Diana Basehart: May 29, 1934 – April 12, 2024

By Montecito Journal   |   April 30, 2024
Diana Basehart, May 29, 1934 – April 12, 2024

Our community mourns the passing of an icon… 

Diana Basehart, longtime animal activist, actress, sculptor, and mother passed away on April 12 at Cottage Hospital surrounded by family and friends. 

She was born May 29th, 1934, in London, England. Daughter of Edward and Gwenyth Lotery. In 1939 the family fled to New York to escape WWII. After the war she traveled back to England and realized her dream of becoming an actress. At age 16 she moved to New York City to study under the renowned Sanford Meisner at The Actors Studio. She performed in numerous theatrical productions and believed her career was about to take off. It was then she decided to try her luck in TV and Film and moved to Los Angeles. 

In 1958 in a chance meeting at the Beverly Wilshire hotel she met her future husband actor Richard Basehart. After a whirlwind romance they married in 1962. Once Richard came into her life her focus shifted to sculpting and acting took a back seat. She dedicated the next 30 years to her magnificent artwork. Her masterful stone sculptures created by hand have found homes with celebrities ranging from Jacques Cousteau to Angie Dickinson

Having a successful career in the art world simply did not fulfill her heart’s passion for animals. In 1971, along with her husband Richard, the two founded Actors & Others for Animals, with the objective to provide proper care for and prevent the inhumane treatment and destruction of animals. Diana’s passion and exuberance for the cause attracted many of her celebrity friends including Betty White, Doris Day, Lucie Arnaz, Earl Holliman, Lily Tomlin, Loretta Swit, Joanne Worley and others. With her never-ending love and dedication to the cause, she was able to end the horrific practice of gas chambers in California animals shelters with the help of Mayor Tom Bradley signing the bill. 

Diana with Richard

In 1990 she was instrumental in orchestrating “The March for Animals” where tens of thousands of protesters descended on Washington, D.C. It was the first global event that brought together people from every state and thousands of representatives from other countries, together for the animals.

After the passing of Richard in 1984, she began working with Last Chance for Animals. She worked tirelessly with the group until 1990 when she moved to Montecito for a fresh start. She then began drawing beautiful botanical works of art continuing her magnificent creative journey.

Diana and Bud Bottoms after working together to erect a statue of Floyd

It was about this time that she began volunteering at the Santa Barbara Animal Shelter. Seeing the need to help people keep their animals, she started her next nonprofit, the Diana Basehart Foundation, along with her close friend Lynne Shaw. “Too many times an elderly person has no choice but to give up their pet — sometimes their only friend — just because of financial strain,” Basehart said. “That is heartbreaking and unacceptable to me. We can provide a lifeline for people and their pets.” The Foundation provided financial help for essential and critical veterinary care to people on low-fixed incomes; including seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans with service animals. The Foundation kept people and their beloved pets together, while also minimizing the number of animals being turned over to shelters due to financial struggles. After four successful years and over 2,000 animals benefiting from the program, the Basehart team decided to join forces with the Care4Paws family and became the Basehart Lifeline Fund.

With her constant eyes on the welfare of animals, she heard a story of a five-month-old puppy named Davey who was abused and tortured by his owner and later died. After receiving the devastating news, she knew she had to bring more awareness of animal abuse happening in our own backyard. “This is not the finish; it’s the beginning. We will continue marching and protesting and will not stop until the laws are changed.” The March on State Street attracted over a thousand people and brought awareness to abused and neglected animals here in Santa Barbara County. When a little dog named Floyd was also killed by his owner, again Diana was on the front lines. Along with other animal advocates, Diana showed up to every court hearing. In Floyd’s honor she partnered with Bud Bottoms and Michele Morrow to erect a statue of Floyd, which now sits in a garden at Elings Park. 

Up until the time of her passing, she was discussing with friends her next move. Her endless energy, love, and dedication will be greatly missed by all of us. She was one-of-a-kind, and a force for positive change in the world. 

She is survived by her two daughters, Gayla and Jenna Basehart.


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