Barnard “Barney” Valeska, DDS
Barney or “Dr. V” left this world quickly and unexpectedly doing one of things he loved best: booking a flight for next adventure. His love of travel was a constant in his life and one that originated with his father, an American Airline mechanic, whose job came with free flight passes for his family.
Barney was born and raised in Torrance, CA to Melvyn and Neysa Valeska, the youngest of their three sons. Barney had known from a young age he wanted to be a dentist. He graduated high school a year early and enrolled at Fresno State where he discovered one of his lifelong passions: Yosemite National Park.
Ever the wanderer, Barney attended UCLA, SF State and Bodega Marine Lab before graduating from UC Berkeley and then UCSF Dental School. During this time he became a Universal Life Minister and took great joy in the more than 75 weddings he performed for friends and family.
In 1983, he opened his own practice at El Mercado Plaza with hygienist Sandra Azar. Hygienist Wendi Tarr joined them in 2000 and they have been a fixture there for almost 40 years. He thought of his staff and patients as his extended family and he cared deeply about their well being.
He worked hard in the early years and lived frugally but he always had time for one or two epic trips including flying around the world, hiking safaris in Africa and biking across America.
In true Santa Barbara fashion, he met his wife, Gabriella, at Joe’s Cafe in 1995 and they married on July 4, 1996. He said he picked the date so he would never forget it, but really it was for the fireworks. Barney loved a spectacle and was a regular in local parades including Solstice, Fiesta and July 4th.
The couple welcomed daughter Geneva in 1999 and son Zane in 2002. Barney pivoted to fully embrace fatherhood, cutting back his work week to 3 days a week so he could spend more time raising his children. As they grew, he became a fixture at their schools making new friends along with them. Not a day went by that he didn’t tell them he loved them. Watching them grow up was his greatest joy and seeing them reach adulthood was the accomplishment of his life.
Barney made every day and year count. He loved his family, friends, traveling, many hobbies and toys. He loved the home he bought in 1991 on the Mesa and his neighbors who shared many of his adventures in fatherhood and happy hour.
This year has been so challenging but Barney found renewed energy in his practice and connection with patients as well as a trip to Croatia. His frustration with social distancing was balanced by the extra time he got to have with his college age children at home.
While COVID means we can’t gather in a large group to celebrate his life, Barney would be honored if you raised a glass in his name, shared a joke with a friend or hiked one of Santa Barbara’s many beautiful trails.