Monthly Archives: November 2010

Catherine Sutton Has Died

Catherine Sutton, founder of Transition Albany and a beloved member of many communities in the Berkeley/Albany area, died unexpectedly on Monday, December 5. All of us who knew her are in shock and mourning.

Following is a brief description of Catherine’s life. It’s followed by a second post with information about her upcoming funeral and memorial celebration.

Please feel free to use the website contact form to pass along any memories or thoughts–I’ll make sure they get to Catherine’s husband Leonard.

Bob Spies
Transition Albany Webmaster


Catherine Ann Hildegard Sutton was born in Oxford England in 1949 to German refugee Margo Müller and British aeronautical engineer Peter Sutton. Her parents met during WWII, as Peter was sent in to discover the Nazi’s secrets. They say Catherine was born during a thunderstorm.

She is survived by husband Leonard Edmondson, sister Sally Sutton, brother John Sutton, two half-sisters, Peggy Sutton and Annora Sutton, son Robin Breathe, daughter-in-law Alice Breathe, and the joy of her life, granddaughter Hazel Breathe.

Living in England until she was almost 40, Catherine never drove a car there. She lived in some 50 places in her lifetime, and particularly loved living in Wales on some land with a group of 7 or so friends. She came to the United States in 1988.

Catherine was a Russian major at Leeds University. Studying Bulgarian as her second language, she was forever infected with the magic of Bulgarian music and dance when she came upon a wedding while living in Sofia, Bulgaria. (She was cluck-clucked by the old Bulgarian women when she wore her mini skirt on the bus.)

Using her gifts of language and cooking, for livelihood she has cooked, waited table, worked as a janitor, sold knives, written resounding resumes, played in a Balkan band, taught dance and guarded crossings. Her job was always what was right in front of her calling to be done and working for the ideal of right living and social justice. In the early 80’s, her business was called
Sunshine Biscuits. She would bake flapjacks and deliver them to local businesses by bicycle with her son Robin also riding in the trailer, and people called her “Cathy Sunshine”.

Catherine’s first stop in the U.S. was Campbell Hot Springs in Sierraville, California, living with Leonard Orr’s radical rebirthing community. She lived in Reno for a time and then in Penngrove, where Leonard found her. In the late 90’s, they were both involved in a company called Cell Tech which network-marketed super blue-green algae health food, yet another controversial and radical venture. They connected on a sunny Sunday on the green grass at the Cell Tech August Celebration in Klamath Falls, Oregon where she was playing with a baby. She came to live with Leonard in about 2001 and they were married in 2005. He added stability to her life, rooting her in Albany and giving her support, and she flowered in place like nobody’s business. They were continuously setting new records for her longest relationship and longest residence of her life.

She believed fiercely in non-institutional, community-based birth, life, and death. She had her own son Robin at home and would have preferred to die that way. She was stubborn, determined, fiery, and idealistic. She is the founder Transition Albany with its delightfully generic mission, which both spawned and assisted many other local projects. There is a pattern here of living on the edge, sometimes associating with controversial, shady but dynamic characters with idealism and determination to fundamentally change the world for the better.

With fabulous energy, she juggled many balls at once, daily, in a way that few can emulate. Around the bulging micro urban homestead she and Leonard shared, she cared for fruit trees, bees, chickens, worms, compost, and flowers, and did solar cooking, preserving, fermenting, drying, washing, conserving, with water tanks, a grey-water system, whole house water filter, solar water heating, solar electric generator, line drying, and the list goes on.

Leonard says,

I lost my life companion, wilderness backpack travel buddy, and my cryptic crossword co-puzzler. Catherine had an astounding command of language, often teaching me new words. When she built things it was always by the seat of her pants.

She is her mother’s daughter in that she survived and thrived, living by her will and her wits, holding strongly to her principles even when there was nothing else to hold onto. She was a challenging person to love, with the operative principles being continuous forgiveness and renewal. Now I’m working on forgiving her for dying.

Posted in Community Building, Economy, Edible Landscape Project, Energy, Food and Agriculture, Health and Healing, Housing, Local Activities, Resources, Social Justice on December 10, 2016

December Holiday Events

Sunday, December 5, 1:30 – 4:00 pm, Albany Library, Edith Stone Room

Transition Albany presents a showing of the outrageous film What Would Jesus Buy? and a discussion of worthwhile alternatives to the holiday shopping frenzy.

Follow the adventures of “Reverend Billy” and his dancing, singing “Stop Shopping Gospel Choir” in this hilarious documentary with a serious message. How do you save people from crappy gifts and eternal debt? By caroling with the choir as they joyfully belt out lyrics like these: “Squeeze our fat in Gap Apparel/Fa la la la la, la la la la…”

Full of surprises, like a credit card “exorcism” and a makeshift confessional for people to confess their shopping “sins,” this eco-­minded documentary is a timely reminder that there’s more to the holidays than buying more stuff.

Following the movie, we’ll talk about creative, worthwhile alternatives to frenzied shopping, alternatives that even include supporting local stores on Solano Avenue!


Monday, December 20, 6:30 – 9:00 pm

Alternative Carols with the Richmond Rivets

Starting with a potluck at 624 31st Street, Richmond

Bring a potluck dish, warm clothes, a holiday spirit and friends and bring joy and a fresh perspective to the neighborhood with alternative carols!

Click here for a flyer of our Rev Billy event on December 5th and caroling with the Richmond Rivets on December 20th.

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Posted in Local Activities on November 22, 2010

Local Foods Potluck with a Permaculture Twist

Imagine a world where every piece of soil is fertile and productive with food-bearing trees, bushes and plants, and people delight in the abundance that is evident wherever they go. It’s possible, and it’s a lot less work than you think. Growing more food where we live has to be one of the easiest and most productive ways of increasing our community’s resilience, so we’re having a special event, on Saturday, November 20th from 5 to 8 pm at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Avenue at Solano.

Bring your favorite dish – vegetarian preferred – featuring local produce (grown by you or on a farm within a 100-mile radius) and enter your recipe to win a copy of Gaia’s Garden. Come at 5 pm to ensure your place, as we expect this event to be well-attended!

At 5:45 pm we’ll start showing The Growing Edge, a brand new film on urban permaculture by Starhawk and Donna Read of Belili Productions, and spend some time together afterwards discussing how the information it offers could change the way we garden.
There’ll be a chance to sign up with our Garden Exchange group, where people with gardens they can’t work themselves offer them to people who don’t have growing space of their own but are willing to put in the effort. Together we can make it happen!

You’ll leave with a happy stomach, plenty of earth-friendly alternatives to popular chemical “aids” for removing pests or increasing yield, and hopefully a new way of seeing that will have you and your neighbors inspired to produce even more, year round, with less effort, less water, and at less expense.

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Posted in Local Activities on November 9, 2010