In Memoriam

Caitlin Wright Binning

June 29, 1966 - July 25, 2003

She was completely authentic

I do not remember when I first met Caitlin, but I do not remember a time when she was not part of life at the Daily Planet. There were numerous young people who came to the Daily Planet in the 1980s to do good and for whom the Daily Planet was a lesson in the limits of their altruism and empathy. Caitlin had no such limits. She came to stay, and took on new roles as the need emerged. She was quite literally indispensable.

After Caitlin married Tim and left Richmond for Northern Virginia, she took a management job at a respected agency that provides supportive housing for people with serious mental illness. She did not stay long; it did not measure up to her expectations of how people with serious mental illness should be treated. Shortly after that, the position of Deputy Director at the National Low Income Housing Coalition became vacant and she applied. I made her go through the same rigorous process as all applicants, to make sure that no one could charge that I had hired a friend. That included calling her boss at this other agency to hear his view of why she left. He told me that he was impressed with Caitlin's ideas about what their practice there should be, but her ideas were too advanced for them, in essence, that she was ahead of her time. No surprise to me.

I hired Caitlin at the National Low Income Housing Coalition in late 2001. We know now that she was ill at the time, was diagnosed shortly after she started, and was there only a few weeks. I am so grateful for the time we had in the winter of 2002. Her imprints are everywhere, not the least of which is the George W. Bush mask on display in my office that she gave me for my birthday, now adorned with a cap with a peace symbol.

Caitlin's acts of generosity are legion. I have one more to add. After she had started treatment for cancer, I asked a favor of her. My brother was being treated for major depression, and not very satisfactorily to my mind. Caitlin struck up an email relationship with him, and helped him access numerous sources of information about his illness, his medications, and how to take charge of his treatment. He credits Caitlin today with helping him navigate his way through a less-than-user friendly mental health treatment system.

Her most endearing quality was how wonderfully irreverent Caitlin was, and how well she pulled off being so sassy. Pompous people did not have a chance around Caitlin. She was completely authentic and expected nothing less from everyone around her. Skills learned in social work school notwithstanding, this is what made Caitlin the gifted social worker she was.

Sheila Crowley 
July 31, 2003