Bessie Hawkins
Bessie Hawkins

Obituary of Bessie Hawkins

Born: March 15, 1922 (Santa Barbara, Ca.)

Died: Jan. 17, 2021 (Santa Barbara, Ca.)


Santa Barbara has lost an icon in the Santa Barbara restaurant industry.

Bessie was born into a small family home on lower Garden Street which still exists today.  The family soon moved to the home she grew up in on Blanchard Street.  She attended local schools Franklin Elementary, S.B. Jr. High School and S.B. High School.  She married her high school sweetheart, Avery Nirenberg, and soon had two sons, Bryan and Kenneth.


She began her long career in the restaurant business at a young age starting at the Blue Onion Restaurant on Highway 101 in Montecito.  She moved on to the Blue Onion on State St. under the giant fig tree catering to the cruisers and teenagers. During these years she was blessed with her beautiful daughter, Carol Ryder.  Her reputation as a chef and manager was growing and she was asked by the Weniger family to come and manage their new restaurant at the El Patio across from west beach.  Years later she moved on to Bennie Bray's 101 Restaurant on the highway near Castillo St.  When the highway was being enlarged in 1961, the 101 Restaurant was torn down.  Bessie then went to work for Chris Prip's new restaurant in  Radio Square at the corner of Carillo and De La Vina Streets.  It was during this time that she and her business partner, Jim Smock, bought the old, dilapidated house at the corner of West Cots St. and Bradbury. Both families worked on the house for seven years turning it into one of the most popular restaurant at that time, The Redwood Inn.  Hungry diners would crowd the front porch waiting for a table.


She sold her interest in the Redwood Inn when her good friend Harry Davis opened his iconic Harry's Plaza in 1968 and he wanted Bessie to run the front bar booths which she did with class for seventeen years. She was honored with two oil painting portraits of herself and others on the walls.


Despite all her dedicated years in the profession, she was a registered chef and life-long member of the Culinary Alliance, her first priority was her family. Her dinner parties and family gatherings were beyond compare.  She was often called "a one-woman restaurant".  She also loved getting all "gussied up" and traveling with all her good friends to San Francisco and the east coast to see the fall colors. Her favorite trips were long road trips with her grandchildren all over the western U.S.


Bessie leaves behind her two sons, Bryan Nirenberg (Patsy Fitch), Ken Nirenberg (Lynette Severson Nirenberg) and her daughter Carol Paquette and her step-son Robert Hawkins (Linda).  Also her grandchildren Brin Nirenberg (Sherry), Bonnie Nirenberg Abbott (Scott Jacobson), Barri Nirenberg Jones (Thomas), Matthew Nirenberg (Diana), John Paquette (Veronique), Sean Paquett (Tina), Bonnie Evans, Brian Hawkins and Thomas Hawkins.  In addition, she leaves behind seventeen great grandchildren and three great great grandchildren.


She was preceded in death by her parents, Thomas and Oresia Hollensteiner, her brothers John and Fred Hollensteiner, her sister Dorothy Hollensteiner Hazard, her grandson Brin Nirenberg, Jr., her daughter-in-law Beverly Nirenberg, her son-in-law Leonard Paquette, and stepson Greg Hawkins, and her three husbands, Avery Nirenberg, Daniel Ryder, and Leo Hawkins.


She will be dearly missed by all of her large family and hundreds of "best friends".


       I'm building my own little library,

       embedded in my heart,

       for all the moments spent with you

       before you had to part.


        I can open it up whenever I like,

        pick a moment and watch it through,

        My little library acts as a promise

        We'll never ever forget you.


There will be a celebration of her life at a later date

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A Memorial Tree was planted for Bessie
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at McDermott-Crockett & Associates Mortuary
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