Christina Tonietto Cavallero
A 75 year resident of Santa Barbara, Christina Tonietto Cavallero, passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family on Sunday, September 7, 2008, following a celebration of her 88th birthday on September 4. Christina, an only child, was born in a coal mining camp in Wanlock, Iowa to Giorgetta and Frank Tonietto, Northern Italian immigrants. After short stay in Petaluma and Berkeley, she arrived in Santa Barbara in 1933, to join the first class to matriculate at the then new Santa Barbara Junior High School. Proud of her heritage, she spoke Piedmontese with her daughters and grandchildren and encouraged their bilingualism. She was a member of the Italian-American Boot Club and Italia Nuova. She enjoyed visiting family in Italy and shared the joy of travel with her grandchildren.
She graduate from Santa Barbara High School in 1938. “The High School” remained very dear to her throughout her life. A past President of Franklin and SBHS PTAs, she was awarded Honorary Life Membership and was a strong advocate for local public schools her entire adult life. In 1975 as a member of the SBHS centennial committee, she was instrumental in the formation of the SBHS Alumni Association and served as its first president. She was extremely proud of the number of scholarships given each year to graduating seniors due to the generosity of alumni.
An avid supporter of Old Spanish Days Fiesta, she welcomed the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors for many years. In 1997 she was named Honorary La Presidenta. A Past Bethel Guardian and state officer for the International Order of Job’s Daughters, she was a 50 year member and a Past Matron of Marguerite Chapter #78, Order of the Easter Star. She was a member of the Santa Barbara Women’s Club. After work during World War II, she volunteered as a Red Cross Nurse’s Aide. Later in life she returned to Cottage Hospital as a Pink Lady. She was a lifelong member of El Montecito Presbyterian Church.
Although she suffered from macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s, she could still take shorthand and recount tales of Santa Barbara’s yesteryear. She loved music, was a beautiful dancer and only recently gave up her high heels! Her career in banking began with Crocker-Anglo National Bank and Santa Barbara Savings. She retired in her 70’s from Bank of Montecito.
Christina is survived by her daughters, Diana (Frank) Rheinisch or San Luis Obispo, Gloria (Bruce) Belfiore of Santa Barbara; grandchildren, Erik and Christina Rheinisch and Siana and William Belfiore, cousins in the US and Italy and her former husband, Vincent Cavallero. A funeral service was held at El Montecito Presbyterian Church, on September 13. Donations in Christina’s memory may be made to Santa Barbara High School Alumni Association, PO Box 6121, Santa Barbara, CA 93160.