Greti Unterthiner Croft

Date of Birth

December 5, 1942

Date of Death

August 12, 2020

City of Death

Santa Barbara

Greti Unterthiner Croft, a mother, dear friend to many, teacher, entrepreneur, and philanthropist passed away peacefully, having succumbed to cancer on August 12, 2020, surrounded by loved ones, after an extraordinarily rich life filled with friendship, love, and adventure.

Greti was born in 1942 in Vipiteno, a village in the Italian Alps near the Austrian border, the youngest of 5 siblings. She grew up speaking both Italian and German and later earned her teaching degree, which she put to great use throughout her life as a natural “professoressa.” As a young lady, Greti was a talented skier and tennis player, and spent much of her free time hiking throughout the Dolomites.

In 1964, Greti immigrated to the US, where she married her first love, Dr. Armand Croft Jr. The young couple moved to San Francisco, where Greti gave birth to her two sons, Armand III and Ewan. When she wasn’t being a mom, Greti taught both of her native languages to adults at San Francisco City College, where she met many of her cherished life-long friends. She also built and ran an immersive language school in the Trinity Alps in Northern California.

In the late 60’s, Greti’s brother Rudi introduced her to a small fishing village on the Baja peninsula of Mexico called Puertecitos, where she purchased a small and very rustic home, complete with an outhouse. This humble casa overlooking the Sea of Cortez was her paradise, where she enjoyed many wonderful experiences with her family and friends.

Greti worked tirelessly over many decades to build and run her thriving real estate business, facing the many challenges of a woman business owner along the way. She was not only successful in building a substantial enterprise, but did so with integrity, decency, and respect for everyone she dealt with.

Later in life, Greti married her second husband, Dr. Murray Elman, with whom she lived happily in Santa Barbara until his passing in 2005. They enjoyed amazing adventures and spent their summers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, driving over 2,000 miles to get there in Murray’s old VW Vanagon camper. Murray’s courage throughout these journeys must be admired, for Greti was a very Italian driver, which could be a harrowing experience for her passengers.

Beyond those whose lives she touched directly, Greti dedicated herself to improving the world for future generations. She invested in solar power for her large properties at great cost to herself, reducing their carbon emissions and providing free electricity to many of her tenants. She took personal interest in her tenants and employees, treating them with astounding generosity. Greti also made philanthropic contributions to education and the environment, including to the UCSB Environmental Leadership Incubator.

Intelligent, irreverent, and outspoken, Greti was a woman of depth and character with a sharp mind and keen wit. She lived life on her terms and often circumvented the societal and cultural stereotypes and limits imposed on women of her generation. She had a lust for life, a deep philosophical curiosity, and a love of the arts and culture. She was open to progressive ideas and adventures. She was equally comfortable attending Burning Man or the Opera. We like to think of her now swimming with the dolphins in the Sea of Cortez, hosting a scrumptious dinner party, or enjoying her favorite Verdi Opera. She modeled gratitude and a joyful appreciation for each day. Thinking of how she lived her life is an inspiration to those who loved her, she will be greatly missed.

Greti is survived by her two sons Armand and Ewan, daughter-in-law Devon, two grandchildren Isabella and Rowan, her brother Rudi and two sisters Erika and Resi, her beloved sister-in-law Lynda, nieces Robyn, Pilar, Monica, Karen, and Ruth, her nephew Shane, her step-daughter Ali, and step-son Keenan.

Due to Covid 19 and in reverence to Greti’s practical nature, there will be no singular in-person celebration of life. Instead, please enjoy a meal with loved ones and laugh heartily. Enjoy a glass of wine and toast a compassionate lion who lived life to the fullest. Give those close to you a long and loving hug. Give your spouse or partner a beautiful kiss. And in all instances, tell them you love them.

Ciao mamma, mia Domenica, Signora, amica, professoressa… ci vidiamo presto.

In lieu of sending flowers, please make a charitable donation to a cause that is special to you in the name of Greti U. Croft.


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