June York Behrens
1925 - 2012, Santa Barbara
June York Behrens passed away at the age of 87 on November 7, 2012 following a massive stroke. Her two daughters, Terry Behrens and Denise Johnson, along with granddaughter Lyndee Johnson, were close by her side. June was born in Maricopa, California to Mark and Mattie York on April 25, 1925. Her beloved little sister, Pauline, was born about 5 years later, and they grew up primarily in the Long Beach and Bellflower areas of Southern California. While their father worked in various oil fields around the state, their mother set up her own small farm to sell food goods to neighbors in the area during the Depression. In her youth, June loved storytelling in all its forms, from books to movies. She loved the spark of excitement in learning, and quickly recognized the relationship between teaching and writing. After serving as the editor at Excelsior High in Norwalk, she decided to attend Santa Barbara State College on the Riviera. WWII ended and many began returning. The Riviera campus students now included a local young man named Hank Behrens, who had been a prisoner of war in China. She and Hank became close friends during those final years at the university. She graduated from UCSB in 1947, and moved to Hermosa Beach to start her teaching career while Hank continued his studies in education.
In 1948 June and Hank married and settled in the South Bay area of Southern California. She was a teacher and administrator in Los Angeles, while she and Hank raised daughters Terry and Dee.
They spent two years in France and Germany teaching at US Air Force base schools in order to experience life in Europe. Upon return to the US, every summer included a family trip throughout North America. Hank and June loved to travel.
June recognized that children loved to read and share their own work. She became a reading specialist, and focused on helping children with special reading skill challenges. So June went back to school at UCLA to take writing classes. Her first book for children, “Soo Ling Finds A Way”, became a Golden Book award winner. Her writing career took off! She focused on science books covering subjects like ecology, whales, and the metric system. Her interest in the social sciences explored holidays and American historical sites. June also wrote books exploring early education from a child’s view of learning, including “My Brown Bag Book” and “What Is A Seal?” Her favorite books covered art and history, and those include “Martin Luther King”, “Miss Liberty, First Lady”, and “Spanish California and the Mission Trail”. She had nearly 75 books published. She inspired many children to enjoy becoming readers. She continued to teach for a total of 27 years, and June was named Distinguished Alumni of the Year from UCSB.
After retirement, June and Hank moved back to Santa Barbara in order to travel, play tennis, and enjoy time with their grandchild, Lyndee, and her parents. June lost Hank to cancer in 1991.
Time passed with June enjoying her Newcomer friends and new grandson, Travis. June met up with an old college friend, George McKenzie. Over the years, they became best friends, and their favorite times were when they were traveling together.
June was an active member of Museum League at the Museum of Natural History. She loved any time spent with George, her daughters and grandchildren. In her last years she also enjoyed the company of her little dog, Jilly. They all brought her joy and were sources of pride .
June continued to learn and enjoy life with daughter Terry, and the support from her wonderful caregivers. The Friendship Center was a great source of adventure as well. Our family is so grateful for their tender attention.
A memorial celebration will be held over Thanksgiving weekend. Please contact Sarah at 967-1937 for details.
In lieu of flowers, any remembrance should be directed to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History or Santa Barbara Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care.