Community Leader, Social Justice Advocate and Beloved Bookstore Owner, Kathy Epling, Passes Unexpectedly

Kathy Epling Linked in

After a short illness, Kathy Epling, tireless advocate for social justice, bookstore owner, poet, cat wrangler, flower fancier and beloved Southern Humboldt community member died Sunday morning from a heart attack.

In her last post on her blog, Kathy wrote of the impermanence of life and the passing away of what once was. As with any good poet, her words say more of her and her soul then any words written by others could attempt. For those who loved her, take time to read them aloud. Their beauty will both make your throat ache and ease her passing.

She wrote,

We live in a world of rise and fall, of turns of the seasons, turning of the wheel. Beautiful things happen. Bad things happen. The white plum blossom drifts down like snow, and then there may be hard green nubs, and then sweet yellow or red or purple fruit, drawing the wasps, staining our mouths, sticky on our fingers, luscious to our tongues.

In the old days the news that ripped our lives apart came in letters & in phone calls & in people standing stiffly on the doorstep, faces fixed in a polite and terrible calm.

These days—perhaps a text message, a quick pixilated private message, a scrap of news, may turn the world over.

The trees keep blooming. I think you have to figure out what’s important. The flowers are here briefly. And so are we…..

Once I was a little girl, playing with imagined friends, my fine pale hair in my eyes. Once my children played under the falling blossoms. Once, well once upon a time I trusted nothing would ever hurt.

And I was wrong.

I’ve seen deaths, and loss, I’ve lived through a lifetime  of wars and damaged souls. People and things have slipped through my fingers. They’ve been lost. I can’t rescue them, I can’t just break out the unicorns and dances, though I would love to. I’ve stayed up, haunted, through many a long night.

And I wouldn’t have missed it.

Her friends and family need help to cover the expenses of her unexpected death and also wish to create something permanent in her name–or at least something as permanent as possible in this world of swift changes. If you would like to help, please follow this link. Memorial will be announced in July.

circa 1970

Circa 1970


Kathy and Garth circa 1980.


Kathy, Garth, Laurel and Paul circa 1990

Kathy Epling and family

Paul, Laurel, Kathy, Gabby, and Garth circa 2000



  • Thank You Kym, for putting together a tribute for Kathy and all of us that will miss her soooo much. How I wish I could see her again. And her words that we can go to for keeping her near.

  • Blessed that it was short and that she left so much positive and life-affirming in her wake. She got a beautiful life and she shared it with us. RIP

  • Thank you for your beautiful Tribute to Kathy Epling. My heart gos out to Paul and the family for
    their incredible loss of their beloved Kathy. I know that Kathy’s Spirit will continue to live in
    their hearts.

  • My sympathy to her entire family. Garth, I am sorry for your loss. Hugs, Norma

  • From us here at Tulip Perfume we wanted to pay our condolences to Kathy’s family friends and community, which we feel were one in the same for her. She was/is a huge fan of our products, always leaving pleasant and supportive comments on our social media about her favorites. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement Kathy in our journey. We support you in yours. Blessings xx

  • “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    I recall distinctly the first time I met Kathy, and how we talked about our love for Dorothy Day and St. Teresa the Little Flower. About our love of the Little Way, and how it is the small things, done with great love, that matter most.

    Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon.

  • Johanna markham

    Thank you for sharing this ..I awoke the morning of her passing and be for my pillow left my head I stared to write I wrote 2 rapid I learned later that day I realized the significance..Kathy was a inspiration ,mentor ,fellow writer and astrologer for me personally .I know I am but one droplet in the ocean of her love yet I also know she loved me the way I love her .As with everyone else who loves her .in grief there is praise as another dear friend of hers reminded me today..we share a vast loss and and a much greater gain .As her sheer existance challenges us all to step it up! I am so thankful to have these last thoughts to chew on ..Thank you Kathy..

  • Wow. You who did and felt for the least of them and always had an open door and bowl of fruit while people accused you of drawing in the homeless and all otjer manner of crazy blame . such a kind hearted soul in a mean spirited area. You retained the hippie attitude I assume others had thirty plus years ago pre pot wealth. Thank you for the green fuse and your heart tjat made a difference . can’t imagine garberville without you. A true poet you even were kind enough to write the best one we all needed upon hearing this sad news. The angels will welcome one of their own. Much respect from wave

  • Thank you for the beautiful poem Kathy, truly you will be missed. An icon of so hum society.

  • I am sadden to hear of this news. May she rest in the peace she so well deserves.

  • Thanks Kym for this fine tribute to Kathy… She was an advocate of the social justice program of Dorothy Day and The Catholic Worker movement… When it came to issues like homelessness, poverty and the failures of health care in our community, Kathy acted… and she acted every day… She provided advocacy and advice as well as free clothing, food and the beauty of her gardening to help take the edge off desperation… She was by far the most effective social worker in Southern Humboldt…
    Her passing leaves a void in our community life which we must consider and work to fill… As we donate to her memory, let’s try to look for some way to help those in need every day and make our effort with Kathy in our hearts…

  • Thank you for loving the animals and helping those in need .and for loving nature and all of creation and honoring and giving presence to the individual essence of the varied manifestations of this life force. Adding this as I forgot in original post.

  • Dear Garth, I am so sorry for this sudden loss of your mother, that will change your life permanently and those in your family. She is remembered for her strength of heart encased in poetry of flowers.

  • We will all miss her so much! I humbly suggest that in our future dealings with anyone and everyone, we ask ourselves WHAT WOULD KATHY DO? And TRY. It’s the best way to honor her I can think of – won’t be easy…..but that wouldn’t have stopped our friend, would it?
    Rest in peace, dear, dear Kathy……………………….

    • Finally catching up. And, after reading all of this, I’m, more than ever, sorry the bookstore was closed the day we stopped by. Thank you, nonetheless, for urging me on. What a beauty! And, what grace. More to breathe and take in every time we remember. There’s a terrific wind and the prayer flags are hummng.

  • I never even met her and I’m sitting here crying like a baby. When I moved to Ukiah in 2000 I “met” Kathy through the Green Fuse. She was a kindred soul who spoke in the most beautiful language of her heart. I consciously wrote her name down and said to myself, this is the type of person I want to befriend now that I’m here in Mendocino. Fifteen years later I had just “friended” her on Facebook and was thrilled to be in her circle and to just feel her energy. I had just written her a love note/fan message. I am inspired to be and do better than ever before and to do it for Kathy. My condolences to her family, friends, and community.

  • I was so bummed. I will miss her very much.

  • I just found this and I am devastated. I have looked for Kathy for some time online and couldn’t find her. I just wrote about her and Orange Cat Goes To Market and the subsequent bookstores and catalogs, Tiger Lily, and then life pushes one downstream so fast one looks up one day and wonders where the precious people, so dearly loved, have gone. To Garth and the whole family I send my condolences and more love than a heart can hold…

    Maitri Libellule

  • In the middle of the night I remembered Orange Cat Goes to Market. I would pore over the catalog in the early 80s in Florida, reading Kathy’s reviews and ordering books. We exchanged several letters about our lives and young sons. Such a friendly person! Her memory lives on in those she touched.

  • Christie Coatsworth

    Across the distance of space, here in the farmlands of southernmost Canada, and time, two years after her passing, I read with deep regret of Kathy’s passing. The reading list of my midwives in 1982 put Kathy’s mail order book catalogues among the influences that shaped my reading and parenting. The arrival of her cardboard boxes jammed full of books was Christmas. I treasured her poet’s eye for the profound in the stuff of everyday life. Thank you for the photos, and for her words. I remembered her in her woodsy cabin when I heard of the fires in California, and went searching for her online. Alas. “People and things have slipped through my fingers.”

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