Catherine Yael is a native of Asheville and spent much of her life in Western North Carolina– most recently in Waynesville. She is a product of a private Catholic girls’ academy education and degrees granted by 5 public and private universities: UNC-Asheville, Mars Hill University, UNC-Greensboro, NC State University, NC A&T University, and the Seminary at Beacon University, encompassing programs from concert piano, 20th Century European History and Political Science to Counseling and Theology. Catherine is a lifelong learner currently enrolled at ETSU to study Appalachian heritage and storytelling in spring 2020. She is celebrating her 48th year as a deliverer of human services, presently as a community mental health therapist in Johnson City. A singer of blessings and liturgy at her Shul, she is expanding proficiency in Hebrew and Yiddish and plans to serve the Israeli Defense Forces through the Sar El volunteer program in spring 2020.
She remembers some of her happiest times as accompanying her professor mother on collecting trips in the forests of the Southern Highlands, backpacking in Europe, spending total immersion summers with a French family in Grenoble, France, serving on gubernatorial committees in Raleigh NC writing legislation to fund programs serving survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and the 25 years she owned and operated Glenfiddich Christmas Tree Farm and Nursery in Haywood County, NC where she designed and built a hand-hewn poplar log house.
Her personal philosophy of life is promoting “Tikkun Olam” wherever she goes, delivering acts of kindness and assistance performed to perfect/ repair the world; a concept found in a body of classical rabbinic teaching, the “Mishnah”. Catherine’s hobbies include “voracious reading”, gardening, landscaping, international travel, gourmet cooking, and “go-look-see-trips”. She is a whole-hearted “Cat Lady” having welcomed a long line of Siamese cats in lieu of human children. She has been blissfully married to Wallace Shealy since April 2019.
I could hear the chuckles growing behind me as people realized what was going to happen. Little Bobby would be proud and so was I.
Her stories paint vivid pictures of childhood and heritage. Having discovered her Jewish heritage after her parents’ passing, she has been eagerly developing stories to celebrate her ancestry as an Ashkenazi Jew of Eastern European descent. She is currently working on a master project that will yield a complex series of stories detailing the village life of an imagined pre-World War II Jewish shtetl in Eastern Poland and the Ukraine. This project honors unknown and voiceless relatives lost in the Holocaust. Another project underway focuses on stories from the Cumberland Plateau of Eastern Kentucky. Her storytelling portfolio contains tales of Appalachian historical, folk, tall tales, personal vignettes, and literary masterpieces seasoned with humor. Learning the hammered dulcimer and the psalter are adding another dimension to her storytelling.
I Love Your Stories!
A lifelong writer of stories, she was first published in the UNC-Asheville “Laurel” at age 12. Her love of storytelling has emerged and grown during many trips as a listener to the National Storytelling festival and fostered by Tellers in residence at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough TN. She has sharpened her skills under the tutelage of Donald Davis, Adam Booth, Elizabeth Ellis, Geraldine Buckley, Antônio Rocha, and Kim Weitkamp Gum and deeply appreciates mentoring time spent with Gwenda Ledbetter. She has told at Asheville’s Front Porch, TELLABRATION!™, house concerts, synagogues, the Hendersonville Center for Art and Inspiration, corporate and therapeutic venues. In addition to ASC, she is a member of the National Storytelling Network, NC Guild and a performing member of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild.