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Gretchen Gray Bishop

1949 - 2010, Santa Barbara

Gretchen Gray Bishop passed away peacefully in her home with her family by her side on July 15, 2010, after a short but fierce battle with cancer. She was very active until the end and throughout her life never let a day cruise idly by. It was never her style to sit back and relax. This was one of her greatest traits, as she tried to keep life active and exciting each and every day. Her favorite activities included tennis, horseback riding, water skiing, snow skiing, running, meeting with her book club, and gathering with friends.

Gretchen was born on July 20, 1949, to parents Charles W. and Rosa G. Chillson. She grew up in Packanack Lake, NJ, and attended Kentucky Wesleyan University, graduating in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. In 1972, she moved to Santa Barbara and found a passion in leather arts. She used her creative talents to turn this hobby into a business and sold leather wallets and belts at the Arts & Crafts Show each Sunday at Chase Palm Park from 1975 through 1995, as well as at other seasonal craft shows and outlets.

Animals, in general, and horses, specifically, were a huge part of her life. In the early 1950’s, her parents moved the family to Virginia for one year while her father worked for the Pentagon. In this year she gained one of her earliest exposures to horses with regular riding lessons, and a passion for an equestrian lifestyle was born. Skipping ahead to 1985, when she and husband, Evan, were choosing locations for their home in Santa Barbara, her top desire was that it be on or near horse property. They made their home and raised their children on a property that was surrounded by equestrian facilities. In her lifetime, she owned and loved many horses, but was fond of all creatures. She would never turn away an animal in need of love, and cared for numerous pets including fish, rabbits, cats and dogs. In 1997, one of her biggest childhood dreams became a reality with the purchase of the property just adjacent her home, Rancho Asoleado Riding Stables, and she ran this as her business until her passing.

Family life was also very important to Gretchen. She married Evan Bishop on September 6, 1980. In the early part of their marriage, they enjoyed daily runs through Santa Barbara’s different landscapes, and kept their lifestyle active through 2009 playing tennis at Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club and recreationally with friends. Together they also enjoyed many musical concerts, taking advantage of the Santa Barbara concert offerings regularly. She was also very active in the upbringing of her children and very supportive of their sporting endeavors and academic achievements. She often committed herself to the role of “team mom” and would make time to attend family sporting events.

Gretchen is survived by her husband, Evan Bishop, two daughters, Lauren Duncan (Angus) and Kristen Bishop, three siblings, Thomas W. Heller (Mardon), Marsha G. McElwee (Richard), and Charles W. Chillson, Jr., and numerous nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

Please join us for a gathering at 2 pm on Saturday, August 21st, for a celebration of her life at one of the places she loved most: Rancho Asoleado Stables, 250 Nogal Dr., followed by a reception at the Bishops’ home. Please make donations to animal related organizations, in lieu of flowers.

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