Catherine “Kay” Sutherland Vail

Date of Birth

December 6, 1924

Date of Death

March 7, 2012

City of Death

Santa Barbara

Kay Vail, 87 of Santa Barbara, California passed away in her home on March 7, 2012, surrounded by family and friends, including her adopted canine companion, Bradley.

Catherine “Kay” Sutherland Vail was born on December 6, 1924 in San Francisco, California to Harold Sutherland, a civil engineer and Army Colonel, and Maize Fountaine Sutherland, a music teacher. Kay’s grandmother, Mary Gavin emigrated from Ireland to Boston in her twenties and later settled in Tombstone, Arizona where she married Colbert Fountaine, a French-Canadian mining engineer. They lived in Tombstone at the time of Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid and Doc Holiday and eventually moved to Los Angeles to provide their five children a better education.

Kay attended the University of California at Berkeley where she majored in English and wrote feature stories and social columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Watsonvilleon Newspaper. She also worked for the Westwood, Santa Monica and Venice Independents and was on the staff of Fortnight Magazine writing feature stories. Prior to her marriage, Kay culminated her professional career in journalism as owner and publisher of her own weekly newspaper in West Los Angeles, the Pico Wondermiler.

In 1956, Kay was “swept off her feet” by cattle rancher Al Vail, whose family had been in the business for over 100 years, and Kay and Al married soon thereafter. Kay spent her early years of motherhood on the windswept Santa Rosa Island ranch – the city girl was introduced to the cowboy life. Kay continued to do freelance writing and published a book about a dog named “Toby” to help children deal with the loss of a pet. She also wrote cowboy poetry for fun and in honor of her husband Al. Kay and Al remained together for 43 years until Al passed in 2000.

Kay adored her family and friends, especially her furry ones. She always enjoyed good music, taking photographs and writing poetry about everyone. An extraordinarily pretty woman, Kay was known to adore fashion, have a great sense of humor, loved a good laugh, and had a smile that lit up a room. She was generous, always ready for a party and a true lady until the end.

Kay is survived by her two daughters, Nita Catherine Vail and Mary Louise Vail, and first cousins George Frakes and Anthony Drewry. Donations in lieu of flowers may be sent to: K-9 Pals at the SB County Animal Shelter, PO Box 60755, Santa Barbara, CA 93160,, or California Rangeland Trust, 1225 H Street, Sacramento 95814,

The family invites friends to celebrate Kay’s life on Friday, May 18th at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club from 2:30pm-5:00 pm. “May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.”

A very special thank you to Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care of Santa Barbara and our wonderful caregivers for their tremendous help and comfort to our family.


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