By Cheri Rae
Dressed in a freshly pressed blue pinstripe shirt and khakis, with polished oxfords, Kellam de Forest sits at the head of the table and conducts business. It’s the monthly meeting of the Preservation Watch committee of the Pearl Chase Society.
He’s prepared the agenda and sent it out, and he’s very much in charge here, working hard to keep Santa Barbara from turning into “Podunk-town,” as one member noted.
His blue eyes are clear, his hands are steady and much of his strength and vigor have returned after a serious fall at his home early this spring. After a stay in a convalescent facility, he’s now comfortably ensconced in the pleasant surroundings of Wood Glen Hall, where this meeting is taking place. Members have had no qualms about meeting wherever Kellam is—he’s the heart and soul of the committee.
It’s in the family roots of this native Santa Barbaran who was born at Cottage Hospital. His grandfather, Lockwood de Forest, was a noted plein air painter who studied at the Hudson School. His work is often exhibited in shows and a series of books at Sullivan Goss.
And his famous parents, Elizabeth Kellam de Forest and Lockwood de Forest, were accomplished landscape architects. From 1925 to 1942 they wrote and published the remarkable journal, “The Santa Barbara Gardener.” Their names appear outside the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, since they landscaped that landmark site. His father was vitally important to the early days of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and when Kellam addresses issues about the garden that are on the agenda, he casually mentions, “My father designed the East Side of the garden and he would be pleased that lots of progress is being made.”
The tone of the meeting is high end, with a well-informed discussion about community issues; whenever anyone strays for too long from the topic at hand, Kellam gently, firmly gets them back on point. He jots notes in pencil on a legal pad—they will become the basis of his monthly report that documents preservation issues in the newsletter of the Pearl Chase Society and the community beyond.
Kellam attended Crane and Thacher schools before serving in the Army in World War II. He majored in History at Yale—and upon his return to Santa Barbara he briefly worked as a clerk at the San Ysidro Ranch. His professional career took him to Hollywood where he applied his keen research skills to the field of copyrights and permissions, examining television and movie scripts for potential legal issues for individuals and studios, including DesiLu, Paramount and MGM.
When he retired back in his own hometown, Kellam became a founding member of the Pearl Chase Society. He has dedicated much of his time and expertise to serving as the community’s conscience and chief stickler for accuracy in discussions about planning and development, preservation and stewardship of natural and built resources throughout the County. The General Plan here, an upcoming appeal there, the purchase of Hot Springs Canyon; the Measure Y issues of developing Veronica Springs—there’s nothing that goes on around here that escapes his attention.
His beloved wife Peggy, to whom he was married nearly 60 years, passed away just a couple months ago. And still Kellam carries on the business of caring for the community that needs his sharp, his big heart, and his keen mind to keep a close watch on preservation, without missing a beat.