The Monroes Will Rise from Ashes!

Mary's and Kim's Story

(Assembled by their friend and High School Classmate, Carl Pennypacker)

Mary and Kim Monroe had spent a lifetime teaching in  in elementary schools, in the International School of Lusaka in Zambia, Africa, and in Northern California elementary schools.  Now retired, they were looking forward to their lives in their home in Redwood Valley. 

The Monroes had been on their property, nicknamed Moon Dance Ranch, over many decades. They  lived in the Sky House, a home built by friends with recycled redwood. A yurt called Moonburger Delight and the Sun Cabin housed friends and family.

                  Sky House Before the Fire

They had devoted their lives to taking care of our Planet and its people. Moon Dance ranch was very green, and the stewardship of the Earth had permeated all of their years of teaching in local public  primary schools, for over 40 years.  They were people who clearly wanted to leave Earth in better shape  than when they had arrived.

But the night of October 8 had changed all of that.  A fire storm swept down their beautiful Redwood Valley.  Mary and Kim were able to escape with passports and a few othe documents, but that was it.

All of the watercolors Mrs. Monroe had painted over the years are gone, as areKim’s guitars and African drum collection. “You just let it go,” Mary said.

Mary's  and Kim's Current Skyhouse (Dec. 5,2018)

Mary's and Kim's Current Yurt Site

Wall Street Journal Story on the Monroes and Others (

But they made it out, and now it is our pleasure to try to help them a bit.


Carl Pennypacker
Saratoga High School 50th Reunion                      Organizing Committee Member


Mary's and Kim's Words are below:

               A Life-Changing Event
                   December 4, 2017

Hello Good Friends,

Kim and I moved to our land here in Mendocino County back in 1978. We were never famers or ranchers but primarily stewards of the land. We raised our three sons in this idyllic environment while we taught elementary school.

Our lives changed on the night of October 8, 2017. The Cal Fire Captain I listened to the other day said he has experienced approximately four "once in a lifetime" fires and our Redwood Complex Fire was one of them. It happened suddenly and moved swiftly. One quote I heard was that it travelled the length of a football field every 3 seconds. There was no official warning. We were awakened at 1:00 AM by Wes who lives in the next valley over. People made warning phone calls until the lines went dead and then resorted to banging on doors. We were fortunate to be among the first people out. Some of our neighbors did not fare so well. They evacuated with fire burning around them and on both sides of the road and a few did not make it out. Fortunate as we were, we were still panicked; short heavy breath, cotton-mouth, tumultuous stomach..... (I wrote a much more detailed description of our escape on my Face Book Page. To make a long story short, all of our family and our friends made it out. We were in the epicenter of the fire and lost absolutely everything except for what we drove out with.)

Those first couple of weeks are a blur to me now. Symptoms of PTSD have mostly settled down to be replaced by quandaries. To rebuild or not? How to make sure erosion does wash out the roads? How does one stop the 160 acres from turning to brush? (The foresters told us that poison oak and star thistle love fires) How does one help the land regenerate in a healthy way? Can we even afford to do any of this? (We certainly can't do it all ourselves, after all, we are 67 years old!) Even with insurance the future is uncertain.

I love the fact that our sons and nephew have stepped up to the plate to help us make some decisions.
Our boys and our nephew grew up roaming the land and as adults they have all four continued to be closely connected to environmental issues. Our eldest, Ben, is an environmental engineer in Sonoma County. Our middle son Eli has worked for the America/India Foundation for the last 7 or so years. He has been guiding trips to India for underpriviledged / underseen youth from the US. This last year he took an amazing group of students to India and Ladakh to study the effects of climate change. They began this journey with three days in Mendocino County camping on our land and hiking in Montgomery Woods. Ladakh was on the itinerary because it is a country that depends on glacial melt for their water and those glaciers are disappearing. Our youngest son, Wes, is a kayaker and still lives here in Mendocino County. My nephew Ian (the son of Jarion and Cathy Easterbrook Monroe is an earth systems major from Stanford and still teaches classes there as well as consulting world-wide.

The "boys" have created their own fun in you Caring to help with their dream for the place.
"We want to create an example of how rural area can be built in ways that are resilient to natural disaster,energy efficient, mindful of the environment and connected to the global community. After the fire we have a clean slate - a chance to foster healthy and fire resistant growth. We will need money for tools and materials for forestry management and ecological building. Our dream is to see this land regrow as a monument to the beauty of nature and the importance of humankind's connection to it." To these ends they have created a nonprofit titled The Resilience and Regeneration Collective.

There is no doubt that to a lot of people who have visited or lived at Rancho Mariposa, the place was special. If you donated to this effort to help this place rise up from the ashes we will do our best to make that happen.

I will keep you posted as to our clean up and rebuilding efforts.

Love to all of you,
Mary and Kim

  • Naseem Hakim 
    • $100 
    • 43 mos
  • Kathleen Merritt 
    • $250 
    • 43 mos
  • Nate Baird 
    • $50 
    • 44 mos
  • Elizabethan Zest 
    • $180 
    • 44 mos
  • jacquie lolich 
    • $50 
    • 45 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Carl Pennypacker 
Berkeley, CA
Mary Monroe