Lou Grant, for whom Carpinteria’s Lou Grant Parent-Child Workshop is named, died at home on May 3. The cooperative preschool was renamed in her honor when she retired in 1984, after 25 years as director. Previously the Carpinteria Parent-Child Workshop, it is one of the 4 preschools affiliated with Santa Barbara City College’s Continuing Education Program. Grant’s contributions to the school and to the community were recognized by The Independent in 1995, when they named her a “Local Hero.” She was also named “Volunteer of the Year” in 1998 by SEE International (Surgical Eye Expeditions), which sends doctors to Third-World countries.
Born Clara Louise Tuckerman in 1916, Lou was the youngest of the 5 daughters of Wolcott and Lilia Tuckerman, a well-known local landscape painter. Lou attended the Howard School, the Santa Barbara Girls School, and graduated cum laude from Smith College in 1938. After a brief career in stage design in New York, she returned home in 1940 to marry artist Campbell Grant, later best known for his Rock Paintings of the Chumash. The couple made their home in Hollywood, where Campbell worked for the Disney Studio. They relocated to the Tuckerman ranch in Carpinteria in 1946, where they raised their 4 children.
Lou became the director of the Montecito Parent-Child Workshop in 1959. The preschool was located in the former Montecito Home Club building on the corner of San Ysidro and East Valley Roads. The school shared the facility with the Montecito YMCA until 1967, when the building was torn down to make way for a shopping center. The school relocated to the Carpinteria Community Church, becoming the Carpinteria Parent-Child Workshop. Eleven years later the workshop found itself homeless when the church reclaimed the space for its own preschool. Loyal parents rallied around Lou as the group met for a year at El Carro Park. Lou would ferry trikes and other equipment back and forth from her home in her signature red Volkswagen bug with white racing stripes.
“Never give up,” was Lou’s motto, and after a year in the park and another 2 years in a portable classroom at the Carpinteria Boys Club, the school moved to leased surplus park property on 6th Street in 1981. Lou was always grateful to State Senator Gary Hart and Supervisor Naomi Schwartz who assisted the school in securing the site. On moving day, Lou waved to supporters from the cab of a Carpinteria Valley Lumber Company truck as the school’s swing sets and playhouse were trucked down Linden Ave. to their new home at 5400 6th Street, where the school continues to flourish.
Lou also taught courses in Early Childhood Education at Santa Barbara City College for many years. After retiring she volunteered for the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and wielded a hammer to help build Transition House. Her volunteer work at SEE was inspired by her mother Lilia Tuckerman’s lifelong work with the blind, as a teacher and transcriber of Braille.
Lou Grant is survived by her 4 children: Gordon Grant of Coupeville, WA, Roxanne Lapidus of Carpinteria, Sheila Witmer of Ketchum, ID, and Doug Grant of Carpinteria. There are 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. The family would like to thank Becky Jackson and Hannah Wood for bringing sunshine into Lou’s last months through their loving care.
A memorial will be held at All Saints by the Sea, Montecito, on Tuesday, May 15, at 2 p.m. Memorial donations may be made to the Lou Grant Parent-Child Workshop to 5400 Sixth St., Carpinteria, CA 93013 or to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, 1212 Mission Canyon Rd., Santa Barbara, CA 93105.