Cathy Archibald
(1942 — 2012)


As remembered by Dorothy Zellner
December 24, 2012

I met Cathy Archibald during 1963-64 sometime in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She joined me in work at the SNCC office in the Epworth Methodist Church, across the way from the Harvard Law School. She later went to Arkansas and worked in the SNCC project there. I knew her as a cheerful, interested and interesting person, completely committed to justice. This never changed even though we saw each other all too few times since we never lived in the same city again.

In later years she suddenly began calling me about every month to inquire how I was, but she resisted talking about her own health and personal life except for vaguely referring to herself humorously as a "bag of bones." Instead she talked about the state of the nation (poor), the state of the world (poorer) and the state of the Middle East (even poorer). But she was very optimistic about securing human rights for the immigrant communities.

I recently noticed that I hadn't heard from her in some time and thought I should call her. And now comes the news that she has passed away. She was one of those unique people who really acted on what she believed, who willingly sacrificed, who was always there for those who needed her, who thought nothing of working late and long hours — as long as she thought she was doing some good. The moral of this is: cherish your friends, especially your old friends, and especially cherish the ones who keep faith with their principles. Someone like Cathy will not come our way soon again.

Dorothy Zellner


As remembered by John Womack, Jr.
December 31, 2012

If you feel like saying anything for me about her, please say she felt to me like a beloved sister, who seemed to understand every human trouble, confusion, and grief, who always had the deepest heartfelt sympathies with the afflicted and oppressed as well as cool, clear, good-humored judgment about how to deal with what caused their misery. It's a rare gift, or maybe a rare discovery, a gift we should all try to find inside ourselves, as she found it so young in herself, that combination of deep, deep sympathy and clear, good-humored judgment.

Besides, while she was like a younger sister to me, she was always teaching me. I have a college degree and a Ph.D., but I feel I learned more from her, from her experience, analysis, insights, wisdom, than I did from any professor who ever taught me. Most of all, which would have made her father and mother proudest, she was a comrade.

As a captain, a fire captain who knows it live, once said of comradeship, "It's harder to be a comrade than a friend. It's different from being a brother [or a sister]." Friends and brothers and sisters are forgiving, the captain said, just happy to be with you, easy to joke with, which is how she was when she was just a friend or a sister. But as a comrade, she was something else. "Comrades," the captain explained, "are different. Comrades forgive nothing. They can't. [They remember. They know we're all under fire, and they teach you how to be brave and better.] They need you to be better. They keep you sharp. They take your words literally [take your words seriously].

When a friend dies we miss them... When a [sister] dies we grieve for the future without [her]..." When comrades die we miss them too, we grieve for the future without them. But there's more. "We are also proud," the captain said, not for any merit of our own, but proud of them, proud and grateful to have known them, better men and women than ourselves, better in the struggles that matter most. And when they go we can finally only stand silent in respect and honor of them, leaving them to rest, and with all our heart and soul and mind and strength giving thanks for the grace that touched us in knowing them, learning from them.

I could never forget Comrade Cathy. That sister was a hero to me, and her grave will be a hero's grave.

All good wishes for the new year.

John Womack, Jr.

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