Heather Granahan was happy to be, through and through, a west Sonoma County woman.
She wrote not long ago, “Some of you know me as teaching or performing dance, holding a baby on my hip, trucking around working at a natural foods trade show, growing a yard full of plants and hiking for the elusive mushroom, speaking at a political event, creating earth-stoppingly great student films and pieces of writing.”
Vesta Copestakes, publisher of the Forestville-based Sonoma County Gazette, freely associated attributes of Granahan, one of her paper’s community columnists: “Amazing woman. Good heart. Spirited. Intelligent. Beautiful. Community minded. Committed to joy and life and the people she loved.”
Granahan died Oct. 25 on the same country property between Occidental and Bodega where she spent most of her childhood. The mother of three was 57 and had struggled with breast cancer on and off for nearly three years.
“She had an extraordinary vitality, I would say that was her hallmark,” said her mother, Andrea Granahan, well known in west county as a journalist and author. The two of them were best friends, they edited each other’s writing and they partnered in community events and a blog, Quirktopia.
Heather Granahan was for a time a professional dancer and teacher, specializing in Flamenco and Middle Eastern dance. She went on to work in sales for La Tortilla Factory and more recently promoted small, organic farms through the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and ecological food packaging through EcoTensil of Corte Madera.
“She was very big on healthy food,” her mother said. “She actually kind of drove us crazy with all her health foods.”
Heather Granahan was born in the Los Angeles County town of Maywood and moved with her family to Pennsylvania, Maine, Maryland — and Greece. The adventurous clan lived on an island without electricity or running water.
“She grew up realizing what was important and what wasn’t,” her mother said.
She was 8 when her mother, her father, the late David Granahan, and her two brothers settled in western Sonoma County. As a precocious child, she showed intense interest in botany and in dance.
Granahan performed for years with TerriAnne Gutierrez and other principals of the Sirens Studio & Theater of Sebastopol. She was passionate about belly dancing and other forms of ethnic dance.
Her interest in organic foods and the environment led to her work with family farmers and sustainable food packaging. She grew much of her own food and spent a great deal of time hiking, and she was shocked to learn in early 2015 that she had triple-negative breast cancer.
She underwent extensive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and was found to be cancer-free.
But in spring of last year, doctors discovered the cancer had returned. Granahan wrote, “So, yeah, it’s stage 4 officially, dang it. I am in the fight of my life! I’d be lying if said I wasn’t scared this time.”
She was buoyed by the tremendous support she received from her family and community, and was determined to draw each bit of joy from life that she could. “She fought to stay alive,” said her mother.
Last April 22, Granahan married longtime friend and father of two Peter Watson.
“I’d known her for 20 years,” Watson said. He lost his first wife to cancer and Heather put her own life on hold to care for her late partner, Brad Conrad, as he struggled with cancer.
Heather Granahan beamed through the wedding ceremony at Watson School east of Bodega, and as she and her new husband donned helmets and set off on a motorcycle.
In addition to Watson and her mother, Granahan is survived by her children, Jasper Granahan Sexton of Point Richmond, Cooper Linsley of Santa Rosa and Eva Granahan of Bodega; her stepchildren, Christopher Watson of Davis and Tessa Watson of Oakland, and her brothers, David Granahan of Guerneville and Devin Granahan of Bodega.
There will be a celebration of her life from 2 to 5 p.m. on Nov. 18 at the Union Hotel in Occidental.
Memorial donations are suggested to the UndocuFund for Fire Relief, c/o GCIR, P.O. Box 1100, Sebastopol 95473-1100.