• Deirdre McCrohan

Longtime Belvedere Barbara Patten teacher was beloved by students


Barbara Seibert Patten, a longtime former Belvedere resident who taught English at Del Mar Middle School and the former Reedland Woods Middle School for 23 years, died July 18 of natural causes at her daughter’s home in Patagonia, Ariz. She was 94.

On learning of her death, nearly four dozen former students posting on Facebook remembered Mrs. Patten with praise and affection.

“She was my sixth-grade teacher and made a lasting difference in my life,” Elisabeth Engan said.

“She was so warm and kind,” wrote Kimi Keating.

“She motivated me to write short stories in her class and really made a difference in my middle-school education,” Timothy John Akers said.

Born June 8, 1926, in Lemont, Ill., Mrs. Patten was the fifth of six children of Oscar and Evelyn Seibert. She graduated from Lyons Township High School in La Grange, Ill., in 1945 and received a bachelor’s in Spanish from the University of California at Los Angeles, where she was a member of Delta Zeta sorority.

She met her husband, R. Douglas “Doug” Patten, a Stanford University graduate, on a blind date. They were married in 1949, right after her graduation.

After living in Los Angeles for a time, the Pattens moved to Belvedere Island in 1960 and raised their children here.

As a young mother, Barbara was also a substitute Spanish teacher, an active member of the American Association of University Women, an avid tennis player and an engaged member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Belvedere.

After a job transfer took them back to Los Angeles for a few years, they moved back to Belvedere in 1967 and, the same year, Mrs. Patten finished the work on her teaching credential at Dominican College in San Rafael — now Dominican University of California — that she began in Los Angeles.

She got a job in the Reed Union School District, spending almost all her years teaching English at Del Mar School. For the period that Reedland Woods Middle School on Blackfield Drive was open in the early 1970s, she taught there, too; the school has since been replaced with Congregation Kol Shofar synagogue.

Mrs. Patten retired as a classroom teacher in 1990 but continued with the district, working on curriculum planning.

After she retired, she tutored students in Sausalito and Mill Valley public schools and volunteered as an English-as-a-Second-Language teacher in the Canal neighborhood of San Rafael.

She kept busy working at Shorebirds Gallery, an art gallery and gift store in the Boardwalk Shopping Center courtyard; tutoring privately; playing tennis and bridge; taking morning walks in Belvedere; going to the gym; attending the San Francisco Symphony; and going to the de Young Museum. She enjoyed travel and writing. Into her 90s, Mrs. Patten volunteered at the Belvedere-Tiburon Library.

Mrs. Patten’s move to her daughter Janie Trafton’s home in Arizona was precipitous. Mrs. Patten had moved to The Redwoods senior community last year. Trafton was visiting in March when she and her own daughter Jennifer realized the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading quickly.

Instead of flying back to Arizona and leaving her mother at The Redwoods, Trafton and her daughter packed Mrs. Patten’s belongings and, on the day that Marin’s public-health chief announced widespread shutdowns, they drove to Arizona in a rental car.

In addition to Trafton, Mrs. Patten is survived by her son, Bruce Patten of Goodyear, Ariz.; six grandchildren, Jennifer Labovich of San Rafael, Alexander “Tripp” Lewton of Bozeman, Mont., Sasha Lewton of Patagonia, Ariz., Michael Lewton of Bisbee, Ariz., Kate Patten of Cambria and Kimberley Patten of Oakland; as well as six great-grandchildren.

Her husband, Doug Patten, a fire-insurance underwriter who later worked for Belvedere Land Co., died in 2001. Her five siblings also predeceased her.

A celebration of Mrs. Patten’s life will be held at a later date.

Donations in her memory may be sent to the Belvedere-Tiburon Library Foundation, P.O. Box 483, Tiburon, CA 94920; or to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, 501 San Rafael Ave., Belvedere, CA 94920.

Deirdre McCrohan has reported on Tiburon local government and community issues for more than 30 years. Reach her at 415-944-4634.

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