If you live in an Eichler home, enjoy McInnis Park Golf Center or appreciate the symphony at the Marin County Civic Center, you may want to tip your hat to Catherine Munson.
Mrs. Munson, a veteran Lucas Valley real estate broker and passionate ambassador for Eichler homes as well as devoted advocate of Marin civic life, died Monday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Terra Linda of complications from pneumonia. She was 86.
Mrs. Munson, owner of LVPMarin Realtors, spent a half century boosting civic causes while developing and selling real estate across the region. She worked until illness struck two weeks ago.
She was the principal developer of McInnis Park Golf Center, worked with the Mexican relief organization Project Amigo to educate youth and served on the boards of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the Frank Lloyd Wright Civic Center Conservancy, as well as the Marin Symphony and Marin Historical associations, in addition to other organizations. She was a founding member of Marin Community Bank, and served in roles for a number of banking institutions.
"Marin has lost one of its most generous and dedicated citizens, one who has given and given and given ... to almost every worthwhile institution in Marin," veteran journalist Beth Ashley of Greenbrae said. "What a lovely, inspirational woman."
Brian Kennedy, president of the Buck Institute, said the entire agency was mourning.
"Her leadership on our board, her support of our staff, and her enthusiasm for our mission has been unflagging," he said. "Her philanthropic generosity has inspired others to become advocates."
"She was intensely interested and knowledgeable about American architecture," said Annette Rose, head of the Civic Center conservancy, who served with Munson for almost 20 years. "She will be missed."
Mrs. Munson regarded her long association with developer Joseph Eichler as the springboard of a career enabling a wide range of civic and philanthropic pursuits, including helping a variety of individuals. She called Eichler a "phenomenal mentor" and over the years sold more than 3,250 Eichler homes.
"Eichler homes are a lifestyle," she once reflected, noting Frank Lloyd Wright was a consulting architect for Eichler. "There is no such thing as an ugly Eichler home."
Mrs. Munson, a native of Omaha, Neb., grew up in the Midwest and studied microbiology and biochemistry at the University of Nebraska, earning master's degrees in both. After marrying Bill Munson in 1948 and moving to San Francisco, she worked for the Atomic Energy Commission before quitting to raise three daughters.
The Munsons bought an Eichler home in Terra Linda and she began a long association with the developer, working in his sales office. In 1967, after her husband died and the Eichler Corporation declared bankruptcy, she was appointed to oversee the completion of 66 homes in Lucas Valley.
She founded Lucas Valley Properties, married realty associate Bud Sthymmel, and launched a prosperous sales and development career that included Pacheco Valle in Ignacio, office and condominium projects in Novato, San Rafael and Mill Valley, luxury homes in San Anselmo and elsewhere. Her firm sold Skywalker Ranch to George Lucas.
In 1990, after Mr. Sthymmel died, Mrs. Munson and two partners developed McInnis Park Golf Center.
She was a world traveler. She was especially fond of her rose garden.
She is survived by her daughters, Lisa Munson of Pacheco Valle, Shelley Munson of Lucas Valley, and Adrienne Hart of Lucas Valley, and a grandson, Sean.
Plans for a celebration of her life are pending.