R.I.P. Kat Kinkade

200807181254.jpg (Photo source)

Gareth Branwyn says:

Kat Kinkade has died. Kat was the founder of Twin Oaks Community, the place where I basically grew up. I travelled there two days after graduating high school. I was there for 6-1/2 years. So much of the foundation of who I am was forged on the anvil of that community experience. I don't hold all of the same beliefs I did then, but I credit the freedom found in that great social experiment as the greatest gift I could have received as an evolving human intelligence unit. In my life, I've had the profound pleasure of sitting at the feet of, learning from, counting as friends, some true giants of 20th/21st century counter-culture, people possessed of big personalities, stunning intellects, relentless work ethics, grand plans and great ideas. Kat Kinkade was my first.
Kat Kinkade Obit (Washington Post) | Kat Kinkade obit by her daughter Josie | Remembering Kat Kinkade


  1. I never lived at twin oaks but I have known people who have.

    I lived in a co-op in Madison Wisconsin for about 4 years. while not the same, many of these communities modeled themselves after other ones. There are a lot of common threads in our organizational structures and community styles.

    Much of true co-operative living is falling by the way side, which is very sad. these models often are the most environmentally friendly and most culturally enriching. Many people who move into these felt trapped in isolating post-industrial “communities” separated from old bonds that much of our civilization was once based on.

    in the co-ops, we called people like her “lifers”, they were community builders and bases that kept the rest of us steady. It’s sad to see someone like her go.

    my generation hasn’t picked up where hers left off, and now the communal life is dying off when we need it most.

    p.s. the links seem to be broke

  2. I did not live there, but I spent some time there off and on when I was a wandering teenager, looking for community, for solace, and for direction and meaning in my life.

    The community was kind and welcoming, and the experience I had there was a valuable, calming force in my life at a time when most immediate influences were destructive. It’s fair to say the place changed me, and I turned out okay.

    I am very sorry that she has passed away.

    Gareth, I did not know you had personal history there. I hope you will share more of this online sometime with the world.

  3. Wow. I didn’t know you visited TO, Xeni! I lived there from 1975 to 82. When did you visit? Later, I’d assume. (Damn youngins). Pam lived there too. That’s where we met.

    I’ve been writing my… ah… memoirs for years, but I haven’t gotten very far. There are all sorts of great stories to tell. I have put Chapter Zero online, about the night before I left for TO. The names, of the town and my two chucklehead pals are changed, but everything else is pretty much how it happened. FWIW:


    Unfortunately, Kat didn’t live there for much of the time I did. She’d left to help start East Wind Community in MO. But Pam and I spent some time out there where I got to know her and when she moved back to TO.

  4. WOW. Yes, it was later than that, but was in the ’80s. AMAZING Gar! Just amazing. :)

  5. I have many friends who lived at and grew up at Twin Oaks. Knowing that Kat was not well, her death doesn’t come as a surprise. Honestly, I’m really surprised to read about her death out Boing Boing; I just didn’t know that Twin Oaks was known outside of the immediate area.

    (Fun fact: Paxus, a long-time Twin Oaks resident, is the older brother of John Flansburgh, of They Might Be Giants. The songs “Hot Cha” and “Boss of Me” are about him. Give the lyrics another listen and it’ll be obvious in retrospect.)

    For those who want to learn a little bit more about Twin Oaks, I recommend highly the Washington Post’s 1998 profile. For those who want to learn a lot more about Twin Oaks, I recomment Kat Kinkade’s “Is It Utopia Yet?,” her 1994 book about the commune.

  6. I visited TO a couple of years ago for its annual Communities Conference, and stopped by Acorn, the TO-inspired community down the road.

    As a “Cohousing Coach” volunteering on the Cohousing Association (Coho/US) and Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) boards, and with family and business taking me to a number of different regions with enough flexibility to take time to visit, I’ve been able to visit more than 100 different communities over the past decade, mainly cohousing neighborhoods, and lived in two.

    In all my experience, nothing came close to Twin Oaks in terms of the deep commitment to community and uncompromising living of values, with appropriately-scaled social and technological systems to support the efforts. From a clothes library (with people getting paid to shop at thrift stores) to innovative community economic development models, from a shared economy that credits hours for childrearing, and evolutionary approaches to life’s challenges rather than a doctrinaire one-size-fits-all attitude, the community seems to reflect a real-world utopian vision (however oxymoronic it may be to label a real-world location “noplace”). I don’t know how much comes from the founders, but in other communities, the group culture is frequently heavily influenced by the attitudes of those who led the way.

    P.S. It’s great to see that BB folks have some community-living background.

  7. I’m glad you brought up the book, Waldo – that is a truly interesting account of this incredible community. Kat was special, and her life shows what can happen when one lives by their values. I have never been to Twin Oaks, or met her, though I know people who spent time there, and many others whose co-ops or practices are modeled on the ideals.

    I read this after having lived in a co-op, part of the Couch collective, for several years – an invaluable experience, especially at nearly 50 and a fairly conventional life (thing oriented, plugged in). I wish others could spend a year or two living like this, looking more closely at what is needed, what’s important! It may be true that the community experienced real difficulty in achieving its ideals, but what has been created is important – and ‘man’s reach must exceed his grasp.’

    Reading her obituary, I love the description of the end of her life: she was taken into the heart of the Twin Oaks community, and cared for until her death. This is how it should be.

Comments are closed.