Santa Barbara County said goodbye to many legends this year.
Award-winning actor, world-renowned director, philanthropist and former Montecito resident Kirk Douglas was one of the legends who left us in early February.
Mr. Douglas passed away at his home in Beverly Hills at the age of 103.
He owned a home with his wife in Montecito for nearly two decades, frequenting Trattoria Mollie at its previous Coast Village Road location.
From his career-defining role in “Spartacus” (1960) to his roles in “Champion” (1949), “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1953) and “Lust for Life” (1957), the golden-age actor won three Best Actor nominations at the Oscars, and received an honorary Oscar in 1996 for his role as a “creative and moral force in the movie industry.”
He also wrote a series of best-selling books, including “The Ragman’s Son,” “Dance with the Devil,” “The Gift” and “My Stroke of Luck.”
Mr. Douglas was commonly spotted at the Montecito YMCA rooting on his grandchildren during coed basketball season. He’s remembered as a family man, where he appeared in an HBO documentary with his son Michael Douglas and asked his son if he had been a good father. His son’s response was, “Ultimately.”
The actor was also humanitarian with a commitment to justice. He founded the Douglas Foundation in 1964, raising nearly $118 million in donations. The foundation assisted in the funding of the reconstruction and renovation of Cottage Hospital, and endowed four playgrounds in Israel and one in honor of the Oklahoma City bombing victims.
Mr. Douglas also worked with his wife, Anne, at the Los Angeles Mission for the Homeless and the Anne Douglas Center for Women. Together, they helped improve playgrounds all over the Los Angeles Unified School District.
He left a legacy much deeper than his on-screen talent, showing many his down-to-earth, genuine approach to life.
More recently, last month, Santa Barbara bid farewell to Ernest “Ernie” Brooks II, a Santa Barbara local known for his breaktaking photos taken from under the sea and his service as president of Santa Barbara-based Brooks Institute of Photography.
He touched many with his photos, which captured the majesty of sea life in dramatic monochrome, and took classes of Brooks Institute students on photographic dives.
Mr. Brooks II grew up in Santa Barbara and raised his kids in Santa Barbara, eventually being inducted into Santa Barbara High School’s Hall of Fame in March 2019. He also received “The 1996 Partner’s Award” from the American Oceans Campaign honoring his lifelong commitment to the community.
Also in November, the community mourned the parting of Barbara Tellefson, the Unity Shoppe founder, president and director of operations. She died from a terminal illness at 84.
Her nonprofit has helped struggling families put food on the table and clothes on their back, and meant everything to low-income families and those affected by the Montecito debris flow and Thomas Fire. Her vision for Unity Shoppe also allows for the community’s low-income families, seniors, the disabled and disaster victims to choose what they need, treating them with dignity.
Ms. Tellefson was known for her energy and tenacity in helping others, and she will be remembered by thousands in 2021 who will be fed thanks to her ability to manage the need for free, nutritious groceries in a safe manner during COVID-19.
The Santa Barbara County hero always said that giving is not about making the giver feel good, but about making the person receiving feel good. Ms. Tellefson said her experience as a single mother, struggling to feel fully independent or understood, gave her empathy.
Unity Shoppe will keep her vision alive, the doors wide open and its services free of charge to Santa Barbara residents in need for years to come, which was her dying wish.
Members of the social scene of Montecito said goodbye to their doyenne, Beverley Jackson, in August, who died from natural causes at 91.
The vibrant partier spent 25 years documenting the social scene of Santa Barbara at the News-Press, detailing comical accounts of her interactions with celebrities and movie stars in the 1970s and ’80s. She worked on committees within the city and hundreds would attend her parties.
Ms. Jackson was an avid traveler, and developed a strong admiration for Chinese culture, leading her to write popular books such as “Splendid Slippers: A Thousand Years of an Erotic Tradition,” which covers the former practice of binding the feet of Chinese girls.
Her Montecito home was well-known as a museum, and those close with her said she knew just about everyone in the community, and was terribly interested in them.
The socialite loved dressing up and attending parties “habitually late,” and invited all kinds of people to her celebrations, young and old.
Her writing will live on for generations of Santa Barbara residents, bringing the ’70s and ’80s in the region to life.
The diving community lost one of their own in October, Lad Handelman, who died from cardiac arrest. The pioneer in commercial diving and the offshore gas and oilfield industry co-founded Cal Dive and Oceaneering, as well as a spinal injury support group called Outlook.
Mr. Handelman wore many hats as an Offshore Energy Hall of Famer, a NOGI diving award winner, a Havard grad, a husband, a father and a beloved member of the community.
He was also a big supporter of the Boys and Girls Club as a club member himself as a child.
The diving legend spent more than 25 years as an environmental leader, prioritizing safety in all his diving operations.
He suffered a broken neck while snow skiing in 1985 and became a quadrapalegic. He found that there wasn’t a local support group for people in wheelchairs, so he made one.
Mr. Handelman served on the board of directors of the United Boys and Girls Clubs, the board of directors of the Historical Diving Society, the Santa Barbara City College Marine Technology Advisory Committee, served as a lifetime member of the Association of Diving Contractors and a member of Western States Petroleum Association.
The heavily involved community member was also a great friend of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.
He left a legacy of a successful businessman with a soft heart — and a mystery. No one knows his true age because he never told anyone his birth date and would make up dates for nurses.
However, he told everyone that he’s having a birthday party in 2050, and all are invited to attend.
While goodbyes are hard, the legacies of these valued, active and cherished community members will live on in Santa Barbara for many, many years to come.