Longtime Santa Barbara resident Patricia Kelly, beloved mother of three sons and wife of John Stack, passed away Sunday, May 26. Patty will always be remembered for her love of life, never-ending curiosity, focus on spirituality, and constant giving and generosity.
Patty was born in Bellevue, Wash., in 1933, the daughter of a merchant marine captain. Charles Delaney was the only surviving officer when the officers’ cabin of his ship was torpedoed during World War II. Patty had many fond memories of visiting her father’s ships and receiving strange and wonderful presents from faraway lands.
Patty was precocious as a child and surprised her parents at age four when she asked for her first violin. Patty went on to become a concert violinist as a teenager, and played until she was 35 years old. Two weeks after the birth of her youngest son, Charlie, she developed an ear infection that led to a profound hearing loss. Before she passed away she gave her violin to her 10-year-old granddaughter, Amelia, who has the same birthday as Patty and began playing in first grade.
Patty grew up in the Seattle area with her sister, Colleen, who was one year younger. As a teenager she worked one summer as a lifeguard with Clint Eastwood on Lake Washington. Patty always said that she would never “kiss and tell” on Clint.
While attending Seattle University Patty married Bill Gohlman, a graduate student at the University of Washington. In the 1950s they moved to Beirut, Lebanon, where Bill taught and completed graduate work at the American University and Patty worked at the Associated Press. Patty had many fond memories of Beirut, and had kept touch with friends she made there to this day. She and her friends would be able to go from snow skiing in the the mountains to water skiing by the seashore in one day. A story that she told reveals how tenuous the state of affairs were at the time. One day she and some friends were water skiing near shore, when gunmen sprayed bullets at them across the water, a few of them hitting very near her as she skied.
Patty moved to Santa Barbara more than 40 years ago, after meeting and marrying Bob Kelly in Seattle, Wash. They planned on moving to Los Angeles but fell in love with Santa Barbara on their drive down and settled here instead.
Patty went on to raise three sons here–Sean, Rob, and Charlie–as a single mother at her home on Voluntario Street. Patty worked at various non-profit groups before finally arriving at UC Santa Barbara. Patty relished her work as a student advisor in the geology department, while making countless friends.
Patty was a seeker of truth. When her boys were very young, 4, 3 and 2, she began to take yoga classes and learned to meditate with Helen Vreeland. It was then that she learned about Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and took him as her spiritual guru. She took her first trip to India at the age of 43 with her son, Sean, who was age 10 at the time. She returned to India several more times, including two trips with her son Rob. Patty always considered India to be a magnificent and beautiful place, a place where yogis and other holy ones had divined the path to enlightenment.
Patty gave back to the Santa Barbara community, founding the group “Hear Now”, which allowed hearing-impaired people to support each other in their hearing challenges. Patty volunteered at the homeless shelter, giving tirelessly of her time, and especially of her love of cooking. Patty put love into everything she did.
Twelve years ago, at the age of 67, Patty married longtime Santa Barbara resident John Stack, with a ceremony performed by Timothy Conway at the Coyote Road home that John built. They built a happy life together, hosting weekly Satsangs at their home, which they then followed with amazing meals, and travelling together to India two times–once for three months and once for six months. They made many lifelong friends and enjoyed living a simpler life in India.
Patty and John had planned to make a third trip to India when their house burned down during the Tea Fire. Escaping the fire with just a few precious items, they eventually rebuilt a new house with the generous help of architect Jeff Shelton, whom John has known since Jeff was a small boy.
Patty and John had many happy times together, spending time with friends and family in Santa Barbara, walking their fluffy white dog Sufi on the beach, and hosting each others’ children during the holidays with Christmas carol singing and many delicious meals.
Patty is survived by her husband, John Stack; her three sons and spouses, Sean & Mary, Rob & Ronna, and Charlie & Angela; and four grandchildren, Connor, Amelia, Max and Owen. A service to celebrate Patty’s life will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 2, at the Unity Church, 227 E Arrellaga (parking entrance is one block up on Valerio). The service will be followed by a small potluck reception. If you feel so inclined, please bring some simple finger foods or desserts to share. Patty would have liked that!
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you contribute to one of the many local charities in honor of Patty.