Cover photo for Cathleen S. Valk's Obituary
Cathleen S. Valk Profile Photo
1953 Cathleen 2021

Cathleen S. Valk

June 11, 1953 — May 8, 2021

Cate Valk of Pine Woods, NY passed away unexpectedly on May 8, 2021. Born on June 11, 1953 in Brooklyn, NY to James Edward Sheeran and Barbara Marie Sheeran (nee Polley), Cathleen Susan Sheeran was best known to her family and friends of her youth as “Cathy.” Her father was a proud second-generation Irishman and WWII Veteran who worked as a photoengraver for the NY Daily News in what was then the cutting edge of color print. Her mother, a long-time employee of Brooklyn College and fixture in Flatbush where she spearheaded neighborhood preservation and served on the Community Board, was from a long line of early American settlers from the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as newer German immigrants who made their mark working with the Brooklyn breweries before Prohibition. It is a classic story of the New York melting pot into which Cate was born- a story that was only enhanced by her teen years that occurred during the exciting and tumultuous 1960s. Years of time were spent with cherished cousins on both sides of Cate’s family; trips to Long Island and the country to see relatives; babysitting for her youngest sister, Polley, and her first cousins Rob and Tara who were like siblings to her. Her biggest family antics occurred with her brother, Jaime. Only a year apart, they were like twins (except he was a good foot taller that her!), and they shared many friends in their Brooklyn neighborhood.
As an adorable and beloved child, Cate showed exceptional intelligence from a young age. She was often bored by grade school but then found her niche in art and fashion. She went to the prestigious High School of Fashion Industries in NYC and later pursued courses at Brooklyn College. She studied art and learned to throw clay at the Brooklyn Museum. She went on adventures such as the time she moved to Las Vegas to learn how to work the gaming tables (no, not gambling but as a croupier!). After several women’s fashion retail management positions, Cate relocated upstate to manage a store in Fayetteville, NY. Later she would end up in Hamilton, NY where she met her future husband Christopher “Chris” Valk. As a music lover it was a perfect match for Cate as Chris was not only intelligent and kind but a great rock and roller with a fabulous local band. With Chris, came his son, Eric, an exceptional person who in turn became Cate’s beloved child. It was Chris who gave her “upstate” name “Cate” as she known by her friends from the Hamilton area. The years were filled with work, play, struggles, victories, and time with many dear friends. Through it all Cate remained tough with a grit she had since childhood. After working at local Vantine Studios, Parry’s, the Department of the Aging, and Morrisville College Cate found her passion in clay. She established Clay Expressions with some friends, opened a studio in her basement and in Hamilton, and went on to sell her pieces and appear in many art shows from the Adirondacks to Brooklyn. She strongly believed in the distinction between clay as an art form and clay used for utilitarian objects and crafts. In 2014 she was honored with a Best in Show prize for her Woodland Wall Sculpture by the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition (BWAC), a renowned artists’ organization in NYC to which her brother-in-law, Arturo, belongs. Cate often was critical of her work, which sometimes ended with pieces in the trash pile rather than the show they belonged in. With the nagging of Arturo and her sister, Polley, she had finally agreed to enter the BWAC show and, of course, she won! This was Cate. An extraordinary talent, a sharp mind, a critical thinker, an avid reader, a sharp wit (and a sharp tongue!). She walked her own path and lived a full life notwithstanding its short and sudden end. She will be missed.
Cate is predeceased by her father, James. She is survived by her mother, Barbara; her brother, James Richard Sheeran; her sister, Polley Sheeran and brother-in-law, Arturo Rosales; her son Eric C. Valk Peterson and his wife, Michelle Cheek, and his father Christopher Valk; her beloved cousins Tara and Robert (“Rob”) Leary, Rob’s wife, Nora, and their daughter, Emma; and many dear family members and friends. Cate is also survived by her cat, Echo, who will going on a new adventure with Eric and Michelle.
In keeping with Cate’s wishes there are no services or calling hours. A memorial will be announced at a future date.
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