Monthly Archives: December 2011

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

UPDATE on the Transition Library

Transition Albany has been offered a space within the Albany Arts Gallery at Masonic and Solano, and we will soon be making our growing library of books and DVDs available for loan from there. This is a fantastic opportunity, and we thank Miles Williams, co-owner of the space, for his generosity. More details about how that will work will be following shortly, but in the meantime, if you have books or DVDs you have found inspiring and would be willing to loan them to the public, please get in touch  at transitionalbanyca (at)


Posted in Resources on December 19, 2011

Monthly Potlucks with Purpose

We invite you to join engaged neighbors from surrounding communities – over delicious food – to network, eat, have fun, and exchange ideas and inspiration at our First Tuesday of the Month Potluck with Purpose.

The idea is for local people from El Cerrito, Kensington, Albany, Berkeley and beyond, who identify with Permaculture, or their local Transition town, or Neighborhood Preparedness, or a Church group, or Zeitgeist, or simply as a neighbor, to share their vision for and commitment to creating a localized, positive future.

Each month we may have a different focus for discussion, but the evening always includes great food (bring something you love to make, preferably from local sources), drink (the church is OK with alcohol in moderation, but if that’s your choice, please bring a non-alcoholic drink as well), good company, sharing (there’s a “free table” where you can offer items that someone else might find more useful than you), celebrations, announcements and a Transition Library (details here).

This all happens at St Albans Parish Hall, on Washington Street at Curtis, right on the Albany/North Berkeley border. St Albans Church is very active in the community and gives us the space at a reduced rent, which we cover with donations ($3-5 per person). They provide real flatware and silverware and have an active recycling program so we can keep our waste to a minimum.

The potluck starts at 6:30 pm through the winter months and 7:00 pm from May through October to avoid conflicting with Albany’s Garden Swap, and finishes around 8:30 (9:00) pm. Families are very welcome although we are still developing facilities for children and request your help with bringing a quiet activity that will entertain your child(ren).

Please contact Transition Albany (transitionalbanyca [at] if you have an idea for a particular focus or would like to be in on the planning of one of these events. Live music is always welcome, as is any help with involving the children.

Dates for this year are  (all Tuesdays) March 5, April 2, May 7 (we start at 7 pm in the summer), June 4, July 2, August 6, (we are taking a summer break). September 3, October 1, November 5 (back to the winter starting time of 6:30 pm), and December 3.

Our numbers grow every month and we would love to see you at the next Potluck with Purpose!









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Posted in Local Activities on December 19, 2011