February 12, 1938 – November 29, 2022
Catherine Cavaletto was born at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in 1938, the 2nd child of Joseph and Selina Cavaletto (née Giorgi) after her brother Michael. She was the first granddaughter to her Cavaletto grandparents after 10 male cousins, completing the football team. She may have been a little spoiled as a result, at least until her sister Cecilia came along 2 years later.
She grew up in Goleta surrounded by her family and many cousins. Active in 4H, she received honors, including Santa Barbara County All-Star. She attended Goleta Union School, Santa Barbara Junior High, and graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1955. She received a B.S. in Home Economics from the University of California, Davis in 1959.
In 1962 she took a job as a research assistant in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The position, meant to last a few years, turned into a 41-year career at the university. She received her M.S. in Food Science in 1968, and worked as a Food Technologist, Horticulturalist, Associate Professor, Associate Dean and Department Chair throughout her career. Always curious, she continuously educated herself and innovated in the field, publishing her research on papaya, guava, macadamia nuts, and coffee in numerous scientific journals. A lover of travel and culture, she seized opportunities to do sabbaticals in Australia in conjunction with the Department of Primary Industries in Queensland and the University of Davis; in Costa Rica through the Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations; and in Switzerland at the Nestlé Research Center. She made lifelong friends all over the world as a result.
Although she lived far away, the family could count on her to be there for holidays and important events, always bearing leis and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from Hawaii. Her family was incredibly important to her, living and passed. She acted as the family historian, which was no small feat. Her large family represents two branches of long-time residents of Santa Barbara County – the Giorgi family in Santa Ynez and the Cavaletto family in Goleta. She had an incredible memory for names and dates and could tell you the lineage of both sides of the family from Italy to California.
She retired to Goleta in 2003, where she enjoyed spending time with cousins and family again. She moved back into the historic family home at Rancho San Jose, which houses the San Jose Winery, the oldest structure in Goleta. Remaining active in her retirement, she volunteered as a Historian at the Goleta Valley Historical Society, oversaw a renovation of the family home, and enjoyed having space to garden.
Catherine loved to cook, taking as much pride in the presentation as she did in the flavor. Her fruit tarts were legendary. She looked forward to gathering family, especially the younger generations, to make family recipes like ravioli, Swiss pancakes, and bagna cauda. Every summer since her retirement, she hosted the Cavaletto Family BBQ at the ranch. She loved to travel and visited family in Italy many times over the years.
Catherine’s quiet voice and deliberate manner of speaking made her quick wit and dry sense of humor all the funnier. She was generous, caring and thoughtful to those close to her, and deeply engaged in and informed about the world around her. She approached everything in her life with great care and consideration. A role model to many, she leaves behind an enduring example of a life lived independently with grace and dignity.
The last few months of her life were spent with her sister CC in Aliso Viejo, CA. Never one to skip a meal, she ate breakfast before passing away peacefully in her sleep.
Catherine is a beloved sister, aunt, great-aunt, and friend. She is survived by her brother Michael and his wife, Mary Lou Cavaletto, her sister Cecilia Villines, her nieces Lisa Thygeson, Laurie Moore, Jennifer Villines-McCue, and Carrie Villines, and their families. She will be greatly missed by friends, family, and colleagues.
A funeral service will be held at Saint Raphael Church in Santa Barbara on Wednesday, December 14, at 10 am. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her name to the Parkinson Association Santa Barbara (mypasb.org) or Goleta Valley Historical Society (goletahistory.org).