- GJ 4 Susan
- Drowned Diver
- Arson Suspect
- AVHC PR
- Cardinal Soccer
- Ghetto Safeway
- Quake Watch
- Bagman Contempt
- Catch of the Day
- Algal Distinctions
- Rail Details
- Astronomical Talk
- Boycott KZYX
- Sue Hoya Sellars
TAKE IT TO THE GRAND JURY, MR. DA
Mendocino County has an unsolved murder on its hands, and District Attorney David Eyster can’t seem to decide what to do about it. He should ask the Mendocino County Grand Jury to give him some help.
Susan Keegan’s death certificate, the official, state-determined record of what caused a death, is succinct in calling hers a homicide. Not cause unknown. Not under investigation. Not result of a fall. Homicide.
In a civilized society, we prosecute homicides. Moving forward requires first, evidence that a homicide has occurred, and second, a tight link between that evidence and the accused.
In this case, officials obviously know a homicide occurred, because that’s what they put on the death certificate. They know it because the bruises on Susan’s body and other forensics evidence told them her death was no accident.
Just as obviously, there is a sole suspect – the one person who acknowledged that he was in the Keegan home the night Susan died. The one who also had bruises on his arms. The man who was filled with rage in the divorce mediator’s office the day before Susan died (see Establishing Motive). The one who seemed to be setting the stage when he lied to friends and family about sudden changes in Susan’s behavior in the weeks before her death. And seemed to be celebrating afterwards (see Conduct Unbecoming).
What else do we know about that suspect? He was a doctor who had previously told friends that he knew how to cause death without leaving a trace. The one who medical personnel at the Hospice of Ukiah discussed with the Sheriff after Susan’s death.
We call such people to account in a land that values justice. We do not say, “well, he’s lawyered up,” as one private investigator told us, trying to explain the system’s reluctance to prosecute. We do not say, year after year, as the DA’s spokesman has done, “the case remains under investigation” and “we’re still discussing it.” We do not hesitate to take action just because the suspect is well-connected, well-educated, and widely known.
In the Keegan case, the barriers to prosecution are unclear, because the DA has treated media inquiries as unwelcome interference and refused multiple written requests to speak directly to family and friends. But let’s assume the forensics evidence is not as definitive as he would like. That would not be surprising, because the early days of the investigation were badly mishandled (see Unprosecuted Homicide and Three Years On). Let’s assume he hesitates to lean too heavily on circumstantial evidence, powerful though it may be.
But we can also assume that when the forensics and the circumstantial evidence are combined, the case grows more formidable. Surely, there is enough to bring before the Mendocino County Grand Jury and ask, “What do you think?” “Is there a preponderance of evidence in this case such that a prosecution should move forward?”
In California, prosecutors are more likely to use a preliminary hearing, held in open court before a judge, to seek an indictment. But the state permits a grand jury recommendation to be used as an alternative pathway. Historically, that approach to an indictment has been used when there is “high public interest” in a case, or “the district attorney wishes to test” the evidence; those reasons certainly apply here. (Read more about California grand juries here.)
Grand jury proceedings fully protect the rights of the accused, but the secrecy that surrounds them allows witnesses to speak more freely, and safeguards certain elements of a case. And the grand jury has access to subpoena power, so it can command the testimony of witnesses who have refused to speak to the DA voluntarily (see Compel the Divorce Mediator to Talk).
Family and friends are anguished and mystified about the failure to pursue justice for Susan Keegan. In the Mendocino community as a whole, there is lingering fear. Someone capable of stealing a life remains at large. Might he lash out again?
With its use of grand juries, the state of California gives DA Eyster a powerful tool so that he can act cautiously and seek objective, outside opinion from a powerful citizen body. He should use it.
SCANNER TRAFFIC Sunday yielded the bad news that an abalone diver had drowned off Russian Gulch State Park, and one has to wonder who would be in or near the water in a high surf period? The dead man has since been identified as Michael Sean Lipsmeyer, 46, of Auburn, California.
BOLES FIRE SUSPECT ARRESTED
Weed, CA – On October 11, 2014, Weed Police Department arrested Ronald Beau Marshall, 24, of Weed, CA in connection with the Boles Fire. After a three week joint investigation between Weed Police Department, Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department and CAL FIRE, Marshall was arrested and booked into the Siskiyou County Jail on a felony warrant with charges of Arson of an Inhabited Structure or Property, Arson to Forest Land, and Arson of Property of Another. Bail was set at $250,000.
CAL FIRE works diligently in arson cases to aggressively investigate and prosecute those suspected of intentionally starting fires. "As fire danger remains extreme across California, arson puts life, property and natural resources at risk and we will continue to dedicate as many resources as needed to track down and prosecute those who purposely threaten our State," said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of CAL FIRE. Residents should be vigilant in their preparedness and aware of suspicious persons when a fire does start. If you witness someone suspicious make note of the time, his or her physical description, as well as any vehicle description, including the license plate number. Always contact law enforcement, never approach a suspicious person. Anyone with information about arson is urged to contact the CAL FIRE Arson Hotline at 1-800-468-4408. Callers can remain anonymous.
The Boles fire destroyed 516 acres, 157 homes, and forced the evacuation of more than 4,000 people. Over 1,000 firefighters were on the front lines battling this destructive fire. [Calfire News Release]
JENDI COURSEY, a Ukiah-based public relations person, has been hired by the Anderson Valley Health Center “to help them share their news with the community. I would like to keep you informed of newsworthy activities, starting with the hiring of a new CEO and family doctor."
COURSEY duly produced a sis boom bah press release that deftly ignores recent turmoil. It begins merrily and bubbles on to giddily optimistic conclusion at the Health Center's prospects in an actual context of insurmountable debt, the usual incompetent board of self-selected and admin-supine trustees characteristic of public life in Mendocino County, a purge of long-time employees, and a declining customer base, many of those customers permanently estranged from the Center because of recent, thug-like orchestrations.
(EVER SEE that hilarious movie from the 1950s starring the wonderful Vincent Price? Whenever things get unpleasant we hear the muzak-like pluckings of a harp as Price zones out in a self-induced trance until the unpleasantness passes. Ladies and Germs, your local boards of directors.)
THE PRESS RELEASE equivalent of the movie begins, "Long known for its commitment to the community and its residents, Anderson Valley Health Center (AVHC) has overcome a challenging transition and is on its way to a bright future...."
WHICH WE'VE PARED down to its essentials: AVHC has hired a new CEO and a new doctor. Shannon Spiller is the new CEO. Before joining the AVHC staff, Spiller worked in health care administration as the Assistant Medical Director for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Health Service in Cass Lake, Minnesota.
THE NEW DOCTOR is Logan McGhan, a board-certified family practice doctor. McGhan finished his residency earlier this year and began working at AVHC in late August. His wife is from Michoacán. She and the doc have a son. Dr. Mark Apfel, the main man at the Center since its inception, "shared his enthusiasm at finding someone to help him care for the people in the community he loves. 'I’m not ready to retire yet, but I’m glad to know the community will be in good hands when I do.'
TRANSLATION: THE DOOMED MAN read from a statement prepared by his captors minutes before his decapitation.
WE DIDN'T KNOW until we read the essential Elk-based blog, mendocinosportsplus, that Mendocino High School, for the first time in 29 years did not field a soccer team. The late Jon Shepherd would not be pleased. He moved mountains to get soccer established at the school, and devoted thousands of hours to it.
7:30 PM THURSDAY. Low on milk and eggs, I stop at the mildly infamous “Ghetto Safeway” tucked between Fillmore and Webster, just south of Japantown. Walking to the doors I see three police cars triangulating a homeless and insane man sitting on the curb and muttering about the Bill of Rights. The cops look bored, but are in no hurry to physically confront the man. Several feet away a couple Safeway security guards stand between the homeless man and the doors, as if expecting him to lunge back inside, or start hurling phlegm grenades.
One squad car starts to drive away when a woman holding an infant and palming a lit cigarette appears from nowhere, “Officers! Officers!” The cops grudgingly roll down their windows. “Can we help you, ma’am?” No, of course they can’t. But they’re cops, so they have to try, the unlucky saps.
Inside there’s the screech of an alarm. A woman’s voice on the PA says every 30 seconds: “Maurice, can you turn the alarm off? Maurice, the alarm!” At the Self-Service Check-Out Counters a shouting match erupts after an elderly Latina in camera-ready low-rider makeup makes the mistake of telling an African-American woman that the “line starts here.” The response is predictable: “Bitch, I ain’t in no line! Mind your own damn business!”
“I was just making sure, lady. Don’t have to get nasty!”
“I’m gonna put some nasty upside your Elvira sorry ass eyebrows!”
“I’m a grandma! Treat me with respect!” Grandma cocks her fists, ready to rumble.
“Respect this, taco!” The offended woman charges at the grandmother-cum-line monitor, but stops five feet short, which is also the spot where two more Safeway security guards block her way. Insults and profanity continue to proliferate. As gunfire may break out any second, I head to the cool oasis of the dairy aisle and peruse the discount margarine. The woman besides me smiles and shouts: “Beretha, you bring the coupons? There’s a good deal on waffles.”
“Pardon me?” I ask, wondering why she called me Beretha.
“Oh, I’m just talking to my friend.”
I nod, despite the fact that nobody’s around us. Then from two aisles over comes a loud female voice that can only be Beretha.
“They’s outta blueberry waffles! This is bullshit!”
The woman next to me responds to the invisible Beretha at full volume: “Then get what Chucky wants!” My paranoia kicks in: Is “Chucky” code for ISIS? Is a fundamentalist Islamic gang created by the CIA about to turn the verdant fruit and veg section into a Sharia Nation, minus the sexy costumes and Marlboro Lights?
As Beretha emerges from the frozen food aisle, and I realize there’s no way ISIS could take this Safeway, not with this kind of American muscle holding the fort.
For some reason, I decide against milk and eggs and instead grab two cans of refried beans and a squirt gun. I find a cashier that has only two people waiting. Big mistake.
An Asian woman is returning a bottle gallon of lemon vodka for a bottle of mandarin orange rotgut. Five minutes go by as a hapless clerk brings one giant bottle of booze out after another. We natives stuck behind her are getting restless. We want to vamoose before the beheadings begin. The Asian woman finally agrees to take a 64-ounce bottle of crème de menthe instead. Whatever. She can drink motor oil as long as she leaves the store. I nod at the man behind me, who says, “My beers are warm now.”
Then the Asian woman says: “Oops, I almost forgot. I need to exchange these Weight Watcher milkshakes too. My husband doesn’t like the flavor of vanilla, it’s too strong.”
And from unseen loudspeakers come, “Maurice? Hey, Mo, are you there? Can you please turn off the alarm again?” — ZA
FOUR NORCAL FAULTS primed for Big Quakes. A new study says four stretches of faults running under Northern California are primed for quakes of 6.8 or more.
CONGRESSMAN JARED HUFFMAN'S idea of a public meeting — “Coffee with your Congressman” — occurs Wednesday at the Mendocino County Museum in Willits from 8:30-10am. “Questions may be submitted ahead of time, but question cards will also be handed out to those at the event.” And “Those planning to attend must RSVP to Heather Gurewitz by e-mail at email@example.com.”
I WROTE to Heather asking her to place me at the very top of the guest list. Guess I didn't make it because I didn't hear back. Of course early morning interfaces with our federal leadership of the rsvp, pre-approved questions type are.....are what? Well, an indication of the contempt corporate bagmen of the Huffman type hold us in.
CATCH OF THE DAY, October 13, 2014
GARY ALLEN, Ukiah. Under influence of controlled substance, probation revocation.
EDWARD ESQUIVEL, Willits. Driving without valid license, possession of smoking/injecting device, dirk-dagger.
ANGELA FREASE, Covelo. Possession of meth for sale, sale of meth, possession of concentrated cannabis.
JASON FRYMAN, Willits. Driving without valid license, under influence of controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, probation revocation.
FLORINDA GARCIA, Lakeport. Driving without valid license.
AARON GRIFFIN, Ukiah. Violation of court order.
JOSHUA HAYES, Willits. Assault with a deadly weapon not a firearm, burglary, receiving stolen property, ex-felon with firearm, prohibited person with firearm, obstruction of justice, evasion/reckless driving, probation revocation.
EDWARD JOHNSON, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
JOSEPH ROCANELLA, Ukiah. Receipt of stolen property, resisting arrest, probation revocation.
VANESSA TINAJERO, Talmage. Probation revocation.
MICHELLE WHYBURN, Ukiah. DUI.
ARNOLD WILLIAMS, Fort Bragg. DUI-Drugs.
SOLOMON WOODS, Willits. Assault with a deadly weapon not a firearm, burglary, conspiracy, receiving stolen property, ex-felon with firearm, prohibited person with firearm, obstruction of justice, evasion/reckless driving, probation revocation.
THE DOMINANT SPECIES
I would like to address an article recently written in the AVA by Will Parris [sic] addressing some work of mine referenced in his article. Mr. Parris suggests my referenced article somehow ignores the continuing issues affecting water quality in Clear Lake. Mr. Parris seems to be mixing terminology not recognizing the difference between true alga (green, red, etc) and cyanobacteria. The County of Lake has in fact taken great strides to address sediment entry into Clear Lake. So much so, that since the early 1970s the lake’s water clarity has increased, the result of dramatic reductions in true alga populations, consequently resulting in a “new” dominant, species of cyanobacteria, Lyngbya. This species has long been present in the lake but was never recorded as a dominant, “nuisance” species. Though phosphorous plays a significant part in this organism’s life-cycle, water clarity also seems to be a major contributing factor.
The bloom that Mr. Parris references was Lyngbya and was never recorded as a dominant species until very recently. In any event I invite your readers to review the aforementioned article as well as other information on my web page addressing Clear Lake.
Gregory A. Giusti
U.C. ANR Cooperative Extension
Director — Lake/Mendocino Counties
WILL PARRISH REPLIES: Mr. Giusti takes issue with my dredging up of his assertion that Clear Lake's “nuisance algae” problem had been “finally abated,” which he made the year before the current cyanobacteria problem became Lake County's biggest nuisance (politically, as well as environmentally). Mr. Giusti is correct that I failed in my piece to distinguish between algae and cyanobacteria (a distinction that the California Department of Public Health fails to clarify). Cyanobacteria coexists with harmless algae, while sometimes “outcompeting” it for sources of its own nutrients. I referenced the part of Mr. Giusti's essay in question because it reflects the prevailing thinking among the county's braintrust, whose party line is that increasing clarity proves the lake is getting better, and that is because of all the work that has been done. Mr. Giusti repeats that claim here. Actually, the volume of sediment that continues to wash into the lake (from new hillside vineyards, existing agriculture, previously logged areas of the Mendocino National Forest, squatted pot grows in the national forest, off-road vehicles on Cow Mountain, roads, etc.) is fairly staggering. As I'll explore more next week, the County of Lake and the State of California do little to address most of the biggest sources of that problem because doing so would require going up against powerful interests, most notably the agribusiness sector; most notable among that sector, the grape-based alcohol segment. My piece last week showed that the general problem is increasingly common throughout the world due to a combination of climate change, agricultural run-off, and wetlands destruction, and that the problem can become more intractable the longer that it goes without being solved (“eutrophic” vs. “hypereutrophic” water bodies).
LOOK, MOMMY! I SAID THE F-WORD IN THE NEWSPAPER!
Speak for himself, Bruce! “Sako, unaware the mike was on, shouted the f-word out of exasperation for the show being repeatedly cut off.” Well, Bruce, the show was not cut off, neither once nor repeatedly. And the program host is the person responsible for the microphone. So who, but Sakowicz, should have been aware that the mic was on? You are confused, Bruce. Don't get exasperated. If you're over there yelling "FUCK!" in the AVA office, I'm happy to be distanced from your irrepressible compulsions.
Gordon Black, Mendocino
ED REPLY: You’ve been doing this for years, Gordo, relaying whichever version of events whatever management “team” hands you. I know we all get old and pathetic, but most of us at least have enjoyed interludes of relative independence. BTW, did Donovan make it to the 25th? I know you were positively vibrating at the possibility. PS. I can’t help but note your obvious excitement at writing the vulgarity in caps, and with an exclamation point yet. I’m worried about you old boy. I know you’ve always been prone to these Tourettes-like fits. I hear, though, the new Alzheimer’s meds can do wonders. Please see a medical professional before you go off like this again. It really won’t do.
FILLING SOME RAILROAD HOLES
Bill Seekins' article on the Albion Branch of the Northwest Pacific Railroad was a wonderful reconstruction of the Valley's industrial past. It also brought back so many memories of walks and conversations up and down the gulches with the likes of Bill Witherell, Donald Pardini, Bob Glover, Alvy Price, Loren Bloyd, Samand Marguerite Avery, so many others from the Iteville community.
The whole era was a remarkable achievement in ambitious industrial engineering supported by intelligence, experience, bravado and little formal education.
Bill's account of the line from Albion over Keene Summit to Wendling (Navarro), Christine (Guntly Ranch), and up and over Mill Creek has a few holes in it I'll try to fill in.
I think I know about all the logging rail spurs off the mainline from Keene Summit to Mill Creek, but not when they were built. Were they built all at once or piecemeal as demand arose? Bill's comment about Southern Pacific rail construction in Mexico in the 1920s could be a clue to answering the question.
Between Wendling and Christine I think there were in fact three spurs but I can't attach a date to their installation. One went up Fern Gulch at the south end of town. The gulch starts east, then twists southerly and finishes on a flat at the north end of the Ingram Ranch, latterly called Horse Haven, now grapes. It was said by Glover the rail hands used to stage flatcars at the end of the spur, load them, then use gravity and the handbrakes to roll the cars into the mill site. Challenging, occasionally catastrophic, according to Glover.
Then there was the Perry Gulch branch, straight to the west end of the Ranch half a mile back from the River. There was a summer logging camp back there in 1927 and '28, according to Glover, Loren Bloyd, Alvy Price, Bill Witherell. I know Perry Gulch, my farm, formerly Colson/Guntly/Ingram, was logged then, as I can still see the stationary steam yarder skidding cable tracks heading off the hill down into Perry Gulch.
The most ambitious spur, though, was the one into Floodgate Creek. It went down Floodgate on Floodgate Ranch owned by the Sawyer Family to, I believe, within a quarter mile of the River, but also had a spur into an unnamed creek running north through Sawyer into Ingram Ranch flat, my place. When I first settled here in 1971, I could still find on the 3 acre flat, among the enormous tree stumps an occasional tie or railspike. Crossing the property line south into Floodgate Ranch today, I can still find pieces of the graded rail right-of-way and an occasional bridge timber (I hope). This spur enabled clear cutting Floodgate and Gschwend ranches, some of the southern Pacific land along the River along with Ingram.
More spectacular though was the reverse track to the Floodgate spur. After entering it, trains backed uphill east under the mainline trestle, another story, into Peat Pasture Gulch on Guntly Ranch near where Sharon Sullivan lives in the Holmes subdivision. This spur transported logging from both Bacchi and Guntly ranches on up to at least Meyer Gulch, Glover told me, if not higher up.
That's enough letter column space occupancy for today. I'd like to write more about the rail/milltown culture between Navarro and Albion at another time and after reading a few more times Bill's wonderful article and its sources.
But, wait, one more fact. I am sure Glover and others told me that the line up Mill Creek all the way to Camp Seven was an entirely separate system. That is, it was narrow gauged and the locomotives were small cog-driven devices called shays designed for steep terrain and tight curves. Redwood trestle foundation pillars for this line still exist in lower Mill Creek. I think I found some evidence of spur right-of-way in the creek's North Fork north of the Hayward Scott/Nash Mill site.
Thanks again, Bill, for your article.
Brad Wiley, Navarro
FROM UKIAH TO YALE:
The Astronomical Rise Of Frank Schlesinger
Dr. Joseph S. Tenn, Professor Emeritus at Sonoma State University, will be the guest lecturer at the “Tours of Earth and Sky” lecture series, at the City of Ukiah Council Chambers, 300 Seminary Dr. on Thursday, October 23, 7:30 pm
Joe Tenn is an engaging speaker and has written a number of popular and historical articles about astronomy and astronomers. In a turn of the Century “Only in Mendocino” tale, Joe will talk about Frank Schlesinger, (1871-1943) a noted American astronomer, who went on to become Director of the Yale University Observatory. A respected and well liked leader in his field, he served as president of both the American Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union.
Yet his first job after completing his education was in Ukiah, where he was the founding Director of the Ukiah Latitude Observatory. He supervised its construction in 1899 and served as its lone astronomer for four years. While in Ukiah, he married Eva Hirsch and they had their only a son, Wagner, here.
The talk is free to the public, sponsored by City of Ukiah Community Services and Friends of Observatory Park. For further information, contact Martin Bradley, 707-489-4607 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOYCOTT KZYX PLEDGE DRIVE
Looking at the KZYX Facebook page, I noticed 29 published photos from the October 11th KZYX Birthday Bash. Absent were photos of young people and families with children. Absent were Asians and blacks. There were no Native Americans represented at the party and very few Latinos.
A friend of a friend put it another way: "When I drove by a couple of times yesterday, on the sidewalk there seemed to be a high proportion of old, gray-haired, overweight, pigtailed hippie men and miscellaneous silly women in paisley harem pants."
This collection of photos and assorted observations reflects the demographic that is known as KZYX -- middle-aged, white, marginalized, and self-isolated people who want the general community to support “their” radio station and "their" programs, no matter how obscure those programs may be. This demographic has been encouraged and perpetuated by the current Program Director.
Speaking as someone who worked for years at Nashville Public Radio, WPLN, the programs and programmers at KZYX would not be viable at any other public radio station elsewhere in the United States. As an aside, Nashville’s, WPLN regularly contributes stories of interest to KQED, a sister NPR station. I have never heard a story generated by KZYX on any other NPR station.
Ask yourself: How many of the current programs reflect your interests as a subscriber to the station? What do you really want the station to be?
On Wednesday, KZYX kicks off its Fall Pledge Drive. Before you pledge to KZYX this fall, ask how much of your pledge is earmarked for local news? Five minutes of news for a county as large as Mendocino? Ask how much of your pledge will go into the pockets of the staff who will not disclose their salaries and who will not produce job descriptions, performance evaluations, or work logs? Ask how much of your pledge is earmarked for broadcast equipment that is old and broken, and regularly fails? How much is budgeted to archive shows and create podcasts? How much is budgeted for a Ukiah studio? KZYX is located in Philo which is not the county seat. Philo's population was 349 at the 2010 census.
Visit the station in person to see how your money isn't being used to maintain a clean, productive and professional office environment. The place is filthy and run down with contaminated faucet water that comes from a cesspool. Talk with the staff about what is important to you and see what kind of response you get. It's still unclear to many folks what the current General Manager and Program Director actually do. They especially don't recruit and support good talent, while developing new programming that serves the many and not the few. In other words, if you aren’t like-minded, you will not be a programmer. The mindset of the Program Director is provincial, controlling, and unprofessional.
What IS clear is that, over the years, the GM and PD have purged good talent who have tried to bring a different point of view, including KC Meadows, Mitch Clogg, Marco McClean, Doug McKenty, Beth Bosk, Johanna Schultz, Sheila Dawn Tracy, King Collins, DJ Sister Yasmin and many others. Norman De Vall and John Sakowicz were most recently purged.
Before becoming a member, think on this fact: The KZYX budget is more than $650,000. The KMEC budget is $17,000. How is that $650,000 at KZYX spent? Too much goes to salaries without factual and documented accountability. By the way, KMEC has a LONG list of underwriters of the station published on its website. A list of underwriters is long absent from the KZYX website.
KMEC, 105.1 FM, is Ukiah's own community radio station. It's where Norman De Vall and John Sakowicz both have moved their shows until a change in management at KZYX occurs.
Please, before you give to KZYX, ask the GM where your dollars are going. You deserve to know. Until you do know, support KMEC.
M Kathryn Massey, KZYX Members for Change
SUE HOYA SELLARS
April 20, 1936 – September 29, 2014
by Shiloh McCloud
A legendary woman has left this earth, although her lineage continues through those who had the privilege of studying with her both on her land, and at the canvas. Sue Hoya Sellars has “accelerated into the future” as she so aptly referred to the aging process.
Sue encouraged everyone she knew to ‘commit art’. She told it like it is while never missing a beat, say most of the people who knew homesteader and master painter Sue Hoya Sellars. With a groundbreaking futuristic, classical and anthropological approach to art, the work of Sue Hoya Sellars is the work of an American Master. Sue filled any room she entered with intellect, authentic eccentricity, unforgiving wit, humor and a fierce stand on the protection of women and girls.
Born on April 20, 1936, in Prince George’s County, Sue grew up working the cotton and tobacco fields in Acoceek, Maryland. During those times of her youth stubborn dreams and a pointed vision toward the future stayed firmly attached to her creativity, personal expression and her great wonder and connection to the natural world.
Sue began drawing at the early age of four, “to keep her occupied,” as her older sister Eva was given the job of babysitting. Eva would have Sue draw and redraw the same thing with a pencil about two inches long. So began the legacy of learning to see, to really ‘see’ that Sue was famous for in her circle of influence and to take her time.
“As a teenager, I made myself think about painting and drawing from nature all the time. I made myself do it. I made myself think about that instead of going out and partying or getting a new pair of blue jeans. What I knew was I was studying to be an artist.”
As a young girl she heard about an artist who lived in a town 7 miles away and she began to work towards building a “body of work” so she could show this artist her intent- to study art. It took her two years to get her portfolio ready and to pay off a bicycle and ride it those 7 miles to ask if she could study with her.
Her rare talent was immediately recognized and she became an apprentice to the famous artist, poet and sculptor Lenore Thomas Straus. It was in 1937, only one year after Sue’s birth, that Straus worked for the U.S. Office of President Roosevelt through the President's famous New Deal art program. Called the WPA (Works Progress Administration) program for the arts that brought art to public spaces throughout the U.S., it was a time that gave American artists much needed recognition as well as money for their artwork.
Fifteen years following the push for the WPA, Straus officially became Sue’s legal guardian as she mentored and had her trained in sculpting, painting, writing and clay work, as well as in poetry and zen sumi ink technique and found other artists for Sue to study with to expand her talent.
“She got on the phone and called local artists that had clout, and set me up with a painter who gave painting lessons in exchange for babysitting, drawing lessons in exchange for doing yard work and sculpting lessons with her in exchange for babysitting”
In 1955, Lenore organized an official position for Sue Sellars where at the age nineteen, she became the youngest person to hold the position of head illustrator for the George Vanderbilt Foundation at Stanford University.
She began a career in art, during a time when most women in the arts who dedicated their life completely to their own artwork, were very scarce throughout the United States. Her diverse interest in the arts and sciences brought her many powerful opportunities to share her work and her vision. Sue studied biological illustrating with Jan Roemhild, attended the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC and the San Francisco Art Institute under the instruction with Wayne Tiebaugh. She studied anatomy at the San Francisco School of Physicians and Surgeons while illustrating with Dr. Forbes and biological engineer, Hugh Hinchcliff. She was an illustrator for Janet Bollow and Associates for three decades, illustrating college text books covering Anthropology, Biology, Geology, Psychology, and Sociology. She attended the School of Electronic Art in San Francisco.
Sue Hoya Sellars was part of America’s explosion for independence in the feminist movement of the 1970s. It was a time when she began to open to the great adventures of the world as she witnessed the beginning of the California revolution through women’s rights, feminism and the legions of activists that began to ‘wake up’ to what needed to happen in the lives of women and their families. Those were the years she lived bringing the issues of inequality and the needs for ‘woman-only power’ to the attention of the women’s community.
For years she was referred to as the “The Separatist”, both fondly and through the criticism of her peers. She worked to define spaces that were only created by women. Hence her call to work the land with the hands of women from the building of structures to the chopping of wood to the raising and slaughtering of livestock. For her, everything was a part of the creative process – Sue could often be found having tea with the goats with her notebook in hand. She found joy through the eyes of the artist even in the hardest of times.
She invited, and at times schooled her community to redefine thinking, language and images of women and family through art and history. Her move to the Anderson Valley in 1975 was a chance to put her vision into action through co-creating sanctuary and ‘safe space’ for women as well as the building an art studio to produce work or sale and teach others.
When asked about her stand regarding woman only spaces, she said – “no one is standing here, so I am going to, someone has to stand here regarding women – lots of others are standing other places, I will stand here.”
Expanding the freedom that came with the women’s liberation movement in California, Sue’s professional work in illustration had made its mark and could be seen throughout the country in academic and biological publications like McGraw Hill publishing, among others. One of her many accomplishments was illustrating a book by Rita Mae Brown, A Plain Brown Wrapper in 1976, bringing image to the political climate brought Sue’s work into the forefront – if we were going to redefine women, image had to be a part of that movement.
Sue was a part of creating Gaia Wood studio, now Blue Heron Studio, producing illustrations and Object D’art in porcelain and stoneware. Her work was handled by a number of galleries throughout the country, and has been showing with Color of Woman and Wisdom House Gallery since 1999. Sue defines her inspiration in terms of questions. She says:
After illustrating biological structures for over 45 years, my questions shifted from: “What does life do in these structures…to how did life get into these structures?”, and “Who is this consciousness that lives in here? Who is it that is even doing this wondering?”
Skilled in all mediums of working the land, and in art, she was a frontier woman in another surprising way. In the computer era of the 1990s, Sue brought her brilliant and mind expanding work into the digital world as a demonstrated innovator with the use of a Macintosh computer in ‘fine art painting’ through MacWorld expositions in San Francisco and the new online dictionary called C-Bold. Printing some of the first large-scale fine art giclées in the world from her mountaintop studio in Anderson Valley California, Sue knew that the power of digital image was here to stay. She later began showing and selling her digital artwork to the public in Sonoma, San Francisco and Mendocino. You can see Sue’s fine art and digital prints at www.suehoyastudios.com - and even purchase prints of her creations which will continue to be updated throughout 2015.
Sue’s visionary activism remained an integral part of her work and art, advocacy for women suffering from domestic violence, as well as her concern for the safety of children who had been abused, also stayed with her for her entire lifetime. Her final series of paintings included abused children riding on horseback to safety.
In her 30s, with a diverse family focused strongly on creative arts, including poetry, painting, clay work, and working the land, the girls Sue so lovingly co-parented with Caron McCloud, and Janet Seaforth were pivotal in her life. She taught them to create with intention as young girls and in 2000 Bridget and Shiloh asked Sue to begin teaching art at their schools. Both girls founded schools that they operate today – Bridget with a focus on Montessori based education in Mendocino and Humboldt County and Shiloh with an International Online school and classroom in Sonoma County serving 300-500 women per month. The girls took the wisdom they had gathered from Sue and their creative mothers and firmly rooted it into the curriculum they were teaching. Sue’s next evolution as an Artist was to become the Art Matriarch for a woman and girl owned tribe, gallery and school, Cosmic Cowgirls.
The lineage that began with Sue’s mentorship by Lenore Thomas Straus continues through Shiloh Sophia McCloud with whom she has worked on a weekly basis for close to 15 years, but has co-parented since birth Together they co-founded the Intentional Creativity Movement reaching over 100,000 people over the past 20 years, based in the root of Sue’s teaching, which she learned from Lenor.
Living on her land since the 1970s, Sue was as powerful in 2014 at the age of 78 as she was in her younger days. She was still chain-sawing a fallen trees on her property and helping neighbors slaughter animals for food. Just this summer she was also teaching her approach to art in Paris and got to realize a life long dream of visiting the Mona Lisa.
Teaching that it’s important to “commit art”, some of Sue’s luckiest and accomplished students learned one-on-one from her in her northern California home. Named ‘Terra Sophia’, Sue’s land of rolling hills, and beautiful redwood trees and oaks helped art students gain an appreciation of ‘being on the land’ of deep listening, watching, seeing and integrating art with every aspect of life. Along with this came her sharing of quantum physics, human understanding and biology; and the importance of the work of opening the heart ever wider to compassion and love.
Sue taught us how to see, to truly see with the eyes of the artist. And to honor the gift of being incarnate in a physical body. She taught us how we were ‘sacks of cooling stardust’ with a choice of how to use our precious energy. She told us the best way to use what we had was through expressing it in art, with an intention to heal. And we listened, and were transformed. ~ Shiloh Sophia
Sue truly believed in the power of art to heal and was featured at the United Nations in 2013 as a part of an exhibit demonstrating how art could serve women post trauma.
Following a workshop with twenty women, on September 12, 2014, Sue went into a Sutter Hospital in Santa Rosa, for what she thought was recurring back pain. It was time, as she had been suffering with this recurring pain for some time and finally agreed, after much cajoling from friends, to go to see what the trouble might be. She was immediately scheduled a few days later (on September 18) for triple heart bypass surgery. Her biological family history showed that the majority of her family members had died from a similar challenge with the heart. In spite of her desire to live, and get the wood in before the rains, and finish those paintings… Sue never awoke. The complications were neither identified as a stroke, or a heart attack, so her journey remains a mystery in the minds of hearts of those who loved her. Most of her community believes she escaped her physical form and returned to the cosmos she loves so much to paint. The number of dreams and visions connected with Sue since her surgery and ‘in between worlds’ time is beyond counting. It seems she continues to guide the hand of the students she so loved to teach.
When it was clear that Sue was not going to re-emerge into this world on September 25 Sue’s extended family helped her leave the tubes and machines of the hospital behind so she could return back home to transition on her treasured land in Anderson Valley. It made sense for her to return home to the land she had loved and tended for over 40 years. Five days later on September 29 Sue passed away peacefully with the ‘daughter of-her-heart’ Shiloh Sophia McCloud Lewis and her new son-in-law Jonathan Lewis by her side. Thankfully for those who know Sue, Jonathan was “pre-approved” guest of the land and she had already begun to show him the ‘systems’ of country life Terra Sophia.
In the last years of her life, were some of her happiest and most prolific times, as Sue was thrilled with the aging process. She said recently before she passed away that it was one of the best times of her life and encouraged everyone to look forward to the aging process. You can see a video of Sue talking about the creative process here:
There is no doubt she was not afraid to pass over to the 'other side’, finding a very comfortable bond with those other worlds. But it is also clear that her desire was to live here as long as she could. Right before surgery she was talking about the next video class she wanted to teach, using a Hero camera strapped to her forehead so students could see what was happening at the end of her brush.
Plans to continue to teach art on Terra Sophia are now in process with classes scheduled in the Spring. Sue’s family will be living at Terra Sophia and stewarding the sanctuary in collaboration with Sue’s community. In decades to come it is certain that Sue’s legacy of art wisdom and life will continue to expand and bless. At this time, no original works are being sold from the estate, there is a collection of about 15 fine art pieces housed at the gallery in Healdsburg and there are collectors worldwide.
In her own words...
“Be prepared to hear and see things you never thought possible. Don’t be afraid of being overtaken by awe”
Sue Hoya Sellars Memorial –
A intimate Red Thread Circle in Sue’s honor was held on Sunday October 5 in Anderson Valley. A larger memorial is planned on April 19, 2015.
Information? Contact email@example.com
Sue Hoya Sellars C/O Shiloh McCloud
PO BOX 136 Philo, CA 95466
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