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2001.11.28 23:36:48

Memorial service honors 'sea bean lady' Cathie Katz

More than 160 remember naturalist, author who died of cancer
By Jim Waymer

Cathie Katz struggled to finish her next book on note cards from a hospital bed. But on Thanksgiving Day, the 53-year-old who came to be known as "the sea bean lady" succumbed to cancer.

On Wednesday, more than 160 gathered in Brownie-Maxwell Chapel in Melbourne to pay tribute to the gifted author, artist and naturalist who brought so many closer to nature, the beach and exotic sea beans.

"Cathie saw through different eyes, looking at the beach," her friend Cecelia White Abbott said from the dais. "What she could teach us, it went on and on and on. Her gifts to us are so many that it's just impossible to list them all."

Katz founded the annual Sea-Bean Symposium six years ago and was editor of a tri-annual newsletter, Drifting Seed, which circulates to 20 counties. She wrote several books that explored the relationship between spirituality and nature. Her simple prose opened up the world of the beaches, wildlife and natural phenomena to people worldwide.

Her first book for Sierra Club Books last year, Nature a Day at a Time: An Uncommon Look at Common Wildlife, draws clues about the human condition from the natural world. Her next book was to explore the relationship between beaches and spirituality.

But Katz's true passion was for the exotic water-borne seeds that come to rest on shores from as far away as Africa and South America. Many at Wednesday's ceremony, such as friend Ed Perry, wore T-shirts of Katz's intricate pen-and-ink drawings of sea beans.

"You may think I'm dressed inappropriately," Perry told those in attendance. "But you can rest assured, I'm sure that's what Cathie would have told me to wear."

Perry, a parks ranger at Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area, promised to name a sea bean after Katz. "We don't know the bean yet or what we're going to name it, but I can assure you we're going to do that," Perry said.

And it won't have a fancy scientific name, he assured.

"We'll probably call it something like, 'Cathie's Bean'," he said to laughs from the audience. "This bean is gong to be very beautiful and very rare, just like she was in all of our lives," Perry said.

Dr. Leslie Everitt, who ran the ceremony, said he had an outpouring of faxes, e-mails, and even poems handed to him in the street from people wanting to eulogize Katz.

"Trying to capture the essence of Cathie Katz is like trying to capture a hurricane or a tornado and put it into a Coke bottle," Everitt said.

To Perry, a few words come to mind.

"Magical. Wonderful. Just look at all the people who are here," he said after the ceremony. "Everybody wanted to be her friend. I never ever heard her say anything negative."


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