Wanda Evelyn Michalik Livernois

Date of Birth

November 9, 1938

Date of Death

November 15, 2022

Wanda Evelyn Michalik Livernois passed away November 15, 2022, from the effects of an age-related illness. She spent the last year of her life in Salem, Oregon, near family.

Wanda was born in her grandmother’s home in Detroit, Michigan, November 9, 1938, the last of four children of Joseph and Hedwig Michalik, both Polish immigrants. Typical of many Depression-era families, the house sheltered a different branch of the family on each floor. With the house becoming crowded after her birth, her family moved to a new home in nearby Dearborn, where Wanda attended parochial grammar school. Freshman year of high school was spent at St. Joseph’s Academy, a girls’ boarding school in Adrian, Michigan. When the school year concluded, she informed her parents that “wild horses could not drag me back there,” so the rest of her high-school education took place at Dearborn’s Fordson High School, and she graduated in 1956. She was the first in the family to receive a college degree, earning a BS in Elementary Education from Eastern Michigan University in 1961.

She began her teaching career in the Riverview, Michigan, school district, but she and her good friend Kay Preston decided to relocate to southern California in the early ‘60s. Wanda continued her teaching career in the Los Angeles area and later in Carpinteria, California.

Wanda met Robert Livernois in Los Angeles, and they married in late 1964. Robert was also a Detroit native, who had relocated to California in the 1950s. The Livernois family has long roots in the Detroit area, having immigrated there from France in 1702. In fact, Wanda was born four blocks from Livernois Avenue. Robert and Wanda’s love created a strong union that lasted until his death in 2012.

Wanda and Robert moved to Santa Barbara, in June of 1965. They bought the Victorian cottage at 533 Brinkerhoff and began their successful partnership, which included over the years creating the Brinkerhoff Country Store antiques shop (later Robert Livernois Art & Antiques), acquiring and improving additional property and structures on Brinkerhoff and de la Vina streets, and supporting historic-preservation projects throughout Santa Barbara. Their tenacious efforts for historic preservation were rewarded by having the Brinkerhoff area designated the first Historic District in the City of Santa Barbara; Wanda was especially proud. Also, she, Robert, and Brinkerhoff neighbors championed to have Brinkerhoff Avenue changed from a two-way street to a one-way street—no easy task in the City of Santa Barbara. Wanda carried the torch to the end and the avenue is now a one-way street. Wanda was a regular attendee of civic meeting and hearings, where she would sometimes just sit quietly observing the proceedings while knitting something special; she never hesitated to set down her needles to get up and speak. She was also a recipient of many awards recognizing her historic-preservation efforts.

In 1980, Wanda changed careers. “After some soul-searching, real estate sales beckoned me in 1980,” she said, adding that “[m]ore than anything else, real estate is working with people.” She worked as a real estate agent into the late 2010s and enjoyed great success and satisfaction in that field.

Wanda was an individualist, often ignoring traditional expectations. In her college dormitory, she was denied breakfast one morning for having two clips in her hair, and her response was to draft a petition on the spot to change the rule. She spent the summer of 1959 touring Europe by bicycle, a venture, she admitted, that was ahead of its time. True to form, she confounded her Detroit auto-worker family by making her first vehicle purchase a VW Beetle. Especially surprising to the Michigan clan was her move to California, followed by marrying a man 10 years her senior. Her unique perspective and independent nature made her an inspiring role model to her nieces and nephews and a lively companion to her friends.

Wanda had a passion for many pastimes. A series of poodles kept Wanda and Robert company over the years: Snoopy, Margeaux, Gordon, Toby ( #1 and #2). She was an expert knitter and quilter and was especially adept at traditional hand-piecing, applique, and hand-quilting. She was a long-time member of the Coastal Quilters Guild of Santa Barbara and Goleta. She was a skilled gardener, she filled her yard with ferns, orchids, succulents, and most everything that flourishes in this climate. The natural world was especially appealing to her: she appreciated the waterfalls near her nephew Robert Mitchell’s home in Oregon, a patch of pink lady’s slipper wildflowers her niece Christine Brady found in Walled Lake, Michigan, and—of course–Santa Barbara’s beautiful land- and seascapes. For several years she was a dedicated docent at Lotusland in Montecito, California, and a board member at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Wanda was also known as a terrific cook, and many friends treasure recipes that she generously shared with them. In keeping with her “Buy Local” philosophy, she patronized the various Santa Barbara and Montecito farmer’s markets to gather the freshest ingredients to perfect her recipes and was well-known to the purveyors. Wanda was most comfortable entertaining at home in the Brinkerhoff “compound” she and Robert worked so hard to create, but she also enjoyed the bakeries and cafes in Santa Barbara, sharing a treat and a cappuccino with friends.

Many will remember the topics that sent her into diatribes of complaint: computers, answering machines, and cell phones. She was a determined graffiti-removal volunteer for the Brinkerhoff Avenue area until her last days in the neighborhood.

Wanda was a loyal friend and supportive family member, remembering birthdays and searching—sometimes for years—for the perfect gift. She was a good listener and was equally good at dispensing a quirky mix of advice.

Wanda Livernois was a Santa Barbara icon. Even if you didn’t know her personally, there’s a good chance you benefited from her intelligence, her wit, her kind heart, her tenacity, her generosity, or her civil activism.

Wanda was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Livernois; her parents, Joseph and Hedwig Kancyan; her siblings, Joseph Mitchell, Frances Michalik Niedzwiecki, and Thaddeus Michalik. She is survived by her nieces and nephews: Christine Niedzwiecki Brady, Diane Mitchell, Robert (Cheryl) Mitchell, James (Julie) Mitchell; her sister-in-law Carmen Mitchell; and several distant cousins.

Cremation was conducted by Weddle Funeral Service in Stayton, Oregon. A memorial service and dispersal of ashes will take place at a later date in Santa Barbara; details to be announced. (Contact cbrady@fiberpipe.net for memorial information.) Gifts made in Wanda’s honor may be directed to Lotusland, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, or the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.


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