Catherine Wilding Atkinson

March 19, 1921-August 29, 2019

Catherine Atkinson

Catherine Atkinson died at the age of 98. She was married to a career Coast Guard officer, raised four children, and had three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Born in Oakland, California, Atkinson attended the University of California at Berkeley and earned a degree in decorative arts. The coursework included history of costume, tailoring, pattern drafting, hat blocking, and lace making, all of which she loved. She had made doll clothes as a young girl, then made her own clothing for over 50 years.

In 1971, Atkinson returned to college. She took countless art classes, repeating them as many times as allowed. With boundless creativity, enthusiasm, and curiosity, she explored many different mediums and techniques. At the same time, her inner vision always shone through, as evidenced by her many beautiful variations of tree images, for which she was best known.

“Memories of My Tree Soul III” by Catherine Atkinson

In 1988, she discovered printmaking and was captivated by it. Atkinson also delved into drawing, painting, ceramics, photography, fiber sculpture, and even kiln-fired glass. Her most recent study was advanced sculpture.

Atkinson was awarded Best of Show in a National League of American Pen Women Biennial Art Competition in Washington, D.C. A monotype print from her tree series was published in “Drawing from Life” by Brown & McLean.

She was also published in “California Society of Printmakers: One Hundred Years, 1913-2013.” This was seen by the Katherine Blood, curator of fine prints at the Library of Congress. In 2014, Atkinson was invited to submit “Bristlecone Memories” to the National Library of Congress as a prime example of Northern California printmakers. She was also a Master Gardener, which fit well with her love of nature and her work with tree imagery.

Atkinson was an incredibly inspiring member of the Golden Gate-Marin Pen Women Branch, which she joined in 1997. She contributed so much over the years, participating in numerous committees and presiding as president in 2004-2006. But she wasn’t just a very talented artist — she was also a truly beautiful human being. She was engaging, warm and kind, and always had a sparkle in her eye.

Atkinson was unable to attend very many Pen Women meetings in her last years, and we dearly missed her presence. We think of her often, and she will always hold a special place in our hearts and memories.

Colleen Stanley Bare, January 1, 1925 –to December 11, 2018

Member of Modesto Branch of NLAPW

Memories and Photos from Her Pen Women Friends and Colleagues

Colleen Bare
Colleen Bare 2

Colleen served as one of two Pen Women mentors when I first joined the Modesto branch over 15 years ago. Both answered any question I had about the organization and aided me immensely as I served as branch president just a few years after joining.

I remember Colleen talking about taking nature photographs, about sitting — or lying — in bird blinds for several hours to get one or two good shots of particular birds. And she was doing this well into her 70s!

Jill Adler

For over 55 years, Colleen Stanley Bare was one of our most active members.

She wrote and published

  • 20 juvenile nature books illustrating them with her own photography.
  • A number of local history books, one of which is said to be the best written about the topic.
  • Articles and poetry for such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, and Modesto Bee for over 20 years.
“HELP! CHRISTMAS IS COMING and I’m not ready”
Collection of poems that had been previously published or had been winners in poetry contests. Most notable: 24 poems in this collection were printed in The Wall Street Journal.

In addition to being on the literature panel of the California Council of the Arts, she chaired the Modesto Culture Commission and spoke frequently on writing and cultural topics and was instrumental in the restoration of the McHenry Mansion, which is a treasured Modesto landmark.

Colleen and I were meant to be friends. We were both only children, grew up in the Methodist Church, were sent to San Francisco Bay Area universities, and married doctors. We were interested in the same things — writing, photography, history, McHenry Mansion, antiques, nature, and mountain cabins, and we shared a great love of dogs.

Colleen was my mentor. She influenced and enriched my life. She sponsored my membership in Pen Women.

As in Sasha Moorsom’s poem, “I hold dead friends like jewels in my hand / Watching their brilliance gleam against my palm / Turquoise and emerald, jade, a golden band.” Colleen is such a jewel in my golden band.

— V.J. Vogelzang

Colleen and I were at a booking signing event at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the late 1990s. She invited me to illustrate her children’s paperback coloring book, “McHenry Mansion Mystery,” about a cat who hides in the rooms of the mansion.

Chella Gonsalves

I submitted this poem to the 2010 Modesto Poets Corner and read at the reading/reception.

Colleen Stanley Bare, Community Member Extraordinaire

(January 1, 1925 – to December 11, 2018)

Born on New Year’s Day in 1925

she lived and worked in Modesto most of her long productive life.

She was wife, mother, teacher and active in her community,

promoting the culture of our town at every opportunity.


A Stanford grad, she was a prolific writer, both poetry and prose,

and her eye was always searching for photos to compose.


After traveling roads of foreign lands, she would write a book

about what she found interesting, things that some might overlook.


Her books were written for children about animals she knew well

of squirrels, desert tortoises, plus cat and dog tales to tell.


Her titles were often candid such as Guinea Pigs Cannot Read

or if you go to Florida Never Kiss an Alligator please!


In Elephants on the Beach, children came to understand

the elephants are seals at Año Nuevo sleeping on the sand.


She was her own photographer and dark room expert too

developing all her illustrations of the subjects that she knew.


Sometimes her animal research created a bit of drama

like when a mule deer chased her or she was spat on by a llama.


She could pique the interest of a child regarding nature’s mysteries,

for adults she provided a vivid retelling of Modesto’s lively histories.


She was key to restoration of our McHenry Mansion treasure,

founded Poet Laureate and Poets’ Corner that continues giving pleasure.


A leader in the community, she gave time and artistic flare,

so today let’s take time to honor Colleen Stanley Bare.

— Lynn Hansen

Community Recognition

“About the House,” the Modesto McHenry Mansion Foundations Member Newsletter, notes in its Spring 2019 issue that Colleen Bare was “a champion of poetry and was instrumental to the establishment of a Poet Laureate for the City of Modesto … [and] the driving force behind Poet’s Corner,” a poetry contest for residents held each spring, culminating in a booklet and a reading with a reception.

Friends of the Modesto Library included the following notice in a recent newsletter:

Colleen was the author of over 20 books for children and adults, and a longtime library supporter.
Several years ago, Colleen donated numerous boxes of her books to the Friends, which were used at programs such as Día de los Niños/Libros (Day of the Child, Day of the Book). FOML member Anne Britton remembers how parents and children commented on getting a special hard cover book from a local author to take home that day.

Colleen loved to photograph animals, so her children’s books often included photos she took herself. Some of the books, including “Toby the Tabby Kitten,” “Critter the Class Cat” and “Sammy the Dog Detective,” were based on local animals and their owners; many of the books are in the library’s children’s collection. Her other passion was local history. Colleen wrote a column for The Modesto Bee for over 20 years and was instrumental in the establishment and restoration of the McHenry Mansion.


Remembering Cokie Roberts

Cokie Roberts and former NLAPW National President Dr. Bernice Reid at the 2016 Biennial.
Cokie Roberts and former NLAPW National President Dr. Bernice Reid at the 2016 Biennial.

NLAPW Honorary Member Cokie Roberts (1943-2019) was a veteran journalist, political commentator, author, and supporter of women’s journalism. Many of the League’s members had the opportunity to meet and talk with her when she was the guest speaker at our 2016 Biennial inaugural Vinnie Ream Banquet hosted in D.C.