Harry had married Oberlin classmate Isabel Cummings in 1901, with whom he'd been a frequent guest at the Wright home. When Isabel died in 1923, Harry resumed a lively correspondence with Katharine and proposed marriage—via a letter—two years later. Katharine was stunned. The two had been friends for years, yet she was unaware that his interest had turned romantic. But soon love was mutual. "They were two Victorian people caught up in a passion that neither understood," says Harry's grandson, Harry Haskell, a Connecticut-based writer. "They were swept off their feet by each other."
Katharine feared Orville's reaction to her marrying, as she expressed
to Harry: "I am sure no one can imagine how inseparable the relation
is now between Orv and me. I can't desert him now." Friends,
however, convinced her that Orville would come around, so she prepared
for a wedding at Hawthorne Hill. But as the event approached, Orville
became increasingly distant, and Katharine no longer felt welcome at home.
The wedding took place at the home of former classmates living in Oberlin—Professor
and Mrs. Louis Lord—and was presided over by College President
Henry Churchill King. Orville did not attend, and, although he never
loving his sister, he remained separated from her until the last hours
of her life.
"I go to Oberlin again in three weeks for a trustee meeting," she wrote a friend in 1927. "I'll not stay longer than my business keeps me, since I can't go home to Dayton. In my imagination, I walk through our Dayton house, looking for Little Brother, and all the dear family things that made my home. But I never find Little Brother, and I have lost my old home forever, I fear."
Just two years later, while preparing for a trip to Europe, Katharine caught a cold. The cold turned to pneumonia, and she began to slip away. Orville arrived one day before she died on March 3, 1929. She was 54 years old. Oberlin's Board of Trustees adopted a moving statement at its next meeting: "Her sudden death removed from the service of Oberlin and the world a devoted friend, but it cannot remove her spirit."
Two years after Katharine's death, in the depths of the Great Depression, 25 crates of hand-cut Italian marble were delivered to Oberlin. The boxes contained the stone for a fountain that was assembled in the plaza in front of Allen Memorial Art Museum. It was a gift from Harry in honor of Katharine.
To crown the fountain, Harry had commissioned a precise replica of a bronze figure by the 15th-century Florentine artist Andrea del Verrocchio. The bronze featured a small boy playing with a dolphin—a small, delicate sculpture, easy to overlook against the museum's ornate facade. But a close look revealed this as no ordinary boy. He was, in fact, an angel, and he was lifted into the air by wings.