Rhoda Ann Stevens
1929 - 2017
On her 88th birthday, just three months before her passing on October 17, Rhoda took “White Wings,” her cherished 2002 Toyota Corolla, for one last spin around the Santa Barbara Cemetery. “It’s so peaceful here,” Rhoda marveled, “and the ocean and mountain views are magnificent.” As she pulled slowly to a stop, Rhoda announced to her daughter, Karen, “I’m done.” Karen knew what she meant. Her mom – her best friend – had lived a long and fulfilling life and she was ready to rest.
Rhoda Ann Maxey was born on July 27, 1929 to Harry and Jeanette (Jean) Maxey, who immigrated to the United States from Greece and Hungary, respectively, in the early 1900s. The youngest of three children, Rhoda grew up in Glendale, California during the Great Depression. “We didn’t have much in the way of material possessions,” Rhoda often said, referring to her family, which included two older brothers, Bud and Marty, “but we always knew we were loved.”
After graduating from high school, Rhoda followed her life-long passion for art and began working in a commercial art and silkscreen studio, where she hand-painted ceramic figurines. This skill came in handy later in life when she took sepia-tone family photographs and turned them into beautiful oil portraits.
In 1957, Rhoda moved with her family to Santa Barbara and began working at Thrifty Drug Store and later, as a manager at Van De Camp’s Bakery.
On her days off from work, Rhoda often jumped on her bicycle, sketch pad and drawing pencils in tow, and headed to the beach. It was at the East Beach volleyball courts where she met Henry “Steve” Stevens, who would become her husband in 1959. They welcomed a daughter, Karen, in 1961.
Always an entrepreneur at heart, Rhoda opened a day care center for children in her home and later went on to establish Stevens Care Home, a residential care facility for developmentally disabled men, which she and her husband ran together for nearly four decades. Many of “the guys” still live in the home today.
After Steve’s passing in 2000, Rhoda met retired Santa Barbara firefighter, John Woltcheck, and they were sweethearts for 15 years, until John’s passing in 2015.
Rhoda treasured many of the simple pleasures in life – watching the seagulls and pelicans glide along the coastline at Shoreline Park, savoring good meals at local restaurants, and “going along for the ride” on countless Saturday adventures with her beloved daughter. She often told friends that Karen was the best thing that ever happened to her and, smiling, she would add, “she was a big surprise, too!”
Rhoda was an incredible woman with a quiet strength and a kind and gentle spirit. Her friends and family remember her as “one of the most patient, caring and genuinely nice individuals we ever met.” She possessed the rare gift of being able to love unconditionally, listen deeply with an open heart, and make those around her feel as though they were the most important person in the world.
In accordance with Rhoda’s wishes, no memorial service is planned and her ashes will be scattered along the coast in two of her favorite places – Cambria and Santa Barbara. Rhoda is survived by her daughter, Karen Jeanette (Lee) Stevens and many nieces, nephews, and friends, both near and far.