Charlotte Louise (Biddle)Nelson, passionate supporter of Santa Barbara and all its goodness, passed away peacefully, of natural causes, at Alexander Gardens Assisted Living Facility, on August 1st. She was 91.
Charlotte was born in Lomita, California on March 19, 1929, the youngest of four children, to John and Frances Biddle. When she was five months old, John died in an oil refinery fire, and Frances moved her young children to Ottawa, Canada to be with members of her extended family. The Great Depression forced Frances to place her children in a VFW National Home for Children in Michigan. It was there, in 1935, Charlotte was chosen to represent the VFW’s Buddy Poppy project by presenting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt with a poppy while sitting on his desk in the Oval Office. After graduating from Cooley High School in Detroit, she attended Harper Hospital School of Nursing, where she met her future husband, Robert E. Rabe, who was earning a medical degree at Wayne State Medical School. They married in September of 1950, and soon began their family, raising five sons in Detroit, while also traveling extensively throughout North America and Europe.
An avid learner, when all her children reached school age, Charlotte attended Oakland University where she studied History.
In the summer of 1969, they relocated to Santa Barbara, where Charlotte began her lengthy involvement with civic activities. A life-long Democrat, Charlotte worked tirelessly for numerous political candidates and issues, as well as on behalf of the League of Women Voters, Hospice, the YMCA, Mount Carmel Women’s Auxiliary, and the Santa Barbara Mission.
In 1974, Charlotte was widowed, later marrying Leonard Gluck, with whom she enjoyed almost twenty-three years of continued travel and adventure. Widowed again in 1997, Charlotte returned to school, and at the age of 70, flew with her UCSB classmates to participate in an archeological dig in Ireland, where she met John “Jack” Nelson, whom she married in Texas in August of 1999.
Her love of travel and reading inspired her children and grandchildren to also have similar goals and dreams, and her generous spirit motivated all who knew her well to want such feelings of altruism and giving to be a part of their personality.
Charlotte brought her enjoyment of life to the many picnics, BBQ’s, holiday gatherings, parties and other festivities she shared with her loved-ones, including her extended Biddle and Cordero families.
Her sense of humor, commitment to just causes, and her consistently insightful commentary will be missed by many and cherished always.
She is survived by her five sons – Robert Rabe, Paul Rabe (Cheryl Gunter), Christopher Rabe (Annette Cordero), John Rabe, and Warren Rabe(Christy); also, 11 grandchildren and step-grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren. She was predeceased by her brothers – Warren, Gordon, and Rick Biddle, as well as her three husbands – Robert E. Rabe, Leonard Gluck, and John “Jack” Nelson.
Charlotte’s family would like to give special thanks to the Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care for their compassionate support in her final days.
The family would also like to acknowledge our gratitude and appreciation for all the staff at Alexander Gardens where Charlotte spent her final years. Their loving care and genuine affection for Charlotte gave her and our family great peace of mind, knowing she was happy and engaged.
A memorial mass will be celebrated outdoors at the Santa Barbara Mission on Aug. 21 at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Santa Barbara YMCA or the Heart Association.