Second Annual Casa del Herrero Docent Graduation

By Joanne A Calitri   |   July 2, 2024
New Docents: Leslie Zuller, Katie Williamson, Executive Director Rosie Rafferty, Leslie Franklin, Wendy Scott, Kitty Thomassin, Lynn Sturgeon, and James Sturgeon (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Casa del Herrero held its 2nd Annual Docent Graduation on Friday, June 21, at the estate. The new docents are responsible for leading the classic 90-minute tours of the Casa, volunteer at events where they provide modified tours that cater to the focus of the event, and answer any questions visitors have about the property. 

Docent Steering Committee Members are Carolyn Williams, Chair and Casa del Herrero Trustee; Rose Thomas, Secretary; Kristi Marks, Social Chair; and Michel Nellis, Treasurer. 

At the graduation Williams said, “These new docents are capturing the magic of stepping back a century into the George Washington Smith-designed home filled with antiquities from the Spanish Golden Age and the surrounding historic Moorish gardens. They are now prepared to share their knowledge with our community and far beyond.”

Each new docent received their official name tag, docent program completion certificate and a celebratory long stem rose.

Board President Heather Biles, who was away in Montana, emailed in her wishes, “We are so excited about this graduating class of docents at Casa del Herrero! Their generosity with their time and energy is truly appreciated. As the first face visitors see – and the first touchpoint for the Casa – our wonderful group of docents help educate the public about this very special architectural treasure and Montecito’s only National Historic Landmark. They play a huge role in inspiring future volunteers and supporters of the Casa. Thank you for all that you do!”

The 2024 Casa del Herrero docent grads are: 

Hilary Burkemper isan attorney who has served on the Casa del Herrero Board and lives in Montecito. She is an accomplished equestrian and competitor. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, she attended UCSB and Pepperdine Law School.

Leslie Franklin is a retired Speech and Language Pathologist who worked with children. She is an actress at the Santa Maria Civic Center Community Theatre.

Sevanne Sarkis is an attorney working with U.S. hospitals doing Community Health Needs Assessments. She moved to the area from Chicago in 2022.

Docent Steering Committee Members: Rose Thomas, Carolyn Williams, Kristi Marks, and Michel Nellis (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Wendy Scott is a retired Chief HR Officer for Varian Medical. Originally from Sacramento, she attended Occidental College, Boston University, and holds a Masters in English Literature from Stanford University. She is an equestrian and volunteers at the SB Women’s Fund.

Dr. James Sturgeon is a 30-year career dentist who in addition to private practice, has worked with Direct Relief International in remote areas of China. He is a Mensa member, and an avid history, antique and gadget enthusiast. He is a docent with his wife at Lotusland, repairs and maintains the SB Courthouse Tower Clock and the Arlington Theatre’s organ.

Lynn Sturgeon worked as a probation officer for 15 years, is a Mensa member, and UCSB graduate. She and her husband James volunteer at Lotusland and the SB Courthouse.

Kitty Thomassin moved to the U.S. in 1978. She has volunteered at Lotusland since 2005.

Kasia Thurlow was born in Poland, graduated from the university there and moved to the U.K. She with her husband and two daughters have lived in a few different countries, and love to travel. She teaches Pilates, hikes, and is a docent at Lotusland for the past five years.

Katie Williamson is a California native raised in Brentwood. She is a realtor with Village Properties and a member of American Society of Interior Design. Her interests are art, architecture, interior design, fashion, gardening, and children. She has been involved in philanthropic organizations for many years – Costume Council of the Los Angeles Museum of Art, Luminaries of the Doheny Eye Institute, Library Associates of the Los Angeles Public Library, Young Literati of Los Angeles Public Library, Lotusland, Storyteller, CADA, and a supporter of Casa del Herrero.

Leslie Zuller is a California native and works as the Business Manager at St. Mark’s in the Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos for 21 years. She is an avid tile enthusiast, plays Mah-jongg, and does her own artwork.  



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