Gathering to celebrate the life of local author and activist, Kate Woods

Locals will gather on the 400 Block at sunset on Friday, May 26 to celebrate the journalist who died in a car crash in rural San Benito County

Longtime local journalist and activist Kate Woods, age 60, died in a car crash on Panoche Road on Thursday, May 25. BenitoLink will post a story about Woods' passing and reflections on her life from friends and acquaintances on Friday, May 26.

As a small gesture to her infinite greatness, my husband and I will be hosting a vigil at the 400 Block in downtown Hollister on Friday, near the chalkboard on the north side of The Vault. We plan on projecting some of Kate’s words onto the wall  starting at sunset (around 8:15 p.m.). Join us. There’s a Facebook event page for more info.

I'll never forget the day that Kate Woods stormed into the Staples copy center and asked me to copy all of the contents of a box, a binder and a few file folders — and so like a good copy center Lead, I took her order and began copying. It took me the entirety of a slow Friday night at Staples to copy, by hand, the bits and pieces of paper that culminated into a report about the badlands, New Idria. It was then that I recognized the whirlwind woman, Kate Woods as the famous local columnist and author of “Report from the Badlands.” Kate returned the following week for her copies and I admitted to her that I had read through the whole thing, she raised her eyebrows at me and laughed.

Years later, I would meet Kate again because of an English teacher at Gavilan College whose environmental-themed class asked us to explore local issues, and so I began revisiting Kate’s work. Her off and on battle with the clean-up process in New Idria, her difficult life living next to a poisoned water source, and the funny things like how to identify the double-headed frog in the San Carlos Creek. When I returned to Gavilan as a part-time instructor, I carried the torch of my previous teacher and began assigning Kate’s book Quicksilver Chronicles and used it as a source text for how fiction can actually function as a form of truth-telling. Kate always shooed and phooeyed my coos at her amazing work, dismissing her book as trash, but it was, it is nothing near trash.

Kate Woods became my editor when I was living in China, as we wrote for a small, start-up local news source called “The Condor News,” which lasted less than a year, but had a cult following. She gave me the opportunity to write as a local, San Benito girl, while living in Guangzhou, China — a city of about 120 million people. Kate kept me tethered to my home and when I returned from China, she told me about Measure J, the anti-fracking measure approved by local voters.

There’s not enough space in the universe to hold the infinite messages that Kate offered me over the years. She taught me that a woman could wear old, tattered boots as long as the soles were still kicking and they fit, who cares!? She gave me and my husband a place to vacation when we had next to nothing, she gave me a space in her RV to edit my first book, and listened when I read it out loud. We had dinners together, we fought about politics. She taught me so much about being a writer and being a woman, and I can’t thank her enough.


Rachelle Escamilla

Rachelle Escamilla is the host of "Out of Our Minds" on KKUP, author of "Imaginary Animal" and a columnist for Mission Village Voice.