January 10th would have been the 100th birthday of our recently departed friend, Baroness Leni Fe Bland. In addition to her patronage of the arts in our community, Leni was a tremendous friend to the men and women attempting recovery at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. Her involvement extended beyond just giving generously of her resources; her heart and concern were clearly evident in the effort she made to interact with our residents and hear their stories.
Despite her visibility in our community, Leni was a modest and private person. Perhaps nothing evinces this more than her specific instruction that no memorial services be held after her passing. As insistent as she may have been on not sharing personal information, a noticeable exception to this over the last year was the approach of her milestone birthday. She was very excited and made no secret of it. I’m not sure I can recall a recent conversation that did not include her mention of turning 100 on January 10th. While her passing on December 14th might be viewed with dismay over falling just a few weeks short, this is rightly overshadowed by the remarkable life she led and the thousands of lives she impacted as a compassionate philanthropist and concerned member of our community. Although she was not able to experience the celebration, she is still deserving of a birthday tribute.
Happy Birthday and rest in peace, Leni!