Category Archives: Obituaries

Richard Neil Keller February 18,1917 – July 23, 2021

If you were to ask Richard what contributed to his longevity he would say…“Moderation.”

by Karen Leslie, writer with heart

A humanitarian to the bone, Richard Keller left his inventor’s footprint onto the world and legacy into the hearts that crossed his path. The quiet strength of his creative thinking-mind and a gentle-man to the core, led to a full life, rich in friends, adventures and accomplishments. In Richard’s 104 years of life, he not only lived side by side with world change marked by time, he changed, adapted and thrived with them. Richard Keller was an organized soul, a stickler for accurate details, approached life with a firm positive attitude, always available to assist in times of need and not one to toot his own horn. Exploring the forest of one’s dreams was a joy and while engaging in a one-on-one conversation, the other person was the important one, always.

Richard Keller’s “Ladder of Life” story began February 18, 1917 in Wellington, Kansas, born to parents Nellie and William Keller, shortly thereafter they moved to Medford, Oklahoma, living on a farm in a house with no electricity or bathroom which eventually had all modern utilities. He was educated in a one room schoolhouse, learned to drive a Model-T at the age of nine and attended Northern Oklahoma College. Cars were one of Richard’s loves along with women mentors. He respected, his mother, teacher, and aunt who gave Richard the incentive to follow his dreams.

Richard took to the road in 1938 and migrated on a Harley Davidson from Oklahoma on route 66 to San Jacinto, California. In 1943 Richard entered the Air Force and in 1944 became a USAAF-1st LT, piloted a B-25 and trained for the proposed invasion of Japan. Richard kept flying private planes after the military.

With five universities including USC as a student in engineering, architecture and industrial design, the next rung of accomplishments on the ladder of Richard’s life was when design engineers didn’t have computers, only slide rules. In 1946 Richard worked the next six years at Lockheed Aircraft – twenty-one years at William R. Whitaker Corp, Hollywood, California, where he designed actuators for aircraft valves, one of which was placed on an Apollo – ten years at California Abex Corp and collecting 20th Century memorabilia along the way, now housed in his private museum. Richard retired in 1982

Richard’s first wife of 38 years, Lupe Peinado passed away in 1992, leaving her two daughters, Bette Jean and Barbara Lou and their children and grandchildren. In 1993 after a reunion of former Whitaker employees, he became reacquainted with Elaine Finch. Sharing common memories and interests, they married in 1995, and they have been exploring life together ever since. Elaine has always described Richard as her ‘Miracle Man’.

The sands of time sifted through the hourglass of Richard’s life, leaving a trail of inspiration, love of invention and creativity in his wake. He once said, “On this ladder of life called my life, I believe I have climbed a number of feet up this ladder. I never dreamed of being a CEO or a U.S. President. I did desire to have a history of some successful accomplishments and beautiful memories of my contact with human beings. Life is beautiful even though we have only partial control. I was lucky to find love twice, privileged and fortunate for my years of employment that was enjoyable, motivating and most important, creative.”

Whenever someone asked Richard how he’s feeling, he would always reply, “I’m on my final approach”. Richard Keller’s final approach did come peacefully in his sleep on July 23, 2021.

Suz Montgomery, 1948 – 2021

Suz informed and entertained millions with Schmooze With Suz on CAPSTV.

Suz Montgomery, an icon fixture in the Ventura community died Oct. 12, of complications from cancer

John Hankins stated: “My wife and best friend passed peacefully at 6:30 a.m. as the sun rose. Within the hour, a hummingbird hovered in her garden, a sign that her soul was at peace, which she predicted. For all her friends and family, we will be setting up a virtual legacy site in which you can post a picture of you with her and perhaps tell a favorite short story you had together.”

“After years of fighting cancer and fighting for justice, equality for all, dignity for seniors, and so much more, she is now free of pain. Her message to all would “be the best you can be and the best will come back to you.”

She was 73. In addition to her husband, Montgomery is survived by her two children, Lisa and Stephen, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Suz moved to Ventura in 1985 and immediately started to have her influence on Ventura. She was perhaps best known for her work with the senior community at government meetings and taught as an adult educator with the Ventura Unified School District.
Suz served as the chairperson for the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging’s Advisory Council and the Ventura Council for Seniors and was a member of Select Committee on Aging for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson. In 2017, Montgomery was recognized by Jackson as one of her Women of the Year for her work with senior citizens.

Suz at the 2017 VCLA graduation class.

Memorials from just a very few of her friends and admirers who loved and respected her.

From the VCAAA. “It’s difficult to express Suz’s contributions to the VCAAA, and to the community as a whole, in a single post. She was dedicated to empowering the populations we serve and providing programs and services designed to help others live the best possible life. She never met a challenge she wasn’t willing to take on. She tackled every topic of interest with all she had and was well known and respected for her unwillingness to back down until the job was done.”

“There are certain people one meets along the way that are truly unforgettable.  For everyone at CAPS Media, Suz Montgomery was one of these very remarkable individuals.  Suz was not only instrumental in the formation of CAPS she was the embodiment of our mission: to create an engaged and informed community.

Passionate about the city she loved, Suz was an unrelenting force to be reckoned with, never shy about letting everyone know where she stood on the issues of the day in Ventura – including, and especially, city leaders.

Suz was an inspirational mentor to every member of her CAPS’ crew.  All of us celebrate her inextinguishable fire and unrelenting spirit.  Suz will be greatly missed but never forgotten by everyone at CAPS: the Community Access Partners of Suz.  With a smile, a tear and a heavy heart, we thank Suz Montgomery for enriching each of our lives.

Patrick Davidson, Donald McConnell, Evan Carpenter, Elizabeth Rodeno, Gary Roll, Jamie Cawelti, Manny Reynoso, Phil Taggart, Alex Uvari and Jorge Godinez. “

Carol Michelle Leish “The legacy of dear Suz Montgomery will continue to live on!
You will be missed. Your memory and contributions to Ventura will continue to be a blessing to me and others.”

Mary Milner Haffner “Suz Montgomery cared about people and she always worked to make things better for everyone. She never held back-I always admired that about her. We will miss her dearly and are better for having known her.”

City Council Member Jim Friedman “I have known Suz for close to 25 years.  We first met when I was a council member back in 1996.  We actually hung out a fair amount together when I served as Mayor.  When I think of Suz, the word “firecracker” is the first thing to comes to mind.  Extremely energetic, engaged, involved, passionate about her community and most of all, passionate about “her seniors” as she liked to call them.  Whether she was “holding court” on the sidewalk outside of Palermo on Main Street, schmoozing with Suz on Ventura’s cable access channel CAPS or just chatting with neighbors and friends, Suz just loved to talk and be with people.  Her positive, “can do” attitude enable her to contribute so much to our community.   She was truly “one of a kind” and will be dearly missed.”

Former city council member Cheryl Heitmann “Suz was a rock star in community activism. Once she identified a problem or an unmet need, she developed a solution and was unrelenting in going forward, getting many to advocate with her.  Suz was passionate about good government, often saying it’s allabout the process, and services for Seniors and the mentally ill. She loved people and was happy to share her love of cooking and gardening with many.  She loved her family, her friends and her community.  She was a mentor to many, a counselor to some and a trusted friend who would listen and not be afraid to give her opinion.  She touched many lives and made our city and county a better place.  There will never be another Suz but she has given us all a model to strive for.  To say she will be missed is truly an understatement.”

Ivor Davis “Suze was a force of nature–with a gigantic heart and a love of life.
I first met her when visiting some friends in a retirement community more than two decades ago–and there she was, this bubbling personality, providing spiritual sustenance to the residents and doing it with such energy and passion–which  was her fabulous calling card. An indomitable lady She.”

Marlyss Auster President & CEO Visit Ventura “When we asked Suz Montgomery to present the Men’s Most Courageous jersey during the Stage 5 awards ceremony at the 2019 Amgen Tour of California here in Ventura her answer was 100 percent Suz Montgomery. “I’m pleased and honored to be asked to represent all of us who inspire and survive daily by giving back!” Her battles were never just about her.”

“Suz Montgomery had a profound impact on my life. She was deeply committed to our community and to living her life out loud. She celebrated each person she met with such authenticity and encouragement. She was a change maker in our community and truly touched so many lives. She was an inspiration to me and I know that her spirit lives on through the lives she touched. I will strive to be bold and live life out loud in honor of Suz (making sure to do so with fine wine, good food and interesting people like Suz would do!). I’m grateful to have known her and will miss her tremendously. She was a beautiful soul and our community and world is better because of the difference she made. I hope that we all carry her spirit forward in making a positive change in Ventura and beyond,” said community member Ashley Bautista.

Jill Forman “Suz showed us how to live and how to die: with grace, passion, and ultimately acceptance.”

Heather Sumagaysay: “I first met Suz during VCLA’s cohort 22. We called ourselves deuces wild, and of course, Suz helped champion for our group’s theme. Our goal was to be inspiring leaders who would remain committed to making a positive difference throughout Ventura County,” said City Public Information Officer Heather Sumagaysay.  “In my current tenure with the City of Ventura, I’ve seen first-hand the impact Suz has had in the community. She dedicated her life to public service and advocated for many important community causes. She served as the Chair of our Ventura Council for Seniors, one of our City-appointed representatives to the VCAAA Advisory Council, played a key role in the development of the City’s Senior Strategic Plan, and received a legacy award from the City Council in 2020.”

Linda Parks Supervisor, District 2: “In 2017 the Ventura County Senior Summit awarded Suz with the  Hank Lacayo Senior Advocacy Award for her compassion and hands-on advocacy for older adults. Her energy and commitment made a positive difference to so many, we need to add a Suz Montgomery Advocacy Award to honor her selfless dedication. On a personal note, I loved her encouragement and her smile and extend my heartfelt condolences to her husband, family and friends.”

Alicia Doyle “I met Suz more than two decades ago while working as a journalist for the Ventura County Star. I wrote several stories about her efforts to fight for the rights of older adults. Suz fought for policy changes and equality, and understood the crucial role older adults play in our lives, our communities and our world. Even though Suz has passed away, she made a positive difference that will continue to last as her memory is kept alive.”

Patricia Channer “I’ve known Suz since 1985 when she laid down her roots here in Ventura. A true shero, warrior and fearless advocate who spoke her truth and accomplished much in her short time here on earth. Our community is a better place because of her passion and love of all things Ventura. There are few people who have impacted our community like Suz, she will be sorely missed.
May our hearts lift in gratitude for the richness Suz brought to our lives. May we all continue to speak out, stand up and get involved.”

Ventura legend passes on October 8 at 89

Reverend McCurtis from Face of Ventura by Johanna Spinks.

Born in Stonewall, Mississippi, in 1932, Reverend Luther McCurtis’ was fascinated to grow up as a young boy in a state where Jim Crow laws forbade blacks and whites to socialize, but each Christmas, the owners of the Stonewall Cotton Mill near his home, erected a huge Christmas tree bedecked with gifts of all kinds for all of its employees, regardless of race. This memory contributed greatly to the growth and development of Luther’s passion for equality, his humanitarian nature, and his love for all people.

At the tender age of five, Luther’s mother died. By age 15, he left Mississippi to live with his brother in Oklahoma. Shortly thereafter, in 1951, he dropped out of high school to join the United States Air Force (USAF), and earned his high school diploma during his tour of duty.

Luther’s superior officers in Guam noticed his leadership potential and appointed him to serve as a referee over racial and personal disputes. Through this experience Luther sharpened his leadership skills.

He stated “In 1953, while guarding a B-52 bomber, God called me into the ministry. After a deep internal struggle, I surrendered his will to God and accepted The Call. From the onset, I never planned to be just a “Sunday preacher” and challenged God to show him how to contribute to the spiritual, social, and economic well-being of “the least” in the community.”

He married Oracia Lane, the youngest daughter of a poor, but prominent pastor and wife in Hobbs, New Mexico in 1954. By 1959, he became an ordained minister and moved through several states with four young children in tow, finally settling in Ventura.

In faith he built a church from the ground up where they could make a difference to the community. With less than 10 members in 1962, Luther and Oracia founded the Church of God in Christ of Ventura in a small storefront. The following year, with a miniscule $100.00 down payment, the Reverend purchased the property, which stands at 660 N. Ventura Ave.

In 1982, Congressman Lagomarsino’s recommendation resulted in Reverend McCurtis receiving one of the United States of America’s highest honors— the prestigious Presidential Volunteer Action Award from President Ronal Reagan presented to him by First Lady Nancy Reagan,

Seeing so many in need in the community, he took another leap of faith to help assist the neediest members of society without using any government money. In 1968, he founded the Employment Aptitude and Placement Association (www.eapassn.org/). Over the years he has worked and sacrificed to help thousands find jobs and get out of poverty. Me & My Pillow, McCurtis’ upstart pillow company, is part of this strategy to found smaller side-businesses that will not only generate income but provide more local job opportunities. He has offered so much to so many, and never asked for any money in return.

Visit www.TotalLifeChristianCenter.com and read for yourself about the fruits of all this ministry has done over the years. Reverend McCurtis’ dream will live on for many years to come, bearing fruit that will continue lifting people out of poverty and giving them lasting hope for the future!

The family has requested in lieu of flowers, send donations to the following: Either In Memory of Luther McCurtis P.O. Box 262 Ventura, CA 93002 or to Total Life Christian Center 660 North Ventura Ave. Ventura, CA 93001.

Jack Lawrence White, A.I.A.

Jack Lawrence White, long time Los Angeles and Ventura County Architect and resident, passed away at the fine age of 89, on Monday, May 24th. Surrounded in love by his family, he took his last breath with his son Rick, holding his hand.

Jack, born in Phoenix, in the coat closet of the Kit Kat Club by a doctor who happened to be in the audience during a performance by his father’s band. Jack grew up traveling with his father Robert, Mother Jean, and with his older brother Bobbie, on the Vaudeville circuit.

Graduating from Hollywood High in 1950, the graduation ceremony was held at the Hollywood Bowl.

With The Korean War starting, Jack joined the Air Force. It was in the Air Force Band that Jack honed his skills on the French-horn during the day, in order to avoid being shipped out to combat. At night, Jack would gig on the piano, playing jazz in the clubs that were relegated to the “Blacks Only” musicians.  Jack became an aficionado of Jazz and always had Art Tatum, Miles Davis or Dave Brubeck playing in the house. 

After leaving the Air Force with his 1956 Austin Healey, he returned to Los Angeles to LA City College and on to USC School of Architecture. It was while attending USC that he met Penny while they both worked at the Valley Men’s Athletic Club. After only 6 weeks they were married at the “Little Brown Church in the Valley”.

Starting their married life together in the San Fernando Valley, Jack’s new Architecture practice for homes and apartment buildings during a time of growth, and Penny’s life on and off screen and theatre made for an exciting life. 

In 1971, an opening of a new community way out in Ventura County, Westlake Village, brought new opportunities for them.  Purchasing 3 dirt lots on what was to become a picturesque lake. With stake signs saying, ”will build to suit,” Jack started his Architect/General Contractor “White Oak Builders” career.

In 1978, before the real estate world slowed, Penny knew it was time to start a new career in travel writing. Becoming one of the most in-demand travel journalists for national newspapers and magazines, they became cruise experts and enjoyed traveling the open seas.

Life was good for many years, however in 1990, Penny was diagnosed with cancer. After a courageous battle, she died at the age of 54, leaving Jack, their children Rick and Jill, to start anew. 

Traveling with Jack and Jill” was born. This father and daughter team took many great  journeys and eventually launched, Jillsfoodtravels. Both Rick and Jill watched over their father as he advanced in years to ensure his safety, his comfort and his health, a testimony to his 89 years strong.

In recent years, Jack and his brother Bob, co-wrote music and lyrics for a Hollywood play. Jack enjoyed playing, “Play a little song for me” as a tribute to Bob and their collaborative skills and strong eighty-three-year, brother and best friend relationship.

Eight years ago, Jack moved to La Canada to be close with Jill and her husband Rick, and their daughters Lizzy and Kate. Jack is survived by his daughter-in- law Eliane, grandson Kyle and wife Melissa Breslow granddaughter, Karina.  Jack is also survived by his niece Lorry King and husband Bob, and nephew Steve White and wife Anne.

Bernie Goldstein (1932-2020)

Father Serra by Bernie Goldstein

Sam (Bernie) Goldstein died Friday December 18, 2020 of heart disease at the age of 88. Bernie was born August 9, 1932 in San Francisco.

Bernie’s father, Max Goldstein sold men’s suits and played clarinet in dance bands during and after the depression. His mother Celia escaped Russia as a child.  Bernie and his sister Dot came of age in wartime San Francisco.  Bernie met Doris Perrin on a double-date in 1952, and they were married until her death in 2019.

As a kid in San Francisco, Bernie took pictures and developed them in his basement darkroom.   In the navy during the Korean War he served as a reconnaissance photographer.  In retirement his photographs won awards at the Ventura County Fair, at the Ventura County Camera Club and in various contests.

He was a contributing photographer for the Ventura Breeze. Bernie loved being a member of the downtown Rotary Club.  Bernie also loved traveling with his wife Doris through the US, Mexico and Canada with his Airstream Club. In earlier days he was an avid boater and water skier and loved traveling, camping and boating with family and friends.

Bernie began his career at Sears Roebuck and Company selling sewing machines.  Bernie advanced through the ranks at Sears to become a fixer for the company in various cities by  helping to design marketing programs to fit that  local store.

The company brought the family to Ventura in 1969. Bernie made many lasting friendships from his work at Sears.  Upon retirement from Sears, Bernie started a local real estate brokerage Vims Realty where he loved his work and the people until his retirement in 2007.

Bernie was an extrovert who made friends easily because he searched out fun from the mundane.  He sincerely liked people and wanted the best for them. He was a reliable friend to those lucky enough to share time with him.

He is survived by his daughter Delinda Schlunegger  (husband Mike), his daughter Denise Wenger and his son Dennis Goldstein  (wife Marian Butler).  God-children were Joanne Muldoon, Janet Petty and Caryn Lozada.   His grandchildren are Jessica Wenger, Danielle Schlunegger-Warner (husband Chris), grandson Shawn Wenger (wife Kelley) grandson Branden Wenger (wife Nicol), and great grand children  Kai Wenger, Elton Wenger, Peyton Wenger, Aniston Wenger and Brixton Wenger.  He also loved the Perrin sisters and their families, the Thompson family and the Levin family.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you donate to your favorite charity.

Joe Brown, President of Channel Cities Jazz Club, passes

It is with deepest regret and great sorrow that on Friday, August 28, Joe Brown, President of Channel Cities Jazz Club, passed away due to complications from surgery. Joe, an active member of CCJC for many years was in charge of their newsletter and served as President of the club for two years. He was a strong, tireless and decisive leader with a big heart who quietly donated resources that were essential in helping to keep doors open through the years. Our hearts go out to Gloria Brown, his wife of 27 years, who serves on the board as secretary. Joe will be missed terribly by all who knew and loved him.

Sunflowers for Izzy

The Ventura Breeze mourns the loss of one of our family. “Izzy” was the daughter of Ana Baker and stepdaughter of Jaimie Baker both part of our wonderful staff. The following was written by her parents.

It is with the greatest sorrow that we announce the passing of Isabella Mercedes Kress, our beloved daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend to so many. She is survived by her loving family: her parents Ana, Don, and Jamie; her siblings, Diego, Devin, Jack and Scarlett; grandmothers Carmen and Lucille; as well as many aunts and uncles and an extended family of her dear friends. She was known and loved by so many people from so many different walks of life including sports, music, dance, education, hospitality and her beloved culinary arts. Izzy loved life and lived it to the fullest in her short 22 years here on Earth. She was a truly special person― bright, passionate, fierce, funny, loving, and giving. She was all that a parent, sibling, or friend could ever ask for and more.

She left an indelible mark on the world through her love, loyalty, selflessness, intelligence, honesty, toughness, and incredible work ethic. She strived and succeeded in being among the best at everything she attempted. In grade school she distinguished herself early on as a star student, her talent shining through to high school where she was included in the Ventura High School Wall of Fame― a recognition given to only two or three students per year.

She loved to sing and perform at an early age and in high school she found a home in Company, the Ventura School District’s student show choir, ultimately becoming a prominent leader of the ensemble. She also distinguished herself as a member of the Track and Field team. Through her hard-work, loyalty and supportiveness of her teammates, she inspired coaches and teammates alike. Accordingly, she was voted captain of the track and field team during her senior year season.

Leaving home at the age of 18, she began her new life as an adult and absolutely thrived. She attended Cerritos Community College where she was recruited for the track and field throwing team. There, she mastered the shot put, hammer throw, and javelin and was a member of the 2017 CCCAA State Champion Falcon team. At the same time, she began to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a chef and teacher. She enrolled in the Culinary Arts Department, training in classical French cuisine. She graduated in 2019, earning her Associate in Arts Degree with Honors, along with a culinary certificate in professional cooking as well as professional baking and pastry.

Through tremendous hard work and determination, she maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA, along with earning numerous academic and athletic awards. Transferring to California State University Long Beach as an English major, she continued her academic excellence, again maintaining a 4.0 GPA. She even went on to publish two books of poetry during her busy days of studying. As always, she impressed her instructors― so much so that she was recommended for and hired as an instructor for the Bellflower School District as a teacher of culinary arts in an after-school program. Combining her deep love of cooking and teaching, she spent her first year with one class, and was about to begin teaching two classes for her second year. Her path almost certainly would have led her back to the Cerritos College of Culinary Arts as a full-time instructor, her “dream job”.

Throughout high school and college she also worked, sometimes holding down two part-time jobs in addition to being a full-time student. Like everything else, she took great pride in her work. Quoting one of her many choir solos, she loved to say, “I give good service but I’m not servile.”

She loved all kinds of music and dance, especially salsa dancing. She loved sunflowers and Sinatra, eating, running and traveling. She loved boba and pizza, but could just as easily cook a multi-course Thanksgiving feast for 20. She loved tiny food, and tiny animals. She loved baking and trying and perfecting new recipes. She loved creating cookies and beautiful cakes and cupcakes for friends. She loved the world and the world loved her back. More than anything, she loved the people in her life; her mentors, co-workers, classmates, students, friends and family, each with a huge heart full of caring, empathy, and generosity.

Although she has been taken from this Earthly confine, her spirit now knows no boundaries. She is a child of the universe and will live on in our hearts, forever inspiring us, making us smile and lifting us to higher, better places. Her family takes comfort in the outpouring of love towards her.

In lieu of flowers and to continue her legacy of giving and teaching and to promote academic and creative excellence, a memorial scholarship in Izzy’s name is currently being established in Izzy’s name and in conjunction with Ventura High School. Please contact Heidi House at heidi.house@venturausd.org.

Memorial services were held on Saturday, September 5 for Izzy at Ventura Harbor Cove Beach, located at the end of Spinnaker Drive. Attendees received a sunflower to place in the water and accompany her as she departs to her final rest at sea.

Ventura loses another contributor to the arts

Ben Bunji Namba moved to Ventura in 1994.

Ben Bunji Namba, founder and benefactor of the NAMBA Performing Arts Space, passed away on February 26, 2020 at his Ventura residence with his wife Julia Campbell Namba by his side.

Born April 6, 1930 in Manchuria, China, Ben lived and was educated in Japan, earning his university degree there. Ben later moved to the United States in 1960. Based in Los Angeles, Ben was the owner and operator of BHN Inc. for over 40 years, specializing in importing spices from abroad for the Tampico Spice Company.

In 1994 Ben moved from La Canada Flintridge to Ventura. Ben enjoyed gardening and loved the outdoors, most especially the ocean.

Being a lover of art, music and dance Ben was involved with the Ventura Music Festival for many years. He was the primary benefactor of the NAMBA Performing Arts Space in downtown Ventura, a non-profit founded in 2014 dedicated to fostering dance, music, theater, film, performances, and community arts education. The Arts Space stands as Ben’s legacy and a gift for the greater Ventura community.

Ben Namba is survived by his wife Julia Campbell Namba, his step-children Sanford Campbell, Laura Campbell, and Leslie Atia; his step-grandchildren Geffen Camp, Leah Atia, and Gian Atia. He was preceded in death by his first wife the late Helen Head Namba.

Memorial donations to honor Ben may be made in his name to the Alzheimer’s Association of Ventura County, the NAMBA Performing Arts Space or the Ventura Music Festival.

Ken Winter

Ken Winter
November 4, 1926 to February 17, 2020

His shirt is his epitaph!

Thank you to the Ventura Y for their embracing of “The Whistler”to keep him healthy so long,

Thank you to all our friends who took time to visit,

Friends at The Winery for a wonderful time,

Victoria Care for all their care and love,

Carewise Hospice for their understanding

Jane and Camille

 

Marta Nelson (1922 – 2019)

Marta Nelson, one of Ojai’s most beloved artists, passed away peacefully at age 96. Marta was a painter, a printmaker and a sculptor in papier mâché. She was a traditionalist who knew when to bend the rules, an optimist who felt compelled to paint something beautiful, a citizen of the world who strongly believed that artists have a mission: to use the arts as a vehicle for peace.

She dedicated her life to community, establishing art programs that continue to this day. Among her legacy, is the co-founding of the prestigious Ojai Studio Artist (OSA) Tour. Established in 1984, OSA is a highly respected group of artists that open their studios annually the second weekend in October, with mini tours throughout the year.

Marta was originally from the Los Angeles area, settling in Bakersfield, before she and Hank retired to Ojai in 1981. Her formal education includes studying illustration at the Chouinard Art Institute. Marta shared in her 2006 Focus on the Masters Oral History, “I chose illustration so I could earn a living.” She worked as a newspaper illustrator at a time when a woman was credited under their husband’s name. She added, “That always bothered me – being listed as Mrs. Henry Nelson. It was as though a woman had no identity of their own.”

While in Bakersfield, Marta taught art classes at Bakersfield Community College and Spanish to elementary school students. Her love for teaching continued throughout her life with her most recent students among her fellow residents at The Gables of Ojai retirement community.

In Marta’s early days, she worked in the animation department for Screen Gems Colombia Pictures painting backgrounds and mixing color for the animators.

As a college student, Marta majored in Spanish, an experience that opened her eyes to the beauty of culture throughout the world. She became a folk dancer in the 1950s – Spanish dancing being among her favorite – and traveled to festivals throughout the state. She took up belly dancing at age 40 to address her arthritis. Her love for travel and cultural experiences became an inspiration for many paintings and prints. She described herself as a perennial student, always experimenting and eager to learn something new.

To learn more about Marta visit: www.OjaiStudioArtists.org