Pamela Seager, credited with leading the Rancho Los Alamitos historic site to prominence, died Saturday after a stay at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.
Seager came to Long Beach in 1985 at the request of Preston Hotchkis, the grandson of the property owner and rancher, Fred Bixby, to help forge a foundation to support Rancho Los Alamitos, which had recently been donated to the city. Hotchkis reportedly worried the city would not be able to devote the attention necessary to maintain and restore the property.
Thirty-three years later, in October 2018, Seager retired from her post as executive director. She had guided the creation and completion of a 167-point master plan that won multiple national awards, protected the historic home against earthquakes, restored historic gardens, used innovative technology — geothermal heating and cooling — for a sustainable education and meeting center and more.
In April 2018, the Rancho board announced a change in leadership, with associate executive director Pam Young Lee becoming executive director, and Seager taking on an emeritus executive director. Lee had been Seager's first hire in 1986 as site curator, and minus a 10-year hiatus at Disney, Lee has been with Seager since.
"What you see at the Rancho today is Pam's vision," Lee said. "Pamela helped create the foundation, and knew the first order of business was to create a master plan… It was finally approved in 1989, and she agreed to stay until it was done. It meant restoration from top to bottom. She worked incredible hours, and I never met anyone with a better memory, with a better grasp of detail. She thought very strategically.
"She devoted her life to this place."
Seager did find the time to meet and marry Scott Burchard, a Long Beach actor and artist. He is her sole survivor.
She was born on July 17, 1944, and raised in Surrey, England, and maintained a love of formal gardens all her life. Her last desire was to complete the Bixby formal garden at the Rancho.
Seager served as Associate and Acting Director of the California Historical Society for 11 years before coming to Long Beach.
Seager is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including Preservationist of the Year from Long Beach Heritage, and Outstanding Contributor to the Preservation of Historic Landscapes in the United States from the American Society of Landscape Architects, and a rare Crystal Vision Award from Boeing Corporation.
Current Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation board chair Jerry Miller wrote this when announcing Seager's retirement:
"She steered the Rancho through transitions and crises with strength and calm. And she did this all while providing leadership and support to other community organizations, not least of which were the California Preservation Foundation, Long Beach Heritage, and the Soroptimists. Pamela Seager provided the strength and vision to help create the Rancho Los Alamitos we have today. Her impact on
the historic site and on the region will be felt for generations to come."
Former Mayor Beverly O'Neill had similar memories of Seager.
"Pamela had a passion for the Rancho," she said. "She gave it her strength, she gave it meaning. She brought it alive."
Memorial services are pending.