She was born Sept. 5, 1959, in Hartford, Conn., the oldest daughter of Walter B. Kurgas Sr. and the late Mary Bette (Krupski) Schiloski. She lived in Puerto Rico from age 5 to 9, and then moved with her family to Massachusetts, where she graduated from Franklin High School in 1977. She received a bachelor's degree from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 1985, with a concentration in painting.
She moved to California in 1991, where she started her own graphic-design business, contracting with Sunset Magazine among other clients.
Soon after she arrived in the Bay Area, her sister Laurie Kurgas introduced her to Jeff G. Carleton of Palo Alto, Calif., and they were married on Sept. 25, 1992. They had their daughter, Melissa, in May 2000.
She maintained her lifelong interest in art, serving on the Palo Alto Public Art Commission from 1994 to 1998, including one term as chair. She was honored by a City of Palo Alto resolution in January 2000 for her service on the commission and for giving "unselfishly of her time and talents in support of the City of Palo Alto Art in Public Places Program."
Throughout her life, she continued to enjoy doing her own painting and other creative projects. She participated with Melissa in several musical productions at the First Congregational Church in Palo Alto, where she was a member. She helped organize donations for Common Ground Organic Garden Supply and Education Center's 35th Anniversary FUNdraising party in 2007.
She was diagnosed with brain cancer in early June 2011. After 15 months of staying optimistic while she did everything she could to regain her health, she accepted hospice support at home over the last month of her life and was cared for by her husband, family and friends until her death.
She is survived by her husband, Jeff G. Carleton; their daughter, Melissa Carleton; three sisters, Laurie Kurgas of Los Altos, Robyn (Joe) Solimando of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Lainie (and Slade) Johnson of Saugus, Calif.; brother, Walter B. Kurgas Jr. of Lebanon, N.H.; mother-in-law, Ruth Carleton of Palo Alto; sister-in-law, Nancy G. Carleton of Berkeley; four nieces and three nephews. Her father, Walter B. Kurgas Sr., lives in Altamonte Springs, Fl.
A memorial service will be held Monday, Oct. 1, at 4 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 1985 Louis Road, Palo Alto. Memorials may be made to the TD Ameritrade 529 College Savings Plan, earmarked for Melissa Carleton, and sent c/o Ruth Carleton, 36 Pearce Mitchell, Stanford, CA, 94305; or to a charity of the donor's choice.
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