Fort Myer, overlooking the Washington monuments across from the Potomac River. Laughter would flood the room as guests enjoyed Kitsy’s delights. President Lyndon Johnson, after finishing his rum cake, leaned over to Kitsy to ask if perhaps he could have the rest of hers.

Stories like these are shared by Kitsy if you have the privilege to sit with her after 5 p.m. to enjoy a glass of chardonnay with ice.

As a young lady myself, I am constantly in awe of the grace, wisdom and gratitude I learn from my grandmother.

Her dinner parties were attended by many, of all nationalities, political parties and backgrounds. In those days, one did not discuss politics, even with the leaders of the world. Discussion was meant to bring people together – disagree or not, a certain set of manners was obligatory.

My grandmother is a reminder to me of the importance of etiquette and how we must coexist with respect and dignity toward one another.

Her parents always told her, “All I want is for you to be a ‘good citizen.’”

Kitsy Westmoreland is a smart and stylish lady, the best grandmother and friend a young girl could ever desire. Here’s to Kitsy, the best citizen I know!