One of Santa Monica’s best-known philanthropic leaders died recently but her name lives on in the community thanks to a lifetime of community work.
Susan Barrett, of Barrett’s Appliances died earlier this month from Parkinson’s Disease and while many locals shopped from the store she ran with her husband Pete, others may also recognize her name from her generous community work.
Born to Julian and Amada Jimenez on December 16, 1938 on the dining room table in Lincoln Heights, Susan was the eldest of three children proceeding her brother Julian Jr. and sister Juanita. She attended Lady Help Of Christian School in Los Angeles, Sacred Heart Academy, and college of the Holy Names in Oakland, California where she majored in education and Spanish. Her deep love of learning drove her to continue her education at St. Joseph College in Orange; Queen of the Holy Rosary College in Mission San Jose; Loyola University; Pepperdine University; and CSU Long Beach.
Friends said Susan will be remembered for her strength of character, her genuine faith in people, and the steadfast manner in which she dedicated herself to recognizing excellence and supporting the journeys of others. As a nun, an educator, philanthropist, friend, and family member, she proceeded always with generosity and meticulous thoughtfulness.
From childhood, Susan wanted to be a nun and manifested that reality with as much conviction and faith as she went about all aspects of her life. In 1958, she entered Dominican Sisters of San Jose. During the 18 years in the convent, Susan taught in primary schools in San Jose, Los Angeles, and Portland, where she also worked as a principal.
After she left the convent in 1975, Susan moved to Santa Monica and was hired as a first grade teacher for the Santa Monica School District.
It was there that she met her husband Pete Barrett. When Susan’s students wanted to construct a post office for the classroom, Susan went to Barrett’s Appliances on Main Street, where Pete made sure to deliver the necessary materials; mainly, a large refrigerator cardboard box.
It was the beginning of a life time of creative collaboration and 23 wholesome 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 sustained a life consistently driven by humanitarian concern. She volunteered substantially with the YMCA; the Santa Monica College Foundation; the American Heart Association; the National Conference of Christians and Jews; the Santa Monica/Malibu Education Foundation; Family Service of Santa Monica; the Senior 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 the establishment of the Cornerstone of Women’s Leadership at Saint Monica’s Parish.
The couple’s name still sits on the Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery at SMC.
A member of the SMC Foundation Board of Directors, Susan was credited for working tirelessly on SMC Foundation’s capital campaign.
“Each year, the Barrett Gallery at Santa Monica College showcases the work of professional artists as well as blossoming student talent,” said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn Jeffery. “Gallery attendees enthusiastically come from all across the Los Angeles metropolitan region and beyond, and it is the generosity and vision of Pete & Susan Barrett that made this possible. We are indeed so sorry to hear of Susan’s passing. Here at SMC, Pete and Susan’s light will continue to shine on, for years to come.”
As dedicated as Susan was to her community work, she and Pete found time to enjoy their leisure time. They both played golf regularly as members of MountainGate Country Club, forming many close friendships there, while also traveling to the world’s renowned courses to try their skills. They enjoyed seeing the world and built wonderful memories from their journeys. Susan, also a legendary and generous hostess, was known for her delicious as well as beautiful dinner parties.
Susan Barrett is survived by her sister Juanita Jimenez, as well as her nephews Julian, Brian, and Andrew Jimenez.
The funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. at Saint Monica’s Catholic Community, 701 California Ave., on Friday, September 2. A reception will follow after the service in the pavilion next 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.