A Tribute to Connie Mahoney

On April 22, the Earth Elders of Sonoma County will gather to celebrate Earth Day. This tradition — now in its eighth year — is a testimony to the difference one fiercely dedicated elder can make. In the article below, Nina Tepedino, a member of Earth Elders of Sonoma County, writes a tribute to Earth Elder founder, Connie Mahoney.

The picture to the right was taken of Connie at the August 2005 Second Journey Visioning Council in San Rafael, California..


 
The challenge for today's elders, and for all of us, is to transform
our way of living on Earth and find ways to fulfill basic human needs
with integrity and in balance with nature.
The Vision of Earth Elders

The Russian River where it meets the Pacific near the town of Jenner, on the Northern California coast.

 

By Nina Tepedino

Connie Mahoney might very well be an elder soul, reincarnated from a remote Hopi village in New Mexico. I have a vivid recollection of Connie reading that wonderful proclamation of Native American wisdom, “Hopi Elder Speaks.” She is standing before the microphone in the wooded grove at Jenner. Her voice trembles with a powerful passion for ALL elders. At her side is Kay McCabe, who originated the annual celebration for the Russian River. A strong wind from the ocean is blowing Connie's silver hair back from her face — a face that is smiling out to the whole world, a face that communicates a fierce excitement for beliefs now put into action.

It was with this same energy and passionate advocacy that Connie founded Earth Elders in 1998. Though she saw Earth Elders as a global network — “Earth Elders exists wherever and whenever an individual calls herself or himself an Earth Elder” — she worked with great energy to birth a specific local organization in her own backyard of Sonoma County, CA. Connie's wish was to join together compassionate and wise elders committed to caring for the Earth. Over the last eight years — despite sabbaticals for family, traveling and her stoic and brave battle with cancer — Earth Elders of Sonoma County has continued as a vibrant legacy for elders who share this beautiful corner of the Earth.

A prime annual activity of Earth Elders is the celebration of a traditional Earth Day event on April 22. Plans for the event this year — set among the towering redwoods on Luther Burbanks Gold Ridge Farm — are representative. It will open with musical ceremonial welcome followed by a Calling of Directions by local Native American, ChoQosh Auh-ho-Oh. After the recognition of this year's “Earthkeepers of the Twentieth Century,the Earth Day Proclamation of the City of Sebastopol will be read by Vice Mayor Sam Pearce. Songs for action by the Raging Grannies will lead the participants into A Walk Through Time Into The Future encompassing many of the teachings of Thomas Berry. A closing circle to express Gratitude, Appreciation and Commitment by all attendees will be followed by an organic reception.

Through her motivation, meticulous organizational skills and enthusiastic encouragement, Earth Elders of Sonoma County continues with monthly gatherings that mark and celebrate earth’s seasons. Its members are active volunteers in our local and national political and environmental movements. Its Environmental Book Study Group meets twice a month to discuss books by local and national authors like Luther Burbank, Martin Griffin, and Thomas Berry. Indeed, Connie's passion for one of Berry's books, The Great Work, has been downright infectious.

Connie Mahoney has inspired us. In the way she expects excellence she has urged all of us to be the constant dreamers and to challenge the current status quo for the sake of the generations yet to come. A quote from Teilhard de Chardin accurately describes her impact on our lives:

“Once the truth has made its presence felt in a single soul, nothing can ever stop it from invading everything and setting fire to everything.”


 

Connie Mahoney died at her home in Sonoma County, California, on October 6, 2011, after a 10-year battle with cancer. She was 70 years old. She was a lifelong learner and student of the world. She receiving a B.A. from Ohio State University in 1953; master's degrees from East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee; and at age 57, a Ph.D. from UC San Francisco. Connie settled in Sonoma County in 1992 as the program director for HICAP. She also taught classes and workshops at SSU and Santa Rosa Community College and spoke at numerous conferences including a 1995 White House Conference on Aging. After she retired, Connie founded Earth Elders, which she described as a network of elders committed to caring for the Earth. At the April 2010 Earth Day Celebration, Sebastopol Mayor Sarah Gurney read the City's proclamation honoring Connie as the founder of Earth Elders and creator of the local Earth Day celebration and Universe Walk.