Barbara Elizabeth Simmons Tellefson

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Immigrant Daughter from Humble Beginnings Internalized Her Family's "Lessons to Live By" and Became a Community Hero By Dedicating Her Life to Serving People in Crisis.

Unity Shoppe of Santa Barbara lost its matriarch and founder, Barbara Tellefson, after a brief bout with an aggressive illness. She was 84. Barbara's singular focus and half century of devotion to the Santa Barbara County Community was in a league of its own which, in the days since her passing, has been confirmed by the scores of well-wishers describing her as "Saint Barbara," and an "unstoppable force for good."

Like other famed celebrities calling Santa Barbara and Montecito home, Kenny Loggins, was a loyal friend and supporter of Barbara and Unity Shoppe for decades, saying he would be "forever changed by her incredible determination, which aided over one million people during her lifetime."Her vision survives her passing not only in Santa Barbara, where Unity Shoppe continues onward under new and similarly dedicated leadership, but also in cities elsewhere. While visiting Santa Barbara, country singer Brad Paisley and his family volunteered at Unity Shoppe and were so taken by Barbara and the nonprofit's mission, they committed the next few years to replicating the model in their hometown of Nashville, calling it The Store.

In 2019, an alumni couple of Virginia Tech University put up the seed money to open The Market, crediting the mission and tactics employed at Unity Shoppe under Barbara's direction as their inspiration. Above all else, Barbara dedicated herself to the people she helped, to her family of origin, and to the staff of Unity Shoppe whom she cherished and considered family. She had begun penning her life story, but the process was cut short by illness and her untimely passing.

Barbara is preceded in death by her husband, Clair Tellefson, who passed in 1994, Annelise Hohestein (birth mother), Hans Simmons (nee Hans Simon, birth father), Angelica Simmons (sister), Jimmy Simmons (brother), Eva "Chava" Simon (sister), Sofie Menzel (second mother). She is survived by her birth family: Anita Graf Valoy of New York (niece) and Oren Tokatly (nephew) of Israel.

Condolence donations honoring the enormity of Barbara's legacy can be made to The Barbara E. Tellefson Building and Programs Fund at

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