Katherine Howard Clifton
Detail from painting, by Katherine Howard Clifton
Katherine Howard Clifton: she “walks in beauty”
—BARB BELKNAP, WITH THANKS TO MARTY CLIFTON, RICHARD
CRAVENS, AND JOANIE O'DONNELL
Katherine Howard Clifton was painter, ceramist, horsewoman, gardener,
fashion model, featured movie extra, belle-lettrist, traveler, gracious
hostess, gourmet cook, and emerging mah-jongg master. She was a
deeply loving wife and sidekick to her husband, Marty, a perfect
and loyal friend, and a compassionate caregiver and animal lover.
Katherine always kept alive that youthful capacity, so often lost
in middle age, for inquiry into the deeper nature of experience.
Born in Louisiana, Katherine belonged to a matrilineal line of
Avery Island gentry. Avery Island is where they make Tabasco sauce,
and Avery women certainly had bite. Katherine's mother, Frances,
arrived in New Mexico sometime in the twenties in a Buick touring
car, driven by her own rather ferocious mother, who had left behind
the family wealth and status.
In Albuquerque, Katherine's Highland High School class of 1959
included friends she would know for a lifetime, among them a young
man named Marty Clifton. In 1964, with a fresh bachelor's degree
in English from the University of New Mexico, Katherine set off
on a classic sixties road trip: she and a group of friends piled
into a Volkswagen van and headed for New York. Katherine intended
only a short visit, to see the World's Fair and absorb the art and
energy of the city. She stayed for three years and painted her first
painting there, with brushes and paints given to her by a friend.
In 1967, Katherine migrated west, to the San Francisco Bay Area,
and moved onto a houseboat in Sausalito. During most of her residence
in the Bay Area, she devoted herself to pottery and developed an
ever more complex and sophisticated technique.
Katherine came home to New Mexico in 1981. She purchased a small
adobe house and plot of land near Rancho de Olguin, a remote village
on the banks of the meandering Rio Vallecitos in Rio Arriba County,
where she set up a studio and kiln.
“For three wonderful years,” Katherine told the Signpost
in an earlier feature story, “I lived independently as a full-time
potter. It was a truly fulfilling time for me, living alone in a
mountain situation, meeting the challenges of daily life, getting
the wood chopped and in place, taking care of the pumps, irrigating
my small field.”
“When reality required it,” Katherine later recalled,
“I returned to civilization to earn a more reliable income
and, by the by, fell in love with one handsome cowboy.” That
cowboy was Marty.
Katherine and Marty were married on Halloween, 1987, and five years
later they moved into their home in Placitas. A few years later,
they were off on one of their greatest adventures: in 1996, they
moved to a villa on the shores of the Bosporus, in Istanbul, where
they lived for four fascinating years. Katherine's letters home
abounded with vivid tales: cruising the Ionian Sea, outrunning hornet
swarms in Cappadocia, and exploring an island castle built by the
Knights of St. John.
Back home again in New Mexico, Katherine rediscovered her love
of painting. Horses and ranch life became her favorite subjects,
the images reflecting experiences that were her greatest joy. There
was also joy to be found in the rhythms of life in Placitas, and
Katherine delighted in the originality and varied interests of her
In 2005, Katherine worked as an extra in Into the West and Wildfire,
films in which she was cast—much to her amusement—as
a proper society matron. And there was still mah-jongg, the ancient
Chinese game of tiles that intrigued her and a growing number of
Katherine died on November 28, 2005, of complications following
heart surgery. “She Walks in Beauty” is the remembrance
of her many loving friends. The phrase belongs to a Navajo prayer
of celebration of the earth, of living things, of life. The lyric
also beckons to Katherine from Lord Byron's loveliest poem:
And on that cheek and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
Katherine devoted herself to the work of the South Texas Children's
Home, where unadopted children are provided with nurturing environment
and educational support through college. Donations to the home may
be sent to: South Texas Children's Home, P. O. Box 1210, Beeville,
Cauldron Series #88710, pottery by Katherine Howard
“Philoman’s colt, 2005,” painting,
by Katherine Howard Clifton
Storehouse West, Democratic Women make holiday
brighter for two families
The Democratic Women of Sandoval County are sponsoring two needy
families through Storehouse West, a nonprofit corporation that provides
assistance to families in Rio Rancho and surrounding areas.
Democratic Women of Sandoval County supplied food, toys, and Target
gift cards to the two local families, with one and two children
respectively. The identity of the families, both headed by single
mothers, is undisclosed.
The Democratic Women of Sandoval County has been meeting since
August of 2005. All registered Democrats of Sandoval County, men
and women alike, are invited to join this issues-focused organization.
More information on meeting times and places can be obtained by
contacting Janice Saxton, at (505) 867-1139 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Storehouse West, in operation since 1992, offers services throughout
the year and served more than 145,000 meals in 2004.
Families are referred to Storehouse West by the Department of
Human Services and other state and county agencies as well as churches,
schools and neighbors. Senior citizens in need are also eligible.
Storehouse West takes donations of food, clothing, and toiletries
throughout the year. More information about Storehouse West is available
by calling (505) 892-2077 or e-mailing email@example.com.