Harold Howard Poett

1919 - 2008, Santa Barbara

Harold Howard Poett was born December 1, 1919 at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, the youngest child of Mercedes Dibblee and Alfred Poett. The summer before he was born, his parents, along with their three older children, Dibblee, Frederica, and Nanice, moved to Rancho San Julian, which had been deeded to his mother's great grandfather, Jose de la Guerra, the last commandant of the Santa Barbara Presidio . They moved their redwood house from Mission Street up the coast by barge and buckboard. Harold spent most of his childhood on the ranch where he rode his horse three miles to a one-room schoolhouse. During high school he was among the earliest students to attend Midland School in Los Olivos. A natural athlete, he played varsity on the track, soccer, and baseball teams, lettering nine times.

Always fascinated by airplanes, Harold got a job working on the early prototype of Lockheed's P38 in the year before Pearl Harbor and remained working at the Burbank plant until he was drafted. As a private in the 5th Army assigned to a unit trained to defuse landmines, he met his future wife, Mary Louise Hart, a Red Cross volunteer, in Rome, in 1944. A shy, self-effacing man, Harold was spending his leave, before being sent to the front, reading books at a Red Cross library. Mary Louise took it upon herself to show the young soldier around the city and before long they were engaged, but not before he had to ask permission of her uncle, who to Harold's chagrin, turned out to be a general. They were married on Aug 24, 1946 in Mary Louise's native New York. The couple returned to Santa Barbara that fall where he finished his education at USCB, then located on the Riviera, while Mary Louise worked as a substitute teacher. After he graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering, the couple returned to New York in 1948 where Harold worked for Grumman, designing its Cat fighter jet series. He also perfected his skills as a photographer, winning a number of prizes for his portraits and landscape work. In 1956 he returned with his young family to Southern California to manage Lockheed's new department in optical tooling where he developed engineering applications for laser beams, and worked on a number of planes both military and domestic, including the SR71 Blackbird, and the L1011. In later years he worked on rocket propelled systems for Rocketdyne in Chatsworth.

When he retired in 1976 the family moved to Westlake Village where he became active in the community, serving on the lake's water quality board and as commodore of the yacht club. He overcame a lifelong fear of the water, cheering his children on as they won sailing trophies and teaching his grandchildren to sail on a small sabot he continually renamed after the eye color of each grandchild. He was a devoted grandfather who spent many a morning preparing his breakfast special, gooshy eggs, and planning adventures with them. In Westlake, he and Mary Louise were active in the Episcopal Church, helping to found the new parish, Epiphany, where he served as bishop's warden for many years. Together he and Mary Louise traveled the world visiting all the continents except Antarctica.

Through most of his life the family maintained a cabin on Rancho San Julian, where Harold taught his children to ride. Most importantly he taught them to love the land, the ranch and their heritage. Keeping the ranch safely in the hands of the family, and preserving it from development was his lifelong goal. When his brother, A. Dibblee Poett, retired in 1996, Harold succeeded him as Rancho San Julian's managing trustee. He is survived by his wife of 62 years; two sons: James and William (a daughter, Susan, is deceased); two daughter-in-laws: Marianne Partridge and Robin Breda; and four grandchildren: Elizabeth, Justin, Miranda and Rebecca.

A memorial service will be held at 1p.m., Monday, December 22, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara. In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to Hospice of Santa Barbara County and the Friendship House in Solvang.

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