Randi Tangvall Fairbrother, a long-time resident of Montecito and Goleta, passed on Nov. 14, 2023 at the age of 93. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, on Sept 21, 1930 to Norwegian immigrants Marie Tangvall and Haakon Foss.
Randi’s growing-up years were spent in Pearl River, New York, a hamlet (population 4,000) on the outskirts of New York City. There she attended kindergarten through high school.
She went on to earn an RN degree from Mt. Sinai Hospital School of Nursing in New York City. Leaving New York, Randi arrived in Los Angeles with her RN license in September of 1952.
While attending a philosophy in literature evening class at UCLA that year, she met a tall, blond, handsome man named Edwin Fairbrother. He was a graduate of Harvard and USC School of Dentistry. They were married the following spring at the Presbyterian Church in Montecito.
In 1954 they embarked on the SS France passenger liner for a four-month long trip to Europe, visiting more than a dozen countries. Rubble from World War II bombings still remained in London and Berlin.
The couple enjoyed visiting Randi’s relatives in Norway. The birthplace of her mother was still standing and the family carriage was still in the barn.
They arrived in Santa Barbara in the spring of 1956 with their six-week-old first born, Russell.
Santa Barbara was a most pleasant town then. The locally owned family shops and small cafes, State Street lined with Christmas trees for many blocks, Fiesta, and shops such as Ott’s, the Children’s Shop, Holiday Hardware, Ambros Lumber, and TGY on Milpas Street gave it a small town feel.
The children always wore handmade Halloween costumes, and they had great fun trick-or-treating in Montecito. Randi sold Christmas trees at the Montecito YMCA, and volunteered at Montecito Union School, as well as Franklin School.
Randi returned to nursing in 1979, working at Cottage Hospital for many years.
Taught by her mother the love of animals, she grew up with cats and kittens. Those were the days prior to spay/neuter. Randi never lost the desire to change that, having seen what Ninny, her mother cat, went through having litter after litter.
Randi’s mother rigged up an indoor/outdoor window so Ninny had access to the outdoors at will. It was fun watching her teach the kittens to use it. Randi never forgot the pain of seeing Thumper, the neighborhood tom, covered with snow and ice stoically waiting for Ninny to come out.
At the age of 60, Randi learned about the TNR (trap, neuter and release). She launched Catalyst for Cats, Inc. as a nonprofit in 1990, starting out in Santa Barbara, then expanding to Carpinteria, the Santa Ynez Valley, and finally to North County.
Never salaried by Catalyst, Randi spent decades in the quest to improve the lives of cats. In addition she also was the first to do early spay/neuter and establish a relocation program of feral cats as mousers, programs that have since been actively implemented throughout Santa Barbara County.
In 1992 she was named a Local Hero by the News-Press for forming Catalyst for Cats with the goal of eliminating Santa Barbara County’s overwhelming stray cat problem.
Randi is survived by children Russell and Kaia; grandchildren Amanda and Leah; and great-granddaughter Annora. Her youngest son Byron preceded Randi in death in March 2023.
In lieu of flowers, donations to Catalyst for Cats, Inc. would be welcome.