Ed Note: This piece has been submitted for publication in the VVAW newspaper, The Veteran... I apologize for the delay in getting it out to y'all, but the delay doesn't change the message, or Cathy's impact on many of our lives...WH
My Heart is Broken…
by Willie Hager
VVAW Fl Contact
On Thursday, September 16, 2010, my brother SgtWayne wrote: "Cathy Kniffin passed at 6:30 PM yesterday."
As painful as it is for all us...and it's really fuckin' painful...my heart and my eyes are filled with tears...she was one of the very special angels, as well as a warrior princess who never flinched in the face of tyranny; but take heart, she is in a better place, her soul now rejoined with John's. What a pair they were...Texas VVAW, Oleo Strut, Last Patrol, Gainesville 8 (12) Trial, TTU face off with the Swift Boat crowd in 2005. What an example she leaves for myself and others that I have met since the VVAW 40th Reunion and who are just finding their way back into the anti-war veterans movement and are looking for some direction for their re-kindled energy. Like my biker friend and San Diego VVAW brother Mutt would say; she was a for real VVAW "patch wearer". She lived the old school VVAW 10 Objectives...hell, she helped write them...and by her example inspired many others in VVAW, including myself.
This is a photo of a smiling Cathy…that’s her on the far right (in the picture, not politically)… at the 2005 TTU 5th Triennial Vietnam Symposium, which she was instrumental in bringing about. With her in the photo, L to R, are; Nancy Miller Saunders (Panel Moderator), Alex Primm, Terry DuBose (standing), Calixto Cabrera, myself, and the ever smilin' Kathy. I'm thinkin' it was SgtWayne taking the picture, but either way, he was there with us, as were Scott Camil and Gerry Nicosia. (Video of the presentation can be found in the sidebar, under Video Locker banner)
It was all happening thanks to Cathy and her commitment to maintaining VVAW's legacy, and commemorating John and his personal legacy. What a woman! It was she and John who helped to perpetuate VVAW's involvement in the Vietnam Symposiums at TTU. It was sorta John’s last hurrah. After he passed from Agent Orange complications, she picked up the banner and carried on the project, and threw the gauntlet at the feet of the Swift Boat Veterans and then assembled the panel pictured here to face off with them regarding their lies about VVAW’s history, and their trashing of John Kerry regarding his 1970s association with VVAW, during his last presidential campaign.
I'm forever grateful that I got the opportunity to share the time with her there at TTU, after having not having seen her or talked to her in over thirty-five years...what a rush! It was she who made it possible for me to be able to travel there and participate. The photo is how I will always remember Cathy; in the thick of the fight, and smiling...
Others remember her with fondness as well, as is reflected in this Obituary from a local Texas newspaper. I can’t lend attribution, as my memory buds fail me on which paper it was, and I didn’t record it with the copy of the Obit…so, sue me, if you have to. At any rate, here’s what other’s in her life shared about her:
Obituary for Catherine G. Kniffen
Catherine Goodnow Kniffin passed away Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at Christopher House in Austin. Born an Army Brat in Champaign, Illinois, she lived many places – Philippines, Texas, Kansas, Paris France, and Florida. She received her BA in music therapy from Alverno College, Milwaukee, in 1966.
In 1970 she married John Kniffin, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, with whom she was active in anti-Vietnam War protests. Cathy and John settled in Brenham where she worked for the Brenham State School for thirty years. John preceded her in death 8 years ago.
Cathy spent her life in service to others—always mindful of those less fortunate. She lived her life passionately, fully, and freely. What she believed, she believed strongly. Whether marching for civil rights, or in protest to the Vietnam War, or taking care of her many animals, (from the tiniest spider to her beloved horses), or faithfully preserving the ecological balance of her environment, she was completely dedicated and purposeful.
The family will hold a memorial ceremony at Cathy’s ranch near Brenham at noon on Sunday, 19 September. Her survivors are her mother, Jane Goodnow; her sister, Elisabeth; Brothers John, Michael, Stephen; three nephews and five nieces.
Remembrances may be made to the Best Friends Animal Society, www.bestfriends.org/d/detail.cfmaction=df&df=memorial&memorial_ch=1&tc=WMEMRA , the Sierra Club, or similar organization of your choice.