Eleanor Catlin was born July 20, 1934, in Kingsburg, Calif., to Bruce Whitlow Catlin and Ann Elizabeth (Frazer) Catlin. She came from a long line of educators, including her paternal grandparents, Ella and R.J. Catlin, who both taught in Kingsburg.
Her bright red hair earned her the nickname “Rusty,” which she was known by for the rest of her life. She graduated from Kingsburg High School in 1952 and went to college at San Jose State. She began her teaching career at Ben Hulse Elementary School in Imperial, Calif.
She married Hal Arnold in 1954. The couple had two children, Teresa Louise in 1955 and Kevin Paul in 1957. Kevin died in 1958 of meningitis. The couple divorced and Rusty married fellow teacher George Edward Riley in 1960. They had three children, Keith Craig, Sharon Sue and Shane Bruce Riley. She took a year off from teaching with every baby and ran a preschool and day care in her home. Keith died in 1968 and his death on Mount Signal was the catalyst for the formation of the De Anza Search and Rescue.
Rusty went on to earn a master’s degree and was a reading specialist. She also taught at Lincoln Elementary School in El Centro, Calif. She was a member of the American Association of University Women, sang bass with the Sweet Adelines, and taught Red Cross swimming lessons for many years.
Rusty and George divorced in 1983 and she moved to Moscow to be near her daughter, Teresa, and her son, Shane. She continued her lifelong passion for young children and first worked at Moscow Day School, and later started her own preschool and day care in her home, Rusty’s Day School.
In 1997, she married the love of her life, Jay Scheldorf Sr. She was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church and taught the Cherub Choir (a children’s choir) in both El Centro and in Moscow for many years.
In about 2002, Rusty was diagnosed with dementia, which she always faced head-on with grace and humor. She was known for joking that she would start a business for people who couldn’t forget the past, and they would tell it to her, and she’d promptly forget it for them. She also tried to get herself out of pickles by saying, “I can’t help it, I’m demented!”
She moved to Pine Ridge Alzheimer Care Center in Spokane Valley in 2014, where the staff became another family for her and for all of us as they cared for her with humor, grace, respect and dignity. She died peacefully after a short illness Nov. 27, 2019. Her body was donated to medical research and teaching, and the remains will be cremated and sent to the family afterward. The family will gather sometime in the summer to spread her ashes in the Sierras where her parents’ and brother’s ashes were scattered.
Rusty will always be remembered for her honest, forthright nature, her irreverent sense of humor, her staunch liberal politics, her unshakable belief in the basic goodness of people, and her love of all children, not least her seven grandchildren.
She was preceeded in death by her parents, Bruce and Ann Catlin; her brother, Daniel Bruce Catlin; her husband, Jay Scheldorf Sr.; and her two sons, Kevin Paul Arnold and Keith Craig Riley.
She is survived by her children, Teresa Catlin, of Alaska; Sharon Riley, of California; Shane Riley, of Spokane; and her stepchildren, Jay Jr. and Debbie Scheldorf, of Washington. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Cole Lindsay, Blake Lindsay, Justin Ernest, Tasha Ernest, Jazmin Ernest, Trey Ernest and Samantha Riley; four great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews and cousins, all of whom will miss her terribly and will be forever grateful to have known her.