Gretchen Elise Matthern was born on October 21, 1960 to Robert Otto and Ruth Morgans Matthern in Chicago, Illinois. When Gretchen was 3, the family moved to Massachusetts. They lived in various places in the eastern United States, moving every 5 years on average during Gretchen's early life. Gretchen's only sister is Deborah Matthern, who her parents adopted when Gretchen was 5. Gretchen attended private Catholic schools through her primary education years, excelling in all her academic activities. Gretchen's family spent their vacations tent camping and hiking, creating in her a love for the outdoors.
Gretchen earned her Bachelor and Master degrees at the University of Oklahoma, and then went on to get her PhD at the University of Virginia in 1987. She was the first female graduate from UVA with a PhD in Chemical Engineering.
In 1988, Gretchen applied for and was offered a job at the Idaho National Laboratory. Two years later, she met and married the love of her life, John Walrath. The couple settled in New Sweden, where they offered a haven for many cats, dogs and even some exotic animals.
Gretchen loved Idaho's diverse seasons and reveled in camping, fishing, biking and cross country skiing. She served as a volunteer for the Nordic Ski Patrol at Harriman State Park. She also volunteered and was active with the Girl Scouts and at St Lukes Episcopal Church.
Gretchen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the spring of 2014. She underwent 2 cancer removal surgeries and over 6 years of chemotherapy. Her positive attitude was an inspiration to many.
She passed into larger life on August 25, 2020 after a sudden illness. She is preceded in death by her parents, and is survived by her sister Deborah Matthern, her husband John Walrath, 2 dogs, 8 cats and 2 turtles. Gretchen will be greatly missed by all who knew her.
Please consider a donation in her memory to any of the following organizations: the Girl Scouts of America, Harriman State Park, St Lukes Episcopal Church, or Lucky's Place (the Animal Humane Center of Starr Valley). Funeral Services are pending.