Donald and Marina Ziemer

It is with sadness we share the passing of Donald and Marina Ziemer in the first half of 2022. Donald passed away on March 10th after a brief illness, his wife, Marina passed suddenly on April 8th.

Donald was the youngest of three sons born on October 9, 1933 to Fred and Mary Ziemer who ran a successful upholstery shop on Carrillo Street. Don, as he was known to friends and family, attended Dolores School, La Cumbre Jr. High and Santa Barbara High School. Upon graduating from high school, Don joined his eldest brother David at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he earned a BS in Architectural Engineering in 1955 prior to attending Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, he was deployed to Honolulu, Hawaii where he served in the navy as a cartographer before returning to Santa Barbara.

Marina Ziemer (nee Costas) was born on July 7, 1938 to Peter and Meronie Costas in the San Roque neighborhood where the family was soon joined by brother Arthur (Artie) Costas. Marina attended Peabody Elementary, La Cumbre Jr. High and Santa Barbara High School. She participated in many musicals and choral performances including the part of Aline in Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Sorcerer” and Ellie in “Showboat” for the Santa Barbara Civic Opera Association and Madge in “Picnic” for the Santa Barbara Repertory Theater.

Marina held fond memories of the times spent at her parent’s restaurant, Pete’s Café on State Street next door to the Granada Theater. After attending San Mateo College to study music, Marina returned to Santa Barbara where she soon met Donald at East Beach shortly prior to his deployment. A courtship ensued with weekly letters exchanged across the Pacific Ocean leading to their marriage in 1959 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. Daughter Dawn was soon welcomed, followed by Stephanie and later, son John.

As did many local architects of that generation, Don began his career at Arendt, Mosher and Grant Architects, working his way up to Project Architect before joining the firm Kruger Bensen to eventually form Kruger Bensen Ziemer (KBZ), an architectural firm that continues today following in the footsteps of its founders. Don Bensen, the sole surviving founding architect was not only a business partner but was a close friend of Donald’s taking weekly lunches at Joe’s Café. Donald’s long career focused mainly on public sector projects including schools, churches, synagogues, banks and fire stations. He enjoyed working on numerous projects for Santa Barbara City College during a period of growth for the campus.

Marina created a warm and loving household cooking delicious Greek dishes handed down from her mother and Nouna (Godmother). Throughout her life, Marina continued to sing, filling the house with her beautiful soprano voice while either playing the piano or guitar imparting a love of music to her children. Donald and Marina shared a love of dogs that led to the adoption of a cute, scruffy terrier from the Santa Barbara Humane Society they named “Mr. Chips” or Chipper as he became to be known.

Sports was an important part of Donald and Marina’s life. Donald played team sports in both basketball and tennis; Marina’s father Pete was a basketball coach and avid sports enthusiast. Donald took up racquetball in the 70’s and competed in several tournaments including the nationals before returning to tennis. Marina took up tennis in her 40’s and while the couple rarely played together, they each individually enjoyed both the social and physical benefits the game had to offer.

Donald and Marina loved to travel both domestically and abroad visiting most if not every Presidential library and national park. Their trips to Europe, Mexico and Canada were typically accompanied by friends or family with a trip to Greece with Marina’s brother Artie, wife Berit and Don and Vera Bensen as a high point. The group visited Marina and Artie’s grandmother’s village and Marina was able to utilize her second language much to her husband’s delight.

As much as Donald and Marina liked to travel, they always loved to return to their beautiful hilltop home designed by Donald with a city view facing their beloved Santa Ynez Mountains. Their love for Santa Barbara will live on in the legacy of Donald’s buildings and their combined commitment to public education and the performing arts. They are survived by their three children; Dawn (Brett Larsen), Stephanie and John, Marina’s brother Arthur Costas and his wife Berit.

Donald and Marina were dearly loved by their family and friends and are missed immensely. If you would like to honor their memory, please consider a donation to the SBCC Foundation, Santa Barbara Education Foundation, Santa Barbara Opera or a local animal rescue.


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