Susanne House McEwen
Santa Barbara mourns the loss of Susanne House McEwen an active, giving member of the community all of her life, who died after a long and valiant struggle with cancer on March 8, 2022, her son’s birthday. Susanne was a Santa Barbara native, born on January 4, 1938, and clearly loved this city. She attended Dolores School, Santa Barbara Catholic High School, and was a graduate of UCSB where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. After her marriage to Willard McEwen (Bill) at the Old Mission, the newly weds moved to San Francisco where Susanne taught school while Bill went to law school. Once Bill was ready to practice law, they returned to Santa Barbara and Susanne began a life of sharing her many talents with the community as a member of the Junior League while she raised their three children and Bill was a U.S. Magistrate judge.
Susanne created Chambers, Ltd, an interior design and decorating business, which she ran for 30 years.
Casa del Herrero was just one of the recipients of her energy and talent. She was a docent early on and loved not only the house, but the garden, serving as the trainer for new docents among other responsibilities. A master of flower arrangement as well as an avid gardener, she co-chaired the “Andalusian Treasure” Flower Show at Casa del Herrero in 2006 and wove flowers into the activities for docents and for visitors wherever possible
Susanne was an artist whose palette was the garden, so it was natural for her to be active as a member of the Garden Club of Santa Barbara where she served as membership chair, program chair, ways and means co-chair, and president. Her floral designs won awards in every show, and she prided herself on creating them on a shoestring. She was a key organizer of the Art of the Arrangement events, the Garden Club’s collaboration with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
Having lost two children to cancer, Susanne’s true passion was the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center where she dedicated her talent and energy enthusiastically. Susanne was the energizing force behind the Garden Club’s floral design workshops for recovering cancer patients, most of which she taught, and she organized weekly arrangements donated by members of the Garden Club for the Cancer Center reception desk.
Susanne’s crowning achievement, however, was her years-long, tireless, diligent, and against-all-odds efforts to restore the commemorative Olive Grove of 19 “Victory Trees” that our club planted in 1919 to recognize the dead of WWI. She was affronted by the lack of maintenance and overgrowth of the area and wanted to restore it as a place of honor. Taking on the “powers that be”, she attended innumerable city meetings and declared her own personal victory when new trees were planted, and the grove rededicated in 2019. In a touching moment, Susanne went to visit the project after its completion and saw an elderly man placing small American flags on either side of the grove’s commemorative plaque.
Susanne was not an award-seeker. In many ways, she was the conscience of any group she participated in. She did what was right for the community; she preached frugality, simplicity, practicality, and wise use of time and resources.
Her husband Bill and her daughter Allison survive as well as four grandchildren: Ryan and Drew Jacobs, Elizabeth Peck, Madeline McEwen; her brother, Billy House and his wife Candy. Her children Michael and Beth predeceased her.
There will be no memorial service, as per Susanne’s wishes. Family only will have a private graveside remembrance. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to the Elizabeth McEwen Jacobs endowment fund which is dedicated to medical or scientific research related to genetic cancer. A check can be mailed to: Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara, 601 W. Junipero Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 or online donation at: www.cfsb.org.