Kathryn Lee Holcomb Dole
7/15/1920 – 12/29/2011
Kathryn Lee Holcomb Dole was born July 15, 1920, in San Bernardino, California, and died at 91 at home with her family in Santa Barbara. The daughter of former San Bernardino Mayor Grant Holcomb and Eleanor Burkham Holcomb, she was born into a pioneering family. Her great-grandfathers included W.F. Holcomb who discovered gold in Holcomb Valley in 1860, and John Grant who homesteaded near Paso Robles. Kathryn’s mother’s family lived in the mining town of Bodie and survived the earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco.
While at Mills College, Kathryn met her husband, the artist William Dole, at a summer session featuring Bauhaus artists. They moved to Santa Barbara in 1949, where William taught in the art department at UCSB for 34 years, serving twice as chairman. She devoted herself to the challenges and rewards of being an artist’s and academician’s wife, managing his career, finances, travels and lively social life while raising their seven children. At his gallery shows, after the paintings were hung, she would walk behind him and raise the prices. It was not uncommon for her to invite 20 people home for an impromptu dinner after a museum opening.
While her husband was getting his MFA at UC Berkeley, Kate helped found a nursery school/ parent child workshop. In Santa Barbara she continued her involvement with co-operative nursery schools at Hoff Heights Nursery School, which later became The Oaks. In the early ’50s she developed a successful line of children’s dress-up clothes called Flossie Finery. She taught art at the Crane School while her children were students there.
In 1955 Kate and Bill embarked on one of their greatest adventures, traveling to Italy for two years with their then six children, forever changing their lives.
Florence was their home base, but they traveled all over Europe in a VW bus, visiting museums, skiing in Switzerland and camping on beaches. On their return from Europe, they spent a summer at the Hollister Ranch, which turned into ten wonderful years spent alternating between Santa Barbara and the Ranch, with a sojourn in Rome in 1963 for another sabbatical. While on the Ranch, with her children as her own private work crew, Kathryn was involved in the restoration of the main house and its gardens, ranch politics, dinners for dozens, and memorable barbecues. She also had her seventh child, Katie. Her hospitality was boundless: visitors included artists, writers, teachers and world travelers. She could make a friend in an instant and more than one came home to live with the Doles.
Her passions were diverse: Art, Adele Davis, Buckminster Fuller, Anthony Trollope, New Zealand, lifelong learning, gun control, laughter therapy, skiing at Mammoth, gospel singing, sailing and swimming. In 1972 she swam the Golden Gate. She opposed war and presidential warmongers. Whether it was getting up at dawn for a bracing swim in the ocean or sneaking fearlessly onto a construction site to monitor its progress, she conducted her days with sureness and purpose.
She read voraciously and far into the night. Her energy and stamina amazed and unnerved her seven children: William R. Dole (Jill), Heidi Howell (James Howell), Hilary Klein (John Klein), Deirdre Golani, Deborah Dole, Jonathan Dole (Tessa), and Kathryn Dole. She leaves behind 17 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, William; her son Jonathan of New Zealand; and her brothers: Grant, W.R. “Bob”, and Theodore Holcomb. She will be forever missed by all who knew and loved her. Special thanks to Jennie Fuentes for her loving care.
A memorial service will be held at All Saints by the Sea Episcopal Church on January 14 at 11 a.m.
Donations gratefully accepted by the William Dole Scholarship Fund at UCSB.
Contact: Leslie Gray at UCSB: 805.893.4193