Doris Sosin was many things — an activist, a preservationist, a tree lover, a witness of the Pearl Harbor attacks, a folk art collector, a neighborhood advocate and a force of nature.

Those who look closely will be able to see her legacy across every corner of Santa Monica.

It is in the enduring presence of historic landmarks, thanks to her lobbying to prevent a weakening of the Landmark Ordinance. It is in the preservation of North of Montana neighborhood family homes thanks to a zoning ordinance she rallied support around. It is in the lasting arts education programming in local schools and Santa Monica College, thanks to the dollars she generously gave. And, it is in the passing of community knowledge on Santa Monica’s historic places, thanks to the Conservancy she wisely founded.

“She was like a maverick: filled with big ideas and expert at recruiting people to get them carried out,” said Santa Monica Conservancy Board Member and friend Nina Fresco. “She was warm and engaging and forthright. When she gave you your marching orders you did it and you knew you could do it and it was inspirational in a way that kept us going for a long time.”

Sosin was an expert at getting things done. She had an encyclopedic knowledge of how the City functions and was always encouraging her friends to join Boards and Commissions so they could gain the know-how and relationships to be able to shape the future of their community.

“She had a can-do attitude about things and if you came to her and said ‘such and such is happening’ she would immediately be like ‘How can we help? Do you need money? Do you need advocacy? How can we best tackle this?’,” said founding member of the Conservancy and friend Lori Nafshun. “She had an immense knowledge about how to get things accomplished and she was incredibly generous.”

Sosin’s accolades and titles are lengthy: the founder of the North of Montana Neighborhood Association, Co-founder of the Santa Monica Conservancy, Urban Forest Task Force Member, Recreation and Parks Commissioner and Textiles Curator at the Skirball Cultural Center. She was recognized as one of the women who shaped Santa Monica by the League of Women Voters, granted a President’s Award by the Conservancy, and honored by the Conservancy at its 2019 Spirit of Preservation Gala.

“She was such an inspiring person to be with. She had a very positive outlook and was very embracing of other people and different ways of looking at the world,” said Conservancy Board Member and friend Ruthann Lehrer. “She had a radiant smile and a spark about her that was just delightful to be with and she was always seeking new adventures, new experiences and to live her life to the fullest.”

Sosin had an adventure-filled childhood, which at times required great bravery and fortitude. The daughter of a Navy admiral, she was constantly on the move while growing up and lived all over the United States.

At the age of ten she was a first person witness to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor as this is where her father was stationed at the time. Following the attack, Sosin had one day’s notice to flee the island home she had come to adore. She braved a 13 day crossing back to America on an overpacked military vessel that constantly had to shift directions to avoid Japanese submarines, prepare for air raids and submarine attacks and use blackout lights to avoid detection.

Following the war, Sosin’s father was reassigned to Hawaii and Sosin lived there again at age sixteen before completing high school and attending Hood College in Maryland. She later relocated to Southern California and went on two earn two master’s degrees in art and education from UCLA.

She worked for many years as a devoted elementary school teacher for LAUSD and continued to donate her time and money to arts education programs for many years following her retirement.

Sosin died on Jan. 21 at the age of 90 and is survived by her daughters Leah Fischer and Jessica Davies; Noah, Lauren, Jeremy, Louis and Jackson; and her great grandchildren Maya, Lily, Hannah and Sophie.

Clara@smdp.com