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Local News

Bill Macfadyen: Bond Between Michael Towbes and Santa Barbara Was Both His Fortune and His Legacy

NoozWeek’s Top 5 finds a suicide at UCSB, a Hollister Ranch tree-trimming gone horribly wrong, an Isla Vista balcony fall, and bargain groceries

For Michael Towbes, with wife Anne Smith Towbes at the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Goleta’s Finest Awards in November, community is his legacy. Click to view larger
For Michael Towbes, with wife Anne Smith Towbes at the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Goleta’s Finest Awards in November, community is his legacy. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk file photo)

There were 106,291 people who read Noozhawk this past week, according to our Google Analytics, and I’m proud to say we had no need to send out our goons to “re-accommodate” a single one.

In fact, unlike, say, United Airlines, we’ve upgraded our capacity to handle more traffic, especially from our cherished paying customers and frequent fliers. As of April 12, Noozhawk has been jetting around on web servers that are twice as powerful as our previous ones. I trust you’ve noticed the difference.

Meanwhile, if this is one of your first times flying with us, you need to know that this is my opinion column. I use it to share my own take on our Top Five articles from the previous seven days — as determined by you and tracked through our independent reader analytics services.

Sometimes my “insights” take off. Sometimes my sarcastic drivel crashes and burns, like Oscar Muñoz whenever he says ... pretty much anything.

So sit down and fasten your seatbelt. Things could get bumpy.

1. Michael Towbes, Santa Barbara Philanthropist and Businessman, Dies at 87

There was no quit in Michael Towbes.

The only reason you’re reading this now instead of 10 years hence is because of pancreatic cancer that swiftly and ruthlessly took his life. He died early on April 13 at 87 years young.

Trim, fit and always impeccably dressed, Towbes looked the part of a civic leader, and he had long ago earned his place in the pantheon of Santa Barbara legends.

A businessman and entrepreneur, he grew two enormously successful and innovative companies — Montecito Bank & Trust and The Towbes Group — that have had far-reaching impacts in this community.

As a philanthropist, his enduring generosity has touched the lives of thousands and thousands of locals, and breathed new life into many of the landmarks and institutions that have made Santa Barbara so special.

As a human being, he was unfailingly gracious, kind and humble, a man respected for his integrity and compassion even among those who were encountering his steely resolve in a business negotiation he so loved.

Towbes also adored the two wives in his life: Gail, to whom he was married for 42 years until her 1996 death after a long and cruel battle with multiple scelerosis, and Anne, who, like Mike, also had been widowed unfairly. They were married in 2006.

Between my news story and the heartfelt obituary written by Towbes’ youngest daughter, Carrie, you can get a strong sense of a man whose death closes a glorious chapter in Santa Barbara’s rich history.

But I can’t let him get away without thanking him for all he’s done for me over the years. Towbes was instrumental in getting Noozhawk established, and I’m forever grateful for his friendship, advice, encouragement and support — even though I knew he thought I was crazy when I first ran my idea past him in the fall of 2006.

Michael Towbes had passion, and he made our community a better place. We should all hope to be remembered in such a way, but we at least can strive to follow his example. His is a legacy we need now more than ever.

He is survived by his wife, Anne Smith Towbes; daughters Lianne Towbes and Carrie Towbes (John Lewis); Anne Towbes’ children, Jennifer Smith Hale (Nicholas) and Michael Smith (Natali); several grandchildren; and numerous other close relatives.

A public memorial service will be held at The Granada Theatre, 1214 State St. in Santa Barbara, at 2 p.m. May 23.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Granada, c/o Hayley Jessup, 1330 State St., Suite 101, Santa Barbara 93101, or to a favorite nonprofit organization.

Rest in peace, my friend. Well done.

2. UCSB Student Found Dead Near Campus Point an Apparent Suicide

A jogger discovered the body of a 20-year-old UC Santa Barbara student near Campus Point early on April 12, and authorities say the death appears to be a suicide.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said the jogger called 9-1-1 about 7 a.m. after coming upon the body on the bluffs east of UCSB’s Manzanita Village dormitories.

Hoover identified the student as Parker James Williams, 20, of Isla Vista. He originally was from Aliso Viejo near Laguna Beach.

The death is being investigated as a suicide, Hoover said, and foul play is not suspected.

Support from UCSB Counseling & Psychological Services is available 24 hours a day at 805.893.4411. Click here for additional, 24/7 suicide prevention resources.

3. Man Killed in Tree-Trimming Accident at Hollister Ranch Near Gaviota

A Carpinteria man was killed in a tree-trimming accident April 10 on remote Hollister Ranch west of Gaviota State Park.

Marcelino Gorostieta leaves behind a wife and three children. (GoFundMe photo)
Marcelino Gorostieta leaves behind a wife and three children. (GoFundMe photo)

According to Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni, firefighters, paramedics and sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the private enclave about 10 a.m., but it took them a while to get to the accident site, which was several miles in off a narrow, winding road.

American Medical Response paramedics arrived first and pronounced the man dead of his injuries.

Few details of the incident were available, but sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover identified the victim as 38-year-old Marcelino Gorostieta. She said the Coroner’s Office was investigating the death.

Friends have established a GoFundMe page to return Gorostieta’s remains to his wife and three children back in Las Trojes, Mexico, northeast of Guadalajara, and to pay funeral expenses. Click here to make an online donation.

It could have been worse. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)
It could have been worse. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

4. Woman Hurt in Fall to Beach From Balcony in Isla Vista

I guess I really am getting old as I just don’t get the attraction of sitting on balconies. Or maybe I’m just leery of heights.

Nonetheless, there are still plenty of people — many of them in Isla Vista — who don’t share my care.

All-too predictably, one of them fell from the balcony of a residence in the 6600 block of Del Playa Drive on April 8, tumbling 30 to 40 feet to the beach below.

The victim — a woman in her early 20s — suffered moderate injuries in the mishap, which occurred about 4:40 p.m. during the annual Isla Vista street party known as Deltopia.

County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said emergency crews carried the woman up from the beach to an American Medical Response ambulance, which took her to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

No additional details were available.

This year’s Deltopia bacchanalia was a relatively low-key affair, all things considered. Our Sam Goldman reported that it was twice as large as the 2016 edition, but there were few major incidents.

Zaniboni said most of the response calls were alcohol related. There’s been no word yet on whether this one was ...

Bargain hunting at Grocery Outlet. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)
Bargain hunting at Grocery Outlet. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

5. BizHawk: Grocery Outlet Takes Over Former De la Vina Street Ralphs in Santa Barbara

Thrifty Santa Barbarans looking for significant bargains have a new place to shop now that Grocery Outlet has opened on Upper De la Vina Street.

According to Brandon Brewer, who independently owns the store with his wife, Desak, Grocery Outlet gets its inventory from overstocks, close-outs and other “opportunistic buys.” He says that wheeling and dealing allows the Emeryville-based chain to sell name-brand products at sharply discounted prices.

The Brewers had owned a Grocery Outlet store in Bakersfield, but sold it to acquire this one.

“It was a dream come true moving to Santa Barbara, owning a store and doing what we love,” he told our Sam Goldman.

The market is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at 2840 De la Vina St., formerly home to a Ralphs, which closed in November.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Pedestrian Struck by Vehicle and Killed on Highway 101 Near Goleta.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

What better time than the Resurrection to take care of these? 21 Regrets People Confess on Their Deathbeds.

                                                                  •        •        •

Watch It

And you thought leg room was an issue. Jimmy Kimmel “re-accommodates” United Airlines.

(Yeshua Kadosh video)

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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