Cathay M. Gleeson (1949-2020)

GLEESON, Kathleen (“Cathay”) Mary (1949 – 2020)

(portrait painting by Jim McVicker)

Cathay Gleeson was born in Bismarck, North Dakota on August 14, 1949. Soon after graduation from high school, she moved to Santa Monica, California, where she found work as a telephone operator for GTE, and met her life-long friend, a ballet dancer named Karen Oswald. Coming from a family of dedicated military service, she then enlisted in the U.S. Army, and was stationed in Germany, where she ran for the Army’s track team. After her honorable discharge, she returned to Santa Monica, where she worked her way up to the GTE switch-room. In May, 1984, she married William “Bill” Mohr, a poet and independent press publisher, whom she had met at Intellectuals and Liars Bookstore in Santa Monica. They separated in 1993, and she remained in their rent-controlled apartment in the Ocean Park section of Santa Monica as she undertook a career as a massage therapist and became known and respected for her kind and healing hands. She retired from that work in her early sixties, and moved to Santa Rosa, where she lived in a trailer park and enjoyed taking her dog for walks. She then moved to Xenia, Ohio, where she died in May, 2020, in her home, of a heart attack.

She loved mystery books, especially by P.D. James, hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains, and celebrating with her husband the World Series triumphs of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins. Along with several other poets associated with Beyond Baroque. she was a charter member of AIiB (Artists Interested in Baseball). She attended the first Women’s Marathon of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles by being at both the start of the race and then going to the stadium to applaud every runner who crossed the finish line. She had the good fortune to be in Los Angeles for the annual “Magical Mystery Tour” curated by Josine Ianco-Starrels, as well as many exhibitions at the Long Beach Museum of Art. She loved watching ballets with great dancers such as Fernando Bujones, and contemporary dance troupes such as Pilobolus, at various venues in Los Angeles, and was an important contributing voice to the editing of “Poetry Loves Poetry”: An Anthology of Los Angeles Poets (1985). She was a self-affirming feminist and a member of the WICCA movement, and active as a shop steward for the CWA. She also designed hats and sold several of her original creations. The defeat of Hillary Clinton was a moment of profound sadness for her. She looked forward to joining the massive turnout that will evict Senator Clinton’s opponent from the White House, in November, 2020.

She is survived by her older sister, Peggy, and her husband, Kenny, as well as several nephews and a niece, and their offspring. She was predeceased by two brothers, both of whom were also in the military during the Vietnam War, as well as her parents. Her remains will be interred at the Mandan Military Cemetery in North Dakota. Her remains will be interred at the Mandan Military Cemetery in North Dakota. The memories of her life will remain vivid in the lives of her two best friends; her presence lingers, as a jaunty and stalwart woman who stayed true to herself defined.

Cathay Gleeson arriving at Beyond Baroque in mid-summer, 1997, for a poetry reading by Bill Mohr

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