She Was a Lady Like No Other

By James Buckley   |   October 11, 2022
Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree will be remembered by all those she helped and all who knew her (photo by Brad Elliott)

Just before 8 am Monday morning the third of October 2022, ninety-eight-year-old Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree breathed her last at her home in Birnam Wood, with her daughter Suzette at her side.

Leslie was a Lady in every sense of the word. Her late husband, Paul, was indeed the son of a Lord and he always referred to his wife as “Lady Leslie.”

She lived up to that honorary title in a hundred different ways. With her mane of bright red hair and elegant gowns, her smile that lit up a room, a laugh that was both genuine and kind, the placard she raised at every auction, and the helping hand readily offered, Lady Leslie was the picture and living manifestation of the generosity she considered to be her humanitarian duty: to help those who needed help. “There’s a great big hole in the world,” she would say, “and there are needs to be filled – whether it’s in education or medicine or hunger – and you just have to share. It doesn’t mean,” she’d add, “that you have to give it all away and walk barefoot, but it does mean that you have to share; there’s that need, and you can’t look at it and walk by.”

And share she did.

It seemed that her – and Paul’s until his death in 2005 – generosity was limitless. A great number of local charities and nonprofits could always depend upon her to fill a table for an event; her legacy of giving includes Sansum Clinic, the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center, Cottage Hospital, the Ridley-Tree Education Center Art Camp, Westmont College’s Ridley-Tree Museum of Art and the 33 Ridley-Tree Nursing Program scholarships there, UCSB’s 40 KITP Graduate Science area scholarships for young people with disabilities, and SBCC’s 30 Single-Parents-Returning to Education scholarships. Other institutions at the receiving end of her generosity include the Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and many others.

The “great big hole in the world” that now needs to be filled is that of the loss of Santa Barbara’s and Montecito’s dear, generous, gregarious, crimson-haired philanthropic wonder, our own Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree.

May she rest in peace and may her legacy live on forever.  


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