Home News Join Us Contact

Who We Are

    Helene and Sheila

    Sheila and Helene look forward to their collaboration in the cohousing project as a return to idealisms of an earlier moment and in anticipation of renewal in the future. For many years, Helene taught literature at UCSC, where she was also a Dean and Provost. She is a writer in several genres and a community organizer. Sheila is a psychologist and psychoanalyst who is now practicing in Santa Cruz after living and working in Los Angeles for thirty years. She practiced and published in community psychology and psychosocial oncology and is now applying her skills and training to community and non-profit efforts. Together, they teach a writing workshop for local veterans. They enjoy reading, seeing films, socializing with friends-- and the company of their three grandchildren.

    Diane and Dick

    We are looking forward to downsizing, leaving a lighter footprint on our beloved earth, and sharing meals, conversations and events with a fantastic group of Walnut Commoners, our intentional community. We and our three children became permanent residents on our property in the Aptos foothills in 1974. We are failed apple farmers, successful hosts of 16 weddings (no divorces), and now Windy Oaks Estate Winery has a gold medal producing pinot vineyard on our acreage. We have been blessed by the land and the opportunities it has presented. Living in Santa Cruz has also made available life altering experiences in the political arena, social and environmental action and the cultural scene. Included are the Grand Jury (Diane), Democratic Central Committee (Dick), creating (Diane) and chairs of social action at Temple Beth El, board members of Capacitar (local non-profit teaching stress-reducing techniques world-wide), Habitat For Humanity builds and other projects in Latin America with local non-profit IF (Integrities Foundation), board members and president (Dick) of the Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music, board president (Dick) of Camphill Properties (nurturing residential communities for adults with developmental disabilities), and pro bono attorney services (Dick) for Capacitar, Camphill Communities California, and Ecology Action. We are celebrating 60 years of marriage this summer, having met as students at Stanford University. And in closing, we are the proud grandparents of six wonderful grandchildren, the two eldest now attending university (UC Berkeley and Stanford).


    I am excited to join Walnut Commons to create a greater sense of community in Santa Cruz. I began my life in South Korea but moved to California at the age of 13. I graduated from UC Berkeley in the 1970’s with a Masters in Social Welfare. After a rewarding career in the Bay Area, I retired and moved to Santa Cruz to be closer to my two children and three grandchildren. I enjoy the slower pace of life, fresh air, and beautiful surroundings. My hobbies include hiking, good food and travel. Most recently, my adventures have taken me to Tanzania, China, Peru, and across the US on the back of a motorcycle. I look forward to integrating into a group of active and engaged people in vibrant, downtown Santa Cruz.


    I grew up near Los Angeles and I have degrees from Caltech and UC San Diego. My past careers include teaching, real estate (a mistake), and services for textbook publishers, and currently I run a small website hosting service. I enjoy music and animals, and I am passionate about human rights and environmental issues. I have always loved the progressive vibe of Santa Cruz and I have been interested in cohousing for years, so Walnut Commons is a great find for me. I was living in Redwood City when I joined Walnut Commons in January 2013, and I moved near Santa Cruz in May 2013.


    I moved from Ossining, NY in May, 2015 following my retirement as a home care nurse in Westchester County. My plan had always been to live near one of my 3 children and I settled on Santa Cruz because it is a small walkable community with beautiful weather and many cultural advantages and it is close to my younger daughter and her family. My other 2 children and their families are in Bozeman, Mt. and Hamburg, Germany.

    I have had a deep commitment to the environment since becoming a mother 40 years ago and have recently been involved in groups opposing fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline. I also participated in the Climate March in NYC. I believe climate change is the most important issue facing humanity and many species on earth. Cohousing at Walnut Commons enables me to act on my desire to live more sustainably. My other interests include gardening, cooking, knitting, hiking and reading. I have also become involved with food outreach for the homeless since coming to Santa Cruz.

    Shirley, Francis and Carol

    We (Carol and Francis) have lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains for the past 28 years. We met while doing volunteer work with people of the Navajo Nation. We both lived in different intentional communities and have sought to live in community again at the wonderful community of Walnut Commons. Francis was born in Japan and immigrated to the US when he was 13 years old. Tennis and sailing are two of his hobbies in his spare time. He presently works as a mechanical engineer. Carol was born in southern California and has worked in the school systems in California, Arizona, and North Carolina as a pediatric physical therapist. Together we have walked the Camino de Santiago from Portugal to Spain. We volunteer with an organization in Ecuador that helps working children and families break the cycle of poverty. We have two grown boys in their twenties.

    Shirley has lived in California all her life. Most of her time was spent in Southern California where she lived in Bakersfield, Santa Monica, and the Antelope Valley. Before coming to Santa Cruz in December 2014, she lived for over 20 years in the Tehachapi Mountains near her daughter Nancy. Now, she shares in community living with her younger daughter Carol and her son-in- law Francis. Shirley worked as a teacher’s aid with the mentally disabled and as a library assistant. She has had many hobbies including quilting, beading, card-making, and soap-making. Currently, she enjoys knitting and breezing around Santa Cruz on her mobility scooter.

    Barbara and Will

    We were married in the late 1960s while serving with the Peace Corps as English teachers in Thailand. This experience introduced us to new cultural and social ways of seeing the world. After returning to the United States to further our own educations (Will with a M.A. in Linguistics and Barbara with a Teaching Credential), we went overseas again to teach and live on Saipan, an island in the Pacific Ocean. After the birth of our first child, we decided that we wanted to raise our children closer to our families so we came back to California and settled in Santa Cruz County. Will’s professional career has included being a teacher, real estate broker, and a computer programmer while Barbara’s has been in education as a Montessori teacher, owner of a small Montessori preschool, and as a first grade teacher in Watsonville. Now as retirees with two grown sons, we enjoy being grandparents and having the time to engage in personally meaningful activities.


    I was born and raised in Chicago, but a lot of my life I've focused on Africa. This began with two years in the Peace Corps, when I taught in two high schools in Lesotho. Later, after graduate school in New York, I taught at three universities in Africa (in Nigeria, in Egypt and later back in Lesotho). I also worked at several colleges in the US. The last being Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago where I served as Provost for a decade. During that time, my priority was improving outcomes for first generation students. I remain concerned about urban higher education and about development in Africa. I retired in 2012 and moved to the Santa Cruz area, which I found to be a great place to live.


    I’m originally from the Chicago area but have lived in Northern California for four decades. Currently I live in a magnificent windowed home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Selva Beach south of Santa Cruz, but I’m looking to downsize and Walnut Commons’ intentional community seems just the right thing. My career was in sales and marketing. I’m retired now, a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, who loves to spend time and energy with my family. By family I include my 9-year-old dog Sunshine. I love cooking, entertaining, reading, sewing, knitting and attending my UCC church.


    I am delighted to be here and love my new place. I moved here from Campbell, am very interested in the cohousing concept, and love being in Santa Cruz. I retired four years ago from teaching elementary school (fifth grade), have taught computers to adults, owned a crafts store (stained glass) and worked as an MSW social worker. I am widowed (for 10 years, after 40 years together) and like staying active.

    I have a small non-profit, and will continue with its mission of providing food for the homeless. Right now we make muffins every Sunday, and distribute them in downtown San Jose ( www.meetup.com/Wishbayarea) as part of a larger weekly event. I love doing crafts (mostly card-making and sewing with felt), and like to be in at least one or two book clubs. In Campbell, I was active in the Resist Trump effort, as part of Indivisible, and look forward to connecting up with the Santa Cruz program. I enjoy drawing with pencil, and have taken a couple of classes. I was part of the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program in San Jose, and am continuing with the family I was assigned to there. Oh yes and I love to cook!


    Born in Belgium, I came to the States as a child. I grew up on an isolated small farm in Appalachia. My parents were agrarian socialists, inspired by Tolstoi and Rousseau. I learned about community from the profoundly practical non-ideological neighborliness of the folks there. We harvested together; we took care of one another; there was very little time or inclination to discuss our commitments. I went to a one-room school. Despite that-- or because of it--, I became a somewhat bookish person, a skeptical but active radical lefty, a pragmatic communitarian. (I received my political education from a Trotskyist uncle.) I have taught philosophy most my life, but from time to time I get fed up with the pretensions of academic philosophy and turn to other fields, to anthropology, art history and educational reform. For now, I’m hoping to finish "On the Other Hand: The Ethics of Ambivalence," a book with chapters on moral conflict and the role of the imagination in rational choice. Next on the agenda: an anthropological study of people who live in two moral worlds, exiles, immigrants, refugees whose work requires them to absorb a new and distinctive set of ’moral’ values.

    Although I am devoted New Englander, I have also long been enchanted by the natural beauty and the experimental culture of Santa Cruz and Northern California. I am thrilled that my family has chosen to live here, thrilled that Walnut Commons presents the sort of active intentional community for which I have long been seeking.

    All that is as it may be: I love films, novels, play-reading, discussion groups, doing absolutely nothing and hanging out with my family and friends, marveling at the painful ironies of history. Despite the rather owlish description I have given of myself, what I love most is wild, crazy raw humor and satire.

    Gail G

    I grew up in Sacramento and spent many hours visiting my grandparents who lived in Santa Cruz in the 1950’s. I retired from 34 years of community college history teaching a few years ago and have been rattling around in my big, beach house in Rio Del Mar where I’ve lived for twenty years. It’s a wonderful place to live and entertain, but with neither husband nor children to share it, I think a smaller place with community friends would be an ideal environment for the next stage of my life.

    I have written two books for Al-Anon, some articles and stories and have a half done memoir in the proverbial “drawer”. While at American River College in Sacramento, I created the first courses in women’s history in the 70’s. Of course if it was to be done, I had to do it as the social science faculty consisted of 34 guys and me.

    Currently I’m enjoying a lot of grandbaby sitting as I have 3 grands under 7 in the area and hopes for one more. I’m very blessed that my two children, Monica and Kevin live within about 30 minutes drive, though in opposite directions. Among the many things I love are ballroom dancing, travel (especially outside the country), life long learners, reading, walking, and meditating, having written (not the actual sitting down and doing it) and just about anything with fur or feathers. I have an adorable wave-surfing, bird-chasing mutt, Mari, who will be coming with me on this new adventure.


    I grew up In Los Angeles & moved to Santa Cruz in 1996. I studied Philosophy at UCSC and worked at a plant nursery before finally pursuing a Nursing degree at Cabrillo College. I’m inspired by Nature and love living in Santa Cruz with its unique location between the ocean and the redwoods. I like to be active, playful, and have as many adventures as possible.


    I have been a college educator for a number of years and my teaching has been in the fields of psychology, gerontology, mental health, educational psychology, and English as a second language. More recently, I’ve become licensed as a Marriage & Family Therapist (MFT) and I have a therapy practice here in Santa Cruz. I tend to work with individuals and my specialties include the many aspects of aging: from the transition to retirement, spiritual and personal growth in midlife and beyond, managing chronic health conditions & pain, and grieving, death & dying. I also see college students struggling with personal and academic adjustments and younger adults encountering career and relationship challenges. Time spent in the wilderness camping and hiking is very important to me, as is spiritual growth and development which I believe goes hand in hand with the pursuit of our own psychological and emotional health. I have experienced several types of community living and look forward to becoming integrated with my Walnut Commons neighbors. A favorite quote which speaks to me goes like this: “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is.” –– Frederick Buechner


    Pam came to us in the winter of 2019 from Visalia CA where she was an owner/manager in a family retail business, Mike’s Quality Cameras named for her father Mike, the founder. When in college and again after marriage she lived in community and loved it. So after her husband passed in 2015 and after both parents for whom she cared for in her home for five years also passed, she looked again for an intentional community to join. In 2018 while studying to become a certified yoga instructor at Mount Madonna in the Hills above Santa Cruz she connected with Walnut Commons and found a golden opportunity to become a part of it. She enjoys casual interactions with the other residents throughout the day. She thrives on a variety of weekly shared meals, participating in team projects and engaging in fun activities. She has many interests in which she is involved outside Santa Cruz community: photography, yoga, native plant studies, archaeology, hiking, camping and travel. She wants to make a difference in the local greater community by working to serve the homeless population.


    I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was adopted and grew up in Idaho. After attending Boise Jr. College, I had the opportunity to attend the University of Exeter in England. I completed my degree and earned my teaching credential at San Jose State University.

    I taught grades first through third at Rio del Mar Elementary School in Aptos for 33 years. I subsequently earned an administrative credential which I exercised among several schools in that same school district, Pajaro Valley Unified.

    I met my husband, Harry, when he was living on a sailboat in the Santa Cruz Harbor. We lived on the boat for the first seven years of our forty year marriage. We moved off the boat after we had fulfilled Harry's dream of sailing to Mexico and to Hawaii. Not only did Harry teach me to sail: he taught me to pack-pack, bike ride and love opera. He, also shared with me his three children and six grandchildren whom I consider as my own.

    I love to travel, read, stitch go to plays, operas and any other kind of live performance. I collect cross stitch art with messages on them.

    I am on the board of my church preschool and participate through my church with feeding the homeless. My additional community involvement includes working with the Literacy Project of Santa Cruz.

    Ann & Dobie

    Dobie has campaigned for Democrats since 1956 (Wayne Morris’ re-election campaign for U.S. Senate in Oregon). Born in Connecticut in 1936 and raised largely in Louisiana and Alabama, he is a graduate of University of Alabama and U.C. Berkeley. His favorite summers were spent clearing trails for the Appalachian Mountain Club in New Hampshire. During his Army days, he studied Korean at the Monterey Army Language School and was posted to Korea. He has been a frequent campaign volunteer on behalf of many candidates in Monterey and Santa Cruz County. He has been a consultant to the Democratic caucus in the California State Assembly, and he also served as field rep for Alan Cranston, our California U.S. Senator in the early 1970’s. Dobie was also a lobbyist for the Statewide UC system. During our years in the Pajaro Valley, Dobie has been active on City of Watsonville commissions, including those for libraries, parks, personnel and planning. He is a board member of Watsonville Wetlands Watch, and the Monterey Bay Birding Festival. As an active birder, he and wife Ann have traveled to Costa Rica, Mexico, Puerto Rico and many states in pursuit of new birds that don’t appear in the Monterey Bay region. They have 2 sons in their 50’s, Tony and Stewart. His passions are tennis, birding, travel, hiking, reading everything in sight, and his grandchildren.

    From the time she was 3 onward, Ann loved visiting her Grandma Ann in a typical Seabright redwood cottage—summers. Ann is a Berkeley native. She attended Stanford University and later the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in Journalism. She missed her college graduation in 1958 to accept a college editorship at MADEMOISELLE MAGAZINE in New York City. From there, she went directly to the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR in Boston as a “Kopy Kid”. While Dobie was in law school at the U. of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia (early 60’s), they both worked with the NAACP to register voters and march. They worked in civil rights activities in Tuscaloosa, Alabama during “Civil Rights summer (1964). Later while Dobie worked for the California Legislature, Ann worked as a feature reporter for the Sacramento Observer, an African-American newspaper. Before that, she was an editorial assistant and outreach speaker for Cry California, an early environmental review. She has worked as a volunteer chaplain in both the Federal Correctional Institution in Pleasanton, and in the Alameda county prison system in the 1970’s. She is a ‘founding mother’ of the National Women’s Political Caucus in Contra Costa county. And similar to her husband, has worked on Democratic political campaigns since the 1960’s including working for the George McGovern Presidential campaign (remember, Watergate). Ann’s passions are writing, spiritual study, historic preservation, travel, birding, and grandchildren.

    Bob and Charlotte

    Bob and Charlotte

    Bob: I was born in the Midwest, lived on a small ranch, and went to one-room schools before high school and college. After serving in the Army, I moved to California to attend UC Berkeley where I studied law and urban/environmental planning. Worked for the California Legislature on land-use issues; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on community energy programs; a land-use consulting firm in San Francisco; and on my own as an environmental and renewable energy consultant based in California and New Mexico. Charlotte and I lived in Russia and Ukraine for several years while I advised on land-use and environmental reforms. Hobbies include photography, painting, music appreciation, reading and travel. Have led backpacking and snow camping trips for the Sierra Club. Have served on several not-for-profit boards such as Urban Ecology and the Janet Turner Print Museum. Also, have been interested in cohousing for several decades but the timing has not worked out until now.

    Charlotte: I was born in Chico, California, a fourth generation native daughter. In the late 70’s I lived in Santa Cruz and had a Rolfing practice. I left to start a nonprofit, Women’s Alliance, which I directed for the next 20 years. We produced weeklong women’s empowerment camps for over 3,500 women as well as a mini-camp in the Women’s Prison in Dublin. We held our camps primarily in California but also traveled with them to Maine, New Mexico and Washington. We also had a camp for middle-school girls and ran a “women in the trades” training program during the welfare-to work era. Additionally we occasionally produced conferences such as “Women’s Voices in Troubling Times” as well as weekend retreats. My hobbies are writing, reading, travel, photography, and cooking. I love cultural experiences, being in nature, and good conversations. I lived in an intentional community in my 20‘s in Los Angeles called New Adult Community. It was a transformative experience that set the tone for my life. I believe I would thrive in cohousing.