Caroline Clarice Estes

Caroline Clarice Estes passed away, July 13, 2022.

Caroline Clarice Estes was born March 14, 1928, in Oklahoma City to Leonard Fuqua and Madelia Fay Jenkins Fuqua and died July 13, 2022, at Alpha Farm in Deadwood.


Caroline was an only child. After her parents’ divorce, Caroline and Fay moved home to her maternal grandmother’s home in Sherman, Texas, where they lived in a large extended family for five years during the Depression. Around age 10, Caroline and Fay moved to San Francisco, where Fay married Ernie Southard and Caroline graduated from Lowell High School.


Caroline attended UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University. Around this time she was married to a young lawyer, Dwight Rush, for two years. Her work after college included teaching at the California Schools for the Deaf and Blind in Berkeley and later serving as a legal secretary to leading attorney Melvin Belli. She married newspaper editor Jim Estes, and both joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); they raised two daughters, Maria and Ronnie Mae (Trinity).


Caroline became active as an organizer, facilitator and consultant in movements for peace and social action, beginning with the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the mid-1960s. Here she first used the training and experience of Quaker business meetings to facilitate diverse groups of hundreds of people in making decisions by consensus, at a time when this was virtually unknown outside of Friends.


In the early 1960s the family moved to Philadelphia, where Jim and Caroline both worked for the Quaker service agency American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). During those years, Caroline refined her understanding and use of consensus decision making so that when she received inspiration to start an intentional community and returned to the West Coast in 1972 as a founding member of Alpha Farm, she was able to help guide Alpha into a consensual form of governance.


Based on Quaker principles and practices including consensus and peacemaking, Alpha Farm has sought to include people from a wide range of social backgrounds and political and spiritual leanings in creating a self-reliant, sustainable community of people living in harmony with themselves, each other and the Earth.


From 1973 until 2016, the community operated Alpha-Bit Café in Mapleton, offering outreach and a bridge to the wider community. Caroline served as manager, craft buyer, and a gracious hostess/chef for Friday night dinners.


Over the decades, Caroline continued to put peacemaking and community building into action in ever-widening circles. In 1979 and 1980 she helped organize large conferences, called ComeUnity conferences, at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Detroit, Oregon, where she again facilitated plenary sessions of 500 to 600 people by consensus. She became a leader in the intentional communities movement and served in leadership with the Fellowship (now Foundation) for Intentional Community (FIC) for many years.


Following her belief that consensus is an appropriate form of decision making for our times, and that it is often misused, she began teaching Quaker-style consensus process to the groups she facilitated. Caroline’s commitment to the spirit of consensus and her skill with the process became an inspiring influence in the communities movement and beyond. Through Alpha Institute, she used this growing skill as a professional group facilitator and trainer to expand and develop the use of consensus with secular groups, such as regional and North American bioregional congresses and the Greens' national conferences. From about 1994 to 2009, when she was over 80, Caroline also worked extensively with Waldorf schools and other local and national nonprofit organizations across the U.S. and Canada, and mentored many others who followed in this calling.


Caroline will be remembered for her intelligence, high energy and clarity; as a powerful, stubborn visionary; and as “the inspiration and exasperation of Alpha Farm,” as her husband Jim once said. She, and the vision she carried, touched and enlarged many hundreds of people. Her legacy lives on at Alpha Farm, now the longest-surviving intentional community in Oregon.


She is survived by her daughters, Maria del Rosario Navarro (Estes) Davis and Ronnie Mae (Trinity) Estes Carey; grandchildren Persephone Starks, Cory Fletcher, Jonathan Davis and Dwight Davis, Jr.; six great-grandchildren; and many “chosen family” members of Alpha Farm, including Andrew and Morgan Dumitru and Lysbeth and Elena Borie. Burial was at Alpha Farm. A celebration of life will be held Saturday, July 29, at noon at Alpha Farm. A celebration of Alpha’s 50th anniversary will follow. RSVP by July 1 to [email protected] or 541-964-5102.