Claire Louise Parent
It is with heavy hearts and with the joy of a lifetime of memories that we announce the passing of Claire Louise Parent, who died peacefully on January 26th, 2023, at Casa Dorinda in Santa Barbara, California.
Claire was born on April 22, 1933, the third of four children to Frank and Mae Smith in San Mateo, California, a few miles south of San Francisco.
Claire graduated from Mercy High School in Burlingame before enrolling at U.C. Santa Barbara. Claire was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and graduated in 1955 with a degree in speech therapy. While in college, Claire was set up on a blind date with Jerry Parent, a Santa Barbara resident and UCLA student, and, ultimately, the love of her life.
Claire and Jerry married in 1955 and soon after moved to Oahu, Hawaii, so Jerry could finish his active duty in the Army. They lived at Schofield barracks, the army base made famous a few years earlier when the movie From Here To Eternity was filmed on site. It was there that Claire and Jerry welcomed their daughter, Colleen, into the world.
After Jerry completed his service, the young Parent family moved to San Francisco so Jerry could finish his law degree at Hastings Law School. Upon Jerry passing the bar exam, the family moved to Santa Barbara where Claire and Jerry would raise their family which would grow to include Jay and Julia. While raising the children Claire was active in her community, particularly the Junior League where she would help organize fund drives as well as perform in the campy Junior League follies at the Lobero theater, raising money to benefit the community – the plays really brought out Claire’s inner actress!
With her children now in their teens, Claire became a top real estate agent for Pitts & Bachman realtors in Montecito. For nearly 30 years, Claire helped hundreds of clients, including many cultural icons, navigate the often treacherous waters of real estate negotiations before her retirement in 2005.
In 1979, Claire found her dream house; a Carlton Winslow designed spanish/mediterranean home on the Upper East side of Santa Barbara. It was here that for the next 40 years Claire would entertain friends and celebrate family with countless cocktail and dinner parties, receptions, showers and birthday parties. Every Christmas would be enhanced by a sublimely decorated tree, with every gift underneath exquisitely wrapped. Every child’s or grandchild’s birthday or achievement was a special occasion and was cause for a celebratory dinner. And, of course, Sunday night family dinner, a 40 year tradition – and, while not obligatory, you showed up if you could.
Over the years, the Santa Barbara street home would become a dynamic canvas for Claire’s artistic energy. As Claire’s sense of aesthetics evolved, the house and gardens would transform to meet her vision. There was hardly a space, inside or out , that didn’t have Claire’s imprimatur. The home and garden was a neighborhood treasure and often was the inspiration of artists and photographers. Claire’s eclectic appreciation of art was evident throughout the house where one could find abstract expressionism in the same room as local artists’ landscapes, sculptures, funky ceramic figurines and folk art. For every occasion, or no occasion, Claire would have decorative flower arrangements throughout the home, fashioned from materials culled from her own garden, including simple, yet elegant, ikebana creations.
Claire loved her garden and wasn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty. And she loved, more than most things, entertaining her grandchildren there. For the grandchildren, the garden had a fairytale quality, with odd sculptures and figurines nestled throughout, the aroma of blossoming gardenia, jasmine, lavender and plumeria often in the air – it was a special place for her to share with them, to teach them an appreciation of nature and beauty – it even had a secret door to enhance the mystery! There was always a bluebird to feed, or a flower to plant, a weed to pull or a game to be played.
Later in life, Claire and Jerry found time to travel the world. Together, and with friends, they often traveled on tours sponsored by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, visiting and revisiting India, Africa, many European countries, Japan and even Cuba on a special visa, bringing supplies to Cuban artists.
Claire will be remembered by her many friends and family as a woman of great poise, humor, beauty, style and grace. She was a singular force in the lives of all whom she touched, the go-to matriarch if you had to share sorrows or joys. A ubiquitous presence in her children’s and grandchildren’s lives. The love of Jerry’s life, his partner, his best friend, his fellow adventurer on this grand stage. She was unique in how deeply she loved, and how deeply she was loved. We will miss her.
Claire is preceded in death by her parents, her brother Cy, and her sisters Marge & Betty. She is survived by her husband Jerry, her children, Colleen, Julia and Jay, son in laws Will and Stephen, her grandchildren, Nicole, Ryan, Noah and James, Nicole’s husband Rachon, Ryan’s wife Lyndsay, and her four great granddaughters, Cecily(CeCe), Avery, Salina(Lina) and Charlotte Claire.
There will be a celebration of Claire’s life on Saturday, March 4th, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Valley Club of Montecito, 1901 Valley Club Rd, Montecito, Ca, 93108.