Nellie Hart Koart
Goleta royalty, selfless mother, and kind-hearted soul, Nellie Hart Koart, has passed. She leaves behind a legacy of humility, strength, generosity, as well as a hole in our hearts that will never be filled.
Nellie was born in San Luis Obispo, CA on January 3, 1930 to Nellie M. (Cash) Hart and Will C. Hart. She was raised on a farm in Montebello, CA along with her older siblings, Betty and Robert. The family of five worked as a unit on the farm, raising figs, flowers, and vegetables for market under the name of “Hart Farms.”
After graduating from Montebello High School in 1947, Nellie attended Whittier College, CA for two years while also working on the farm as well as serving as a Play Leader for the Los Angeles County Dept. of Parks and Recreation. She completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree at U.C.S.B. when campus was still in the Santa Barbara Riviera. Later, while teaching 3 rd and 4 th grades at Potrero Heights Elementary School in South San Gabriel, CA, she earned her Master of Arts Degree in Elementary Education at Los Angeles State College. She then served as Vice Principal of her school for two years. She was awarded a Life Diploma in Elementary Education.
Nellie met her future husband, William (Bill) H. Koart, at Rosemead Park in 1949, where they were both working as Play Leaders during a Christmas vacation. They married on June 16, 1951, in Montebello, CA. They both taught school for several years before beginning their family. In 1957, they moved to the Ellwood area of Santa Barbara County, built a new home, and had two children: Kristen Marie and Matthew William. They eventually became interested in real estate and secured their real estate sales licenses, and sold tract homes for the Glenwood Development in Goleta. Thereafter, the two formed a partnership and went on to develop and build Cardinal Homes and Evergreen Park in Goleta, Fireside Homes in Santa Barbara, as well as Evergreen Park in Oxnard. Under the name of Ko-Art Homes, Inc., they also built several other residential communities, a nursery school, and commercial buildings. They also formed William Koart Construction Co., Inc., of which Nellie was President, and Foundation Trenching, Inc.
Sadly, pancreatic cancer robbed Nellie of her husband in 1976 (Bill was just 46). Despite that anguish, Nellie relentlessly focused on making the most of life (“Stay Positive!”) and continued her real estate development work for some time.
Nellie’s greatest pride was her family. Her two children, Kris and Matt, along with their spouses, Brian Kittle and Judy (Holland) Koart, and the five grandchildren they gave her, were the most important facets of her life. Each one came first and uppermost in her thinking. Her deep love and devotion to all of them was always apparent, and the whole family was always very close. She had many close friends who were a big part of her life, and shared a rare level of intimacy with so many. She treasured her friendships and groups to which she belonged.
Nellie was always a ball of energy and HER enthusiasm, and interests were many. She was very active for many years in charitable and political organizations, often serving as Treasurer. She was a strong supporter of U.S.C. football, starting in the 1980’s when her son, Matt, played for the team. Her hobbies included an antique 1929 Buick 6 Sedan, which she somehow tracked down and bought from the current owner, lovingly restored and presented to her elderly parents, who had originally purchased the car when new! Current organizations included her Sewing Club (for over 50 years), her Thursday Morning Breakfast Group, her Friday Night at Harry’s Group, and her “Good Ol’ Gals.” The extended families of Kittle and Holland were also of great significance in her life.
Nellie is survived by her daughter, best friend, and constant companion, Kris (husband Brian Kittle), their children Shelby and Jordan (wife Denise [Weniger] and grandbaby Nathan), and by her son, Matt (wife Judy), and their children Hailey, William, and Eva. All of which will be forever graced by having Nellie’s love and example in their lives, and forever diminished by her loss.
Simply put: If life were always just, this profoundly admirable force of nature would have lived forever, with the husband she loved, her kids by her side, and free of all pain…
Nellie adamantly demanded that there not be a funeral. To the end, she was never about herself. Instead, she requested that any tribute be in the form of a donation to the Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara (www.cfsb.org).