On July 1, 2018 Marikay Bartoli, 68, walked her dog, made cinnamon rolls, gardened, helped family and the next day, Monday, July 2, 2018, she passed suddenly at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Her family takes some comfort that she did not suffer.
Mari was a hopeful and kind long-time Santa Barbara resident, a talented chef and a devoted animal lover. Her irrepressible spirit did not suffer fools, and like a quintessential first responder she was first on the scene to help any underdog or friend in need. Mari’s fighting spirit withstood many life-threatening health complications, but in the end, it was her giving and tender heart that ultimately gave way.
Mari was born to Peter and Harriett (Dicken) Bartoli in LaSalle, IL, the youngest of 4 children. Pete built a custom car crib in the front seat of their Studebaker so baby Marikay could ride comfortably alongside the rest of the family traveling cross-country to La Cañada, CA. There they made a home with gardens and fruit trees that bordered mountainous open space; it’s where Mari fell in love with nature and animals. At home in the wilds of the canyon, Mari dreamed of being Annie Oakley while hunting birds with a BB gun and her cat sidekick, Beaver. Her hunter instinct shifted; she fell in love with pottery and longed for her own dog.
After graduating from La Cañada High School, she moved to Aspen to study ceramics. Mari’s time at the Independent Lodge was short but she gained longtime friends and an introduction to her husband of 13 years, Michael Cardi. She found herself, a few dogs later, married with two children in Columbus, Ohio, still making pots.
Mari became a young mother in 1971, devoting herself to her two daughters for the remainder of her life. She stayed home with them in their early years, and when they went to school she lead Girl Scout troops, coached softball teams, spent time in the classrooms, and made countless impressions on young people (a notable one was when she brought in a cat cadaver and inflated the lungs to show kids how lungs function).
As her girls grew, so did her free spirit. Her passion for animals grew; she went from saving neighborhood birds with broken wings and other injured wildlife to pursuing veterinary medicine, graduating as a veterinary technician. While volunteering at the Columbus Zoo in 1984, she was attacked by a Bengal tiger and suffered significant injuries. With her Herculean strength she pushed through and recovered from this horrific accident.
Determined to find work that allowed her to be both full-time single-mother and breadwinner, she turned to her other great talent, cooking. She completed chef school and worked in several successful restaurant kitchens in Columbus and Pasadena. When she had to work a holiday, she made sure her kids joined her at the restaurant for a lovely meal. She was one of the few women on the line in the 80’s and 90’s, and she always held her own, lifting heavy sheet pans full of beef tenderloin and ensuring it was always cooked to perfection.
Mari moved to Santa Barbara in 1993. She spent most of her career as a private chef and caterer. Her attention to detail, fighting spirit, infectious laugh, and her ability to balance authenticity with
congeniality made being “in the weeds” with her fun. She was always excited to cook for a crowd, and got a twinkle in her eye as she prepared. Anyone lucky enough to have a seat at the Bartoli table, especially if tortellini en brodo was served, experienced the richness of family tradition and a true sense of belonging.
She loved water – swimming and boating or just walking the shore, listening. She loved her hot tub and outdoor shower. Travelling also made her feel young and alive – visiting Mexico, Canada, and of course Italy to explore her cultural roots. Mari,Ginny and Mali traveled to Camp Douglas in Ontario, Canada for 14 summers and relished “getting back to the basics” in their rustic but charming Lake Matinenda cabin. She enjoyed fishing as much as preparing the catch and kneading dough as much as baking and sharing fresh bread. She loved her dogs: Beaver, Blue, Heidi, Scout, Mali.
She spent her life trying to find the good in everything, helping others, making great meals, laughing and exploring the world with her best mates, loving her family and pushing through health obstacles with an
enduring smile. Of her life experiences, she most reveled in being a Nonna to her grandkids. She did all of these things in her last week among us.
Mari has now joined her father, mother, and older brother,
Douglas. Left behind missing her in every way are her loving and loyal partner of 21 years Ginny Brush, her two devoted children, Gabriella and Gioia, her dear sisters Carol and Joani, valued son-in-law Mark, treasured nieces Christy, Francesca, and Vanessa, adoring grandchildren Gianna, Cale, Hannah, Davin and Alexandra, and her beloved Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Mali and many cherished friends and extended family.
Each year, Mari’s treasured friends and departed family members were honored by her on Dia de los Muertos as she lovingly created an elaborate altar to pay tribute and welcome their spirits each Hallows Eve. This year she has now joined this community of beloveds on her elaborate ofrenda.
A Celebration of Mari’s Life will be held on Thursday, November 1,
2018 at Godric Grove in Elings Park, 1298 Las Positas Rd, Santa
Barbara, CA 93105 at 3:30pm.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network http://www.sbwcn.org/donate.html