In Memoriam:
Gloria Liggett

Gloria Liggett is remembered as a tender of community. She enacted a practice of caring for individuals and groups in our times of need. She worked with numerous organizations, so many that we often couldn’t keep up with all that she was doing. She was fiercely independent and lived an alternative lifestyle that emphasized creativity and collective responsibility. She found joy in being connected to nature, animals, and Indigenous ways of being. She transitioned on April 25, 2023, leaving a void for the collective we to carry on her life’s passion for the arts, education, and social justice.

She was born Gloria Ann Del Castillo on June 4, 1938, the only child of Joseph Del Castillo and Elizabeth Regan in Alhambra. Through her father, she identified as Tongva/Gabriella, and had a “certificate of degree of Indian Blood” as Luiseño. She graduated from Alhambra High School in 1956 and earned a BA in education from San Jose State College in 1960 and an MA in confluent education from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1983.

She married John Liggett in 1962, and they had two children: Lissa and Jordan. They divorced in Santa Barbara in 1971. Later, while teaching in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, she adopted two more children, Tim and Autry, whom she raised as a single parent.

At 22, she traveled to Turkey to teach English to grades 6-12 at the Amerikan Kız Lisesi in Istanbul, a three-year teaching term for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions of the Congressional Christian Churches. This was a life-changing experience. Sixty years later, she was still telling stories about her time in Turkey. She would later take her family on excursions and wild adventures, sometimes appreciated, sometimes not, in commune-style living near Seattle and New Hampshire.

Gloria became a lifelong teacher. She taught in elementary schools from Ramona School in Alhambra to Open Learning Quest in Isla Vista to Washington, Adams, McKinley, Harding, and Open Alternative School in Santa Barbara. She was an adjunct faculty in the Department of Education at Antioch College. In 1995, she won the BRAVO Award for the best art teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Gloria was also a lifelong learner. She embraced a pedagogy where innovation and improvisation are valued approaches and where everyone can learn from one another across differences in learning styles, ages, and cultures. Her praxis was honed at her cherished Open Alternative School (OAS), a public K-8 school that promoted outdoor education, collective problem-solving, and awareness of self always in relation to the larger community. Gloria helped to open OAS’s doors in 1975, with her children in the school’s first class. She was a steadfast participant, teaching art in Friday Choice Classes, supporting the organic garden and cooking in the parent-constructed kitchen, and continuously showing up to cheer on the students in their activities. She was active throughout the life of OAS, as a parent, grandparent, and even when she had no family attending, until the Santa Barbara Unified School District closed the school in 2018. Until her last days, she was working, with numerous obstacles, to establish the Thoreau School as OAS 2.0.

Gloria was a fierce supporter of young people, believing in their knowledge and abilities to create the world we need. She supported children and youth through the Peace Camp she held each summer in her backyard art studio, teaching weaving, clay, sewing, painting, and Native Ways. Each year she gathered young people to do chalk art at I Madonnari and to participate in Summer Solstice. She supported LGBTQ youth at Pacific Pride. She was active in the Unitarian Church, Wilderness Youth Project, and Ethnic Studies Now! Santa Barbara. She gathered every other Saturday, in person and then via Zoom, with friends and sang in the Threshold Choir offering encouragement to those in illness.

She worked closely with the local Chumash community, joining ceremonies, paddles, and weekly prayer circles. She helped to create the exquisite 20-foot circular mosaic that tells the story of the Chumash people — past, present, and future — at the site of Syuxtun, on Cabrillo Boulevard at Bath Street. She found peace with nature and birds and gathering tule for basket-weaving. She loved her many dogs and other pets.

Gloria relished working with the Fund for Santa Barbara’s Grant-Making Committee (GMC). She liked to say, “I love the GMC. The Board has to make money, and we get to give it away.” She helped dispense the $10,000 grants to local organizations and valued the opportunity it afforded her to interact with diverse communities. We have an opportunity to continue her work through the newly established “Gloria Liggett Community Justice Fund,” administered by the Fund for Santa Barbara.

Gloria is survived by her four children, six grandchildren, and many loving friends, young and old.

A memorial service will be held Sunday, June 11, at 4 p.m., at Tucker’s Grove Park.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be sent to the Fund for Santa Barbara. Donations can be made at (write in the note section: Gloria Liggett Fund) or as a check made payable to the “Fund for Santa Barbara” (memo: Gloria Liggett Fund) and sent to: PO Box 90710, Santa Barbara, CA, 93190-0710.


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