Kaelynn Ellyssa Stiles | Credit: Courtesy

Kaelynn Ellyssa Stiles: 1993-2022

After being diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia last summer, and following a six-month-long battle at both Ridley-Tree Cancer Center and The City of Hope, beloved mother, daughter, sister, cousin, and friend to many Kaelynn Ellyssa Stiles passed away on February 7, 2022. She was 28 years old.

The firstborn of high school sweethearts Forrest and Maria Stiles — who met as teenagers, have been together for 39 years, and have been married for 28 — Kaelynn lived a life full of love and good memories. Raised in the middle of a boisterous group of cousins, she learned early how to take her bumps and bruises, and she was fiercely competitive. I remember how she would let us know when she won, or lost, and exactly how she felt about it.

As she grew up, through Hollister Elementary, La Colina Junior High, Dos Pueblos High School, and Santa Barbara City College, she was surrounded by people drawn to her beauty, smile, and energy. She grew up in a home with her parents, a little brother and sister, a white picket fence, and as many puppies as could fit in the house.

She found any excuse to get out of town and find a new adventure with family or friends: music festivals, annual birthday trips to Disneyland, trips abroad, snowboarding, and camping with friends and family.

For Kaelynn, family was everything. With more than a dozen first cousins, all in Santa Barbara, there was always a reason to gather at her parents’ house, cook massive amounts of food, and break out the board games.

When she became a mother, family took on an even deeper role in her life. She was thrown into adulthood and motherhood, but just as she would with every challenge in her life, she took to it with grace and strength.

Kaelynn embraced her role as a single mother in her early twenties, juggling school, work, a social life, and the new love of her life: Cayden. Everything she did for the next nine years was motivated by her love for her son. They played video games together; they built computers together; she drove him to school and hockey practices. She fostered his love for cars and his eagerness to learn.

Her playful spirit and competitive edge were passed on to her son, and in that way she will continue to live on. The way she jumped on the table when she won a game of Lotería against the rest of the cousins one Easter Sunday, or stormed out of the room screaming when she lost, is echoed in Cayden.

Kaelynn’s death tore through the heart of her family and community. After her diagnosis, her journey in the past few months was a team effort, with physicians, family, and friends all lending whatever support they could. Donations and kind words poured in. Our family is so thankful for every soul that lifted a prayer toward Kaelynn, and we know she felt that support. Hearing the news of her passing still doesn’t seem real — she was so young, her future so wide open. But there is no question that she was loved and that she made an impact on those around her.

The medical staff here in Santa Barbara, and at City of Hope, also grew to know and love Kaelynn in the time they spent together. Dr. Mukul Gupta at Ridley-Tree Cancer Center said she had a great sense of humor and never once complained throughout her treatment.

That was Kaelynn. She was tough in the end as she had been her whole life. From her time roughhousing with all the cousins to facing one of the hardest things a young woman can do in life — raising a child as a single mother — she never flinched.

And I guess we can take a small bit of comfort knowing that although her life was cut down far too short, she sure did make the most of it.

From her friends, with whom she spent late nights, to her family, for those late morning breakfasts together, she was a light that won’t be forgotten. Her smile, spunk, attitude, and style will live on with our stories and memories. And with her son, who has a big family support system by his side.

Kaelynn is survived by her son, Cayden; her mother, Maria; father, Forrest Sr.; brother Forrest Jr.; sister, Aliyah; grandmothers Mary Stiles and Maria De La Luz Renteria; and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins throughout Santa Barbara.

Her funeral mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. on Thursday, February 17, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, followed by interment at Santa Barbara Cemetery. Arrangements are entrusted to Pueblo Del Rey Funeral Services.

Kaelynn, your memory will live in our hearts forever. You are a beautiful soul who will never be forgotten.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.