Don "Skip" Skipworth
1936 - 2015
Chef, teacher, and Santa Barbara, California, resident Don “Skip” Skipworth quietly exited this life on Monday, February 23, 2015.
He was born August 4, 1936, in Vernon, Texas. His family moved to Southern California, and Skip attended primary and secondary schools in Blythe and Ventura. At Stanford University he studied English and Classics and majored in Far Eastern Studies. During his 30-year career in public education he taught Latin and served as a school counselor.
Skip was known to thousands of children in Santa Monica, California, as Santa Claus in the annual Candy Cane Drive. A patient and earnest listener, Skip so personified the famous saint’s kind, bighearted spirit that even adults could believe in Christmas magic. In 2009 the city’s police and fire departments recognized him for his outstanding volunteer service.
Under the tutelage of a friend’s mother, Skip took up Chinese cooking in his youth. His training as a chef continued with teachers in Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok, and Singapore. In Hawaii his culinary mentors were Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong. He moved to Santa Barbara in 1962. His large kitchen, redolent of ginger and garlic, was the setting for many classes in Pan-Asian and East-West cooking. He believed that preparing food was one of life’s most significant rituals, an act both of nurturing the body and of caring for and loving the human spirit.
He was an accomplished chef, teacher, and cooking consultant. After his friend Julia Child’s death, Skip gave a home to her winsome cat, Minou. He entertained children at a Christmas party hosted by Oprah Winfrey, whose generosity he matched unpretentiously in his own sphere. In recent years, as an Airbnb host Skip took pleasure in welcoming numerous guests to his home, called Dusit Thani, which in the Thai language means “a place near heaven.” He loved gardening and was especially knowledgeable about varieties of bamboo.
Skip professed no faith-based religion but instead tried, as he told a friend, “to simply be the best human being I can be, to offer my assistance and support to those I love, and to care for others along the way. I look for the potential goodness in those I meet. I avoid or put space between myself and those whose values and priorities are offensive and harmful to others. I feel blessed with goodness that has been shown me by my friends and loved ones. I believe we have a responsibility for helping create our own happiness. I know the power of love and feel its presence in my life. I want my own life to be described as a ‘life well lived.’ ”
Survivors include his partner, Carlos Garcia; two cousins in Texas; nieces and nephews; and innumerable friends. In 2010 Skip’s partner of more than forty years, Robert Hannah, preceded him in death.
Memorial contributions in Skip’s name may be sent to Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties, 518 Garden Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, telephone 888.898.3806. Or, from www.plannedparenthood.org, follow this path to designate a memorial gift: Get Involved->Donate->Specific Giving->Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties.