Susanna Fletcher Higman

Date of Birth

July 23, 1919

Date of Death

May 27, 2016

Susanna Fletcher Higman was born on July 23, 1919, to Arthur and Suzy Baat. The family moved to Santa Barbara while Sue was an infant, and she remained a Santa Barbara resident for the rest of her long and active life.

Her father, Art, was a cook and pastry chef, and was able to take the family to the High Sierra for months long excursions during Sue’s youth, inspiring in her a love of the wilderness and natural beauty that defined her life.

Sue was commanding presence in Santa Barbara from the 1960’s through the 1990’s. Having been widowed in the mid 1950’s, she later married the man who became the love of her life, James Edwin Higman. Both shared a passion for the wilderness and travel, and equally, an active desire to maintain the beauty of the community they lived in.

Together they were active in the Sierra Club, the California State Parks Foundation, and local Santa Barbara groups such as GOO (Get Oil Out), the Community Environmental Council, the Small Wilderness Area Preserves, and the Santa Barbara County Environmental Resources Panel.

Sue and her husband Jim were actively involved in the reconstruction of El Presidio de Santa Barbara, where she served as a member and secretary of the Board of Trustees for the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. She became and honorary life trustee in 2003.

Sue was also a member of a group of women known as “Pearl’s Girls”, who assisted Pearl Chase in her tireless efforts to maintain the charm and beauty of Santa Barbara.

She worked with Pearl on the Plans and Planting Committee of the Community Arts Association as treasurer, and later as president. Sue also participated on the Citizens Advisory Committee of the La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, and was recognized for her contributions there in 1975.

The Higmans played a key role in mobilizing the community and resources necessary to acquire the Wilcox Property, now known as the Douglas Family Preserve, an outstanding community asset that will be treasured by generations to come.

Sue’s love of history fostered an interest in early mission music; and she assisted in the creation of a series of music programs at missions around the state.

She and her husband Jim were legendary travelers. They were mainstays of the local backpacking community, and could be counted on to enrich countless Sierra Club trips with their intelligence and humor. They also sought out and visited the most remote places on the planet, long before it was popular to do so. Destinations such as Ethiopia, South Africa, and China were all undertaken with courage and enthusiasm that rewarded them with rich and amazing experiences. The Higmans traveled by truck to Cabo San Lucas in the 1950’s, long before a paved highway was built. They loved to get off the beaten path, and were willing to endure privation and hardship to experience a more authentic side of the places they visited.

Sue passed away on May 27, 2016. She was preceded in death by her husband Jim, who passed in December of 2012. Family members in California, Hawaii, Arizona and Idaho, and friends and colleagues around the world continue to honor her selfless contributions to the community. Those close to her will never and can never forget her brash effusive nature. Sue would always say exactly what was on her mind in a loud, clear voice but with a smile on her face. She was one of a kind and will be sorely missed.


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