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Cathey Anne Anderson

Visionary leader, inspirational teacher

Cathey Anne Anderson (nee Harris) died on December 22, 2015, surrounded by family, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 63.

She was born on August 3, 1952 in Pomona to Charles Edward Harris and Dorothy Jo Harris and went through Claremont schools, graduating from Claremont High School in 1970. She went on to graduate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1974 with a degree in animal husbandry, and spent an additional year in New Zealand pursuing her master’s degree.

She later obtained her teaching credential from Cal State San Marcos, and went on to teach for 16 years in the Valley Center Union School District. She was married for 34 years to Mark A. Anderson and had four children, Cale, Maren, Casey and Callie. Mark and Cathey resided and raised their family in Valley Center, California. During her career, Ms. Anderson developed a love for teaching agricultural science and headed the Valley Center public school agriculture farms.

“I have never seen children work as collaboratively as they do when they are in the garden,” she said. “As they face the multitude of problems associated with growing flowers and vegetables, they all work, share ideas and solve problems together as they strive to reach a common goal. It never ceases to fill me with joy as I watch true learning at its best just happen.”

Cathey felt it was essential for students to become agriculturally aware and was fond of quoting food writer Alan Richman, who expounded on the importance of sustenance: “With all due respect to art, film and theater critics, I’ve always believed their work was less fundamental than mine. Food is life. The rest is parsley.”

In 2004, Ms. Anderson was named the National Ag teacher of the year by the National Agriculture in the Classroom organization. Upon retirement from her teaching career, she spent her time in missions and traveling to underdeveloped countries. She worked with several charitable organizations, including Farming God’s Way, Forest Home, Y-Malawi, Faithquest, Reaching the Hungry and Operation Mobilization.

Cathey was the founder and visionary of Freedom Climb, a ministry of Operation Mobilization that pushed women beyond their comfort zones to “get wrecked and dirty for the Lord, while raising funds and awareness to free the oppressed and enslaved.”

For Freedom Climb’s first endeavor, Ms. Anderson led a delegation of 46 Christian women from seven different countries on an expedition to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The group, the largest assemblage of female climbers ever to take on the world’s largest free-standing mountain, aimed to raise awareness of the estimated 30 million people worldwide who are victims of human trafficking. 

“My wish is that all women and children would know their God-given value and worth. They are not objects to be used for financial gain or personal satisfaction,” she said shortly before the climb. “They are uniquely and wonderfully made and no one should take that intrinsic knowledge away from them.”

Each of the climbers, who ranged in age from 18 to 73, set out to raise $10,000. The money was used to help fund two-dozen projects helping exploited and underprivileged women and children. These ranged from counseling for human trafficking victims in India to funding education for children with HIV-positive parents in Nepal.

Before the Kilimanjaro expedition, Cathey had hiked but never done any climbing. She went onto lead delegations of women on mountain climbing expeditions to the base camp of Mt. Everest in 2013 and seven Colorado mountains including Pikes Peak in 2014.

Her mother, Dorothy Harris-McCullough, shared a story from the Everest base camp climb that she says is typical of Cathey’s selfless spirit and strength as a leader. As the 44 Freedom Climb participants got within 1,000 feet of the camp, 10 women were too ill with altitude sickness to go on. Cathey escorted them down the mountain, gracefully relinquishing her goal of reaching the base camp.

In July 2015, Freedom Climb participants undertook a 75-mile, eight-day trek through the Alps, beginning in Chamonix, France and ending in Zermatt, Switzerland. Ms. Anderson made the journey as well, accompanied by her loving husband, despite the fact that she was fighting cancer. To date, Freedom Climb has raised more than $2 million. For more information on the organization, which will continue the work Cathey began, visit www.TheFreedomChallenge.com.

Ms. Anderson’s family rallied around her during her sickness. During a gathering this past Thanksgiving, she was able to meet two new grandchildren, Connor and Meara, who were born earlier in the month.

She leaves behind her husband Mark; her children Cale, Maren, Casey and Callie; her six grandchildren, Kieran and Caden Luke, Caleb and Connor Carson and Juniper and Meara Anderson; her mother Dorothy Harris-McCullough, and her brothers Richard and Douglas Harris. She also leaves behind the countless women and children whose lives she has impacted around the world, and who meant so much to her.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests you consider giving to Operation Mobilization USA, PO Box 444, Tyrone GA 30290-0444, specifying the Cathey Anderson Freedom Climb Fund in the memo line of the check.

“Contributions will be used to continue the dream Cathey had to free women and children from their oppression and, in doing so, to stretch the women helping in these efforts beyond their comfort zones so that God can do an amazing work in and through them,” her loved ones shared.

There will be a Celebration of Life service in Cathey’s honor at Emmanuel Faith Community Church in Escondido, California on January 9 at 10 a.m.