In Memoriam | June Carol Sochel: 1933-2022

The tables were adorned with decorative linen and mouth-watering foods. Lovely centerpieces were surrounded by political swag, pamphlets, and bumper stickers. White and red wines, sparkling beverages, and sometimes champagne chilled in anticipation of guests. Soft music played in the background, or my dad played jazz standards on the piano. Then the guests, community leaders, change-makers, change-seekers, and the honored public figure filed in for the gathering: a meeting, a fundraiser, a campaign event, or just a private party with friends. This was the scene that played out and repeated at my childhood home on the border of Santa Barbara and Montecito for more than six decades. It was because of my mother June Carol Sochel.

June Carol Cosner was born May 1, 1933. She passed away peacefully at her Santa Barbara home on April 18, 2022, after a brief and serious illness. She was 88 years young, leaving an indelible mark on Santa Barbara.

Although she was less than five feet tall, June cast a long shadow and left large tracks around our city and county. Her decades of contributions were easy to miss because they were typically from behind the scenes. Unknown to June, close friends affectionately nicknamed her, “The Little General.” Though not a public figure herself, June informed, chastised, molded, and inspired many who were, or who were to become community leaders, including nonprofit executives, mayors, city councilmembers, and county supervisors among them. June was a force of nature, quick to laugh and smile, and equally quick to give her opinions, usually with passion, underpinned by concern, care, and love.

Credit: Courtesy

June and her late husband, Allen Sochel, moved to Santa Barbara in 1959. They found it to be a charming community with tremendous potential. At first, June taught school at La Cumbre Junior High. Later she plotted, toiled, and strove to keep Santa Barbara beautiful and strong by serving with innumerable social and political groups, nonprofits, and on boards, too many to name. She served these organizations in myriad ways with seemingly inexhaustible energy, vigor, and vitality, including managing many political campaigns for 50-plus years, including her last mayoral campaign winner in 2020 at the tender age of 86.

June was born and raised in small towns all over Texas. Her father, Wesley LeRoy “Roy” Cosner, worked at Sinclair Oil Company as a pump station manager, so the family moved wherever the company needed Roy to be: Pampa, Alice, Turner Town, and finally Corpus Christi where June went to high school.

June drove to California for a visit with two girlfriends in 1955 and never left. But she always clung to her Texas roots, remaining close to her Roy Miller High School Class of 1951, and Southwest Texas University friends. June graduated college in 1954 with her bachelor’s in education, followed by a secondary school teaching credential. She was a voracious reader who consumed more books in a year than most people read in a lifetime. Her profound curiosity about life, information, and politics started in early childhood. Public libraries in the rural Texas towns where she lived were her luminous portals to a wider fascinating world. As a child and as an adult, books were a way June accessed a much larger and expansive reality. Late in life she traveled to places she read about as a child: Egypt, Turkey, France, Italy, and Israel to name some.

June leaves a Texas-sized hole in our hearts by her passing. She was a 4-foot-10-inch pistol who packed an energetic kick toward the things that she cared deeply about, including family, friends, leadership, the natural environment, reading, cooking, fashion, traveling, fine foods and wines, and her beloved Santa Barbara community. June loved her country and sought to steward its democratic promise and health.

June’s life was an example of someone who cared courageously, worked tirelessly, played vigorously, entertained generously, and loved deeply. June lived life on her terms, even to the end. She refused to be restrained by the myopic religious constraints and social conventions of rural life. A child of the Great Depression, she threw off economic, social, and political limitations, and charted her own course. She left a legacy of inspiration to professional women, community leaders, a long list of friends, and to her remaining family.

June is survived by her son, Richard Sochel, daughter-in-law, Kathy Navarro Sochel, and two grandchildren, Jonathan and Juliana. A memorial will be hosted by the family at 10 a.m. on June 26, 2022, at Simmons Global Leadership Center at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. The family requests that guests please register at to reserve a seat or receive information on how to attend online.


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