Ernest J. Pico

Date of Birth

January 1, 1935

Date of Death

December 16, 2022

City of Death

Santa Barbara, CA

Ernest J. Pico went home to be with the Lord, Friday December 16, 2022. He was the first child to be born in Santa Barbara on January 1, 1935 at Cottage Hospital. His parents were Ernest and Georgia Pico and his family is one of the founding families of Santa Barbara.

Ernie was also known as Nini or sometimes Pico. He is preceded in death by his parents and his sisters; Sylvia Morales, Rebecca Jimenez and Georgette Estrada.

He attended local schools and graduated from Santa Barbara High School. He attended San Joaquin Delta College and took courses in religion at the University of Notre Dame.

One of his first jobs was as a gardener, a skill he learned from his dad. He worked at the Poor Clares Monastery in Santa Barbara, caring for their landscaping.

In November 1952, he joined the United States Navy Reserves at San Diego, CA. In November 1956, he went active duty in the Navy and became part of Operation Hardtack on the destroyer, USS De Haven. On the De Haven, Ernie served as a cook. The De Haven was in the Pacific and traveled to Hawaii, Midway, the Bikini Islands, the Philippines, Japan and China. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in November 1960.

Ernie was blessed with talent, energy, and he had many, many friends. He was quick witted, funny, and everybody loved him. He loved meeting and helping people. He was a party person and loved to cook.

He loved to dance and began studying ballet at the DeCotta Civic Ballet school in Santa Barbara in 1962. He studied Spanish Classical and learned to play the castanets very well. He also studied Mexican Folklórico. His dance instructors were; Mrs. Evelyn DeCotta and the Tuttle sisters; Beverly, Tricia and Donna.

Ernie danced professionally with Ballet Guerrero and Los Palomos Mexican dance groups. During Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta, Ernie loved performing and did so at many locations such as the Old Mission Santa Barbara, the Courthouse, Biltmore Hotel, the Coral Casino, Acapulco, El Paseo Restaurant and many private parties and events. Ernie also performed at Mission La Purisima in Lompoc and Mission Sta. Ynez.

Ernie shared his love for dance with others and began teaching in 1966 – 1975 at the DeCotta Civic Ballet School. In 1975 – 1977 he taught Mexican Folklórico at La Casa de la Raza.

Ernie also worked at G.M. Delco Electronics. At Kilovac Corporation and Data Communications. He performed administrative duties and worked in the mail room.

He was a man of great faith and entered the Franciscan order in 1975 at Old Mission Santa Barbara. While in the Franciscan order and between 1979 – 1984 Ernie taught dance at Old Mission San Luis Rey Oceanside, CA. At Pala Reservation in San Diego at Old Mission San Miguel and in Oakland and Stockton, CA. He received a Nursing Assistant Certificate and worked in the infirmary at Old Mission Santa Barbara. He left the order in 1984. During the 1990s he joined the staff at Sansum Clinic in records keeping. He also worked at Costal Copy.

After retiring, he continued to dance and worked as a hospice volunteer. He studied massage therapy and became a certified Massage Therapist. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus. He was also an active member in the Native community, served on the board of the Quabajai Chumash Indian Association and volunteered countless hours bringing them food and clothing.

Ernie was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2019 and Parkinson’s in October of 2022. He lived his last months at the Health Center at Valle Verde in Santa Barbara. He delighted all who came in contact with him and continued to practice his castanets.

He is survived by several loving nieces, nephews and cousins.

A Celebration of Life will be held Friday February 3, 2023 at Old Mission Santa Barbara, 2201 Laguna St. at 11:00 AM. A reception will be held in the Friar’s Lounge immediately following the service. Ernie’s wishes for his final resting place is in the state of Idaho.

Those wishing to honor Ernie’s memory may make a donation in his name to:
The Fraternal Care Trust, Care of Old Mission Santa Barbara, 2201 Laguna St. Santa Barbara, CA 93105 or The Poor Clares Monastery, 215 Los Olivos St. Santa Barbara, CA 93105


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