Monthly Archives: January 2012

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


The full title of this 2011 documentary, showing in Albany on Sunday afternoon, February 12th, 2012, is Growthbusters – Hooked on Growth?  The synopsis begins, “Everything we thought we knew is wrong!”

When you challenge such a firmly held paradigm as the one that says economic growth is essential for our heath and happiness, you can bet you’ll meet with opposition. The creator of this film, Dave Gardner (“will direct to save planet”), ran for office in his home town in Colorado on the platform of zero growth after meeting with progressively more open ridicule every time he addressed the city council. After a nail-biting campaign against the incumbent, he won over 40% of the votes. In today’s political climate, that’s quite an achievement! His passion and sense of humor come through in the film and make very palatable the hard task he presents to us of contemplating a completely new way of thinking about progress.

The final piece of the movie consists of local Transition leaders, including Bay Localize’s Dave Broom, demonstrating what can be done.

The screening will be followed by discussion led by instructor in Human Evolution, Mark Mason PhD, who also volunteers with Occupy Oakland.

That’s Sunday, February 12, 1:30 pm at the Albany Library, Edith Stone Room, 1247 Marin Avenue at Masonic, Albany, CA. The documentary is 100 minutes long and the whole event should be over by 4:30 pm.

There is no charge for this event, but we will be collecting donations to help cover the cost of the screening. If you want to guarantee seats for yourself or your party, please email or call 510-528-2261, then arrive before 1:15 pm. Thank you!

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Posted in Economy, Social Justice on January 20, 2012

Saving Energy & Money

Did you know that the average home loses 40% of its energy though leaks??? You can save a lot of money by ensuring your home is energy efficient while you conserve precious resources for our low energy future.


Another factoid: indoor air quality is two to five times worse than outdoor air quality, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and can often be the cause of asthma.


Now you can learn how to  save up to $4,000 on energy upgrades by coming to a free informational evening for Albany and Alameda County homeowners.



Wednesday January 25th, 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Avenue at Solano. Snacks and coffee will be provided.

Participating contractors, trained and ready to work on your home, will be there to answer your questions.

***If you decide on an energy upgrade for your house, $100 will go to the local school of your choice. Now that’s nice!***

For more information, please contact Lou Riordan at 510-891-6553 or info(at)

This event is co-sponsored by City of Albany, Carbon Neutral Albany and Transition Albany



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Posted in Economy, Energy on January 6, 2012