Rosa Margaret Pace, who served in leadership roles with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians for a half century, died on August 19 at the age of 86, surrounded by her family at her home on the reservation. An obstetrical nurse by training and onetime head nurse at Santa Ynez Hospital, Pace was instrumental in starting the first Urban Indian Health Clinic on Milpas Street. She went on to obtain the grants needed to open the Santa Ynez Indian Health Clinic in 1974, which she ran until she retired in 2000. During her tenure, she added dental and social services to the clinic, which handles 17,000 patient visits yearly.
The homecoming queen of her high school, the Sherman Indian Boarding School in Riverside, and always a “sharp dresser,” Pace was born and raised on the reservation. When the tribe decided they needed running water and a sewer system, Pace, with the help of her sister Beatrice Marcoe and other tribal members, organized fundraisers, including fashion shows, to bring the necessary infrastructure to the reservation in 1969. Helping to build a campground and community hall, and implement housing and health programs are among Pace’s legacy.
Rosa Pace is survived by her daughters, Rachel Pace and Elise Tripp, and her son, Gary Pace, who credit their mother’s influence for their interest and participation in leadership roles with the tribe. Both her son and grandson Kenneth Kahn are on the Chumash Business Committee, which guides tribal activities. “My grandmother was humble, cared about everyone and wanted everyone included,” said Kahn. “She empowered us to take care of others and ourselves.”