Claire Jeanne Sangster

1958 - 2009, Goleta

Earlier this year, Claire died suddenly of natural causes in Goleta. She was a Santa Barbara native, graduating at the top of her class at Santa Barbara High School and then attended Westmont College on a merit scholarship, graduating with a B.A. in Psychology. She earned a Master's in social work at San Jose State and lived in Austin, Texas for a few years.

Music was her gift and her passion, and Santa Barbara was her true home. She returned and devoted herself to music, teaching scores of youngsters and adult piano students and playing in liturgical settings as music director at St Michael's Episcopal Church and later at another congregation. A great joy for her was being part of Canticle A Cappella Choir, singing alto.

Claire's untimely death is much mourned by her family and friends. There will be a celebration of Claire's life at St Michael's Episcopal Church, Isla Vista on Sunday, October 25 at 1 p.m.

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I was her paperboy when she was about 11 years old, and often saw her batting a tennis ball against the wall of her house with serious intent. In high school she and I played tennis in the park, and she beat me handily, before breaking my little heart, ha ha.

At San Jose State she felt guilty that she could always get an A on term papers that she researched and wrote up on the same night, while some of her classmates worked for weeks on theirs for lesser grades. She had gotten through Westmont in three years, summa cum laude. Quite the ace at La Cumbre Jr High too, ha ha.

It was awe-inspiring to witness a teenager playing a church organ. She had a fine sense of grandeur. It's wonderful that she was able to enjoy and share music as a career.

Please pardon the following personal note if the moral is cliche. Jean (as I knew her) asked a family member about me around seven years ago, but I did not enquire as to where she might be found, due to a bit of attitude about being the bug on her windshield in 1976. Needless to say, I feel asinine today for not having honored the positives with a courtesy call. It smarts. You heard it here last.

She leaves behind a wealth of memories, that's for sure.

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2009 at 5:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Please, anyone, comment on Claire's recent years! I last saw her around 1991 (chance encounter). I was informed of her passing too late to catch her memorial service, and this obit is all I know of her later years. There must be many locals who lost track of her after HS or college.

Did she change her name from Jean Kay Sangster in honor of a certain Claire, or did the name itself signify something to her? I won't ask what happened to her ski-jump, button nose! :-) But her new one looked dignified.

Thank you.

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2009 at 3:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I met Jeanne in 1984 at the University of Texas Hillel (Jewish Student Center). She was a very thoughtful caring person. I have pictures of the fun times with my friends, Jeanne and her boyfriend Lyle whom she kept in contact with even after he moved to Seattle. That was Jeanne. Though she never seemed to have much luck in the dating department, I had hoped that she would find love in California.

In 1987 my parents moved to Austin after losing their home and business. Jeanne was right there with support and a great Hanukkah dinner. I along with my friends were with Jeanne at countless movies and coffees at the local coffee shop. She also had a bit part in the stage production of Rocky Horror at the Vortex Theatre before she abruptly left Austin leaving no explanation in 1991(?). Though I realized she was going thorugh a rough patch.
One of the most honorable things Jeanne did was help a mutual friend get her son back from the Middle East. This womens husband kidnapped the child and Jeanne help spear head and rasie money for his safe return to his mother.

I am honored and blessed to know a person like Jeanne (as I knew her)May God Bless her and we all learn something about the life she led and the friendship and support she bestowed on us.

Austinmemories (anonymous profile)
January 3, 2010 at 9:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Jeanne and I were lovers in the mid-1980s when we lived in Texas. We parted on bad terms and I've always wondered where she went and hoped she was faring well. Now I only have this last, sad bit of information about her. If any of her Austin friends stumble on this obituary I hope you'll add some stories.

I know obituaries can't tell much of a person's life but I wonder if Jeanne's new friends in California were aware that she had converted to Judaism. I remember going to her synagogue in Austin to hear her and a friend play for services--they called themselves the Wing-It Sisters because they never rehearsed, but even so they could really rock the schule. Her mother visited in Austin and she went to see the Wing-It Sisters too. Her mother seemed like a sweet person, someone whose travails and those of her children had taken a toll on. I wonder if she is still living. And I wonder if Jeanne converted back to Christianity in California, or was just comfortable playing music for the church.

Last time I saw Jeanne was shortly before I left Austin. I had just been laid off from my first real job and was freaked out, and she spent most of that afternoon on the phone with her new fiance. Maybe I deserved the insult. I never knew if they got married--I think he was a doctor, and Latino. Never met him.

Jeanne had a hard life in a lot of ways, with her sick brother, her house being washed away by the ocean, and her father walking out on the family. I think she was so motivated to find love that she made some bad choices (including me, I recognized later with regret). One time she rescued an abandoned kitten. It was only a week old and the techs at the vet's office said it didn't have a chance of surviving, but she named it Bartholomew and tried to nurse it along.

Jeanne was a real brain, a good partner for deep, complex conversations. She was also really, really beautiful--to the point that when we went out dancing or to a party or even to a store she always drew a crowd of guys trying to elbow me out of the way. She never seemed to care about other men or used her beauty to make me feel jealous. We were both too unhappy and moody at the time to tolerate each other beyond couple of years. But I hope she did find a good partner eventually, and some peace of mind for herself.

Jeannesfriend (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2010 at 7:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I've been told that Jeanne found someone she called "my soul mate, at last" but that he soon died of a heart attack two years before Jeanne passed away. One's soul's most important lover is one's self, "most indubitably" (a phrase that surely would have made Jeanne grin). She lived, she loved. She had music and poetry and even dance. And a preternatural sense of smell, that apparently was sensitive only to pleasing aromas, such as a flowerbox across the street. And no sixteen-year old (moi) could have asked for a more passionate kisser. Jeanne packed in a lot of living in her half-century.

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
March 4, 2010 at 10:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

OK, ya mugs. Leave your email addresses here, & I'll email you some attachments sent to me by the lady who organized Claire's memorial service (which I missed, by the way). I'll check back in a month or so & act then.

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
March 5, 2010 at 10:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I met Claire while singing in Canticle. We both joined the same season, Winter 1996. I had never done formal choral singing before, and found the 15 weeks and the performances exhilirating and frightening. Claire joined me for tea after the first performance. We went to Frimples, or whatever it was called at the time, there at State and Valerio. It was the perfect evening of debriefing, after the long uphill trek, and the frightening glorious vistas. We were both older than most of the singers, and were not part of the social cliques.

Claire was a sharp, quick-witted, compassionate woman, with wonderful musical gifts. One thing I remember in particular from our conversation. I was describing to Claire a segment of a movie on PBS I had happened to catch, a British film about a woman who has lost her husband, a cellist, and his ghost hangs out to help her psychologically move on. I never caught the name of the film, and wished I could find it, to watch the whole thing. Remarkably, Claire instantly knew it was "Truly Madly Deeply" with Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman. I can't think about that film without thanking Claire.

witwaltman (anonymous profile)
April 13, 2010 at 2:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Jean and I were childhood friends from before kindergarten. Wow, I did not realize she had passed away. I lost touch with her about 20 or so years ago. We went to Washington school, La Cumbre Jr. High & Santa Barbara High together. We went to the same church, sang in the choir, played in the Bell Choir. We spent may hours roller skating in her neighboor hood and down her drive way. What talent and a love for music she had. Never knew why she took on the name of Claire. I had called her mother, Julie, many years ago to try and track Jean down and it was then Julie told me the Jean had taken the name Clair. I know she got married sometime ago, I talked with her on the phone, but never met up with her after that. She played the organ at my wedding in 1978.

jktorgeson (anonymous profile)
April 14, 2010 at 5:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Jeanne and I met Israeli folk dancing at Stanford in 1982. We bonded immediately and it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. She was already interested in Judaism and I accompanied her to some of the conversion classes. She introduced me to her friends Katie and Phoebe (in the off chance you read this) and we took trips to Arizona. I introduced her to cross country skiing and motorcycle riding and rebuilt her old three speed bike.

She moved with me to UT Austin in 1983, with all of our possessions in the back of a U-haul. She used to walk across the street to the music building and play the piano for hours. We built a circle of close friends from Hillel House at UT, and had exciting trips to Dallas, Houston, Boston and New Orleans. We parted ways in 1985, but kept in touch over the years, except for the past 10 years or so. I'm sorry I didn't make more of an effort to see her, although I tried once when in Santa Barbara, but her mother was ill and we didn't get together. I wish I had known about the memorial service.

She worked for awhile as an editor of a computer magazine in Austin and remained there for several years after I left.

She came from a complex family, and it was quite a new experience for me to help take her brother Bill to the hospital one afternoon in the Bay Area. I really liked him, and had the pleasure of meeting her mom and dad, and older sister on different occasions. The last I heard she was married to a Jeff Jones in Santa Barbara, but evidently they got divorced.

Jeanne was so compassionate to cats and people, incredibly smart, passionate, and creative. I tried posting a picture to this site, but it doesn't seem to be allowed. May her memory be a blessing.

LyleM (anonymous profile)
May 22, 2010 at 10:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This has to be the same Jean Sangster I knew in early grade school (Santa Barbara Christian School) I think her house was on Shoreline Drive, right next to the ocean in SB. The Jean I knew is the middle girl in this picture:

brycarp (anonymous profile)
May 14, 2011 at 11:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Guess the previous link isn't really accessible. I'll put this one here. (Jean around 2nd grade - the girl in the center)

brycarp (anonymous profile)
May 15, 2011 at 7:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I was going through old pictures from my teen years recently and came across many cards Jeanne had written me while I was her piano student. This made me think of her and her whereabouts and sadly, I found this obituary. Jeanne and I lost touch over 14 or 15 years ago, but I will always remember what a powerful influence she had on me musically and creatively. She elicited more vibrant and eclectic energy than anyone else I knew at the time. I will be eternally grateful for the way she supported me to do music my own way and express myself. I still credit my musical creativity to her. She was also a supportive force in my life during some rough teen years. I am now finishing my masters in psychology and had no idea (in the mid 90's) that she had a BA in psych and an MA in social work. It all makes a lot of sense now.... her compassion, her understanding, her talent. Jeanne-Claire, you will be greatly missed and I am sad that we did not get many more years together. Much love.... Romi

Romicumes (anonymous profile)
February 13, 2012 at 8:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's so funny how life is. I was sitting in my office today, reminiscing about my youth, and suddenly, Jean Sangster popped into my head. Jean and I were sweethearts, as far as sweethearts can be at that age, when we were in Junior High together at La Cumbre Jr. High. I was a year ahead of her, and she was simply the sweetest thing I had ever met. We played tennis together several times, and I remember so vividly buying her a box of candy for Valentine's Day - my first ever. I am sitting here full of sadness that such a lovely, successful and inspiring person is gone. You never forget your first love, and I'll never forget Jean - what a sweetie she was.

LarryHam (anonymous profile)
June 12, 2013 at 2:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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