Rosemary Caba

Date of Death

January 9, 2009

City of Death

Santa Barbara

Rosemary Caba, artist, Registered Nurse and life-long ardent Catholic, died January 9 at Sarah House Hospice in Santa Barbara after an illness of a few weeks. She was 84 years old.

A memorial service will 12:30 p.m., February 14 at San Roque Church in Santa Barbara.

Never married, Ms. Caba was deeply involved with her nieces and nephews, who nicknamed her “Roni.” She paid for piano lessons, dance lessons and, one Halloween, was elbow-deep in the production of papier mache masks. “I was an owl,” recalled niece Jean Johnson of Sioux City, Iowa.

“When I think of Roni, I remember our trip to Yellowstone,” said Johnson, daughter of Ms. Caba’s twin brother, the late Gerald Caba. “We rode in her convertible,”

She and her older brother Jim were leaning over the side of the car, taking a picture of a nearby black bear. “I can’t remember if Jim or I had the camera in our hands, but the bear got too close and Roni stepped on the gas pedal. One of us nearly fell out of the window!”

Tall-six feet, slender and erect, Ms. Caba had great legs even in old age-a fact of which she was totally unaware. (Although in her last Christmas letter, designed, written and mailed shortly before she became ill, she did, however, describe two new plump and voracious roommates as “two crows in a heron’s nest.”)

Despite the long legs and the convertible, Ms. Caba was not an Auntie Mame figure-far from it. She had hoped to join a convent out of high school but those plans were not realized, even though she completed a year as a novitiate. Nonetheless, she maintained an austere personal style, usually dressing in a straight skirt, low-heeled shoes and, in her later years, a white trenchcoat her family tried, without success, to replace.

Rosemary and Gerald were the first children of four born in Sioux City, Iowa, to Joseph and Agnes M. Caba. The only surviving sibling is Joanne Donohue, also of Santa Barbara. The youngest, the late James R. Caba, was the first to move to this city, followed some years later by his mother, sisters and, for a short time, his brother.

When her plans to join the convent did not materialize, Ms. Caba entered the St. Joseph School of Nursing in Sioux City and earned her R.N. degree. It was a vocation she pursued the rest of her life, beginning as a nurse in a physician’s office. She worked for many years in hospitals in Iowa, Missouri and California and only completely retired last year, having worked for several Santa Barbara nursing homes as a nurse supervisor.

When she became an R.N., nurses’ uniforms included starched caps, white stockings and even capes; their duties most certainly involved the hands-on care of patients. As health care costs and the nursing shortage grew, she often found herself-to her distress-supervising others without nursing degrees and relegated to signing official paper work. At those times, she could sometimes be heard muttering acidic observations.

The church and missionary Catholicism were Ms. Caba’s great passions. Most recently, she belonged to the congregation of San Roque Catholic Church.

For years, she donated most of her discretionary income to various missions abroad. One Easter, she created enormous banners celebrating the resurrection of Christ for her parish. In the last few years, she delivered Communion at home to those who couldn’t travel.

A meticulous seamstress, Ms. Caba repaired vestments for priests, even when advancing glaucoma made that task more difficult. Her sewing machine was on her dining room table when she died.

Perhaps the most under-appreciated aspect of her life was Ms. Caba’s artistry. It showed itself in everything she did. Her first employer, the late Dr. Joe Krigsten of Sioux City, displayed her paintings in his waiting room-a nephew has one of them hanging in his Nebraska home.

Her Christmas letters for the past few decades were always simple pen-and-ink drawings of a religious scene accompanied by a quote from Scripture or some spiritual leader. As children, some of her nieces clamored for her drawings-she complied with crayon portraits that captured the fullness of a child’s cheek, the strands of blond or red in tousled hair, the delicacy of a youngster’s arm.

And she sewed like a haute couture seamstress. For herself, in her younger years, she liked Vogue patterns (the most complicated to follow). Her niece Deborah Donohue Wills said Ms. Caba often augmented her outfits with a red belt or some other accessory with flair.

She often created outfits for her nieces. One year, her brother Jim and his wife, Eileen, went to Spain and brought back Spanish dancer dolls in flouncy dresses for their three daughters. Ms. Caba replicated those flamenco dresses stitch by stitch, with lace-edged flounces and, for one dress, a red velvet smocked bodice to be worn over a flounced white tulle chemise. Those dresses-at least forty years old-are now family heirlooms.

In addition to her sister, Ms. Caba is survived by her nieces and nephews: John Donohue, Santa Barbara; Deborah Donohue Wills, Santa Barbara; Dennis Donohue, Roseville, Ca.; James Donohue, El Dorado Hills, Ca.; Mary Donohue, Bend, Or.; and Callan Loessberg, Cottage Grove, Or., all children of Joanne Donohue and her former husband, the late Jack Donohue.

Also: James Richard Caba, Hastings, NE; Jeanie Caba Johnson, Sioux City, IA.; and Jeffery Joseph Caba, McCook Lake, SD, children of the late Gerald Caba and his wife, Frances, of Sioux City. The children of the late James R. Caba and his wife, Eileen, of Santa Barbara are: Susan Caba, St. Louis; Celia Caba, Mary Caba and Joseph Caba, all of Santa Barbara; Gerald J. Caba and David Caba, Lompoc; and James A. Caba, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to Sarah House, in appreciation of the wonderful care and comfort the hospice provided for Ms. Caba during her final weeks. The address is: Sarah House, PO BOX 20031, Santa Barbara, CA 93120.


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