One of Santa Monica’s best-known philanthropic leaders passed away recently, but her name lives on in the community thanks to a lifetime of community service.
Susan Barrett, of Barrett’s Appliances, died earlier this month from Parkinson’s disease and while many locals shopped at the shop she ran with her husband Pete, others may also recognize her name from her generous work in the community.
Born to Julian and Amada Jimenez on December 16, 1938 at their dining room table in Lincoln Heights, Susan was the oldest of three children to her brother Julian Jr. and sister Juanita. She attended Lady Help Of Christian School in Los Angeles, Sacred Heart Academy, and Holy Names College in Oakland, California, where she majored in education and Spanish. Her deep love of learning led her to continue her education at St. Mary’s College. Joseph in Orange; Queen of the Holy Rosary College at Mission San Jose; Loyola University; Pepperdine University; and CSU Long Beach.
Friends said Susan will be remembered for her strength of character, her genuine belief in people and the unwavering way in which she was committed to recognizing excellence and supporting the journeys of others. As a nun, educator, philanthropist, friend and family member, she always proceeded with generosity and thoughtfulness.
From childhood, Susan wanted to become a nun and manifested that reality with such conviction and faith that it went into all aspects of her life. In 1958, she entered the Dominican Sisters of San Jose. During her 18 years at the convent, Susan taught in elementary schools in San Jose, Los Angeles, and Portland, where she also worked as a principal.
After leaving the convent in 1975, Susan moved to Santa Monica and was employed as a first grade teacher for the Santa Monica School District.
There she met her husband Pete Barrett. When Susan’s students wanted to build a post office for the classroom, Susan went to Barrett’s Appliances on Main Street, where Pete made sure to deliver the necessary materials; basically, a large refrigerated cardboard box.
It was the beginning of a lifetime of creative collaboration and 23 healthy years of marriage.
She has left a legacy that reflects the utmost care she poured into the many communities she served throughout her life.
With Pete, she created and maintained a life constantly driven by humanitarian concerns. She volunteered primarily with the YMCA; Santa Monica College Foundation; American Heart Association; National Conference of Christians and Jews; Santa Monica/Malibu Education Foundation; Santa Monica Family Service; Health and Peer Counseling Center; and the Santa Monica Heritage Museum, among many other organizations.
After Pete’s death, Susan continued her work and was very involved in establishing the Foundation Stone of Women’s Leadership at St. Monica’s Parish.
The couple’s name still hangs in the Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery at SMC.
A member of the SMC Foundation Board of Directors, Susan was recognized for her hard work on the SMC Foundation’s capital campaign.
“Each year, the Barrett Gallery at Santa Monica College showcases the work of professional artists as well as budding student talent,” said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn Jeffery. “Gallery participants come enthusiastically from all over the Los Angeles metropolitan area and beyond, and it is the generosity and vision of Pete & Susan Barrett that made this possible. We are truly sorry to hear of Suzanne’s passing. Here at SMC, Pete and Susan’s light will continue to shine for years to come.
As dedicated as Susan was to her work in the community, she and Pete found time to enjoy their free time. They both played golf regularly as members of MountainGate Country Club, forming many close friendships there, while also traveling to world-renowned courses to test their skills. They enjoyed seeing the world and built wonderful memories from their travels. Susan, also a legendary and generous hostess, was known for her delicious and beautiful dinners.
Susan Barrett is survived by her sister Juanita Jimenez, as well as her nephews Julian, Brian and Andrew Jimenez.
A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. at St. Monica Catholic Community, 701 California Ave., on Friday, September 2. A reception will follow the service in the pavilion adjacent to the church.
In lieu of flowers, please make memorial contributions to Sacred Heart of Jesus High School Scholarship Funds, 2111 Griffin Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90031.
Diane Margolin and Juanita Jimenez contributed to this story.