Gilbert “Curly” Calzada

Date of Birth

December 20, 1961

Date of Death

January 27, 2021

On December 20, 1961, in Santa Barbara, California, Lydia Robles gave birth to a baby boy and named him Gilbert Edward Calzada, after his father, Gilbert Anthony Calzada. Days later when they returned home from the hospital, his grandfather, Jesus Robles, took Gilbert into his arms and held his tiny hands in his own. “These are the hands of an artist,” he said. And so they were.

Gilbert, known to most as Curly, grew up in Carpinteria and moved to Santa Barbara after graduating from Carpinteria High School. He went on to attend Santa Barbara City College, where he played on the Vaqueros football team. He discovered his passion for art at age 9, and began his career as a tattoo artist at the age of 16. He painted murals, did cloth drawings, and used various other mediums, but only tattooing combined his love of people with his drive to create. His work days consisted of venturing out, striking up conversations with strangers, and making lifelong friends whom he collaborated with to create personally meaningful, original designs. There are thousands of people walking around the planet that have his art proudly etched into their skin.

Spending time with Curly was like attending a special event. He would sit in the midst of his art supplies and vast music collection, DJ’ing and telling stories, “bagging,” or acting out his favorite moments from Cheech and Chong and Bruce Lee movies. He wasn’t short on passions or interests. He was a dedicated member of the Raider Nation, loved to play basketball, and for years he played in dart leagues in Hawaii.

Extroverted as he was, Curly was also a good listener, known for being compassionate and kind. He enjoyed teaching and mentoring young people, and small children were drawn to “Uncle Curly” because he was so sweet, funny, and genuinely interested in their quirks and personalities. He stood 6’0″ tall, was sturdily built, and covered in tattoos. Yet Curly only demonstrated how intimidating he could be when someone he loved needed his protection. Those of us who knew him count ourselves blessed for having been on the receiving end of his unconditional love and friendship.

Curly was a man of faith and his relationship with God only deepened throughout the years. It was a shock to us all when the Lord called him home on January 27th, 2021, but we anxiously await the day that we will be with him once again.

He is survived by his only daughter, whom he adored: Ashley Cuevas Cruz, and her husband Erick, his four grandchildren: Monica Rojas, Erick, Avianna and Annalise Cruz; His beloved mother, Lydia Daniel; his siblings: James and Paul Contreras, Dolores Daniel, and Yvonne Avila-Gildea; and his nieces and nephews: Paul David Chu, Dominique Razo, Isabelle Andrews, Jaden Contreras, and Sienna and Shane Gildea.

Details regarding any services will be shared on Curly’s Facebook page.


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