Russell B. Waldrop
A Renaissance man has passed. Russ Waldrop was truly an eclectic, multi-dimensional character who touched many lives. He was curious. He was stubborn. He was an educator, an environmentalist, a businessman, and a dreamer. He was frugal, handy, and well-learned. He was a son, father, brother, grandfather, uncle, friend, and husband. He was admired and respected and loved. He is missed.
Russell Barry Waldrop was born to Russell Smith and Mary Louise Smith (Hardy) in the closing days of WWII in Monroe, Louisiana, but then grew up in the Pomona area. Rusty was the big brother to three siblings, enjoyed performing in drama and band in high school, and nurtured his interests in areas as diverse as skiing, Spanish, and archeology. After a fun-filled, but non-studious year at UC Berkeley, Russ found his academic passion and ultimately lifelong home in Santa Barbara.
As an undergrad at UCSB, he received a Ford Foundation Grant to study indigenous peoples living near the headwaters of the Amazon River in Peru. At about that same time, Russ was introduced to Marguerite Noto (Bianchi) by a dear and mutual friend, Don Watanabe. They married in 1969 and then took a memorable honeymoon to an archaeological dig in the Peruvian rainforest. All providing Russ with a lifetime of content to add to his gifted storytelling and raconteur skills.
Returning to Santa Barbara, Russ and Marguerite bought a quirky Spanish house that rambled down California Street and became “home” to family and friends over the years. “Mr. Waldrop” taught anthropology at Dos Pueblos High School, engaging students in a real-life dig for Chumash artifacts in a lemon grove next to the school. The young couple also purchased 20 wild acres near the top of Refugio canyon that became Russ’ lifelong obsession and eventual home. Backbreaking work and many memorable parties helped turn “The Shire” into a magical haven fueled by wind, dreams, and memories.
In 1978, Russell and Marguerite welcomed daughter Elizabeth into their lives, and Dad became his new name. Russ resigned from teaching and started a lumber business, Pacific Timber Products. Eventually and amicably, Russ and Marguerite ended their marriage, with Elizabeth always at the center of their mutual lives. Several years later, Russ met and married a wonderful woman, Mimi (Miriam) Navarro and readily welcomed her daughter Mia (Shalhoob/Handley). A new, blended family was born with travel to Mexico and Hong Kong among other interesting pursuits for many years.
More adventures took place up at Refugio, including the establishment of Santa Barbara Heirloom Seedling Nursery, a kiwi grove, continued construction of Russ’ dream house, slow progress, broken tools, and some broken dreams too. Eventually Russ and Mimi parted ways, but remained friends calling and visiting one another for the rest of Russ’ life. Pacific Timber prospered, becoming one of Santa Barbara’s premier resources for high-end doors and windows, and the new name of Grandpa to Wyatt and Crosby, was added to the many titles that Russ proudly embraced.
After living alone at the Refugio ranch for several years, Russ met Pamela (Pam) Nichols and they eventually married. Over many years, they shared a deep spiritual and intellectual connection and created and participated in many meaningful endeavors together. They purchased a second home in Mexico to experience the life of ex-pats in the vibrant and historic town of San Miguel de Allende. Pam supported Russ through his major life transitions of closing his business, selling his ranch, and moving off the land that he tended lovingly for 44 years to establish a new home in Ojai. Pam has been a loving, nurturing and supportive partner to Russ throughout, and in his battle with lymphoma the past several years. She caringly held his hand as he took his final, freeing breath on the evening of June 6, 2021.
We are saddened to know his feet are no longer touching the ground, but our hearts are filled by knowing he is now one with all. Russ has been such a good and kind-hearted man. He is a huge loss to the planet. He leaves a legacy of conservation, self-sufficiency and environmental consciousness that will last for many generations, inspiring the same in those who walked within his sphere of influence and beyond. As a result, we will think of him often and work to continue his legacy.
We are all far richer for his dreams and stories and touch. Russ leaves his wife Pam along with her son Jon, wife Blaga and their sons Odin and Soren; daughter Elizabeth, husband Nate and their sons Wyatt and Crosby; brothers Greg (Allyson), Mark (Jami) and sister Suzi (son Joe) along with a host of extended family and precious, adoring friends.
A Celebration for Russ will take place on Saturday, June 26, at 3 pm in Santa Barbara. Please call or text 805-895-1467 for details. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Russ’ honor to the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, Community Environmental Council, or The Ridley Tree Cancer Center.