"There was never a communications challenge that Kathy couldn't handle," said Martha Boudreau, a former colleague at the public relations firm FleishmanHillard who lives in Annapolis. "She had an encyclopedic memory, strong ethical compass, intense work ethic, and always produced excellent work that was driven by creativity and infused with her wonderful sense of humor."
Born in Philadelphia, she was the daughter of John T. "Jack" Nolan, a retired Baltimore public schools teacher and union leader, and Margaret "Peggy" Kane Nolan, a Loyola University Maryland graduate education secretary.
Raised on Gittings Avenue, she was a 1967 Mercy High School graduate and studied at Notre Dame of Maryland University, where she remained an active alumna.
Ms. Nolan initially worked in the English department of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, before moving to New York and becoming a Burson-Marsteller copy editor. She was an account executive and media-relations specialist for Brouillard Communications, J. Walter Thompson and Creamer Dickson Basford.
She was named a vice president at FleishmanHillard in Washington. Colleagues said she helped create and expand the firm's consumer and cause-related marketing practices.
After living in New York's Brooklyn and in Arlington, Va., she returned to Maryland and lived in Ellicott City.
In 1994, she started working in communications for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., and later for its parent, Constellation Energy, now Exelon. She directed managed marketing, communications, planning, advertising and branding strategy. She retired in 2013.
Friends said she helped to plan and execute national media campaigns for Hershey Foods, 7-Eleven, Honda, MasterCard, Ralston Purina, National Public Radio, Harvard Business School, AARP, the Points of Light Foundation, the USO and the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation.
"When she worked in Washington in public relations, she ran events. She got celebrities who were in the Navy to appear — Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine and Jason Robards Jr.," said her husband of 34 years, Barry Eigen. "Once I picked up her phone, and it was Charles Durning. She spoke to Fred Astaire, too."
Ms. Nolan led promotional campaigns for 7-Eleven and its "People Who Read Achieve," as well as its bone marrow donation program; AARP's public service campaign to promote cancer screening; an anti-fraud campaign for the National Association of Attorneys General; and the U.S. Navy Memorial's inaugural fundraising and dedication events, her colleagues said.
"Her true hallmark was her generosity," said Ms. Boudreau. "She touched so many people and was always giving back, paying it forward, and taking the time to help all whom she came to know."
Ms. Nolan and her husband traveled frequently to England and accompanied their nieces and nephews. She showed them examples of art, history and culture, and introduced them to new foods and wine.
At age 23, she was diagnosed with melanoma at Duke University Medical Center. Family members said she then began participating in clinical trials that helped in immunotherapy research at New York University's Perlmutter Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
"Her resiliency was amazing to all of us," said her father, who lives in North Baltimore.
"She was formidable and brave in her pursuit of treatments that could allow her to live with cancer as a chronic condition," said her husband. "It worked for a long time, and she beat the odds, living her life for the past eight years with Stage IV melanoma."
"Kathy was one of the most dynamic, knowledgeable patients I ever had the privilege of caring for," said Dr. Anna Pavlick of the NYU Cancer Institute. "She was eager to understand her treatment options and accepted each hurdle with grace and the hope that the next new treatment would be the one to provide long-term control.
"She made the disease a part of her life and not the focal point, continuing to travel and live a normal life as long as she could. She battled courageously for many years and always had a smile to share with everyone she encountered."
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John's Episcopal Church, 9120 Frederick Road in Ellicott City.
In addition to her husband, a retired Social Security disability official, and her father, survivors include three sisters, Margaret Ann Nolan of Ellicott City, Mary Elizabeth Nolan-McGraw of Perry Hall and Maureen Kazaras of Westminster; and eight nieces and nephews. A son, Christopher John Lenat, died in 1991. Her marriage to David Lenat ended in divorce.