John William Allen

Date of Birth

May 12, 1927

Date of Death

August 19, 2019

John Allen’s sculptures and ceramic masks are gracing hundreds of homes in the Santa Barbara area and beyond. In a tribute to him, his stepson of almost 60 years wrote, “John laughed at more, and more often, than any person I ever knew.” He will be sorely missed by many loving friends.

John passed away peacefully from congestive heart failure on August 19, 2019, in Santa Barbara, his home for 50 years. He was born in Buffalo, New York, on May 12, 1927, to an English father, Albert Allen, and his Swedish wife, Dorothea Zakrison. After graduating from high school in Williamsville, N.Y., John volunteered for the Army Air Force. He served July 1945 through December 1946, spending time on the island of Guam. When his parents moved to Washington, D.C., he went to work for the National Capital Parks. He took advantage of the G.I. Bill to attend Cornell University.

John persuaded his parents to move to California, where he worked briefly at the Huntington Gardens (his father was an excellent gardener), then also in the logging industry.

In Sierra Madre (just east of Pasadena), John met new long-term friends “who were the bohemian cadre” there, including respected sculptor Howard Whalen. In 1953 John graduated from Occidental College. He was married to Janice Rose Carter from 1954 to 1961, and to Tulita Figueroa from 1961 to 1971. He worked for years for the U.S. Postal Service. He liked to travel, visiting Mexico, Canada, Japan, Costa Rica, and Panama.

John’s true life’s work was as an artist. He produced a great many sculptures and ceramic masks, which for decades he sold at the Santa Barbara Sunday beach shows, and in galleries. In fact, he worked well past retirement age, into his late eighties. John also created award-winning collages and, as an active member of the Santa Barbara poetry community, wrote a great many thoughtful poems and published them in several booklets.

John is survived by his former wife, Tulita Allen, and her son and his stepson, Greg Figueroa. He is also survived by many loving friends, including Wynn Kapit and Laurie Hanson, Sara Patchen, Wolf Hietzke, Michael Parker and Ellen Yeomans, Bernie Sayers, Stephanie Dragon, Lois Klein, Tom McBride, Craig Holland and Patsy Dorsey, Laurel Rose, and many others.

A Celebration of Life was held for John August 24 at his mobile home in the Flamingo Mobile Home Park on Cacique St. As he requested, family scattered his ashes at sea, off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Contributions in John’s memory may be made to the Santa Barbara City College Foundation, for Art students, at


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