This is the third installment in our series, 25 for 25: one story per week from Hope Springs' history, to lead up to our 25th Anniversary Celebration, June 18-21, 2020.
In this installment Suzanne Stevens reflects on her 30 year friendship with Katherine Stewart, who passed away January 9, 2020. Katherine has been involved with Hope Springs since before Hope Springs even existed. A member of our Board, she is deeply missed by all of us.
When I think of the early days of Hope Springs, I think of Katherine Stewart. I met Katherine when I was just beginning to dream of having a Women’s Retreat Center, a sacred space for women to come to learn how to heal themselves, their relationships and the institutions in which they live and work.
Katherine Stewart died last week at 63 years of age. For the last 30 years she has been a dear friend and we have supported each other’s dreams along the way. I met Katherine just after she received her massage license. A healer already, she joined a “Share the Care” group for a mutual friend.
As the years went by, Katherine was on the team that prototyped Hope Springs at our home in Batavia. It was a 3 bedroom home on 12 acres of land and with couches, sleeping bags and tents, we managed to host 35 women a couple of times as we tried out different retreat designs.
When Al and I bought Hope Springs, Katherine was here to help in any way she could. My most vivid memories are of us deciding to turn any “mess” into a flower garden. In the spring, Katherine would come out with her car overflowing with plants that she had dug out of her garden or gotten on sale at a flower show. We would spend the next couple of days pulling weeds, enriching soil, planting and watering. Sometimes we even took a break to eat a bit.
In 2000, Hope Springs incorporated as a non-profit and became Hope Springs Institute – open to all who shared our vision of mind, body, spirit healing. Katherine stepped up once again, volunteered to be on our Board of Directors and helped shape Hope Springs as we moved toward long term sustainability.
Katherine had a dream from the beginning to offer a retreat for women that would focus on being healthy in mind, body and spirit. She had learned so much herself that she wanted to share and she knew other women who had a lot to offer. After a couple of false starts, Katherine joined with Nancy Willman, founder of Main Street Yoga Studio and Suzanne Gerard who taught Tribal Dance and organized the first Women’s Winter Retreat in 2009. It was an immediate success and they continued to add teachers and offerings. A few years later, Joy Moore brought drumming to the retreat and more yoga teachers and tribal dance teachers have stepped up to bring their gifts. All teachers are volunteers.
Although the Women’s Winter Retreat is only for a weekend, those who come back (and many do) report that this experience has been life changing for them. They are healthier. They have the courage to start new businesses. They see their strengths and gifts in a new way. They draw on the support of the women they have met at this retreat. The impact of Women’s Winter Retreat is extraordinary and Katherine designed it to sustain itself – bringing in new, younger teachers as time went on.
Katherine went off the Board for several years, focusing her Hope Springs support on the gardens and her retreat. Then a few years ago, she put up her hand again and said she was ready to re-join the Board. She has been particularly active on the Facilities Committee and the 25th Anniversary Celebration Planning Committee. Hope Springs will miss her and we trust that her influence, her love, her passion, her memory and her contributions will support and inspire us as we work to bring peace to our lives, our relationships, our communities and our world.
Katherine’s family has asked that people who want to honor her memory donate to Hope Springs in her honor www.hopespringsinstitute.org
Much love to you, Katherine.