Rural 07

Catherine Manton

June 12, 1942 ~ March 10, 2022 (age 79)


Catherine Manton was born on June 12, 1942, at her family home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three daughters to Elva Elizabeth Greenawalt and John Manton. A sickly baby, she grew into a strong, sparkly and highly intelligent young person. She enjoyed helping with her mother’s large vegetable garden, playing the piano and performing as a majorette for her high school marching band. Despite significant abuse in the family, her upwardly-mobile parents strongly encouraged education for all three daughters.  Cathy’s sharp mind, determination and white privilege won her full scholarships for her bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from to University of Pittsburgh. She earned her PhD in Psychology by her mid-20s through a combination of hard work and amphetamines. At the University of Pittsburgh, she met and married Richard Edward Sobota of Latrobe, PA through their shared love of their Austin Healey sports cars.  They were both dreamers and left Pittsburgh to move to Rochester and eventually Boston which had captivated Cathy's interest as a 10-year-old on a family trip. 


In Boston she turned down her first offer for a teaching job at Endicott College (she was asked to use her maiden instead of her “ethnic-sounding” married name), took a teaching job at Northeastern and eventually a tenure-track position at Boston State College where she was the only woman in an all-male psychology department that was antagonistic to women in the workforce. Through her work she became involved in the anti-war movement, civil rights and feminism and taught an “encounter group” between Vietnam vets and the Boston police.  Her marriage with Richard deteriorated and towards the end they had one child, Mindy, in 1971.  She worked as a professional mother at a time when there were no job protections. For instance, there was no allowance for even unpaid parental leave and she was fortunate to have one week off after childbirth because Mindy was born at the beginning of her spring break. She attempted to breastfeed and pump in the toilet stall at work. She placed an ad for a nanny in the Boston Globe and received a death threat for not staying at home with her own baby.  She was eventually involved in a class action lawsuit that later paved the way for family medical leave. When she was not working, cooking, taking care of Mindy and assisting Richard to build a sailboat, she could often be found gardening late at night to transform their backyard on Beacon Street into an urban oasis. They enjoyed extended summer camping trips to their land in Nova Scotia.   


After her divorce she became a single parent and free spirit, connecting through anti-war folk and rock music with a fun-loving younger generation.  She struggled with relationships, addictions and her own mental health but usually landed on her feet and was practical and creative in dealing with adversity.  In order to continue living in the city and pay the mortgage, she sub-divided their 5-story brick townhouse into three 1-bedroom rental apartments.  After her college merged with the University of Massachusetts and the men in her department lost their jobs, she landed a job in Women’s Studies at UMass-Boston, which became a nurturing professional home.  She developed courses in Women and Food, led private classes for women with eating disorders to cook and do group therapy together and authored a book called Fed Up: Women in Food in America.  When money was tough, she took a series of second jobs including apprentice plumber and waitress to dedicate to Mindy’s private school education and their international travel including East Africa, North Africa and Europe.  A truly talented and creative cook, some of their best times were cooking and gathering in her kitchen or backyard with her diverse array of friends from various walks of life.  


After Mindy left for college and started her own life with Luke Walden, Catherine began to spend more time in her house in South Chatham, MA near her longtime friend Elaine Morse, and eventually retired and sold the Boston home. She designed and hired a contractor to build a beautiful addition to her house which backed up on conservation land where she enjoyed hearing owls and coyotes at night.  She found Vipassana meditation which resonated with her through her dying days. She began to travel extensively in East Asia and the Pacific Islands and taught English to young doctors in China for several winters.  She loved the solitude of the Cape, but also grew increasingly isolated and drank heavily.  Although she had some great years in recovery, she continued to struggle intermittently with addiction, chronic pain and mental illness.  She remained very dedicated to visiting Mindy and Luke (“the kids”) in New York City, where they had their first child, Ada, and then Portland, OR where they had their second child, Kai. She was a loving and enthusiastic mom and grandma and visited at least every few months and eventually rented an apartment in Portland.  After they moved back to Providence, RI she sold her house in South Chatham to move to an apartment nearby where the grandkids could visit her regularly.  In the fall of 2021, she was diagnosed with an incurable sarcoma and chose hospice without hesitation, enjoying several good months of close connection with Mindy, Luke and the grandkids and reconnecting with some old friends and family.  Catherine was not someone to dwell on looking back or forward too far - her only regret was not being able to finish seeing the grandchildren grow up. She was unafraid of death and died peacefully at Hope Hulitar Hospice on March 10, 2022, with Mindy at her side.

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