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Nevill Cramer: 1922-2013

Educator, Writer, Advocate


Thursday, February 28, 2013

My good friend Nevill Cramer passed away on New Year’s Day. Somehow, I think he would have liked the fact that he made it to another year, though I can still hear him say, “Getting old is for the birds; don’t get old!” Nevill didn’t seem old — he had a young spirit. My friend and mentor took his last breath with his lovely and faithful wife, Pat, by his side, as she had been for the last few years, a constant ever since Nevill’s health began to fail.

I first met Nevill in December 1985, when he interviewed me for a position at Friendship Center. I was hired, and it has been my life-long passion ever since to do the good work we do, in part due to his influence and leadership. I always enjoyed listening to Nevill’s liberal bantering when it came to politics and the downtrodden. He was a staunch advocate for the causes he believed in and would make it known if he was not in agreement with your views. At times it is fair to say he was something of a curmudgeon. I loved that about him.

Nevill made you feel that you were the only person in the room. He was a good listener and always wanted to know about what was happening in your life, insisting that he would rather talk about you than himself. He didn’t like a lot of fanfare and didn’t want you to fuss over him in any way. He loved writing, walking his dogs, anything sweet, and the Friendship Center’s beef stroganoff. He tried to teach me what a dangling modifier was. Unfortunately, to this day, I still haven’t a clue, but I appreciated that he cared enough about the English language to let me know when I was grammatically incorrect.

Born in Paris, France, on September 6, 1922, Nevill was the son of Ambrose and Grace Meeker Lloyd of Chicago. He arrived in Montecito at the age of one and spent most of his life there, receiving his education at the Crane School, the Cate School, and Harvard.

In 1953, he began his career as an English teacher, administrator, and counselor at Laguna Blanca School, remaining until his retirement in 1979. He devoted the years of his retirement to volunteer work with many nonprofits as well as Santa Barbara City College, Adult Education, and McKinley Elementary School. He supported RSVP, DAWG, the Santa Barbara Humane Society, the Mental Wellness Center, and Friendship Center. In 1991 he was named Santa Barbara’s Senior Citizen of the Year for his volunteer work, and in 1996 he was chosen to receive an award as a Distinguished Senior Citizen.

When asked if he wouldn’t rather travel than volunteer his services, Nevill replied with sincerity, “Why would I travel when it is much more interesting to volunteer and contribute to those in need?” Statements like that endeared him to me. He served as president of four nonprofit boards, but his heart and soul was always in his hands-on volunteer work, which totaled 9,000 hours plus.

He enjoyed reading out loud to young and old, entertaining those at Friendship Center and at McKinley Elementary, often providing sounds of animals and other characters in whatever book he was reading. He was a captivating storyteller. He wrote a memoir, published in 1995, of growing up in Montecito. Titled Montecito Boy: An Irreverent Memoir, 1923-1940, it became a local bestseller. It was followed by Montecito Boy Abroad: An Irreverent Journey, 1939.

At Nevill’s wish, there will be no funeral or memorial service. Those wishing to make a donation in his name may do so to Friendship Center, 89 Eucalyptus Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 friendshipcentersb.org, which Nevill loved and where he volunteered his services for 20 years. He will be dearly missed by family and friends, including Sey Kinsell, a frequent visitor from Santa Barbara Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care.

Nevill is survived by his wife, Patricia; his daughter, Kendal (married to David Bazemore); and five stepchildren: Lauren MacDougall, Brinn MacDougall, Alex MacDougall, Brandon MacDougall, and Piero Fenci. In addition, he leaves nine step-grandchildren; 10 step-great-grandchildren; a brother, Ambrose Cramer, of Virginia; and a sister, Nancy Kittle, of Mill Valley.

Nevill shared his witty, light-hearted approach to life with those he helped and worked with. He was a pillar of strength and conviction for his causes. His passing is Santa Barbara’s loss, but Heaven’s gain!

Billy Collins & Aimee Mann

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