In Memoriam
Irene Lamberti

If you or a family member attended Mountain View School between 1969 and 1996, you undoubtedly had or at least knew of the dynamic pedagogical machine that was Mrs. Lamberti. One either pushed to have her as a teacher or feared the same prospect. She was a challenging instructor, exhorting kids to push their intellectual boundaries. She read aloud to her students every day. She had her classes write a novel. She assigned a lot of homework. Mrs. Lamberti also eagerly introduced her charges to global art and culture in all its forms: opera, classical music, ethnic music, dance. She took her classes on many field trips to see performances. She passed around objects she collected during her travels, including her prized Indonesian monkey-skull necklace. Mrs. Lamberti was larger than life, and she left her mark on her students. In her later years, she would often run into former students or their parents in town. And she discovered that many of these students went on to achieve advanced degrees and fulfilling careers and lives. That made her so happy.

Born Irene Mary Gartner in Detroit into a family that never owned a car or vacationed, she left the Midwest as soon as she graduated from college to embark on a 70-year-long commitment to see the world. After spending a year riding mules to and from the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Arizona to teach on the Havasupai reservation, she embarked for France. There, working for the USO, she met serviceman Matthew Lamberti, the man she would be married to for the next 67 years. After traveling around Europe and Northern Africa, they lived in Japan (twice) and New York City before settling Santa Barbara in 1968. Matt took a job in the history department at UCSB, and Irene was hired at Mountain View School.

Matt and Irene shared both a love of travel and adventure and a strong sense of frugality. Their travels were always marked by Irene spending months researching (pre-Internet!) public transportation and low-priced housing options for months-long summer trips both in the U.S.A. (in the family station wagon) and abroad. This generally worked out. However, one time, she booked a very inexpensive stay in what turned out to be a pay-by-the-hour “motel” in Nicaragua. They went to more than 100 countries on six continents, purchasing local folk art and documenting their journeys in Irene’s many travel journals and Matt’s photographs. Until their children left home, the whole family traveled together, something for which their children are eternally grateful.

Besides travel, Irene led a busy life indulging in her love of arts and culture, chatting with and learning from everyone she met. She was a volunteer usher for decades at numerous theaters including at the Granada, the Arlington, the Lobero, Ensemble Theater, the Marjorie Luke, and at UCSB. She was a regular at the Music Academy of the West summer masterclasses. In her desire to stave off mental decline by using both sides of her brain after retirement, she took dozens of Adult Education classes. These included literature, poetry, jewelry, stained glass, bunka (Asian embroidery), glass fusion, and frame-making. During the pandemic, a homebound Irene indulged in her lifelong love of opera by watching the daily online Metropolitan Opera broadcast 273 days in a row. 

In December 2022, Irene — in otherwise remarkable health for her entire life — was diagnosed with stage-one pancreatic cancer. She was given a prognosis of a few months, but she refused to accept this. With her daughter moving into the home to help out, Irene embarked with gusto on a campaign to squeeze the most out of every moment she had left. She joined the Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club to work out almost daily in the pool, claiming the title of the oldest person in the aqua aerobics class and meeting a whole new set of friends. Every week, she participated in a senior exercise class at the Wake Center, met up with her book club, and discussed poetry with her family. She would go to Goleta Valley Library regularly to read newspapers and magazines, and she eagerly perused the Independent each week to circle cultural events she wanted to be taken to. Two weeks before her death, she attended the UCSB Middle Eastern Ensemble and Indonesian music concerts. A week before her death, she participated in what would be her final aqua aerobics class. Would that we all could spend the very end of our lives doing what we love, as Irene did!

She is survived by her husband, Matt; daughter, Marjorie (Stephen); son, Matt Jr. (Eugenie); and granddaughters, Eleanore and Annika. At her request, no formal services will be held. If her life touched yours, please write a note on her online memory page at Or read a poem, attend a classical music concert, and thank a teacher. 


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