William A. Brace

William A. Brace, at home surrounded by his family, passed away peacefully on June 14, 2020 at the age of 86. He was born in Pittsfield, Illinois on January 4, 1934, to Lee W. Brace and Evelyn Jeanette Brace.

It was in rural Pike County, Illinois, under his father and older brother Bob’s tutelage, that Bill developed his passion for hunting, fishing and the great outdoors. He was an avid hunter and fisherman his entire life and instilled the same love for the sporting life in his sons and grandsons. Bill spent many hours together with his friends and his boys enjoying the ocean, the rivers and the marshland. Bill told stories of taking his shotgun to school on Fridays so he and his buddies could catch the bus to the “Dead Eye, Gun & BottleClub” to hunt ducks right after the final bell.

Bill left Pittsfield as a young man to attend Illinois College in Jacksonville, where he met and married his wife of 66 years, Mary Lou Neirman. He had set his sights on being an attorney early in life and spent the next several years in college, the US Marine Corp. and law school. Upon passing the California Bar in 1961, the Braces settled in Santa Barbara, calling it home until his death.

Bill began his legal career with the Santa Barbara law firm known at the time as Cavaletto, Webster, Mullen and McCaughey located on Victoria Street. In 1966, Bill, James (“J.J.”) Hollister and Robert Angle formed the law firm,
Hollister, Brace & Angle. Eventually Angle left the firm and it became and is still known as Hollister & Brace located across from the courthouse on Santa Barbara Street. Bill retired from the law practice in 1989, thereafter
dedicating his time and energy to family, friends, travel, charitable endeavors, hunting, fishing and backgammon. J.J. Hollister and Bill Brace remained lifelong friends.

Bill and Mary Lou embraced Santa Barbara and became an integral part of the community. Bill joined the Junior Chamber of Commerce (the “Jaycees”) and became its president two years later. The Childs Estate, now known as The Santa Barbara Zoo, became his charitable passion. The Jaycees were instrumental in the development and creation of the zoo and Bill maintained his passion for the zoo throughout his life. Bill’s special project was the train. He and his young family spent weekends laying track and were among the first to get a ride on the train that still circles the zoo grounds today. He
continued to support the train and managed to secure new donations for upgrades throughout the years. Bill served as President of the Santa Barbara Zoological Society from 1983 – 1985. During his presidency, he helped
organized the first Zoofari Ball which has continued to be a major zoo fundraiser for 35 years. In honor and recognition of his work on behalf of the zoo, the Admissions Building was dedicated to him and a plaque commemorating this honor can be seen at the entrance to the zoo. After presentation of the plaque, he was often heard saying “Have you been to my

He was a member of American Board of Trial Advocates and served as President of the Santa Barbara Bar Association. He was an active member of The University Club, The Pobres Trail Riders, The Pescatores, Los Fiesteros Dance Club and the Hollister Duck Club among others.

Bill had many hobbies to entertain himself in retirement. Along with hunting and fishing, he was an experienced gardener and loved to putter around his property. He loved the family cabin located on the Middlefork of the Salmon River and spent weeks at a time in the Frank Church Wilderness area. He was a skier and enjoyed an annual ski trip with a group of local attorneys. He took his BBQ and smoker seriously and was known for his smoked turkeys and huevos rancheros. And, he and Mary Lou loved to travel. The couple traveled the world and experienced life in many different countries but were
always happy to return home to the beautiful city of Santa Barbara.

Bill is pre-deceased by his wife, Mary Lou; his parents Evelyn and Lee; brother, Robert Brace; and nephew, Michael Brace. He is survived by his children, Sandra Brace Zakis (Patrick), Robert L. Brace (Fernanda), Barbara Brace and William B. Brace (Meredith), his grandchildren, William Zakis, Ryan Zakis, Stephanie Zakis, Walker Brace, Charlotte Brace, Bolden Brace, Georgia Brace, Augustine Brace, Catalina Brace and Magdalena Brace, and
nephew, James Brace.

Due to Covid-19, the celebration of Mary Lou’s life was postponed so fittingly, the family will privately celebrate Bill and Mary Lou together in the near future.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to the Santa Barbara Zoo.


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