Loberta Geene Hunter
“Geene” is a unique name. That’s because Geene Hunter came up with it herself – Loberta “Geene” Taylor. She couldn’t know if it was original, she put that extra “e” in there to be different. Story goes her parents forgot to give her a full name – they were too busy surviving with 10 children and picking cotton in rural Oklahoma; January 11,1922. The Taylors and their extended family lived there in three tents and a truck, close to the tiny train stop called Lone Wolf. Geene Hunter was born in that old Ford truck. Soon they left Lone Wolf, and their lives got ever so much tougher. Geene’s mom Elizabeth died; whereupon her four strong brothers and their father whisked her off to work in the oil fields at Hobbs, New Mexico. Her sisters were grown, they had their own families by now; Geene was only seven years old. Hobbs, New Mexico back then was as wild as the West could be, a place that exploded with oil derricks and mass confusion. When the Great Depression hit, those gas flares got only bigger and brighter and some thought the Devil drew it all up himself. Geene said at night the town was brighter than daylight. Never a paved road in the entire mess, people just kept coming and huddled in the shadows. All that while Geene took care of those hard working Taylor men. She did every bit of cooking, sewing and cleaning to keep them in the oil fields 24/7; and when the day ended she’d take up her ironing for the neighbors, $.30 an hour.
At about age 13, Geene’s beloved sister Bonnie Lou came from Corpus Christi to rescue her – took her home and taught her the many beautiful traits that Geene became famous for, like unbelievable gourmet cooking and world class entertaining. By the age 19 Geene was married to the handsome and brave Douglas Henderson; an expert flight instructor and decorated fighter pilot for the U.S. Navy. Doug was a great husband and Geene was in heaven. When they’d just started their new life with daughter Genella, Pearl Harbor grabbed everyone and drag us into War. Doug and began those extremely dangerous fighter missions to stem the tide and protect our fleet. He was killed during the Battle of the Aleutian Islands in 1942 like so many others who saved our country with their ultimate sacrifice. Geene stayed in Corpus Christi and worked to support our War effort. She was a chemist for an oil refinery and continued to help the Taylor family get along. Soon after the War ended, Geene and Genella left to live with Doug Henderson’s parents at their farm outside Fresno, California. In Fresno Geene worked as a chemist at the Fresno Community Hospital and there she met her best and longest friend Gretchen Casner. Gretchen’s boyfriend in 1947 the late great Jack Casner set up the blind date with his childhood friend, Allan Oakley Hunter, everyone called him Oakley.
Oakley Hunter was a young Attorney with serious political ambitions. Geene married him in 1949, and in 1950 she helped him when his first election to the US Congress representing Fresno. Together they went off to Washington DC, and with some other young Republicans from California they ushered in the era of New Republicanism. This movement – which ignited the election of Dwight Eisenhower – transformed untold thousands of Democrats into loyal Republicans and altered our political landscape forever. When their friend Richard Nixon was elected President in 1968 he sent Oakley to be Chairman of Federal National Mortgage Association. But Geene Hunter was always the center of attention: Her parties were the best, she had a zillion friends, and everyone admired and respected her. Boy could she cook.
Through her later years Geene was lucky enough live the good life here in Santa Barbara. Her house became the centerpiece for her family holidays and she helped her son John Henry begin his law practice on Carrillo Street. Later she moved to Vista Del Monte and lived her full life until the end on May 13, 20015. Her devoted daughter Genella Williamson visited often, and by the end Genella lived here part-time to coordinate the medical and hospice issues. Her daughter Janet Hunter moved here and visited Geene daily. Youngest son Allan Oakley Junior, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren all came and loved Santa Barbara. Especially Geene loved her Newcomers Club and the great neighbors on Weldon Road. She’s built a huge circle of friends across the country. They will dearly miss, and never forget, one of the greatest ladies of all time.