Kenneth Darrel Pierskalla

Date of Birth

October 29, 1941

Date of Death

September 4, 2023

On September 4, 2023, Kenneth Pierskalla extraordinary spirit ascended and left behind a body that refused to cooperate because of Alzheimer’s.  This was a man who devoted his life to the happiness and well-being of his family and dear friends, from near and afar, who meant the world to him.  He passed away peacefully in his sleep in Santa Barbara, the beautiful place he called home for more than 50 years.

Ken was born in Minneapolis on October 29, 1941, to mother Eva Pierskalla and father Edward Pierskalla.  In 1964, he received his BS in Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.  It was during his enrollment that Ken served in the United States Air Force ROTC, and he accepted his first military assignment as a 2nd Lieutenant at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.  On August 8, 1964, he married Betty McKee of Robbinsdale, Minnesota.  It was in Dayton that Ken and Betty were blessed with the birth of their son Brian on May 12, 1965.

Ken was honorably discharged from the USAF as a Captain in February of 1968.  His exemplary Air Force service and experience cleared the runway for a resplendent career at Raytheon Technologies, where Ken would ultimately contribute his brilliant engineering and problem-solving skills for 46 years.

His first assignment at Raytheon was as a Systems Analyst, and he and his family moved to Winchester, Massachusetts.  On September 2, 1970, their daughter Nicole was born.  Ken continued to quench his thirst for higher education while living in the Boston area, and he earned his MBA at Northeastern University.

In 1972, Ken accepted a promotion within Raytheon, and he and his family made one last move to Santa Barbara, California.  It was here in Santa Barbara that their daughter Kendra was born on August 23, 1975. As he and his family relished dropping roots in Santa Barbara, a place with such spectacular natural beauty and fantastic year-round weather, Ken evolved into more of a specialized expert in the defense industry.  One of his more extensive assignments involved much travel to England, and he was accompanied by Betty whenever possible.

Ken was a spiritual man, and he and Betty were involved as loving members at St. Anthony’s Seminary in Santa Barbara.  His faith always played a considerable role in his life, and he treasured his relationships formed with the community of St. Anthony’s; at one time using his income tax knowledge to help make St. Anthony’s a nonprofit, and other times making the huge salad contributions to St. Anthony’s  monthly Transition House dinner.

Busy as he was with his career, he always found time for his children and was determined to be the best father in the world.  Ken followed each child through the YMCA program of Indian Guides/Princesses, and then also the 4-H Youth Development Program, where he became the 4-H Santa Barbara County leader for 10 years.  He went out of his way to attend school events ranging from band concerts to swim meets, and he was always so supportive in every way of Betty’s growing piano studio.  Ken was instrumental in making sure that all three of his children completed their college educations, and that they were prepared for success as adults after leaving his protective nest.

As for hobbies and other interests, Ken stayed busy.  He furthered his own education once again and became certified and licensed to help others with income tax preparation.  He enjoyed seeing tax clients until 2017.  Ken was also a talented sculptor, gifting each of his three children unique marble masterpieces that they will cherish forever.  His pieces were frequently in galleries around Santa Barbara.

Ken was always pleased to share his knowledge, and he showcased his story-telling expertise by volunteering as a docent for both the historic Santa Barbara Courthouse and Amtrak – the latter a dream come true given his life-long love for trains.  His passports collected many foreign stamps over the years.  Memorable travel later in life included visits to all his and Betty’s ancestral origins including Poland, England, Ireland, and Norway – meeting many distant and gracious relatives along the way.

Greetings with Ken were often accompanied by mutual laughter and lung-squashing bear hugs, and friends and family were often used as Guinea pigs to test out his latest repertoire of jokes and puns.  Through it all, Ken was the epitome of both class and humanity, loving the world in which he lived, and he will be deeply missed by his family, his friends, and all who were fortunate enough to have known him.

Ken is survived by his wife of 59 years, Betty Joan Pierskalla, children Brian Pierskalla (Christine Wampler), Nicole (Chris) Duval, and Kendra (Kevin) Dake.  Grandchildren Colin, Camille, and Samson brought much joy to Ken’s life.  The Minnesota Connection includes Ken’s sister, Jeanne Kenton and siblings-in-law Pat Gustafson, Jim McKee (Don Untiedt), and Becky (Mark) Danberg, and nieces/nephews Monica Kenton (Brad Gudim), Damon (Joanna) Kenton, David (Jen) Gustafson, Kim Gustafson, and Steven (Kaytee) Brose.  Also surviving Ken are life-long friends Mike and Nancy Miller and their children Brad, Jenny, and Amy.

A celebration of Kenneth Pierskalla’s amazing life will be held Sunday, October 15 at 10:00 AM, at the St. Anthony’s chapel, 2300 Garden Street, in Santa Barbara.  Parking is limited – car pooling would be so appreciated.

In Lieu of flowers the family requests a donation in Ken’s name to the Alzheimer’s Association.


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