Obituary of Debra Zygielbaum
Debra Dell Zygielbaum died tragically in an automobile accident on November 8, 2018, near Napa, California at the age of 44. Debby was a vibrant, caring, and engaged person. Her passions were horticulture, organic farming, and social justice. The biography she penned for her website captures the essence of who she was.
“Raised in the urban jungles of Southern California, Debby often found herself looking for the dirt between the cracks in the cement. Much to her parents’ consternation, she would bring home cups of soil filled with worms she’d saved from puddles. Little did she know she’d manage acres of good worm habitat when she grew up to be a farmer.
“Debby’s lifelong fascination with creeping, crawling, flying, walking, running and rooting things inspired her to pursue a career as a conservationist. After earning a degree in 1995 in Biology and Women’s Studies at Scripps College, which included a stint in the Australian rainforest, she planned to become a tropical ecologist. Appropriately, she worked in the verdant jungles of Costa Rica, where she saw shade grown coffee, banana, and pineapple plantations and witnessed the beginnings of the global organic movement.
“Tantalized by the idea of growing things for a living, Debby returned stateside to serve as a horticulturist at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, devoted to the conservation of California native plants.
“Still looking for more dirt and less cement than the Los Angeles area had to offer, Debby moved to Northern California in 2001. She soon discovered organic and Biodynamic viticulture, which seemed a wonderful way to blend her myriad horticulture and management skills. Working the dirt seemed to be the right way to go. Debby believes environmental conservation begins with the food we eat and the wine we drink.”
Before becoming a consultant in sustainable agriculture, including integrating grazing into farming systems, she spent 15 years as the vineyard manager for a Napa valley winery. She was also ordained as a priestess of the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess, International in 2006.
Debby was a vibrant member of the Board of Directors and actively involved in many aspects of the Napa County Farm Bureau. She led the Napa Organic Group which focused on sustainable farming practices and was actively involved in the Farm Bureau's political and community education endeavors.
In 1994, Debby met her life partner Kerrigan Valentine. They were married in Vermont on October 10, 2000. Kerrigan is a prolific author of fantasy and science fiction novels. Debby partnered with her in the creation and publishing of her books. They made their home in Sonoma, California.
Debby is survived by her wife, Kerrigan Valentine, father and step-mother, Art and Chris Zygielbaum (Lincoln, NE), mother, Sandra Limina (Claremont, CA), brother David Zygielbaum (Torrance, CA), his wife, Zoe, and daughter Zia, aunt and uncle Michelle and Paul Zygielbaum (Santa Rosa, CA), and cousins Sam, Beth, and Josh Zygielbaum.
A celebration of life memorial will be held on Friday, November 16, 2018, at 2 pm at Eggen and Lance Chapel, 1540 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, CA. Donations memorializing Debby’s life may be made to Planned Parenthood, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-northern-california, the American Civil Liberties Union, https://www.aclunc.org/, and the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess, International, http://rcgi.org.