Susan Elizabeth Bower
Susan Elizabeth Bower of the Upper East Side, Santa Barbara, CA passed away peacefully in her home on Saturday, July 25 surrounded by her family, her art, candles, and soothing music. It was a fitting send off for a creative mother, painter, photographer, world traveler, interior decorator, and exacting aesthetician who saw and created beauty in all she touched.
Born to Elizabeth Beatty Hill and Frank Joseph Hill on December 28, 1928 in Phoenix, AZ, Susan left the desert for California shortly after grade school. She attended Van Nuys Junior High School and Hamilton High School in Los Angeles before taking a position at the Los Angeles branch of the American Automobile Association as a file clerk. In 1952 she married James S. Bower. The striking couple took advantage of the GI Bill to purchase a tract home in Rolling Hills, CA and then joined the rush of the 1950s baby boom to produce a gaggle of five children.
The family moved to Santa Barbara in 1968 and kept Susan so busy that it wasn’t until years later that she had “a moment to herself” to contemplate her next move. That move turned out to be a return to college life. In 1981 she received a BA in Studio Art from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She went on to create an eclectic mix of art pieces ranging from oil paintings, to wax mosaics, etchings, screen prints, sun prints, and finally to stunning photographs.
Deeply engaged with the philanthropic community here in Santa Barbara, Susan gave generously to The Fund for Santa Barbara, Women’s Economic Ventures, Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, Environmental Defense Center, Contemporary Arts Forum (MCA), The Arts Fund, Summerdance, Santa Barbara Arts Collective (CAW), UCSB Arts & Lectures, Dance Theater, ADA Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Boxtales, Art Without Limits, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Catalyst for Cats, Community Counseling & Education Center, Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, Planned Parenthood, and the Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival among others. Her giving centered on her local “tribe” as she liked to call it, grassroots organizations that included her passion for education, the arts, women’s rights, and the environment.
Susan’s amazing travels over the past 40 years took her far and wide including journeys to India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Tibet, Nepal, China, Japan, Europe, Russia, Cuba, Central America, South America, Mexico, Africa, and Yemen among many other exciting world cities and destinations. Her one great travel regret was that she never made it to Bhutan! She documented her travels with a keen photographic eye for marketplaces, street scenes, and the local people of the countries she visited. She was always interested in photographing indigenous faces and local dress of people in distant corners of the world. Susan took great delight in traveling the world, and loved learning about other cultures and traditions.
While she had many family, artistic, and philanthropic accomplishments perhaps one of her greatest joys was her lovely home of over 30 years. She enjoyed different types of artwork, furniture, and textiles from artists around the world, as well as paintings and photographs from local artists, Susan was constantly acquiring new pieces while rearranging older pieces in order to appreciate them in a new light. Her home was a wonderful gathering place for friends and family, and a creation of her own unique artistic expression and vision.
Enriched by the many great friendships she enjoyed in her life, Susan’s ability to inspire all around her with her intelligence, her wit, her critical eye, along with her deep sense of social justice will long be remembered by those in the Santa Barbara community that she loved.
Susan is survived by her five children Nanci, Craig, Bert, Melissa, and Jonathan; her five grandchildren Mary, Karen, Jesse, Tahir, and Annie; and three great-grandchildren Luke, Peter, and Claire.
The Bower family would like to extend their warmest thanks to Margaret Garcia, Lupe Georges, Jessica Macias, VNA Health, and Dr. Dennis Baker M.D.