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    Kathy Taraschi, 62; found solace from cancer in song

    Kathy Taraschi before she sang “The Star Spangled Banner’’ in September.

    Poised behind home plate in Fenway Park, where she had dreamed of standing since she was a child, Kathy Taraschi patiently waited until her name was announced Sept. 3, before the Red Sox played the Texas Rangers. Microphone in hand, she sang a pure rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner’’ without adding a single frill.

    “It came forth with such genuineness and such honesty,’’ said her singing coach, Rebecca Parris of Duxbury. “She completely nailed it.’’

    What the fans who filled Fenway that day did not know was that Mrs. Taraschi was being treated for cancer. That performance, which is posted on YouTube, became a sustaining memory in the months that followed.


    “It was a magical day,’’ said her husband, Bob. “As everything else was failing her at the end, it was the moment that I kept reminding her of.’’

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    Mrs. Taraschi, a jazz singer who also ran many marathons, died of cancer April 7 in Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers. She was 62 and had lived in Dedham.

    She and her husband had started running in the mid-1990s and were among the founding members of the Heartbreak Hill Striders Running Club.

    She ran 8 miles with the club nearly every Sunday, from Boston College to the Newton firehouse on Commonwealth Avenue and back, while training for dozens of races, from 5- and 10-kilometer competitions to half-marathons and marathons.

    “She finished as part of the pack that only finished on pure guts,’’ her husband said, adding with a laugh that she was lucky to complete the Boston Marathon before the finish line was shut on Boylston Street. “She finished every single race that she ever ran. That’s kind of the spirit that she had with everything.’’


    The Boston Marathon, which she ran four times, was her favorite of the races she ran around the country. Her best time was 4 hours and 42 seconds, said Jim Carroll, the running club’s coach.

    “If she was present on a race and you got to spend any time with her, it made your day,’’ said Carroll, who knew Mrs. Taraschi for about 20 years.

    Born Kathleen Kelly, she was the oldest of five children and the oldest of her generation in an extended family with about 50 cousins.

    “There were a lot of people out there who looked up to her,’’ said her sister Christine Kelly of Worcester.

    The Kelly children grew up in Hingham. Their father was a draftsman who designed roads and bridges; their mother worked for New England Telephone.


    Early in life, Christine said, the siblings were taught a basic principle: Finish what you start.

    A lyric soprano who in later years was a contralto, Mrs. Taraschi sang in the choir at Sacred Heart High School in Kingston. She went to the University of Rochester in New York on a full scholarship to study English and theater and took voice classes nearby at the Eastman School of Music.

    After graduating in 1972, she returned to the Boston area to work in musical theater and perform as a jazz singer.

    In 1975, she landed the lead in the play “Celebration’’ and caught the eye of Robert Taraschi, a young producer in Philadelphia.

    “I remembered the first time I laid my eyes on Kathy when she stepped off the bus,’’ he said, recalling that he asked her out that night. “She had this really infectious laugh that made you feel a little more at home.’’

    They married in 1977 and lived in Philadelphia for about five years. In the 1980s, they lived in several Boston suburbs before settling in Dedham.

    For about 25 years, she worked in a cable company marketing department, a job she kept through successive mergers before Comcast bought her employer.

    “It provided her the financial opportunity to pursue the things that she loved,’’ her husband said.

    Through the years, Mrs. Taraschi sang at weddings, funerals, in clubs, and at home for her husband.

    “In the 35 years of our marriage,’’ he said, “she became a better singer all the time.’’

    Mrs. Taraschi had to set aside running soon after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, but she kept singing.

    Parris, who met Mrs. Taraschi in the 1970s, when both sang in Boston venues, said her friend was a hopeless romantic.

    “I really thought she thought of Bob every time she sang,’’ said Parris, who added that one of Mrs. Taraschi’s favorite songs to perform was the Rodgers and Hart standard “He Was Too Good to Me.’’

    Loren Winters, a nurse practitioner who worked with the Taraschis at Massachusetts General Hospital, said, “What really struck me when I met them was that they were a pair. It was the two of them together and he just adored her.’’

    Mrs. Taraschi, Winters said, was the kind of patient who left a lasting impression on everyone she encountered at the hospital.

    “You just can’t believe how poised she was, how graceful,’’ Winters said. “She was living in the present . . . not being regretful or blaming anybody.’’

    Besides her husband and sister, Mrs. Taraschi leaves two other sisters, Marguerite Kelly of Harpswell, Maine, and Patricia Kelly of Hingham, and a brother, James Kelly of Hingham.

    A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Susanna Church in Dedham. Burial will be private.

    During the last year of Mrs. Taraschi’s life, the cancer spread and was very painful.

    “It was more than I could ever have endured myself, and all she wanted to do through all of that was sing,’’ her husband said.

    “Aristotle said you don’t get to look at your life until the end of your life,’’ he said. “At the end of her life, she wanted to sing.’’

    Alli Knothe can be reached at