We at the Eichler Network are sad to report that Catherine Munson, the original ‘queen of the Eichlers,’ has died.
As many Eichler aficionados know, Munson was a fixture, beginning in 1957, in the Eichler communities of Marin County and beyond, both as a veteran Eichler Homes saleswoman and as a generous fount of knowledge about the homes and neighborhoods she held dear.
Munson, 86, was Joe Eichler's first female salesperson and the only one we know of. She went on to found Lucas Valley Properties (today known as LVP Marin Realtors), a real estate brokerage based in northern Marin, making a five-decade career with the Eichlers at the heart of it. She died Monday March 3 of complications from pneumonia at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Terra Linda. Munson never retired, and instead worked full throttle right up until she became ill two weeks ago.
Munson created a successful business out of her experience with the Eichlers, but she was so enthusiastic about them, clients and friends have observed, that financial gain was secondary to the homes that charged her emotions. She freely shared her passion and knowledge with anyone curious about Eichler history, design, and culture. And she was a great source of inspiration, guidance, and information to the Eichler Network, too.
"Catherine was a dear friend and a guiding light for us and our work at the Eichler Network and CA-Modern for the past 20 years," publisher Marty Arbunich said. "She always made time to answer our questions about the Eichler heyday, and relished in telling her personal stories from that era. So many of the articles we've published over the years were based on her recollections and experiences, and we've been so lucky and appreciative that she was always ready and willing to share them with us."
Arbunich described Munson as "Eichler homes' greatest ambassador," and noted that she not only reveled in the homes' physical design, but in the culture and the Eichler company behind them. "Catherine was always so proud that she had worked for Joe Eichler, always respectfully referring to him as 'Mr. Eichler,'" Arbunich said. "Joe meant the world to Catherine, and to a great degree, her work and life during the 50 years that followed revolved around spreading the faith, so to speak, with great enthusiasm for Joe's accomplishments, the company's values, the Eichler lifestyle, and the kind of home design that truly kept her swept off of her feet all that time."
But it wasn't love at first sight, Munson explained to The Eichler Network back in 1997. Shortly after Munson and her husband Bill moved to Northern California from Nebraska in 1953, they visited a friend in an Eichler home in Terra Linda. "We went home that night and agreed it was simply the worst house we had ever seen," Munson recalled in that interview. "But, in the midst of remodeling our own house, something kept pulling us north to those Eichler model homes for inspiration. The more we went back there, the more we realized that we just loved those houses, and that they really expressed what our dream of living in California was all about. That began a saga of being absolutely stricken with Eichler homes."
The Eichler community was lucky to have an advocate as faithful, generous, and passionate as Munson, and we will miss her greatly. "It didn't matter who you were, your position in life, how much money you had or didn't have," Arbunich pointed out, “Catherine had this way of placing those who approached her on equal footing. To her, everyone was special."
Please Note: A memorial service for Catherine Munson is scheduled for Thursday March 27 at 2pm at the Marin Veteran's Auditorium, in the Marin Civic Center, San Rafael. All are welcome, though seating is limited. Doors open at 1pm. In lieu of flowers, the Munson family requests that donations be sent to Project Amigo (14 Commercial Blvd., Suite 119, Novato, CA 94949).