Kent Santelman ’62

13 September 2023

Class: 1962

Major: Government

Residence: Long Beach, CA

Deceased: August 22, 2023

Kent William Santelman did not coin the oft-quoted maxim that instead of arriving to the grave
safe and unscathed, the end of a purposeful life should be to “skid in broadside in a cloud of
smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a
Ride!’”—but he may as well have. He often declared, quite accurately, that he had done several
people’s share of backpacking—his passion—in his lifetime.
A lifelong mountaineer, Kent trekked all over California, including the Lost Coast, San Gorgonio,
San Jacinto, and especially his beloved Sierra Nevada mountain range; he hiked and rock-
climbed in Joshua Tree National Monument countless times; and he climbed beyond California
in places such as Alaska (where he summited Denali), Mt. Rainier and other parts of the
Cascades, the Tetons, mountains in Mexico, and even mountains in Tibet and Nepal. He taught
basic mountaineering for the Sierra Club for many years, as well as ice-climbing safety.
Aside from the venturing he experienced in person, Kent loved to immerse himself in literary
tales, both fictional and not. If he wasn’t navigating a trail somewhere, he was getting lost in a
Likely because of his fondness of the written word, his favorite job was that as a high school
English teacher. He became a teacher at the age of 55 and taught at Cleveland High School and
later Carson High School, where he was also Title I coordinator.
Before he became a teacher, though, he had two other occupations. First, he was a very proud
member of the US Marine Corps from 1962 to 1967. He participated in the Vietnam War for
over a year. He rose to the rank of captain as an active-duty member and then was in the
reserves until 1970.
After being honorably discharged from active duty in the Marines, he worked for various
companies in purchasing, which took him from California to Wisconsin and Mississippi, and
then back to California.
Being back in California allowed him to actively pursue outdoor activities, culminating into his
true vocation as a master adventurer and introducing him to some fellow backpackers, rock-
climbers, and mountaineers who became his lasting friends.
Well before his introduction to the mountaineering lifestyle, his lifetime began in Paso Robles,
California, on May 14, 1940, born to Elmar “Bill” Santelman and Rjae “Dickie” Massey
Santelman. Besides short stints in Texas for his father’s Air Force duties and Santa Barbara, he
spent much of his childhood in Altadena. He survived polio at age nine after being in an iron
lung for six months. He worked as a messenger in downtown Los Angeles in his teenage years,
and also worked for his parents’ stationery company.
Kent briefly attended John Muir High School and transferred to Flintridge Preparatory School
for Boys, from where he graduated in 1958. He then attended his father’s alma mater, Carleton

College in Minnesota, graduating in 1962 with a BA in government. (He later obtained his JD
and his MA in educational administration.) He thoroughly enjoyed alumni activities of both
Flintridge Prep and Carleton up until his death.
During his first several years post-Vietnam, he was married to his first wife, Maureen, with
whom he welcomed children Kevin and Jenny. Later, in 1985, he married his co-adventurer in
life, Pam, with whom he welcomed their son Clay.
Even though Kent swore he would never leave California, he ultimately did. On August 22, 2023,
Kent trekked off on a new adventure, to summit a mountain unseen to the rest of us. At 83, he
left behind his beloved wife of almost 38 years, Pam Halsey Santelman; son Kevin Buckley
(Susan Rojas), daughter Jenny Post (Ray), and son Clay Santelman (Nicole); grandsons Jordan
and Andrew Post, and granddaughters Sophie Buckley and soon-to-be-born Devin Santelman;
brother-in-law Paul Gomperz; and niece Betsy Gomperz (along with her husband, Mike Pacinda,
and their sons, Thomas and Will). He was predeceased by his sister, Jan Gomperz.
Kent’s family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to Carleton
College (Minnesota) or Flintridge Preparatory School (Pasadena) in his name.

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