Heather Catto Kohout

  • Born: April 7, 1959
  • Died: October 17, 2014
  • Location: Austin, Texas

Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North

3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705

Tel. (512) 452-8811

Tribute & Message From The Family

Heather Catto Kohout died on October 17, 2014, nearly three years after her initial diagnosis with metastatic cancer. She was a woman of deep faith, kindness, and physical, intellectual, and spiritual beauty; a devoted wife and mother; and a ferocious friend. Her entire life was an ongoing demonstration of how to move through the world with courage, generosity, and gratitude.

Heather was born in San Antonio, Texas, on April 7, 1959, the daughter of Henry Edward Catto Jr. and Jessica Hobby Catto. When she was ten, her father began a long and successful career in government service which took him to Washington, D.C., El Salvador, Switzerland, and London. Heather graduated from the Holton Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, and, after a year at Franklin College in Lugano, Switzerland, entered Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, from which she graduated in 1981 with a bachelor's degree in English literature.

In 1985 she married Martin Kohout, a Williams classmate. The couple spent most of their married life in Austin, with the exception of a brief sojourn in Washington, D.C. Their three children, Elizabeth, Christopher (Tito), and Thea, were Heather's constant delight and pride; her father-in-law once accused her of being an "owl mother" because she spent so much time hooting about her offspring.

Heather always took pleasure in language, literature, and interpretation. She earned master's degrees in English literature from the University of Texas at Austin and in religion from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin. She taught English at American University in Washington, D.C., and as a substitute at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Austin; her poems were accepted for publication in the Anglican Theological Review and Theology Today; and she was for many years on the staff of Seton Cove, an ecumenical center for spiritual formation in Austin.

A longtime parishioner at All Saints' Episcopal Church, Heather for many years led an informal adult-education group, known as "Heather's Heretics," to discuss each Sunday's lectionary readings. She also taught a number of "freelance" classes and workshops at various local churches and served as a trustee of St. Andrew's, Casa Marianella, El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. In 2013 she received the Durstan R. McDonald Teaching Award from the Seminary of the Southwest and the Charles Alan Wright Excellence Award from St. Andrew's.

She was a gifted and creative cook and a regular customer at Austin's farmers markets and urban farms. She was an excellent athlete: a relentlessly speedy hiker who earned the nickname "Death March" among her family, a fierce yet graceful skier and tennis player, and a dedicated rower who loved the beauty and solitude of an early morning on Lady Bird Lake and forged deep connections with her fellows at the Texas Rowing Center. She was a passionate environmentalist and an enthusiastic birder; she liked to joke that she was the best birder she knew, because every time she went out she invariably discovered a "new" species.

Heather's environmental concerns and her love of literature and the creative arts, which she shared with her husband Martin, inspired them to open a residency program for environmental writers and artists at their ranch near Medina, Texas, beginning in 2011. Madroño Ranch: A Center for Writing, Art, and the Environment has hosted more than forty creative thinkers from around the U.S. and elsewhere, and has been featured in Tribeza magazine.

In addition to her husband and children, she is survived by her siblings John Catto, Will Catto, and Isa Catto Shaw; her sisters-in-law Laurel Catto and Kristina Catto; her brother-in-law Daniel Shaw; her beloved nieces and nephews Sophie Catto, Ian Catto, Jessica Catto, Liam Catto, Mikaela Catto, Gwyneth Catto, Fiona Shaw, and Duncan Shaw; and father- and mother-in-law Franz Kohout and Nancy Otto.

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. at All Saints' Episcopal Church, 209 West 27th Street, Austin, on October 23, 2014. In accordance with her wishes, her family will bury her ashes at her beloved Madroño Ranch.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Hill Country Alliance (http://www.hillcountryalliance.org), the Trail Foundation (http://www.thetrailfoundation.org), or All Saints' Episcopal Church (http://www.allsaints-austin.org).