Leo Roger Pedersen died of congestive heart failure at home on Oct. 20, 2021. He is survived by the love of his life and wife of 37 years, Martha Pedersen (Bassett); his children and their spouses, Katherine and Bill Parker and Eric and Lori Pedersen; and his grandchildren, Matt and Kevin Parker and Stacia and Zoey Pedersen.
Leo was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1935 to Danish immigrants Otto and Christine Pedersen. He was predeceased by his three siblings Frank, Lillian and Gene.
His family moved to Santa Barbara when he was in middle school and he graduated from Santa Barbara High School, where he played clarinet in the marching band. When asked, why the clarinet? Leo said “That’s what we had in the house.” He enjoyed jazz music and played in the jazz band.
Leo graduated from the USC School of Architecture, where he met his first wife Selena Pedersen (Stone) and started a family with their first child Katherine. Leo remained a fan of USC football throughout his life, and enjoyed going to games and watching them on TV.
After graduating from USC, Leo brought his family back to Santa Barbara, where he was employed by one of the oldest architectural firms in town. He worked his way up from draftsman to managing principal partner. Leo later joined forces with his architect son Eric to form their own firm, Pedersen Architects, LLP where they specialized in healthcare design.
In addition to having a solid aptitude for running a business, Leo was a talented designer. He designed a beautiful home in the hills of Montecito. Eric fondly remembers his father’s hands-on approach to design and construction, and the many trips to the hardware store on weekends for building supplies.
Leo volunteered for several nonprofit boards during his life. He served on the Santa Barbara Cemetery Board, the Hope Ranch Architectural Board, and was president of the American Institute of Architects.
Many family vacations were spent backpacking in the backcountry of Santa Barbara and the Sierras where Leo enjoyed “roughing it.” He took great pride in “catching his own dinner” while fishing. He was an avid photographer and shot thousands of nature slides. His family and friends affectionately called him “Fearless Leader.”
When Leo bought his first MG-TD, a 1952 sports car, it changed his life. It became his “daily driver.” He eventually bought another TD to restore, which he did meticulously and it won many awards. He went on to restore a 1948 MG-TC and built a race car out of MG-TD parts.
Leo and Martha toured the UK twice in the TC, and some of Leo’s fondest friendships were made through car clubs and events. He appreciated people who could be as unusual as their vehicles.
Leo enjoyed being with Martha. They liked doing everything together including traveling, caring for their animals, and savoring the quiet moments of life. They joked that their relationship survived several remodels in three separate houses where they were able to express their creativity with beautiful results.
While Leo lived most of his life in Santa Barbara, he and Martha moved to Atascadero to retire where Leo was delighted to have a three-car garage for the first time. He continued to restore MGs and form new friendships with car enthusiasts and his book club members.
He volunteered in an English literacy program and took great satisfaction teaching ESL students. He also contributed his professional expertise to the Atascadero Library expansion.
Leo was a hard worker and diligent perfectionist. He had a great sense of humor, recognized the ironic, and was able to laugh at himself. He enjoyed a comfortable chair, a good book, and the company of friends while eating a delicious meal and relishing a fine glass of wine.
He will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him. Donations can be made on his behalf to the American Heart Association or the organization of your choice.