How to begin to address a life so long and well lived. Age was a number and hers was unlisted. Beatrice "Bibi" Fairbanks was born in New York City to Robert Putnam and Marguerite Carrillo, both of Bogota, Colombia, and had one sister, Marguerite "Buddie" Keyes.
On her father's side she was descended from Captain John Putnam who came to America in 1634 and Samual Osgood, member of George Washington's cabinet and first postmaster general of the United States. Also on her father's side she is a direct descendent of General Antonio Narino, the first president of Colombia, and from Juan de Brigard and Dombrowski, who fought with Napoleon and is memorialized in the Arc de Triomphe, inspired the Polish national anthem and for whom it is named, and finally, fought with Simon Bolivar to liberate South America from Spain.
On her mother's side, she is descended from the Marquesa de Rivera of Spain, and her grandfather, Louis F. Carrillo, a Superior Court judge and famous orchid hunter, was the largest importer of orchids and known in New York as the Orchid King. Bibi was a Daughter of the American Revolution.
She grew up privileged in Larchmont and Rye in Westchester County, New York, and later Sutton Place in the city. As a child she traveled regularly by ocean liner to Paris, France, where the family kept a home. She was exposed early on to the arts by her father, with whom she frequented the opera and ballet and where she developed one of her first and greatest passions ... dance. By age 3, she was dancing on the stage with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet of New York. She attended the Ursuline School for Girls and graduated from the College of New Rochelle.
In her early 20s, she went to live in Colombia to spend time with her extensive family, which included her uncle, Emilio de Brigard, archbishop of Bogota. Having numerous polo-playing uncles, this is where she began her lifelong passion for "the sport of kings." Not long after returning to New York, World War II was unfolding and she joined the war effort, searching for spy correspondence entering the country by U.S. mail. She described this time as exciting for a young woman, with men in uniforms everywhere and dances galore. It was at a one such dance that she waltzed into a whirlwind romance with her future husband, head engineering officer on the tall ship Danmark, Fred Alden Fairbanks.
They married and had two sons, Putnam and Alden, in New York. Later, they would relocate to Long Beach, California, where Fred pursued his education and a third child, Carlos, was born. His career and area of expertise also took them to live in Havana, Cuba, which Bibi described as the happiest time of her life. She loved acting and was a regular in The Little Theater of Havana theater company and was dubbed a "favorite thespian" by reviewers. When Castro stormed into the city in 1957, the family was forced to leave and went to Guatemala City, Guatemala, where the last of their five children, Miguel and Margarita, were born.
She was divorced from Fred in the early 1960s and finally joined her mother and sister in Santa Barbara, where she would do so much good. She spent years teaching English to the children of migrant workers, volunteered for 19 years as a pink lady at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, translating and advocating for patients, and served just as many years on the committee for the Amethyst Ball (Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse), routinely procuring the greatest number of donations from members of the Santa Barbara community who could not resist her passion.
Diminutive in size and monolithic in spirit, her gorgeous eyes and smile never failed to dazzle the beholder. Her sense of humor was unparalleled. She could laugh at any joke, from the silliest pun to a bawdy tale and, most important, she could laugh at herself and she could make you laugh till you cried! She was a yes person in every way and the most devoted mother to her five children, raising them on her own with the support of her loving mother and sister, and just as devoted to her 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
She enthusiastically supported her grandchildren's activities and was regularly spotted on the sidelines of Marymount of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara High School and Cate School sporting events — a one woman cheering squad! She enjoyed an especially close relationship with her beloved twin granddaughters and treasured the time she spent living with them and their mother in Paris, France.
She was a polo devotee and regular at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club since 1942 until the end of her life, and leaves a strong presence with all her friends there.
She is survived by all her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Putnam. Alden, Carlos, Miguel, Margarita, Jessica, Alena, William, Robert, Carlos William, Nicholas, Dylan, Dakota, Teddy, Tessa, Emme and Lily, son-in-law Chuck Lande and daughter-in-law Natalie Baccelli. She passed away peacefully in the adoring arms of her daughter, Margarita, embodying the same grace and refinement that defined her entire life.
As Maya Angelou wrote "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel" and our precious little angel made so many feel so good, ... she will NEVER be forgotten and will ALWAYS be loved.
The family thanks with all their heart Help Unlimited and Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care of Santa Barbara for their caring support.
A funeral Mass was held October 11 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Montecito with burial at Santa Barbara Cemetery. Arrangements were by Welch-Ryce-Haider Funeral Chapels.