Sheila Cayton

Obituary of Sheila Cayton

Sheila Cayton passed away peacefully at Dominican Oaks in Santa Cruz, CA on May24, 2023, after living a full life of 97 years. She was the beloved wife of Ralph Cayton, and devoted “Mum” of 6 children: Phyllis (Noah), Barry (Andrea), Brian (Kay), Joanie, Paul, and David, and adored grandmother/Nana of Colby, Jacob, Quincy, Garrett, Lindsay, Derek, Celina, and Caius, and great-grandmother to Gabriella. Sheila Gottlieb was born in London, England on January 1, 1926, the oldest daughter of Hannah and David Gottlieb and dear sister to Maureen and Helen. Her once idyllic childhood years were shattered during WWII during the Blitz bombing of Britain with severe food rationing. Sheila had to do schooling in an underground air raid shelter by candlelight and was one of the few survivors of a bombed-out office building. These early traumatic experiences shaped her determination and became the foundation for her to become a crusader and political activist for social justice and peace. Sheila was the youngest election agent in England at the age of 19. She then was a secretary for a Member of Parliament and at age 21 worked for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva as a sound scriber. Her independence and curiosity to see the United States took her to New York City in 1948 working with UNICEF at the United Nations. It was there in January 1950 that Sheila met the love of her life, Ralph Cayton, a creative and humorous public relations writer, on the dance floor at Tavern on the Green. They married nine months later in England and then moved permanently to New York. Sheila and Ralph shared the same, strong pacifist political views. She became a champion for world peace, a voice for change and was a deeply involved activist for the Women’s Strike for Peace movement. She worked on many progressive campaigns in the 60’s and 70’s and hosted many political fundraisers at her Long Island home. Sheila adamantly protested the Vietnam War, attending many Marches on Washington with her young children in tow, and twice ran for Hempstead Town Council. In 1978, subsequent to the tragic deaths of Ralph at 50 and David at 14, Sheila sought to find a new purpose in her life, and thus became a local travel agent to support her remaining family while providing her the opportunity to travel extensively and serve others for over 20 years. At the same time, to honor David and award the compassionate nurses who make such a difference in the lives of critically ill children and their families, she established the David Cayton Fellowship Fund at Boston Children’s Hospital which awarded scholarships to nurses for furthering their oncology education. Thanks to the generous donations of many friends and family, the Fund is now a very large endowment, and has morphed into providing much needed facilities and activities for Boston Children’s patients and their families as well as oncology research and nurses’ education. Sheila moved to Santa Cruz in 2004 to be closer to her West Coast children and grandchildren and created a new life for herself. She soon befriended many who shared her values and interests, joining hiking, theatre, and lifetime learner groups. She was a longtime lover of tennis, dancing, walking, knitting, poetry, NY Times crossword puzzles, Bridge, Scrabble, and especially getting down on the floor and creatively playing endless hours with her beloved grandchildren. Despite enduring unfathomable personal losses during her life, Sheila always modeled courage, strength, perseverance, responsibility, and integrity. She was a generous, adored friend and mentor to all and a favorite second mother to many of her children’s friends. Her beautiful, radiant smile, lovely British accent punctuated by her distinct colloquialisms, brilliant mind, and compassionate heart will always be remembered and cherished. Sheila will forever be her children’s hero. As she so often quoted Thomas Campbell: “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.” The family will be arranging a celebration of Sheila’s life in the near future. Donations to The Santa Cruz Homeless Garden Project may be made in her honor.

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A Memorial Tree was planted for Sheila
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Benito & Azzaro Pacific Gardens Chapel
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