Barbara Joan Kaplan

Date of Birth

December 18, 1936

Date of Death

August 15, 2021

Barbara Joan Kaplan passed away peacefully on August 15, 2021, after a valiant struggle with lung cancer, surrounded by her loving and devoted family.

Drawn to people in an almost magnetic way, she was a force of nature and an inspiration to everyone who shared her life. Simply said, to know Barbara was to love her, to appreciate her boundless energy, her great zest for life, and her endless ability to share from the heart. She gave and received love deeply and gloried in her family and friends.

Barbara was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 18, 1936, to Lottie and Nathan Gradman. Her cherished twin sisters Ilene and Sandy was born April 5, 1939. Unfortunately, the three girls had to overcome a very painful and difficult unsettled childhood when their mother became ill and was frequently hospitalized. The Gradman Girls were separated from each other at times and struggled mightily. But they supported each other, forged an iron-clad bond, and somehow beat the odds.

Barbara’s positive energy and undaunted spirit enabled her to charge ahead, and that she did. She married young, became the proud mother of three sons, Lee, Kenny, and Glenn, and eventually moved to California where she raised her boys as a single mother when her marriage ended. Showing remarkable strength and determination to achieve her dream of a college education, she attended College of Marin and eventually earned a PhD in Psychology at University of California, Berkeley. Barbara also taught at Antioch University, Santa Barbara in their Clinical Psychology program. Not finished yet, she went on to a post-graduate degree in Behavioral Medicine at Harvard University. From 2005 to 2020 Barbara achieved great success and satisfaction working at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara in the Trauma Center’s Substance Use Evaluation team, and the Addiction Consult service. Her adoring colleagues considered her “one of the most talented, respected and loved members of the Cottage team”. Smart, sensitive and “lovingly direct” she impacted many and helped save lives – a well chosen profession indeed!

After two more marriages, she finally found her greatest happiness with a cherished old friend, Len Kaplan, who was the true love of her life.

Barbara had an insatiable curiosity that led her on a road to discovery. She always felt comfortable in the natural world and when she discovered the grandeur and beauty of Yosemite – she was hooked. After many trips it became a refuge – a place to renew herself. But there were other adventures and places to discover with Len, and they became ardent travelers and energetic hikers, full of enthusiasm exploring new cultures and making new friends. One of her friends said Barbara gave her “permission to see the wonder of love and the passion of discovery”. For Barbara, every trip was “one of the best ever “. Always drawn to the arts, over the years they acquired an impressive collection of art from the many countries they visited.

Barbara was a full participant in a life of giving and sharing. She gave her time and talent to many organizations and was part of a “Women’s Fund”, that enables women to combine their charitable gifts into significant grants to help women. Her love of food translated into her charitable work. She and Len volunteered at Food from the Heart, a non-profit that prepares and delivers food to those in need. Throughout her life she was a voracious reader, and actively participated in not just one, but two Book Clubs. Movies also captivated her, and Barbara and Len were veteran volunteers at the annual Santa Barbara Film Festival.

Barbara always paid attention to the best things life offered her. She treasured her family and friends most of all – they were her lifeline and she was always there to love and nourish each and everyone. Not one to turn away from troubles, if she couldn’t fix things, she offered comfort and support, and when necessary, used her impressive negotiating skills to solve the problem. When engaged in political discourse, she was an informed force to be reckoned with and, surely, converted many of her adversaries.

All those who were lucky enough to know Barbara were not only blessed, but more likely to live happy, vibrant, and inspired lives, just as she did – a truly priceless gift. She will never be forgotten.

Barbara is survived by her husband Len Kaplan, her son’s Lee Kaplan, Kenny Kaplan and Glenn & Bianca Kaplan, her stepchildren Debbie Kaplan & Jeff Hoffman, David & Julie Kaplan, and Jo and David Gartenberg, her ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, her two sisters, Ilene &  spouse Leslie Epstein, and Sandy Gradman & spouse Larry McKenna, and two nephews and three nieces.

A Celebration of Life Memorial Service was held on August 19 in Santa Barbara. In memory of Barbara, contributions can be made to the Hospice of Santa Barbara and VNA Health Santa Barbara. Her family and friends deeply appreciate the extraordinary care and comfort both organizations provided Barbara and will be forever grateful.

Barbara’s Poem

So, this is how it all ends,
You work, you strive, you do your best
You love your family and your friends,
You live your life with zest.

No matter what, your time will come,
There is no cheating the deadly one
So, make your peace and go with grace
Who knows, it might be a better place.

Barbara Kaplan
July 1, 2021


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