Joan Jacobs

City of Death

Santa Barbara

Joan Jacobs passed away in July, 2021 after battling pancreatic cancer. True to her nature, she fought valiantly, and kept her positive attitude throughout. Caretakers and medical personnel frequently commented on her hopeful spirit and the kindness she showed, even through extreme pain and discomfort. Her oft-repeated phrase was “Nothing is so bad that it couldn’t be worse.” She spent her final days at Serenity House being cared for by the compassionate hospice staff. Her daughter Rebecca and son-in-law Mark Roling were at her side when she died.

Joan was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1937 to John and Della, their second child after older brother Jack. Joan had over 40 first-cousins sprinkled throughout Illinois and Wisconsin. She attended Cornell College in Iowa for two years until meeting Robert (Bob) Jacobs through her brother Jack. As was ordinary back in those early years, she left college to marry Bob in 1957. They had one daughter, Rebecca, in 1962. What was not ordinary was that Joan became the main breadwinner of the family, supporting the family as a librarian while Bob was in medical school.

The family moved to Santa Barbara, CA in 1974 where Bob began the first undergraduate pharmacology program in the US at University of California, Santa Barbara. Joan also worked at UCSB in the Marine Sciences Department and Polymer Institute in the Physics Department.

Beginning in Illinois, and continuing for several years after moving to Santa Barbara, Joan suffered from agoraphobia, a panic disorder that kept her from driving and caused debilitating fear of public places. After much hard work and finally finding effective medical care, she overcame this condition, which shaped her attitude of never giving up, and staying active and engaged in the community. She was proud to share her story when it gave hope to others who were suffering from the condition she triumphed over.

Joan was an active volunteer and philanthropist. She co-chaired the Planned Parenthood Book Fair in the 1970s, she was active in the Faculty Womens’ Club at UCSB, she served on the board of the Santa Barbara Genealogy Society, and also served on the board of the Santa Barbara Symphony League. She and Bob were passionate patrons of the arts and supported Music Academy of the West and Santa Barbara Symphony.

Joan truly found her voice through literature and writing classes she first took through Santa Barbara City College’s Adult Education programs, and continued through Vistas Lifelong Learning. She found a particular passion for poetry, and was published in several anthologies. She also self-published a collection of her poems, “Verses and Images.”

Joan is survived by her daughter Rebecca Roling and son-in-law Mark Roling, nephews David Rossdeutcher and Gerald Wasson, nieces Pamela Benadiba and Kathleen Hartin.

Friends and family of Joan are invited to join her loved ones at a Santa Barbara Symphony concert and reception, Sunday January 16th, with the concert beginning at 3pm at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, followed by a reception in the theater’s Founders Room. Complimentary concert tickets will be provided, please RSVP here:

To remember Joan, please consider a donation to Santa Barbara Symphony or Serenity House (VNA Health).


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