Barbara Burgess

Date of Birth

June 20, 1937

Date of Death

November 1, 2022

City of Death

Santa Barbara, CA

Barbara Jean Burgess (née Merrifield) was a beloved mother, grandmother, sister, and friend who graced us all with her generous, effervescent, and creative presence. Barbara was born in Santa Barbara to parents Rev. Glenn and Auda Merrifield. She enjoyed a sweet childhood alongside brother Edward “Heyoka” Merrifield, living in Ojai and eventually East Los Angeles where she was a proud majorette at Paramount High School.

She went to Knapp College of Nursing in Santa Barbara and worked in labor and delivery, where she adored taking care of newborns. While a nurse at Cottage Hospital she met Dr. Leonard Burgess whom she married in 1958. The next year, she gave birth to her son Leonard Brent, followed by her daughter Beth Anne. Barbie loved being a mother and homemaker, and while raising her children in Santa Barbara, Barbie was celebrated for her many social and philanthropic pursuits, hosting glamorous parties and events that are treasured memories for those who attended.

She had a passion for the arts and supported several local artists, as well as her brother Heyoka’s career as a sculptor and jeweler, avidly collecting and promoting their work. She served as President of the Board at the Lobero Theatre and was an influential member of the Junior League of Santa Barbara. As a passionate world traveler, Barbie visited six continents and prioritized exploring beautiful places all over the world with family and friends.

Once her children grew into adults, Barbie made the courageous decision to become an independent woman and begin a new venture as an Interior Decorator. In what became a substantially successful business, Barbie worked with clients throughout Santa Barbara and all over the country, creating elevated spaces that felt equally elegant and comfortable at the same time.

Upon becoming a grandmother, she moved to Carpinteria to be close to her daughter and son-in-law Matt Thomas as she helped raise her granddaughter Melanie, with whom she had a profoundly close bond. Her influence was monumental in not only her granddaughter’s life but also the whole family’s lives. She is survived by her son, Brent, her son-in-law Matt, her granddaughter Melanie Monaco, her great-grandson Aurelio, and her nieces Isis, Willow, and Star. Her generosity left an unforgettable imprint in all of our hearts.

Barbie’s memorial will be held on January 29th at 2pm at The Lobero Theater Courtyard. RSVPs and messages may be sent to


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