The pandemic’s toll:Lives lost in California

Thousands of lives have been lost in the coronavirus outbreak, in cities and small towns, in hospital wards and nursing homes. The virus has moved across California, killing the old and the young, the infirm and the healthy.

Some patterns have emerged. Large metropolitan centers such as Los Angeles and San Francisco appear to be the hardest hit. More than 61 thousand people have died in California. These are some of their stories, reported by Los Angeles Times staffers and six interns here through partnerships with the Pulitzer Center and USC.

Herbert Segall

91, Pasadena

When Herbert “Herb” Segall learned he had missed a single math question on the New York State Regents exam in 1947, he was certain it was the test, not he, that was wrong. He insisted on a meeting with the exam board and roundly proved that his answer was correct. The small victory confirmed what those around him had known for some time: Herb Segall had a special kind of mind.

The exam was just the start of Segall’s lifelong intellectual journey, which included a doctorate in chemistry, a stint on Linus Pauling’s research team at Caltech and more than three decades as a professor of physics at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He died in Pasadena on May 1, 2020, from complications of COVID-19. He was 91.

“My father was a giant,” said his daughter, Adrienne Segall. “He was a sequoia.”

At 6-foot-2, Segall stood as a towering presence to everyone in his orbit. He was adored by his family, his fellow faculty members and the numerous students he nurtured throughout his long career, but his great intellect lacked the great ego that so often accompanies people of such abilities, his daughter said.

Ever humble, ever patient, Segall was a humanitarian and an activist who participated in the Civil Rights Movement, the Chicano Movement and the Women’s Movement. He dedicated more than 20 years of his retirement to weekly volunteer guitar shows at the Jewish Home for the Aging in Los Angeles, where he played and sang in four languages: English, Spanish, Yiddish and Hebrew. Both the music and the company brought him great joy.

“What distinguished my father wasn’t just his scientific mind,” his daughter said. “It was his ability to locate, through the chaos of the world and through knowledge itself, what is important.”

Segall doted on Adrienne and her sister Carole, and his wife, Miriam, whom he met at City College of New York when she approached him for help with math. They were married in 1952, and the two of them could often be found lost in conversation about obscure topics, such as the politics of 13th century China, over a plate of lunch. He was so steadfast that when a friend’s garage caught fire, the friend didn’t call the fire department—he called Herb.

That Segall’s daughter should compare him to a sequoia is fitting given his lifelong sense of wonder for the natural world. In the vein of the great American transcendentalists he admired, he often sought out big adventures and even bigger skies.

“He didn’t like being hemmed in by the small and multiple trees of the East Coast,” Adrienne said, noting that her father fell in love with California during an early teaching stint at Deep Springs College in the desert beneath Mount Whitney. “He was a Western wanderer. He drove that car with my pregnant mother across the country and he never looked back.”

And although Segall’s intellect won him many accolades, it also won him a bit of mischief. When he was called into the L.A. Superior Court for jury selection in 1991, the judge asked him to disclose the occupations of his adult children. Segall replied that he couldn’t answer the question because the phrase “adult children” is an oxymoron. The judge took such offense that the ensuing kerfuffle (which included a court officer consulting a dictionary) was covered by the LA Times.

Wrote Times columnist Steve Harvey of the incident: “Nothing gums up the judicial process like a display of intellect.”

Juan Martinez

36, Stockton

(Family photo)

Juan Martinez loved San Francisco. During a trip last year, he explored the city, went to the beach and attended his first Giants game with his 10-year-old daughter Ericka. When he got back, he was smiling from ear to ear.

“I know that day was special for both of them,” his son Erick said. “When my dad came back, he was really, really happy.”

Born in Puebla, Mexico, Juan Martinez died of COVID-19 complications at Dameron Hospital in Stockton on June 7. He was 36.

Martinez met his wife Maria Reyna Flores while working at The Elephant Bar in Stockton a dozen years ago. At the time, she was a single mother and was suffering from depression. Martinez would take both Flores and Erick on dates and was never shy to show his love to her.

“If he wanted to give me a kiss, and my kids were there, he would still give it to me,” Flores said in Spanish. “I felt proud to have a husband who loved me so much.”

Martinez always encouraged Erick and his three younger daughters to excel in school and would exude his pride at Erick’s scholarship events and graduation.

“He was always on me, he was always tough,” Erick said. “But it always came with my love.”

Erick added that when he came out as gay at 16, both of his parents were accepting, even if his dad was raised with a “machista” attitude, common among Mexican men.

“It was just easy. Like nothing,” Erick said. “I knew I was going to be loved. After I came out, he was always still there for me. He was old-fashioned but he respected me and who I am as a person.”

Martinez also loved cooking and going out to eat with his family. He had the dream of starting his own restaurant alongside his wife. Erick, who has an associate’s degree in retail management and merchandising, wanted them to start with a food truck and grow from there.

“He’d tell me ‘One day, we’re going to do it,’” Flores said. “Now, I want to follow my husband’s dreams.”

Martinez died after a week on life support and a ventilator. He began feeling sick May 31 after a 10-hour shift at work. He had body aches earlier that day and started having trouble breathing that night. He had no underlying health conditions, his wife said.

Martinez, Flores and their four children all tested positive. Only Flores showed symptoms and has since recovered.

He wanted his kids to become somebody in life and that they feel proud of who they were,” she said. “My children depend on me and I need to fight and be strong, because that’s what my husband would have done.”

Martinez is survived by his wife, son, daughters Ericka, Alondra and Brianna and by his father, Pedro.

“I’m going to need to find work, but as long as God gives me strength and health, I’m going to keep fighting,” Flores said.

Read the full obituary

Mary Miramontes

90, Danville

Lou Miramontes likes to think of his parents, Roberto and Mary, as “a great American story.”

High-school sweethearts at San Francisco’s Balboa High School, they married soon after, bought a home in Union City for about $4,000 and raised their four children there, shuffling between sporting events and mapping out plans for their next trip to the beaches of Acapulco.

Mary had wanted to go to college but building a family came first. She’d later become a bookkeeper, working at the United Auto Workers Union in Fremont for 17 years and passing her passion for financial analysis onto her son, Lou, who would also become an accountant.

Lou sought many aspects of his parents’ journey for himself. But he did not see it ending this way — with Mary, 90, dying of complications due to COVID-19 in a Brookdale assisted living and memory care facility in Tracy, where she was being treated for dementia.

As Roberto, 94, told Lou recently of his wife of 72 years, “She was not a young woman, but the disease took her before her time.”

“My dad had dreams of bringing her home,” Lou said. “The hardest part is, the last few months, not even being able to be in the same room with her.”

Mary, who lived in Danville the last three decades, died Sept. 19. She is survived by her four children, 11 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Since the pandemic began in March, she had to adjust to new rhythms of how her family could visit, but they were able to celebrate her 90th birthday in an outside garden area.

Lou said there was an outbreak at Brookdale in August and soon after she tested positive. From that point on, they were not allowed to see her other than on Facetime.

“This COVID thing is horrific,” Lou said. “We all need to continue to protect ourselves and call out other people who aren’t behaving appropriately. We’ve got to get through this.”

Chris Trousdale

34, Los Angeles

(Jennifer Lourie / Getty Images)

From an early age, singer and actor Chris Trousdale radiated charisma on and off the stage.

As a child, he appeared on Broadway in “Les Miserables” and “The Sound of Music.” His longtime friend, Greg Raposo — who performed alongside Trousdale in the children's theater group Broadway Kids and later as one fifth of the popular teen boy band Dream Street — remembers the funny gestures and faces Trousdale would make during shows, tempting him to break character.

"Everything was very light ... with him," Raposo said. "It was always just fun and games."

Dream Street broke up in 2002, but Raposo and Trousdale kept in touch. In a final conversation earlier this year, they made plans to reconnect sometime in person, "figuring that there'd be another million chances,” Raposo said.

Trousdale died of complications from COVID-19 in a Burbank hospital on June 2, a few months after that last phone call. He was 34.

"He was one of those people that no matter how long you hadn't seen him for, it felt exactly the same every time I would see him or talk to him," Raposo said. "That was something special that you don't get to have with too many people."

Over the summer, Dream Street reunited for a musical tribute to their fallen bandmate, who was the only trained dancer in the collective and always emerged as a natural leader during choreography sessions.

"After one time showing [a dance], he was already doing the moves as well as [the choreographer]," Raposo said. "In many ways, he was like the dance teacher of the group."

Trousdale, who also enjoyed a successful solo career and acted in TV series such as "Lucifer" and "Austin & Ally," was born Christopher Ryan Pask in Port Richey, Fla. He is survived by his mother, Helena Pask, and a half brother, Ronnie Pask.

"Some people ... they perform, and they sing, and they write music as a hobby or as a passion," Raposo said. "But for him, it was a lot more than that. It was truly his identity. It was who he was above anything else. …

"More than a brother, more than a friend, more than a son — more than all the other titles you could put on him — he was a performer and a dancer and a really talented person."

Frank J. Duran

88, Ventura

For Frank J. Duran, overseeing OMA Ojai Ranch afforded him a satisfying daily ritual: a ride in his pickup truck across the sprawling property.

Duran would tool around its verdant acres, visiting with the ranch's workers and checking on the avocado and citrus crops.

"He took pride in how those orange trees looked and how they grew," said daughter Jacqueline Wilson.

Running the Ojai Valley ranch was hard work, but for Duran, who was foreman of the facility for more than 50 years, it was a fulfilling pursuit.

"My dad had a natural talent for ranching," said Wilson, who grew up on the ranch along with her three sisters.

Frank J. Duran died Jan. 28 from COVID-19 at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura. He was 88.

The son of Soledad and Francisco Duran, he was born in Ventura on Aug. 2, 1932. Duran grew up on a local ranch where his family worked, instilling in him a love for ranching, Wilson said.

After the Korean War began in 1950, Duran was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to the fighting. He didn't talk much with his family about the war but shared one incident with daughter Judy Cutillo.

At one point during his service in Korea, amid terrible conditions, he built a bunker to protect himself, but it was commandeered by his superiors, Cutillo said. "There was a bomb that hit that bunker and everyone died," she said. "He was going, 'Ah, well, you know — karma. Things happen.'"

But Duran didn't escape the war unscathed. During the fighting, he was injured by shrapnel. He was later awarded a Purple Heart, his family said.

After the war, in 1955, Duran married Joanne Morrison. He returned to ranching, getting the job at OMA in the late 1950s, Wilson said. Over the years, Duran developed a strong connection with the ranch's longtime owner, W. Owens Miller, an L.A. aerospace executive and philanthropist who died in 1997.

Miller "would drive up from L.A., and my dad would hang out with him," said Cutillo. It was, Wilson said, a relationship built on "a lot of respect."

Duran's wife, Joanne, died in 2005, and he left the ranch soon thereafter. In his later years, he delighted in family reunions and fishing excursions, including ones with his great-grandsons.

For Duran, the pastime offered a connection to the land — that same sort of connection he enjoyed at OMA Ojai Ranch.

"My dad loved being outside," Wilson said.

Duran is survived by daughters Jody Duran, Janet Duran, Wilson and Cutillo; siblings Gracie Varela, Bill Duran and George Duran; two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

David Iribarne

47, Sacramento

The word "Poetry" was tattooed on David Iribarne’s arm in ornate script, not that anyone who read his vivid verse or heard him speak at the Sacramento Poetry Center or coffeehouses in his hometown needed confirmation he was a poet to his core.

He wrote about love and loss and relationships with a keen and empathetic eye. Writing allowed him to unburden his soul and strengthen it. A compilation of his poems, “Bones Skin & Soul,” was published in 2014 by Cold River Press and it was a crowning achievement. He was bipolar and had been bruised by life but he learned to manage his condition as best he could and had gotten training to help others in therapy sessions.

“He could be hilarious when he wrote. He could be very sweet,” said Laura Martin, who ran a Thursday night writers’ group where Iribarne found a haven. They had known each other at Sacramento State and reconnected when she joined Sacramento’s poetry community; he introduced her around and shared a performance stage with her.

“I know he wrote about a lot of things,” Martin said, “but in the group he started writing more about his family. He would get really good feedback when he wrote about family because he knew a lot about loss, losing both parents, losing his sister. It’s a very sacred thing when a writer shares those things.”

Iribarne’s appearance was as striking as his poetry.

His brother Matthew loved the contrast between Iribarne’s hulking build and gentle nature. “Seeing him walking down the street towards you, you probably wouldn’t think, ‘Here comes a poet,’ ” he said.

The youngest of four kids, Iribarne constantly dribbled a basketball in the house and played basketball at Sacramento High. Matthew recalled his brother once lost a tooth when he dunked and the backboard came down on top of him. He fearlessly cheered for his beloved Philadelphia 76ers when they played the Kings in Sacramento, and it would have been easy to guess he had been an NBA player because he stood 6-foot-5.

“And not like a beanpole 6-foot-5,” Matthew said. “Like a freight train 6-foot-5, which is why when you played him in basketball — which I did on occasion — probably your best bet was to get out of the way. He could really knock you down, to say the least.”

His physical solidity led Matthew and their sister Nancy Gervais to believe Iribarne would recover after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. And for a short time he seemed to rally while hospitalized. “I wasn’t too worried. He’d always been so strong. He’d always pulled through everything. And he was young,” Gervais said.

But then the 47-year-old took a turn for the worse and died on Sept. 20, one of thousands of Californians who have fallen victim to the coronavirus. “I think that it’s so overwhelming and it does just become numbers. I think people need to realize we have feelings and we love them,” Gervais said. “I think it’s important that you tell people’s stories. They’re not numbers — they’re people.”

In his obituary in the Sacramento Bee and elsewhere his family requested donations in David’s memory be made to the Sacramento Poetry Center, where he thrived as a writer and a person.

“It was very difficult for him at first, I think, as somebody who struggled with making public appearances and speaking in front of people,” said Tim Kahl, the center’s vice president. “He was able to work up the courage after coming to the open mic several times and as he got to know people they encouraged him more and more because his work was incredibly sincere.”

The center also hosted a book launch/birthday party for him when his book was published and he couldn’t attend. Friends took turns reciting his work.

Cindy Domasky became a mother figure to Iribarne at the writing group and visited him at the care facilities where he lived in recent years. She’d bring a copy of his book to the nurses’ station so they’d appreciate who he truly was.

Iribarne hadn’t been able to attend the writers’ group for several years but Martin told him there was always a place for him at the table. “He was always excited that we were keeping it open for him. So I still feel like we have a chair for him,” Domasky said. “I miss David, I miss his laugh, I just miss him.”

Dora Padilla

86, Alhambra

It was a tense moment, and the fate of the Alhambra Unified School District’s art and music programs rested in the hands of five elected board members.

The state had taken an axe to the district’s budget, and Steve Perry recalled fearing that there was no way that he and his fellow school board members could avoid putting an end to the programs. He worried that Dora Padilla, a colleague and staunch defender of the arts, would end up being the lone dissenting voice.

But Padilla had a plan. In a shrewd political move, she voted to cut the arts program, knowing it would give her the ability to resurrect the motion. At the very next meeting, Padilla came armed with fiscal ideas on how to trim the district budget while sparing the arts.

The vote to preserve the art programs was unanimous and spoke to not only Padilla’s tenacity but her unshakable dedication to providing a full and rich education for students in the district she helped oversee.

Forever dedicated to schools, students and equal opportunity, Padilla died Jan. 8 while battling COVID-19. She was 86.

“She was one of the kindest women that I’d ever know but she was a fighter for kids,” Perry said. “Kids were always first on her mind.”

Before the longtime trustee made her mark, Padilla, a daughter of Mexican immigrants, worked as a secretary for the architectural firm Barker & Ott and then became a homemaker after marrying Al Padilla — who went on to become a legendary East Los Angeles football coach — and had three children.

Her dedication to her own children’s education foreshadowed her eventual legacy on the school board. The PTA mom started as a volunteer, spending hours inside her children’s kindergarten classroom to help teachers with whatever was necessary. As her children grew, she started leading fundraisers and attending high school football games.

One of her favorite kindergarten stories was when she watched a new teacher cook a pot of pinto beans for a Cinco de Mayo celebration, her daughter Lisa recalled. Padilla watched quietly as the teacher poured the speckled beans into a pot, without rinsing them or picking out the tiny rocks. The class ended up with gritty beans.

Padilla’s experience inside the classroom and on campus helped her see what students needed. She eventually grew frustrated by what she viewed as a lethargic school board and believed she could do better — and so did thousands of community members who voted her into office in 1978. She went on to serve five terms.

Steve Padilla, her son and an editor at the Los Angeles Times, wrote in a 1999 Times story that voting for his mother was an electoral pleasure hard to describe.

Her campaign slogan continues to resonate with many in the community. It was an inspirational message she saw painted on a wall on a family vacation to Mexico City: “Querer al niño es educarlo.” To love a child is to educate a child.

Padilla aimed to help all children, but her campaign slogan turned into a call to fellow Latinos.

During the 1980s, an influx of Vietnamese refugees and Chinese migrants moved into the San Gabriel Valley. They quickly outnumbered Anglo and Latino students in the district. To help their community thrive, migrants created their own cultural resource centers.

Meanwhile, the district struggled to take a stand on bilingual education and was forced to rethink how to better equip teachers for this new student population. Padilla immediately recognized that Latino students were struggling and advocated for bilingual education and helped create the Alhambra Latino Assn. in 1995.

Lilia Sarmiento, a founding member of the group, described Padilla as a “revolutionary” who paved the path for students and Latino officials in Southern California.

“She was our cheerleader who was always rooting for us,” Sarmiento said.

Padilla is survived by her daughter and son. She was predeceased by her husband and her eldest son, Daniel.

Russ Abraham

70, Fair Oaks

(Family photo)

The former students, their families and healthcare workers gathered six feet apart at the top of the parking garage at San Juan Medical Center, singing to honor the life of the music teacher who became a mentor to many.

In some ways, it mimicked a home video capturing Russ Abraham leading a gymnasium filled with children singing a song he wrote.

And though he will no longer be there for his former students or play in his personal band, the memories Abraham left behind will carry on.

Abraham died April 9 from complications of COVID-19. He was 70.

Born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Abraham quickly fell in love with music and played in bands in high school. He eventually met his wife, Linda, at the music store where they both worked.

The two eventually settled in Fair Oaks in Sacramento County. For almost 30 years, Abraham worked for the San Juan Unified School District, first as a traveling music teacher, then as a full-time music instructor at Harry Dewey Fundamental School. He also played in a small band, Debbie Wolfe & Halfmoon Highway.

Jason Timmons met Abraham nearly three years ago --- the two struck up a conversation while standing in line at a local Starbucks, where the two went almost every morning. Timmons said Abraham was known for always keeping his beard trimmed. He also kept his nails in good condition so he could pick the guitar chords when he played.

“He genuinely was all heart and he wanted to make everyone happy, whether it was with a smile or a compliment,” Timmons said. “He would just go out of his way to try and make people smile.”

After Abraham contracted COVID-19, Timmons said, the virus moved swiftly. His activity on social media slowed, Timmons said, and Abraham was eventually taken by ambulance to the hospital. His wife also tested positive, but is recovering.

Russ is survived by his wife, son Terry, sisters Sue and Paula and a brother, Mike.

Larry Lerner

71, Van Nuys

(Family photo)

More than 25 years ago, Lynne Lerner walked onto the set of “China Beach,” a 1980s television show about medics in the Vietnam War, to check in for work as an extra. There, she met the man who would become her husband, Larry Lerner, an assistant director on the show.

Over the years, the two would share beautiful moments as a married couple. They loved to rescue pit bulls together, attended Emmy events and watched TV shows in their Van Nuys home.

She acted in “General Hospital,” “Married With Children” and “Days of Our Lives.” He worked on shows that included “The Man in the High Castle,” “Ambitions” and “Drop Dead Diva.” Sometimes they worked together.

On April 1, their decades-long Hollywood romance was cut short when Larry Lerner died from COVID-19 at the age of 71.

“We were best buddies,” said Lynne Lerner, 67. “We did everything together — everything. We were joined at the hip. I thought he’d be here forever.”

Lynne said she and her husband got sick around the same time in mid-March, but they were never too worried. They were healthy, their symptoms didn’t match with the most severe cases of COVID-19, and they followed all the safety protocols to protect themselves against the virus.

He developed a low fever and a cough, but it wasn’t a dry cough. She was weak but had no other symptoms. Their doctor told them to go to the hospital only if they reached a fever of over 102 degrees. They felt they could battle it out at home.

Lynne said her husband appeared to be less sick than she was. All she could do was stay in bed, but he watched TV on their living room couch. She teared up at the thought of not having been able to make him tea or lunch. “I could hardly make it fast enough to sit back down,” she said.

On the evening of March 22, she heard her husband bump into something in the living room. She found him on the floor. When the paramedics arrived, Larry’s fever was 104 degrees. He was admitted to the intensive care unit at Valley Presbyterian Hospital and put on a ventilator. Because she felt so weak, she was also hospitalized.

The following day, the couple called each other on FaceTime from their hospital beds.

“Hi, baby, everything’s fine,” she recalled her husband saying. “I’m fine. I love you.”

That was the last time she saw him.

More than a week later, a doctor called Lynne, who had already returned home, to tell her that her husband had died.

Ever A. Linares

45, Los Angeles

Even while suffering from fever and body aches, Ever A. Linares kept working by phone the week before Thanksgiving to connect needy families with turkeys for the holiday.

By Nov. 30, Linares, a 45-year-old gang intervention worker who quelled violence in different parts of the city for more than a decade, was dead from complications of COVID-19, his wife Andrea said.

The co-founder of Resilient, a nonprofit organization that works with at-risk and gang-involved youth, Linares was known locally for working to reduce violence. In addition to running his own agency, he worked with the Mayor’s Office of Gang Intervention and Youth Development program to train intervention workers and police officers. He also traveled the nation to train community workers with the Urban Peace Institute, a group that works to reduce street violence.

“It was his mission to show young people across the city the power of faith, of hope and of love in the face of violence and poverty,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Born and raised in Los Angeles’ Pico-Union neighborhood, Linares got involved in gangs by the time he was 13, his wife said. When he reached his 20s and had his first daughter, he began transitioning away from gangs and toward church.

“He mentioned that he wanted something different, a different life for his daughter,” his wife said.

He became involved in Victory Outreach Ministries and eventually began working with different gang intervention agencies across the city.

“People would just gravitate toward him,” said Fernando Rejón, the executive director of the Urban Peace Institute.

This year, amid the pandemic and a rising homicide rate, Linares kept working to help families. His organization handed out personal protective equipment in the South Park neighborhood where the agency is based and held weekly food drives.

Sometimes, his devotion to his work would wear on his wife. One night years ago, Linares was eating dinner with his family when his phone rang. Andrea said she shot him a look, annoyed that their meal was going to be interrupted yet again.

It was a person in crisis. Linares told him: “Do not make a permanent decision based off a temporary feeling.” Andrea said that encounter helped her better understand her husband’s work.

“What if he didn’t pick up the phone call?" she said. “He prevented somebody from probably going to jail.”

Linares said her husband was a patient man. If a person needed a job and didn’t know how to fill out the application, he would sit and walk them through the process. In addition, he would take the time to tell those he helped what it means to be presentable and what employers want to see.

Like many of the city’s intervention workers, Linares wanted to contribute to making peace on the streets. Even as a youth leader in church, he connected with others who were in need, recalled longtime friend and co-founder of Resilient, Michael Guedel.

Guedel said he came to see Linares as a mentor over the years.

“He would always tell me never to be paralyzed by fear but to keep moving,” Guedel said.

Linares is survived by his wife, seven children and one grandchild.

Valeria Viveros

21, Riverside

Valeria Viveros, 21, of Riverside died from COVID-19 on April 11. (GoFundMe / Family photo)

Valeria Viveros, 21, didn’t have the heart to stay home after she got her first job as an assistant nurse.

The young woman had started by taking care of elderly patients at a specialized nursing home in Riverside. Recently, despite knowing that several patients were infected with the coronavirus, she decided to keep working, family members said.

On April 11, it was Viveros who had to go to a hospital with frightening symptoms; she tested positive for COVID-19 and her body could not fight off the disease.

“We’re grateful to the staff at ICU Corona Hospital who took care of her,” said her aunt, Rafaela Pinto Urrea. “We want to remember her spirit of dedication and perseverance in pursuing her objectives, her joy and sincerity and the way she treated other people. As the youngest daughter, she was too young to leave us. But God has opened Heaven for her. Her mother, father, sister and brother are in a state of shock and mourning.”

Urrea added that “Valeria made the ultimate sacrifice for her elderly patients. ... She deserves our love and gratitude.”

Leah Bernstein

99, Woodland Hills

(Family photo)

Her life was synonymous with early Hollywood’s golden age. Its biggest stars, to Leah Bernstein, felt like family.

“I remember Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney playing outside the window, and Katharine Hepburn was always trying to get me to play tennis.” she said in a 2015 interview.

Bernstein was still a Fairfax High student, just 16, when she landed an after-school typing job at MGM Studios that propelled her into a life spent on movie sets. On more than 28 films, Bernstein worked as filmmaker Stanley Kramer’s executive secretary, befriending the likes of Sidney Poitier and Vivien Leigh along the way.

On April 23, Leah Bernstein died at age 99 from complications of COVID-19. She was the sixth resident of the Motion Picture and Television Fund skilled-nursing home to die from the virus. Her family has since praised the heroism of those who helped care for her while the virus spread through the Woodland Hills facility.

A Los Angeles native, Bernstein grew up dreaming of a life in the movie business. After working every night until midnight at MGM, she resolved to put herself through Woodbury Business College to become an executive secretary.

Her trademark wit caught on quickly among Hollywood executives. Over a long career, she also worked for Irving Fein, Jack Benny's manager, and for famed animator Ralph Bakshi.

“Even in her late 90s, Leah had a dry, witty sense of humor and was a flirt until her last days,” Bob Beitcher, president and chief executive of the MPTF, told Deadline.

Beitcher said Bernstein often noted her pride in the social impact that the movies she created with Kramer made. The Oscar-winning filmmaker also died at MPTF in 2001.

In her later years, Bernstein spent most of her time volunteering or with her family. She is survived by her nephew, Rodger, as well as three grand-nieces and -nephews and nine great-grand-nieces and -nephews.

Jose M. Perez

44, Lakewood

(Ruben Torres)

In 16 years, Jose M. Perez went on about 100,000 calls for the Los Angeles Fire Department. Even Fire Capt. Ruben Torres, Perez’s best friend, considers that a massive number.

“We went to all different types of calls — medical calls, barricaded suspects, police shootings,” Torres said. “There were multiple times where we were pulling people out of structures and shortly after, the house would flash over — when everything in the house reaches ignition temperature; It's almost like everything spontaneously combusts.”

The 44-year-old Perez — known to his friends, family and fellow firefighters as Joser (pronounced “Hoser”), Joe or Dr. Phil — was an even-keeled man who worked much of his career out of a South Los Angeles fire station only three streets over from where he was born.

The Lakewood resident was also a prankster who once swapped out a coworker’s tile glue with pancake batter. He was the kind of guy who paid for an elderly stranger’s medications and helped refurbish a fire engine to send to the Dominican Republic after it was painted Dodger blue.

“We went on a call, and he realized the family had a bunch of kids sleeping on the floor,” said Torres. “When he saw that, he went down the street and purchased some bunk beds for the family.”

Perez took in his two nephews when their father was lost to gang violence and raised them. He and his wife, Heidi, went on to have three children of their own.

On July 11, the apparently healthy firefighter tested positive for the novel coronavirus. On July 16, he was hospitalized. Three days later, he was in the ICU.

“He didn’t think he was going to have to stay. But he checked in on a Thursday morning and that Friday, he was telling me I needed to make out a will” for him, Heidi Perez said.

“So I had to hurry up and get it to him the next day, on our wedding anniversary.”

On July 25, 2020, Jose M. Perez became the first Los Angeles firefighter to die of COVID-19.

“One day he was like, ‘Hey, I'm fine,’ and 14 days later, we're doing a procession to Rose Hills [Cemetery]. It was almost like a dream,” Torres said. “It happened so quick.

“It's very hard for me to believe that happened. There's days where I still can't. I still can't believe that he passed away.

“To live a life where you’re constantly giving and never asking for anything in return .… You can’t replace a person like that.”

George Chiu

86, Palo Alto

(Chiu family)

George Chiu was a craftsman with an eye for detail and a passion for problem solving. He carried both traits with him throughout his life.

Chiu, a San Francisco Bay Area native with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from San Jose State, began his career at Fairchild Semiconductor. In 1968 he followed Fairchild colleagues Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore to a start-up the two had founded in the semiconductor chip industry.

The 39th employee at Intel Corp., Chiu spent most of his career designing and assembling “packaging” that would seal off semiconductor chips from moisture and other contaminants while still allowing the transmission of electronic signals.

“He was always a real hands-on engineer,” said his daughter Jenny Sears. “They just had to be inventive back then — there was no class in semiconductor chip packaging. They’d be testing materials all the time. People would say, ‘Well, your dad knew more about materials than some people with doctorates.’”

In a company publication celebrating Intel’s 25th anniversary, Chiu reflected on his career: “I was the first engineer doing package development at Intel. I’m still doing basically the same thing and I love it,” he said. “I can hold a product in my hand and see my contribution to it; my identity’s in that package. I was supposed to retire almost 10 years ago, but when there’s so much going on here, who wants to retire?”

In the 1990s Chiu also worked on a technology, widely used today, known as “C4” processing that enabled chips to simultaneously make hundreds, and eventually thousands, of electrical connections.

Craig Noke, a former carpool mate and jogging partner, said Chiu loved to solve problems.

“That was his life,” Noke said. “You had some problem at work, and try and find out what the solution is — that was his satisfaction.”

Chiu had an eye for handiwork as well. When he had his house remodeled, he came home every day and inspected the work, asking the contractor to straighten something out “1/16th of an inch” even if functionally it was perfect, said Noke, who used the same contractor.

Chiu had a lighter side, too. Colleagues and his daughter recalled his penchant for rock concerts at the Fillmore in the 1960s, where he would stand next to speakers to immerse himself in the music — a habit that may have contributed to his severe hearing loss.

“He was like this old hippie,” Sears said.

Chiu had a plethora of hobbies — travel, photography, jewelry making, collecting tools. He liked cars, buying a Porsche Boxster after he retired.

Most of all, though, he loved to eat — Chinese food, especially.

Paul Engel, a colleague and best friend of 40 years, spent months with Chiu in Penang, Malaysia, where Intel had package assembly plants. The two would go on culinary adventures, often seeking out char quay teow, a Chinese noodle-and-seafood dish.

“We couldn’t get enough of that,” Engel said.

Engel later left the company but continued to meet Chiu every week for years.

“We’d go to lunch and eat like pigs — and he’d go home that evening and right away ask, ‘What’s for dinner, Florence?’” Engel said, referring to Chiu’s wife, who died in 2011.

When Chiu died, friends joked that he went to heaven, found Florence and immediately asked, “What’s for dinner?”

Late in life, Chiu developed Alzheimer’s disease. He continued to live alone at his Palo Alto home, assisted by round-the-clock caregivers. By late last year much of his memory was failing, but Engel said “he could still talk about Penang and the food there.”

It’s not clear how Chiu contracted COVID-19, but his daughter said it could have been from a recent hospital stay or possibly from one of his caregivers, although they were extremely careful. He died Dec. 31.

Emma Patiño

84, Hayward

Birthdays and Christmas were special to Emma Patiño, who would craft handmade blankets and pillows for her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She'd add superheroes or cartoon characters or other interests from their lives.

One year, Emma made her grandson Jaime Patiño an Elvis Presley blanket — both of them were fans.

“She didn't have much money, but she had time and she knew how to sew,” he said. “Those meant more than any gifts you could buy at a store because they were made by her. She took the time because she cared.”

Emma, 84, died of complications from COVID-19 on April 13 at Kaiser Permanente in San Leandro. She’s survived by her three children, five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

The daughter of a sheepherder, Emma grew up in a large, close knit family in Del Rio, Texas. When she was 20, she married Ricardo Patiño, who grew up in the same town.

Emma worked different jobs in Del Rio, and her husband took up seasonal work in the East Bay at the old Hunt’s fruit packing cannery. When the cannery offered Ricardo a full-time job, Emma agreed to relocate their family of five to Union City in 1960.

“She said, ‘Yes, we’re poor here in Del Rio, at least we’ll have a chance over there,’” said Jaime Patiño, a city councilmember in Union City. Though neither Emma nor Ricardo finished high school, they watched the next generations graduate college and earn advanced degrees. The couple divorced years before Ricardo's death in 2004, but remained on good terms, Jaime said.

Emma was a soft-spoken woman who enjoyed visits from her loved ones — when she'd insist they sit and eat something even if they weren’t hungry — and her 'novelas. “We’d be talking on the phone: ‘Oh, oh, I gotta go, my show’s coming on,'” said Jaime.

In October 2018, Emma moved into the Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hayward. She had been diagnosed with dementia, but still remembered her relatives and details about her family, and she seemed to be happy there, Jaime said.

Five days before she died, Jaime went to see his grandmother after receiving a news alert that there was a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility. They communicated silently through the window of her room; Emma waved at him to come inside, unaware of the halt on visits. A few hours later he went to see her again through the window, this time with his daughter.

“Just within two or three hours, she started having a cough,” he said. She became the 10th resident of the Gateway Center to die of complications from the coronavirus, in an outbreak that killed at least 18 others.

She died less than two weeks before what would have been her 85th birthday. To celebrate her birthday last year, the family took her out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Fremont. It was the last time the entire family was able to gather around to see her. In one of the pictures from that day, she’s surrounded by her great-grandchildren.

“She loved that,” Jaime said. “And for her to pass away just shy of a year later, when she was so full of life, even the last time I got to see her, she got up out of bed and walked over to the window so I could say hi to her. It’s just weird — five days later she passed away.”

Wanda DeSelle

76, Madera

Wanda DeSelle (Family photo)

Every workday for 40 years, Wanda DeSelle could be counted on to be the first one to show up in her office at 8:30 in the morning and the last to leave at 7 in the evening.

Her early arrivals held true even when she was sick.

“We’d have to send her home,” said Mohammad Ashraf, the cardiologist who was her longtime boss. “She was very loyal; loyalty was No. 1.”

Always being there was only part of what made DeSelle an extraordinary employee. The nurse’s versatility in filling every conceivable role was unmatched.

“She could be a nurse, she could be a receptionist, she could be a biller, she could type—she could do anything,” Ashraf said. “She left her mark on everything in the office.”

Ashraf didn’t even know where his bank was located in the central California town of Madera until DeSelle died April 3 from complications of COVID-19 because she handled all of the office finances, retrieving documents from the bank for him to sign and then returning them. She was 76.

DeSelle fell ill after attending the funeral of Maria Rodriguez, another nurse who had worked at Ashraf’s clinic and died in a car accident in late February. According to Ashraf, DeSelle was among a group of mourners who sat one table over from a man who was an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 and likely unknowingly contracted the virus that causes the disease.

She was eventually hospitalized as her condition deteriorated and the family learned that her daughter and pregnant granddaughter had been exposed to the virus as a result of caring for DeSelle.

Those who attended DeSelle’s funeral April 8 at the Arbor Vitae cemetery had to watch her casket lowered into the ground from their cars because of restrictions on public gatherings. Ashraf said friends and patients cried when they learned they could not attend the funeral in a more traditional manner.

Survivors include two daughters, Maureena Silva and Tonya Moe; a brother, Robert; five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, according to the Madera Tribune.

Now that the cemetery has been reopened to mourners, Ashraf said he has visited DeSelle’s gravesite every day after work.

“It broke my heart to lose you but you did not go alone,” Ashraf said, reading from a passage he found that captured his feelings for DeSelle, “because part of me went with you the day God took you home.”

Carol van Zalingen

53, Sylmar

Carol van Zalingen, left, holding her niece Lea van Zalingen. (Family photo)

Carol van Zalingen fell in love with Southern California when she moved to the Los Angeles area in 2008 to take a job teaching English at the private Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena.

“She said she would never live anywhere else – it was a real ‘Harry Potter finds his Hogwarts’ moment for her,” her brother Michael van Zalingen said.

Carol, 53, died of complications related to the virus on April 14.

Carol’s affinity for the area stemmed in large part from her work at Westridge, where students referred to her affectionately as “Ms. V,” her brother said.

In 2015, she became dean of student support for its lower and middle schools. Carol earned a reputation at Westridge for helping girls reach their fullest potential and for her “seemingly bottomless capacity for empathy and caring,” according to an online tribute posted by colleagues and students after news spread of her death.

“She never wanted a light shined in her direction, but her ability to listen, to be present, and hold time and space for students and friends was uncanny,” the tribute said.

Michael van Zalingen says his sister possessed an introverted yet open-hearted nature from an early age.

He remembers her not only as generous, patient and “the smartest person I ever knew,” but also as someone who was devoted to her students and the welfare of animals. She lived in Sylmar with two dogs.

“She was a compulsive dog rescuer,” he said. “Every time she saw a stray dog, her heart would melt.”

The siblings’ lives were unsettled early on because the family moved frequently. Their late father Frederik van Zalingen, a native of the Netherlands, was an international banker who received a different post every three years.

Carol was born in Kampala, Uganda, and Michael in Tehran.

By the time Carol was 6 and Michael was 3, their American-born mother had grown weary of what Michael describes as their “peripatetic” lifestyle.

“So we got visas to come to the U.S.,” he said. They lived in the Midwest and South.

Earlier in her career, Carol worked as a teacher in Alabama and Ohio.

Michael said he intends to honor his sister by granting her final wish — to have her ashes buried in Scotland.

Deborah Lynn Aguilar

60, Salinas

(Family photo)

In 2002, Deborah Lynn Aguilar’s son Stephen was driving home from a neighborhood convenience store when shots rang out from another vehicle.

A single bullet struck him in the head, killing the 18-year-old, who had just graduated from high school. The shooter was never found.

Aguilar healed by helping others heal. She founded a support group and spent the next 18 years comforting those who, like her, had lost loved ones to gun violence in Salinas.

She would rush to crime scenes to hug shell-shocked parents and let them know they were not alone in their grief. She helped organize marches and vigils in Salinas and Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to give voice to the dead. She and other bereaved mothers spoke to Soledad state prison inmates to steer them away from violence and gang life.

“She helped a lot of families,” said Aguilar’s sister, Christina Duran. “My sister was a beautiful example to everyone.”

Every Christmas, members of Aguilar’s group, A Time for Grieving and Healing, held a memorial vigil in a Salinas park for victims of street violence.

They would light a Christmas tree and Aguilar “would be Mrs. Claus and read to the children and give them gifts,” Duran said. Afterward families would go to a nearby church hall to share a potluck meal and display photos of those they had lost.

Sustained by her faith and church, New Harvest/Legacy, Aguilar remained strong and upbeat in the face of continued death. Her husband, Oscar Aguilar, died in 2013. A nephew was fatally shot in 2015. Neither he nor Stephen were gang members, Duran said.

“My sister was always the one who kept us together. I’ve never seen her break down. Everybody went to her. … She was there for all.”

Aguilar was in good health until she was hospitalized with COVID-19. She died Jan. 23 at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas. She was 60.

“We never expected this,” Duran said. “I hate COVID so much.”

In addition to Duran, Aguilar is survived by her children, Sergio, Francesca and Christopher; five grandchildren; brothers Robert, Paul and Anthony; and nieces, nephews and cousins.

Joel Rogosin

87, Woodland Hills

Joel Rogosin, an Emmy-nominated TV producer who died at 87 of complications from COVID-19 on April 21, knew that making it in Hollywood sometimes took more than talent. It took hustle, and sometimes it helped to know somebody.

"It only took one person to help you break in, to get you inside,” Rogosin wrote in a 2004 memoir. “Then if you were ambitious and lucky and didn't screw up, there were opportunities.”

Rogosin, whose producing credits include the 1980s crime-fighting TV staples “Knight Rider” and “Magnum P.I.,” was born in Boston on Oct. 30, 1932, grew up in Virginia, and graduated from Stanford University in 1955, where Rogosin met one of those Hollywood somebodies: a classmate who also happened to be the daughter of MGM studio President Dore Schary.

The MGM head invited Rogosin to visit the studio lot, where an awestruck Rogosin bumped into a “startlingly beautiful Elizabeth Taylor.” Inside Schary’s office, he saw the studio head "counting what appeared from a distance to be, and in fact was, a pile of money!"

That was Hollywood. So was the job Rogosin actually landed when the Schary meeting was a dud: messenger at Columbia Pictures, a totally different studio. The starting-from-rock-bottom strivers who worked alongside him in the mailroom all had bachelor's or postsecondary degrees. They delivered mail, trade papers, packages, scripts and cartons of cigarettes to the executives whose favor they craved but whose power intimidated them.

Still, Rogosin was inside, and that’s what counted. He floated up to the Warner Bros. story department and became an associate producer on “77 Sunset Strip,” a hit ABC detective show that marked the start of Rogosin’s three-decade TV producing career.

One of Rogosin’s longest-running producing stints came on the classic TV Western “The Virginian,” for which he also made his directing debut in 1968. In one episode, he agreed to cast dozens of Native American extras at the demand of musician and guest star Buffy Sainte-Marie, who was Cree. At the time, the Los Angeles Times called it “an unheard-of request” in Hollywood, where such parts were typically played by non-Native American actors.

“He was attracted to inclusion in a really broad sense,” said Robin Rogosin, one of his three daughters, who noted that several of Rogosin’s projects featured characters with disabilities, including “Ironside,” which starred a retired detective who used a wheelchair. “He was really progressive. He wore a medallion that says ‘War is not healthy for children and other living things’ for probably 50 years.”

Rogosin helped the multitalented, velvet-voiced jazz crooner Mel Torme try his hand at acting and screenwriting, and he also produced Jerry Lewis telethons to raise funds to fight muscular dystrophy.

At a panel in 1982, while he was supervising producer on “Magnum, P.I.,” Rogosin complained that it was difficult to get approval to hire actors with disabilities. “The policies come from the networks," Rogosin said. "I was told to get lost when I asked about bringing more disabled [people] into the industry."

Late in his career, Joel Rogosin also helped stage original musicals that he created alongside his brother Roy Rogosin, a musician and composer who founded New Hampshire’s Portsmouth Academy of Performing Arts.

Rogosin enjoyed the creative autonomy he got from working on a small theater production with his brother and with lyricist Bruce Belland, especially compared to the mainstream TV productions he had long been involved with.

“In L.A., they have all these committees,” Joel Rogoson told The Times in 1990. “Here, we’re the committee, the three of us.”

Rogoson also taught writing at colleges and in a program for prisoners, as well as at a Writers’ Guild of America diversity program and at the Performing Arts Theater for the Handicapped.

Rogoson died at the Motion Picture Television Fund’s retirement home in Woodland Hills, where at least six residents have died in a coronavirus outbreak. Last year, Rogoson persuaded the fund to rename the campus’ long-term care facility as the Mary Pickford House, after the silent-film star who helped found the organization.

Rogosin is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Deborah; his three daughters; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Alice Coopersmith Furst

87, Kentfield

(Family photo)

Alice Coopersmith Furst was constantly in motion.

“If I would use one word to describe her it would be busy,” said her daughter, Karen Honeywell. “Even when she didn’t have anything going on, she was always busy, she was always doing something, she couldn’t sit still.”

At the senior community in San Rafael where she spent her early 80s, she was known as “the tiny tornado.” Though she was just shy of 5 feet 2, her taller neighbors couldn’t keep up with her, said her son Mark Coopersmith.

Coopersmith Furst, 87, died in her sleep on April 4 at a memory care facility in Kentfield, just north of San Francisco, two days after testing positive for COVID-19. She’d moved there a year and a half prior, due to her worsening dementia symptoms.

Her children said people who knew her have reached out to say they’ll miss her “wry smile.”

“She wasn’t necessarily mischievous, but she always had a mischievous twinkle in her eye,” Coopersmith said.

Coopersmith Furst was born and raised in New York City. She received a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and a master’s in speech and language therapy from Boston University. She spent her career working as a speech therapist.

In 1966, Coopersmith Furst and her first husband, research psychologist Stanley Coopersmith, relocated to El Cerrito, in the Bay Area. She spent 47 years in what her daughter described as a “perfect 1960s home” with a view of San Francisco Bay. Her marriage ended after 21 years.

She met her second husband, economist and business executive Harold Furst when he was introduced to her as a possible tennis partner. The two traveled around the world and were married from 1980 to his death in 2011.

Her children said her parenting style was “laissez-faire,” but she stressed the importance of education, which her children said influenced their own career choices: Coopersmith is a teacher at the UC Berkeley, and Honeywell is a college and career counselor at a continuation high school.

“I deal with students struggling with all sorts of things, and I think that my mom’s work definitely influenced my choice of careers in that respect,” Honeywell said.

Coopersmith Furst sat on the boards of the East Bay Community Foundation and the West Contra Costa Public Education Fund. She also supported the arts, and regularly attended theater and symphony performances.

A second nickname she earned was “the tiny princess,” in honor of her style. Whether it was her time as a single mother or her time at a memory care facility, “she was always put together,” Coopersmith said.

Coopersmith Furst is survived by Honeywell, Coopersmith, another son Erik Coopersmith, her stepson Sheldon Furst and six grandchildren.

Florence Schumacher

95, Fair Oaks

(Courtesy of Denise Johnston)

Florence Schumacher was the de facto social director at her assisted-living care home in Fair Oaks, a suburb of Sacramento. She had a welcoming and loving interest in the other residents, and recently had been helping her next-door neighbor recover her speech after the woman had suffered a stroke.

“My mom was very much an extrovert,” her son John said.

Schumacher, 95, died on Aug. 17 at Mercy San Juan Hospital in Carmichael from internal bleeding and COVID-19 complications. She was a 48-year resident of Fair Oaks, the last three at Fair Oaks Care Home.

She was a devoted volunteer, keeping the books for Friends Interested in the Severely Handicapped in the Sacramento area. She had a particular interest in that cause, as she provided full-time care for her late son, Carl, who had Down syndrome.

Schumacher loved cooking, sharing recipes and participating in her potluck club. She and her extended family took summer vacations to Lake Almanor, and she was a longtime parishioner at St. Mel in Fair Oaks, where she helped feed and console families who had lost loved ones.

Born Florence Guimond on June 24, 1925, in Fitchburg, Mass., Schumacher traveled to California to help her friend move to the West Coast. She wound up staying after meeting her future husband, Charles Schumacher, who was a mechanic and later worked as a service manager for truck companies. They were married in 1951 and lived in Alameda, Oakland, San Leandro and Stockton before moving to Fair Oaks in 1972.

Schumacher tested positive for coronavirus three weeks before she died. After requiring supplemental oxygen at first, she seemed to be on the mend.

She took a turn for the worse, however, and died a day after returning to the hospital from a skilled-nursing rehabilitation facility.

Schumacher was preceded in death by her husband and son. She is survived by four children, John, Donna Blaschke, Denise Johnston and Colette Runquist; three grandchildren; and her sister, Lorraine McHale of Ayer, Mass.

Tessie Henry

83, San Francisco

Henry, left, with her children, Robert, Natalie and Debra, Thanksgiving 2019. (Family photo)

Tessie Henry loved going to church, listening to the blues and being with her family — and of those, church might have come first.

After retiring from her job as a postal worker, she worked as a hostess at Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco for over 20 years. She especially looked forward to Mother’s Day, when she would gather at Cornerstone with family members from across the Bay Area.

“The ironic part about it is me and my sister and brother are Catholic,” like their dad, daughter Natalie Berry said. “But one of the things we would do is go to the Baptist Church on Mother’s Day. That’s the only reason why the pastor and his wife knew who we were.”

Henry, the daughter of civil rights historian Inez C. Jackson, who now has a library named after her in San Jose, was born in Dallas but spent her childhood in San Jose.

On March 27, Henry died of COVID-19 at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center, at the age of 83.

“The virus robbed us,” Berry said.

Henry loved the blues, and she and her children would attend the Monterey International Blues Festival every year. She loved B.B. King, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Etta James, but her favorite artist was her husband, Napoleon "Nap" Henry. A guitar player for the Fats Gaines Orchestra, he caught Tessie's eye while playing at a club in San Jose. “I believe my mother was a groupie,” Berry said with a laugh. After they married, the couple moved to San Francisco, and both worked for the United States Postal Service.

After Nap died of a heart attack in 1998, Henry relied on her sisters, Mary Knights and Agnes Bailey, for comfort and support. After they both died, Henry’s eldest daughter, Debra Holloway, moved in.

“Everybody said God first, family second,” Berry said. “[My mom] has five siblings and four had passed away before her. She nursed every single one of them until their last breath.”

As a hostess at Cornerstone, Henry comforted mourners at funerals, handing out tissues and hugs. Her children missed that comfort at the small funeral they held for her in Colma.

“She was the glue that held the family together,” Berry said. “Once you outlive everybody, you turn to the ones who are there.”

Henry is survived by her younger brother, Cass Jackson; her children, Debra Holloway, Natalie Berry and Robert Henry; nine grandchildren; and five great grandchildren.

Glenn McGihon

90, Palm Desert

(Courtesy of Jon McGihon)

Ever since Glenn McGihon learned the game as a Marine, golf was serious business.

A member of the Professional Golfers Assn. for more than 50 years, with 17 holes-in-one to his name, McGihon was the head professional at several courses and his company, Club Consultants, helped develop and run three clubs in Colorado. The game, McGihon told his four children, was the best measure of a person.

“He loved the camaraderie,” said his son Jon. “He always said, ‘You can learn more about an individual by playing one round of golf with them than you could ever in any other circumstance.’”

Yet for McGihon, who died at 90 in Palm Desert on May 27 from complications of COVID-19, home was never solely on a course’s range. He made one stipulation when taking on a new job.

“Any club that he was working at, he told them, ‘I will not work on Sundays. That’s my time with my family,’” said another son, Scott.

The stance was unusual, considering most golfers played on weekends, but reflected the priority McGihon placed on building relationships, whether in business or the community. He sang in his Palm Desert church’s choir and was a longtime member of Palm Springs’ Masonic Lodge. His family was foremost.

Born June 4, 1930, in Montana and raised in Long Beach, McGihon met Carol Wade Antle in sixth grade. Their 68-year marriage began in 1952, the day after they graduated from Cal State Long Beach, where he played on the school’s first basketball team and ran the mile in track.

McGihon enlisted as a Marine shortly after the wedding and served in active duty for seven years and as a reservist another 15. His career in golf began in 1960 after he joined the teaching staff at Arnold Palmer Golf Academy in Vail, Colo. Six years later he became Los Angeles Country Club’s head pro. Beginning in 1973, he worked with Palmer to develop Palm Desert’s Ironwood Country Club.

Through golf, McGihon forged relationships with some of Southern California’s most notable figures, his children said. He became friends with John Wooden, who allowed McGihon the rare experience of watching UCLA practices in person, and former major winners Jerry Barber and Paul Runyan. He knew Vin Scully. Lessons were taught to Dodger owner Walter O’Malley and high-ranking officials at UCLA and USC. He became close with Fred Waring, the famed bandleader. But he didn’t boast about the relationships.

“He was a very humble man,” Jon McGihon said.

McGihon’s passion for sports passed down to his children, all of whom played collegiately. He and his wife are remembered for being ever-present at their children’s competitions. When Scott flew into Logan, Utah, for his final collegiate golf tournament, he found his father already waiting at the small airport terminal.

Sometimes the family competed together: A foursome of McGihon and his sons won the 1990 International Four-Ball Tournament, held in Scotland.

All it took to know McGihon was to play a round with him.

“My dad loved teaching,” said Scott McGihon, who traced his success as an amateur golfer in Southern California directly to his father’s influence. “He loved being able to spend time with somebody and they saw improvement immediately, whether it was his golf swing or improvement in his day. People left an encounter with my dad feeling better about themselves or feeling improvement in their game.”

He is survived by his wife, Carol; daughter, Glenda; sons, Jon, Steven and Scott; 11 grandchildren and a sister-in-law, Merrie Lyn Shickler.

Richard Tillson

85, Elk Grove

(Susan Tillson)

Richard Tillson graduated from Indiana University with a master's degree in social work, took jobs as a probation officer and, after a long career, rose to be a deputy director of the California Youth Authority.

“His was a social work approach,” said his widow, Susan Meier Tillson. “He had a compassionate view of educating kids. He didn’t think you should give up on anyone.”

Tillson, 85, died of COVID-19 on Aug. 26 at Carlton Senior Living in Elk Grove, just outside Sacramento, a facility that was one of the first retirement homes to have an outbreak.

He was born in Chicago and grew up in Indianapolis and in Dayton, Ohio. He moved to California in 1963, when he was recruited by the fast-expanding youth authority.

In the academic year of 1969-70, Tillson attended Harvard University, where he had a fellowship to study law.

“He was very sociable,” recalled Meier Tillson. “He was the kind of person that brightened up a room. People would call on him to be master of ceremonies at events because he would always have something memorable to say.”

When they met, Meier Tillson said, she was a single mother who had dropped out of high school. He encouraged her to return to school. “Whenever I wanted to quit, he would bolster me up,” she said.

She eventually earned a Ph.D. and taught criminal justice at Cal State Sacramento.

After Tillson retired from the youth authority in 1996, he worked for a decade as a part-time consultant for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, a nonprofit research group focused on criminal justice reform.

The Tillsons enjoyed traveling and took cruises to China and South America.

In addition to his wife, Tillson is survived by his sister Myra Phillips, and his children Karen Tillson, Keith Gmeinder and Donna Gainsley, along with three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Randy Giang Ta

66, San Jose

(Family photo)

Randy Giang Ta was just 24 when he and his siblings Albert and Susie fled Vietnam in 1979 on a fishing boat during a storm, managing to survive even after drinking from a puddle of water filled with bugs and debris on the boat.

They arrived in a refugee camp called Air Raya in Indonesia, where they had a choice to make. They could continue their journey to Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the United States. The U.S. was the hardest country for someone seeking sponsorship as a refugee, a process that could take years. But the Tas eventually settled in the U.S. after a 10-month wait.

Randy Ta arrived with a single suitcase and $40 in his pocket. From then on, he resolved to work hard to make sure the long journey would be worth it for generations to come. “Your granddad was an incredible man,” his son Brian wrote in a letter that he intends to give his future children. “He’s the reason why we’re in the United States.”

The family settled in San Jose, and Ta worked odd jobs while attending community college. He eventually received a technician certificate and began a career as an electrical technician for 3M, and later worked at Doppler, which manufactures medical ultrasound machines.

“He grew up really frugally and had to do a lot of things in the U.S. on his own,” said his youngest daughter, Vanessa. “He had a lot of self-drive to learn things on his own.”

It was there at a little trail behind the Doppler building in San Jose that Ta began running. Each day during lunch, he would take off his overshirt, put on a pair of running shoes, and run for five or six minutes. At first, he would become dizzy or lightheaded, even after a short run. But he persevered and, when he was in his 60s, ran a half-marathon with Brian.

“I remember thinking it was so funny because my brother was more tired than my dad,” Vanessa said.

After his employer relocated to New Jersey, he quit working a regular job and helped fix electronics around the neighborhood in Eastside San Jose.

San Jose has one of the largest Vietnamese populations outside Vietnam, and Ta always craved one thing -- pho. Any time the family went on a trip, Ta would insist they try the local pho “just to affirm that San Jose pho was better than anywhere else in the world,” Vanessa said, laughing.

Ta tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-March, a week before shelter-in-place rules were ordered in Santa Clara County. He was intubated for 39 days in the ICU and put in a medically induced coma at Regional Medical Center in San Jose before he died on April 23. He was 66.

Ta is survived by his wife, Xiaoling Luo; children Karen, Brian and Vanessa; and siblings Susie Ta and Tom Hsieh. He was preceded in death by his elder brother, Albert Ta.

Leeann Patterson

78, San Jose

Leeann Patterson with her husband, John

Leeann Patterson discovered a love of travel with her husband, John, when they were in their 20s. Their adventures over decades took them to every continent except Antarctica.

After the couple became parents, they brought their two children on summer trips around the world, instilling in them an appreciation for other places and cultures at a young

age. Daughter Jillaine Danis said Patterson was savvy about setting a budget and didn’t like to join tour groups, preferring to plan itineraries herself — or just wander around.

On a six-week vacation to Europe when Jillaine was 5, her mother “got me a little charm bracelet, and in every major city, she let me buy a charm. So I had a little Eiffel Tower and one of the little horses for Sweden. I still have it in my jewelry box.”

Leeann Curtis was born in Portland, Ore., the second of seven children, and grew up in the lumber town of Gilchrist. She attended Linfield College, where she met John Edgar Patterson, to whom she was married for 57 years.

“I’d seen her on campus. She was so beautiful; I never thought she’d talk to me,” John said. Once they started dating, “I heard from God: Don’t let this one go. She’s got everything you want.”

After they married, the two moved to Simi Valley and then to Tempe, Ariz., where they earned graduate degrees from Arizona State University. They settled in San Jose four decades ago.

Patterson enjoyed baking; her specialty was chocolate chip cookies based on a Mrs. Field’s recipe that she improved upon. She’d make them for everyone, including the construction workers who recently completed the Pattersons’ home remodel, Jillaine said.

“She was just that kind of person,” she said. “We always had cookies in the cookie jar.”

In 1989, the Pattersons co-founded the Christian Counseling Center, an organization that provides counseling, seminars and mental health services. Patterson, who had previously worked as a marketing communications specialist in Silicon Valley, took on administrative duties.

She contracted COVID-19 while on vacation in Cancun in November, the family said, starting with a sore throat that quickly worsened. She died Dec. 21 at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose. She was 78.

Patterson is survived by her husband, daughter, son Lane and five grandchildren.

Richard Ellwood

81, Glendale

Richard Ellwood was a family man through and through. The small things in life brought him great joy. He’d show up for Shabbat dinner on Friday night and tell his daughters he was the luckiest man ever, just because he had them.

“He didn’t need something extravagant or expensive. It was just sitting down and holding my hand for two minutes,” said his daughter, Debra Meppen. “Those were the moments that made him so happy.”

On Oct. 22, Ellwood died at the age of 81 of complications from COVID-19 after a nearly three-week battle that his family thought he would win. The night before he died, he emailed his family his regular goodnight message, telling them he loved them.

His wife, Margie, had washed his pajamas in anticipation of his return home, and Meppen had ordered all the ingredients to make his favorite pasta: a savory dish with a homemade low-salt marinara sauce mixed with sautéed vegetables and ground chicken.

These simple acts of love defined a close-knit family that had taken good care of each other throughout the pandemic and long before.

“He was a man of few words, but what he would share with you was from his heart,” said Meppen. “He wanted to tell you he loved you, he wanted to tell you he was proud of you.”

Born in Springfield, Ill., in 1939, Ellwood moved to Glendale when he was 9. He received his bachelor’s degree from Cal State L.A., eventually becoming a CPA, a trade he maintained for more than 40 years, even tending to the needs of a few of his faithful clients from his hospital bed. He and Margie were married for 56 years.

Ellwood had a soft spot for fast cars. Taking care of his souped-up Mustang was a favorite pastime, and everyone in the family agreed that one day he should get a Corvette. He adored sweets, and was known to sneak away from the table after dinner to sneak a cookie or a piece of cake. His children would then cut the pilfered piece in half in an attempt to keep him healthy. It became a lighthearted family game.

“Every holiday, every birthday, we always knew what he was going to do,” Meppen said. “And I always took it back.”

Ellwood, said Meppen, consistently saw a glass half full.

“He saw always the good in people,” she said. “That kept him enjoying his life and his relationships.”

Ellwood is survived by his wife, daughters Debra Meppen and Laurie Bashan, and grandchildren Jordan, Ariella, Benjamin, Zem and Eden.

Raul Alaniz

53, El Centro

(Family photo)

When Raul Alaniz learned that his teenage daughter, Rebecca, wanted a tattoo, he hated the idea. As a single father he had always been one for strict curfews, limited socializing and an emphasis on schoolwork.

Imagine Rebecca’s surprise, then, when the two of them wound up at a tattoo parlor together. She got a rose, he got skulls. Anything for his daughter.

“He was a really personable guy,” said Rebecca, now 33, “but I think he also made sure that people knew there was a time for seriousness and a time for fun.”

Alaniz died in El Centro on June 10 from complications of COVID-19. He was 53.

Born in Mexicali in Baja California, Alaniz grew up in Holtville, outside El Centro. Always studious, he excelled in math and maintained a 4.0 GPA at Holtville High School, his daughter said. When he graduated in 1985, he was the class salutatorian. Rebecca was born just a year later.

“He was very serious and strict for most of my childhood,” she recalled, noting that her father once greeted her high school boyfriend with a baseball bat, “but he was just making sure that I was taken care of.”

Through the years, Alaniz put his math skills to work as an accountant and bookkeeper. He was particularly good with charts and graphs, and he prided himself on his system for managing personal finances. He volunteered at Rebecca’s school functions and was a familiar figure on the sidelines of band competitions and athletic events. He met his partner, Ana Barraza, online, and was with her for the last 15 years.

“From day one, he was the perfect, one-in-a-million man,” Barraza said. “He would tell me he loved me 10, 20 times per day. He had a big heart, he was a little grouchy, but he was a kind person.”

When Alaniz wasn’t focused on fatherhood or finances, he loved going to concerts (tribute bands in particular), watching Law & Order reruns and spending time with his beloved pets. He had so many dogs—some fosters, some permanent—that neighbors regularly complained, but he didn’t care. He adored them all.

And though he was married and divorced several times in his life, Alaniz remained loyal to his families, past and present. He doted on his five step-kids and 11 grandchildren, and loved nothing more than to spend an afternoon with them at Disneyland or the San Diego County Fair.

“He wouldn’t treat anyone differently,” Rebecca said. “If you were part of his tribe, you were part of his tribe.”

At the time of his death, she added, her father had four more tattoos.

Raul Alaniz is survived by his mother, Francisca Alaniz; daughter Rebecca; his partner Ana; sister Rosa; 11 grandchildren and five step-children.

Antelmo Candido Garcia is remembered by those close to him as a provider and a family man who left behind five children when he died of complications from COVID-19 in May, just days before his 65th birthday.

“He took care of everybody's burden,” said one of his sons, Emmanuele Antelmo Garcia.

Garcia immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. in 1984 to escape the poverty and crime in his homeland. Part of a large family, he had left school at 10 to help out, and later worked as a cab driver.

Once in the U.S, Antelmo moved to Pasadena and worked as a chef. He loved to cook. He also loved to write poetry and sing along to his favorite crooner, Vicente Fernández.

Emmanuele believes that his father likely contracted the virus while working at a fast-food restaurant. Garcia had high blood pressure and diabetes and was trying to be cautious, his son said. But at work he was discouraged from wearing a mask out of concern it would scare off customers, Emmanuele said.

Garcia was admitted to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena in early April and for the next two months suffered through blood clots, kidney issues and pneumonia. On May 22, after a discussion with the attending medics, the decision was made to end life support.

“We decided to end his suffering,” his son said. “The doctor said, ‘He’s not going to make it.’”

Garcia’s wife had died of cancer three years earlier, and the impact of losing a second parent was devastating to Emmanuele and his siblings.

“He was the mortar holding everything together,” Emmanuele said. “After he left, the whole family just fell apart.”

Emmanuele said he also tested positive for the virus and ended up losing his job and being evicted. He moved in with a cousin and launched a GoFundMe account to pay for his father’s funeral costs.

He was also left with regrets. In the rush to admit his father to the hospital, he never got a chance to say goodbye.

“I am angry that this pandemic was so mishandled and so political that we have lost loved ones,” Emmanuele said.

Marylou Armer

43, American Canyon

Marylou Armer, 43, was a detective with the Santa Rosa Police Department. (Santa Rosa Police Department)

Marylou Armer’s law enforcement career started in high school, when she joined the Explorer Program with the National City Police Department. “She fell in love with the work she did there,” said her older sister, Mari Lau.

Armer joined the Santa Rosa Police Department in 1999 as a field evidence technician and became a police officer in 2008. Most recently, she worked as a detective for the department’s sexual assault and domestic violence unit.

Armer, 43, died on March 31 from COVID-19 after being hospitalized on March 23. Lau said her sister, who had no underlying health conditions, was denied testing for the virus three times. Thousands of people have signed a petition for the “Armer Law,” legislation to ensure access to testing for first responders during an epidemic or pandemic.

“If they persist on being tested and tell you that they’re ill and they’re so sick that they can’t breathe, you’ve got to listen to that,” Lau said. “And they can’t deny people because of the protocols that are in place, because they cost my sister her life.”

Armer, her sister and their younger brother grew up in National City and San Diego. They celebrated birthdays and special occasions such as Easter and Christmas with parties and family gatherings at home.

“That’s how our parents raised us,” Lau said. “We did everything as a family. Nobody was left out.”

Armer moved to Sonoma County after joining the Santa Rosa Police Department, and most recently lived in American Canyon with her husband of nearly five years and her stepdaughter.

Armer enjoyed the outdoors: she grew her own fruits and vegetables, and would go camping and kayaking at places such as Lake Berryessa. Her sister described her as fun, outgoing and compassionate.

“It’s in her nature to just be that person that you want near you to comfort you and be there to support you,” Lau said. “She’s just that caring person and everything she did she always put others before her.”

Jacinto Abarca

59, Garden Grove

Jacinto Abarca knew the way to his daughter Karina’s heart: Offer her fruit with Tajín, a chili-lime seasoning.

Even after working long nights cleaning the corridors of the South Coast Plaza mall in Costa Mesa, he would try to spend time with his family and bring a smile to his daughters’ faces.

“Every time he'd get his paycheck, he'd go to the grocery store and he'd surprise me with fruit,” Karina said. “He loved making us happy.”

Abarca, who was born in Puebla, Mexico, died on June 10 of coronavirus-related complications. He was 59.

Abarca, who lived in Garden Grove, was a humble, hardworking man who loved cooking carne asada for his children on his few days off, his daughter Odalis said. He enjoyed listening to his favorite singer, Joan Sebastian, and watching soccer, especially the Mexican national team.

“He loved when we would give him feedback about his food,” she said. “He would smile and wait for us to finish and he'd just start eating whatever was left over.”

Abarca was accepting and supportive of his transgender daughter Sabrina, who came out as gay at age 14 and, a few years ago, began her transition as a woman. As a child, she was sexually abused by an uncle, an experience she later shared with her father. When she told him, Sabrina said he fell to the floor.

When she first came out, Sabrina said her father told her, “I love you so much. I accept you for who you are. If you’re happy, I’m happy.”

She began transitioning at age 21 and, although it was difficult for Abarca, she said, he became used to seeing Sabrina show up at family parties in dresses, makeup and wigs.

Karina recounted: “He would always tell her that she looked beautiful.”

Abarca was admitted to a Santa Ana hospital on May 20 and placed on a ventilator four days later. His family believes he was infected at work, where they say at least two other people tested positive for COVID-19.

Three of Abarca’s children and his wife also tested positive for the infection, but they've since recovered. The family has raised more than $10,000 via GoFundMe to help with his burial and to support the family.

“He would call me his chaparrita [little one],” Odalis said. “He would hug me and say, ‘I don’t care how old you are, you’ll always be my little girl.’

“When your parents are alive," she added, "you just take so many things for granted.”

Abarca is survived by his wife, Martha; children Karina, Odalis, Sabrina and Josue; and a grandchild.

Crispin Rojas Ortega

82, Montebello

Faith and family were central pillars in Crispin Rojas Ortega’s life. So was an uncompromising work ethic that was tempered by compassion for those he met in his wholesale food distribution business, which he started more than 40 years ago by delivering chile pods, vegetables and tortillas to restaurants and markets in East Los Angeles.

He attended Mass regularly and for years returned to La Magdalena Tetela, Mexico, for the July 22 feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, the patron saint of his village. His sixth child, born on that day, was named Magdalena in her honor.

Magdalena, known as Maggie, is the only one of Crispin and Petra Ortega’s eight children still living in the Montebello home he bought in 1977. Not long ago, she noticed a change in her father’s religious devotions.

“The last several months, he would pray every morning,” she said. “It was around 4:30 in the morning, for maybe 15 minutes to 30 minutes. He would go to my room area, where he had his Jesus image and his Virgin of Guadalupe, and he would pray every day before he would go to work or drive.

“I would wake up at that time and see him and hear him, but I wouldn’t say anything to him. I would just go back to sleep. It was very comforting.”

He hadn’t changed his work habits, though he saw COVID-19 spread through the food distribution industry and several of his children fell ill. He continued to do invoices and deliveries, as he was committed to providing for his son Javier, who has a learning disability.

“We knew somebody who passed away from it, someone in his 50s. So to my dad, it was real, but he believed he was a young 82. He believed that if he caught it, he was going to breeze through it,” said Danny Ortega, the seventh child. “He was more concerned about my mom, who earlier this year had a lot of anxiety issues. She has diabetes. And my dad always talked that she was the weaker one.”

Strong though he was, the virus was stronger. He collapsed on Jan. 6 but resisted going to the hospital until finally conceding he needed help. His oxygen levels were alarmingly low, but he never complained.

“Dad was always a protector, and he protected us and would tell us he was fine,” Maggie said.

After about 10 days he insisted on going home.

“He told me, ‘Danny, 82 years is a good run. I want to die at home. I don’t owe anybody any debts. All you guys are adults. It was just a good run,' " Danny said.

Crispin Ortega died on Feb. 2, surrounded by a family that has grown to include 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

“We got to spend every minute with him to his last breath, and we told him how we felt about him. We were proud of him,” said Anabelle[cq] Jalowska, the third-eldest child. “That was the good thing. He had 82 wonderful years. He was a great man. He was unselfish. I’ll always remember that about my father.”

Jalowska, who lives in Lake Elsinore, had the coronavirus in December. At one point she feared she wouldn’t recover. “My father would call me every day — every day — and say, ‘Honey, how are you? I hope you get better, and I hope you don’t go out,’” she said. “It just breaks my heart because he had to work. I wish he would have just listened to what he was telling me.”

She so admired her father that she vowed as a young woman she’d marry a man just like him. She did: Her husband, Garry, lovingly lifted her father and administered painkillers to keep him comfortable near the end. “We couldn’t do that. It would just break us,” Jalowska said. “That was a blessing for us.”

He was stern with his eldest children but had mellowed a bit by the time the younger ones arrived. He impressed on all of them the importance of being responsible. Pay cash for everything, he told them. Don’t get trapped in credit card debt.

“In the Latino community, we saw some people who fell into criminality and bad things, and he was happy that all eight of us were outstanding children,” Danny said. “We all work and everything’s fine.

Crispin Ortega loved mariachi music— he’d take his family to the Mariachi Festival at the Hollywood Bowl every year — and he was known to start dancing if a song he liked was on the radio while he was making deliveries to restaurants. He had a tequila collection and favored a shot of Don Julio 1942 on special occasions. Maggie said he’d scold her for spending time and money decorating the house for holidays but he enjoyed it and would post photos on social media. He intuitively mastered his smartphone. “Dad was a quick learner and so quick-witted. He would make us laugh, as well as his friends and clients,” Maggie said.

She and her siblings knew their father was generous and had helped a former employee kick a drug habit, but they didn’t realize how many lives he had touched until they began receiving tearful condolence phone calls. People told them of his kindness in giving money or gifts to workers at Christmas. Another spoke of seeing him for years at her family’s restaurant, telling Jalowska he was like an angel. “It’s interesting to hear the stories,” Jalowska said. “A lot of people really respected my dad because they were old school.”

Petra Ortega tested positive a week after her husband but had only mild symptoms. Maggie got it too, as she knew she would. “I gave him love, I hugged him, I kissed him — I gave him everything you’re not supposed to do,” she said. “I didn’t care anymore because he had told me that he wasn’t going to make it before he was hospitalized. He had told me to let him be at peace at home and if God takes him, then let him be. I listened to my dad, and it was hard.”

Maggie works for the nonprofit Abilityfirst, which helps children and adults with learning disabilities, but she’s also trying to learn how to run her father’s business. “To continue the legacy, continue on,” she said. “I’m going to grieve for the rest of my life.”

Angel De La Fuente

49, Fresno

(De La Fuente family)

Angel De La Fuente made sure to attend all his kids’ football and soccer games. He even chaperoned their field trips.

“The teachers always asked, ‘Is Mr. De La Fuente going?’ They liked him because he was able to handle the children who were out of control,” said his wife, Lilia. “He was stern, but he was fun.”

He could be imposing. After serving in the Army, he joined the Fresno Police Department. Born and raised in Fresno, where he lived his entire life, he was on the job for more than 20 years, including with the Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium.

“He had patrolled every district in Fresno P.D.’s jurisdiction,” said a department spokesman, Officer Jesus Cerda, who said De La Fuente joined the gang enforcement unit in 2015 as a detective.

Lilia De La Fuente said, “He liked to work on the East Side because he grew up there: ‘We arrested these gang members and the streets are going to be safer.’ He never told me any of the bad stuff. He didn’t want me to be scared.

“The area where he worked, people knew him by name. They knew when they’d call, he’d come out.”

Lilia and Angel met in grammar school. “He was a very, very caring man,” she said. "Very loving, very affectionate. He was a wonderful father; he did everything for his kids. He did everything for his mother.”

When Angel decided to join the force, Lilia said, “Of course I was scared; there was always a chance he might get shot or something. But this was what he wanted to do with his life. I was excited for him.

“He would always say, ‘I can’t believe they pay me to do this job.’”

After Thanksgiving of 2020, he fell ill.

“He told me, ‘I can’t taste.’ He got tested and they told him he had COVID.”

He was hospitalized Dec. 7 at Clovis Community Medical Center; fellow officers sometimes conducted briefings outside his room, where they could see him through a window.

“They’re the best,” said Lilia of Angel’s fellow officers. “They had someone outside my husband’s room 24-7 24/7.”

“The first doctor told me, ‘He’s young, he doesn’t have any underlying conditions; he can fight this,’” said Lilia. “He fought. He didn’t want to die. He just wanted to get better and come home.”

De La Fuente died Dec. 28 at age 49. According to the FPD Fresno Police Department, he contracted the virus on duty, making his death “in the line of duty.”

“I like to remember how happy he was when we would have all our family together, our family parties,” said Lilia. “The last trip we went on, we went to Universal Studios. Now the kids were old enough to get on all the rides and attractions; we were all together. He took me there on my birthday.”

Angel De La Fuente is survived by his wife, Lilia; his four children, Krista, Andrew, Marissa and Anthony; two grandchildren; and his mother, Marcella.

Richard Rutledge

87, Folsom

(Family photo)

On Wednesday evenings in retirement, Richard (Dick) Rutledge would put on a bright purple dress shirt, a floral-print tie, white jeans and cowboy boots. With his wife, Norma, who wore a flared skirt that matched his tie, he was off to their weekly square dancing class, “Skirts and Flirts.”

In more ways than one, Rutledge and his wife were the perfect match. While their children remember their mother as the energetic, strict one in the house, Rutledge was the calm, steady presence who kept the family in balance.

“He kept us centered; he never got flustered,” his eldest son, Bill, remembered. “Everything was under control when he was around.”

When Norma died five years ago, Rutledge moved from their San Leandro home, eventually landing at Oakmont Senior Living in Folsom, where he contracted COVID-19. In mid-April, after the first case erupted at the home, almost all residents were tested. Rutledge, along with 17 other residents and three staff members, tested positive.

Two weeks went by without any symptoms, but suddenly his fever spiked and his breathing became troubled.

“It happened very quickly,” Bill said. “He just crashed.”

Rutledge died on May 6 at the nursing home with a hospice nurse by his side. His family, unable to enter due to COVID-19 restrictions, said their farewells the night before, through the window by his bed.

The 87-year-old was a rare third-generation San Franciscan, born into a small home in the Noe Valley district, and remained a Bay Area resident for most of his life. He attended Notre Dame University and went on to serve five years as a lieutenant in the U.S Air Force Reserve, after which he went back to school at UC Berkeley to earn an MBA. But soon after, with the early realization that computers would be the wave of the future, he enrolled at Holy Names College in Oakland to study mathematics and computer science, and then began his long career as a computer systems analyst for various companies.

His career, while successful, was more about pragmatism than passion. More than anything, he saw it as a reliable way to support his family, according to Bill. His children describe him as the ultimate family man, and a real people person.

“It sounds cheap to say, but it’s true: Everyone liked him,” Bill recalled.

Bill remembered a story that captures his father’s charm: Rutledge and his wife first met on a blind date in 1960. When he asked her, "Do you like chicken?" Norma said she did. Offering his arm, Rutledge said, "Grab a wing." A month later, they were engaged.

Survivors include his six children, Bill, Mary, Joyce, Robert, Stephen and Susan, and eight grandchildren. Due to restrictions on public gatherings, no funeral service is currently scheduled.

David R. Dukes

76, Fullerton

David R. Dukes seemed to be able to excel in almost everything he did.

When he fought in Vietnam, he reached the rank of captain and earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

As a businessman, he climbed to several top positions in the computer industry, including president, chief operating officer and co-chairman of Ingram Micro in Irvine, one of the world's largest distributors of technology products and services.

But when he came home from a business trip in 1998 and his 1-year-old daughter, Savannah, cried because she didn’t recognize him, Dukes resigned from the company the next day to spend more time with her.

“Family and people came before accomplishments,” Savannah said of her father.

Dukes suffered several hardships in his life. Two of his best friends died in Vietnam. His first wife, Samara Kennedy, died of cancer after more than 20 years of marriage. Dukes met Laura Hanson Manassero while volunteering at the Make-A-Wish Foundation and married again in 1995.

But Savannah said her father remained positive throughout his life, an outlook she attributes to his strong faith.

“He was just able to use hardship to gain perspective,” she said. “He came out of everything a lot more loving.”

Dukes also gave much of his time to charitable organizations, including America’s Promise Alliance, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Simon Foundation for Education and Housing. A Fullerton resident, he recently served on the board of the Children's Hospital of Orange County.

Earlier this year, Dukes contracted COVID-19, although his family said they are not sure how or where he became infected because he was careful to follow health and safety protocols. He fought the effects of the disease for five months, at times seemingly close to a recovery only to suffer setbacks.

Savannah’s longtime boyfriend, Austin Leonard, recently asked Dukes for his daughter’s hand in marriage through a window at the hospital. Dukes had long promised Savannah that he would give her away on her wedding day.

As he fought the debilitating effects of COVID-19, Dukes worked to build up enough strength to walk her down the aisle but he succumbed to the disease Dec. 2, at the age of 76, before her wedding day arrived.

“He was the best person,” said Savannah, who will get married next summer. “They don’t make people like him anymore.”

Harry Sentoso

63, Walnut

(Evan Sentoso)

Harry Sentoso moved to Southern California in the 1970s, in pursuit of higher education and fleeing anti-leftist violence and persecution in his native Indonesia that targeted his family for their Chinese ancestry.

His legal name was Sukoyo, but he chose to go by the short version of his middle name, Hariyadi, in his new home.

After a few hard years scraping by in downtown L.A., he worked in sales for a doll company, then started his own small business, an import-export operation moving construction materials between California and Indonesia. Along the way, after classes at Glendale Community College, he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and an MBA from Cal Poly Pomona, met his wife, Endang and started a family.

In his 40s, he landed a steady job as the warehouse supervisor at an oxygen sensor manufacturer, and worked there for over a decade.

By the end of his career, he had socked away a healthy retirement fund, bought a house in Walnut, raised two sons, and taken up day trading as a hobby and a passion.

He was devoted to his family, gracious and kind — former coworkers recall his upbeat attitude and insistence on paying for lunch. He loved good food and classic rock, dad jokes, and, according to his 20-year-old son Evan, Mini Coopers.

In short, Harry Sentoso had lived the kind of life that can flourish for immigrants and refugees, if everything goes right, in Southern California’s sun-baked suburban soil.

But things went wrong after Sentoso was called back into his job at an Amazon facility in Irvine on a Sunday in late March.

Sentoso saw the warehouse job as a last chance to earn some cash before settling down to retirement. A small business he had started with a friend a few years earlier selling forklift tires hadn’t taken off, and he didn’t want to touch his savings if he didn’t have to.

He liked to tell his sons, and the coworkers he befriended who were his sons’ age, that working at Amazon was great for his health — long days on the warehouse floor meant he always got in all his steps — but he began to feel sick by the end of that week.

He worked for four more days, then began to feel worse. Three days later, Harry fell unconscious on his driveway as his wife, Endang, and older son Dylan, 22, tried to get him to the hospital.

He died in the early hours of April 12. It was his 27th wedding anniversary.

The Sentoso family is still reeling from Harry’s death, but his son Evan says he draws on his father’s memory for strength.

“He wouldn’t have wanted me to give up, say this isn’t fair and cuss my life out,” Evan said. “My father was the backbone of our family, and truly the best dad ever.”

Read the full obituary

Dena Louise Connelly

64, Santa Monica

Dena Louise Connelly, right, with her daughter. (Family photo)

Dena Louise Connelly died the way she lived — as a fighter.

To her family, she was an honest woman with great integrity, a person who would tell it like it is and remain unafraid of hurting someone’s feelings.

She was stubborn, yet nurturing. She cared about the things you cared about, but didn’t care what you thought about her. And most of all, she was “a tough little lady.”

Connelly, 64, died April 30 after battling COVID-19 for weeks.

Born in Washington, D.C., Connelly was orphaned as a child and shuffled through the foster care system. She moved to Los Angeles in her 20s and later gave birth to a daughter, Tatiana Molinar. While raising her daughter, she worked as a data entry clerk at a bank.

Connelly’s hobbies included gardening and reading mystery books. She was a fan of red nail polish.

Even as she grew older, Connelly tried to remain self-sufficient. She enrolled at Long Beach City College at 63 to pursue a degree in art, though the goal escaped her while she lived in an assisted living home for seniors.

Molinar said it’s unclear how her mother contracted the novel coronavirus. She suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition that attacks the lungs, and had been hospitalized repeatedly over the years, her daughter said.

It started with a fever and a cough, and then progressively worsened. Connelly sought treatment at a hospital and eventually was placed on a ventilator. For 30 days, healthcare workers tried to help her breathe on her own, but without success.

Molinar, who is a nurse at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica where her mother died, was able to say goodbye.

Unlike some of her patients’ families, who could only Facetime loved ones, Molinar, dressed in protective gear, sat at her mother’s bedside and held her hand in the final moments.

“I told her she was strong,” Molinar said. “At least she was able to hear me say that.”

Connelly is survived by her daughter and two grandchildren, Sage and Lennox.

Ressie Cameron

87, Gilroy


Church and music were two enduring pillars of Ressie Cameron’s life.

As a child in San Jose, she sang with her sisters on Sunday morning broadcasts of a local radio station. She went on to become a musical leader in her Pentecostal denomination, the Church of God in Christ.

She organized local and state choirs that didn’t just perform on Sundays. They sang at revivals as far away as Hawaii and Alaska, and at fundraisers for the NAACP and the needy.

In the late 1970s, she coordinated an interdenominational music festival in San Jose that drew singers from 15 Bay Area churches.

She served as an officer in the local branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and worked with the Council for Civic Unity to promote racial harmony in the San Jose area.

After her March 13 death in a San Jose hospital from COVID-19, a church member posted on Facebook that Cameron had not too long ago advised her “to never stop shoutin’ and praise dancing for the Lord.” How it encourages others.

“Mother,” the post continued, “I’m going to shout and praise Him even harder now.”

Jeff Baumbach

57, Lodi

Jeff Baumbach, 57, third from left, died March 31 at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial from complications related to COVID-19. (Family photo)

Jeff Baumbach seemed to run into people who knew him wherever he went.

Some he'd met through his kids and his involvement in their childhood extracurricular activities; some he'd met through the CPR classes he taught, through family friends or his favorite restaurants.

Others knew him because he’d helped save the life of someone they loved as an emergency room and ICU nurse.

“He would be walking into a restaurant or walking into a nursing facility and people would just say ‘Hi’ to him because they knew him from one random act of kindness,” said his daughter Kaila Baumbach. “He knew exactly who it was and what family member that he helped in their time of need.”

Baumbach, 57, died March 31 at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial from complications related to COVID-19. He's survived by his wife, Karen, and four adult children: Jacob, Kaila, Joshua and Karli Baumbach.

It’s not clear how he contracted the virus. Karen, a nurse at Adventist Health, also tested positive but has recovered.

After high school, Jeff Baumbach worked as a firefighter and a paramedic before getting his associate's degree and beginning a 28-year career in nursing, with stints at the Intensive Care Units at Dameron Hospital and St. Joseph's Medical Center in Stockton, near his home in Lodi. Most recently, he worked as a case manager for Kaiser Permanente patients treated at St. Joseph’s.

Baumbach had a "wonderful way" with patients, said Lee Cherbonnier, his friend and colleague of over a decade. He was able to bridge the gap between patients and physicians and explain treatment plans in a straightforward and conversational way, Cherbonnier said.

He also had a way with his friends.

“He’s somebody that I let my guard down around,” Cherbonnier said. "He would just sit and listen. We would spend hours working in a cubicle, we would bounce questions off one another and earn one another's trust."

Kaila described her father as a role model who took the time to show each member of his family that he loved them. He liked to make people laugh and was known for his “Jeff-isms,” the witty, made-up responses he’d deliver with a smirk when he was stumped by a question.

On a family trip to Kauai after Kaila graduated from high school, she and her dad went to get tattoos together. She got a peace sign, and he got six Celtic hearts: one for him, one for Karen and one for each of their children.

He was “just the consummate family man,” Cherbonnier said. “He's what everyone should aspire to be as far as a dad and a husband."

Baumbach was involved in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the Lodi High School speech and debate team. As his kids got older, he bonded with them in different ways. Jacob, the oldest, would take his father to Golden State Warriors, San Francisco 49ers and Giants games. Baumbach and Kaila did puzzles, talked about cars and watched "Gold Rush," a show about gold miners in Alaska.

Jeff and Karen were high school sweethearts: He was a football player and she was "a straight-A student that didn't want to get in trouble," said Kaila. The pair started dating the summer after he graduated from Lodi High School in 1981 and wed June 27, 1987.

He planned annual getaways around the five-day stretch between his wedding anniversary and Karen's birthday. For their 30th wedding anniversary, the couple took their children and their significant others to Kauai, where they’d also spent their honeymoon.

“I cannot thank him enough for always being there for me,” Kaila wrote in a letter about her father that she shared with The Times. “I cannot thank him enough for all that he has taught me. I cannot thank him enough for showing me how to live life to the fullest. I cannot thank him enough for teaching me how to love and loving me for me.”

Daniel P. Barber

70, Palm Springs

(Courtesy of Keith Rasmussen)

Daniel P. Barber knew the sting of homophobia all too well.

So Barber did something about it at his workplace, co-founding Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s LGBTQ employee resource group in 1986. The organization, now known as PG&E PrideNetwork, advocated for its member employees and started a dialogue with management with an eye toward equality.

"As a person who had experienced discrimination and verbal abuse because of his sexual orientation, Dan found common cause with other LGBTQ people at work," said Keith Rasmussen, Barber's husband, in an email interview. "He would advocate strongly, and at times fiercely, for goals that he felt were important to the organization."

For Barber, this was just one accomplishment in his decades-long efforts advocating for LGBTQ causes.

Barber, who lived in Palm Springs, died on Aug. 5 of complications from COVID-19. He was 70.

The son of Patty and Jack Barber, he was born in 1950 in Washington, D.C., and grew up near Frederick, Md. After high school, Barber studied at several universities, among them UC Berkeley.

Barber and Rasmussen met at a bar on Castro Street in San Francisco on Feb. 8, 1981 — a date they continued to celebrate as an anniversary even after marrying in 2008 during a brief window when it was legal for gay couples to do so in California before the passage of Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage.

For wedding gifts, Rasmussen said, well wishers contributed to the ill-fated campaign to defeat the proposition. Eventually, a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling rendered the proposition unconstitutional.

Barber and Rasmussen were a couple for nearly 40 years, reveling in travel to far-flung locales including Peru, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. They had been on more than 50 cruises, Rasmussen said, adding that their adventures helped them forge friendships with people "from around the globe."

In remarks delivered at Wiefels Palm Springs Mortuary during a private viewing for Barber, Rasmussen said his late husband was at ease entertaining friends, and "was always the perfect host, doing his best to please the most discerning guest."

"Dan had the ability to walk into a room and light it up with his presence," Rusmussen said.

During Barber's nearly three-decade career at PG&E, he focused on energy efficiency and database management. Before retiring in 2006, he worked on the promotion of compact fluorescent and LED bulbs, among other endeavors.

Besides co-founding PrideNetwork, he also was among those who started the group's eQuality Scholarship Collaborative in 1989, Rasmussen said. The collaborative, which now is a joint effort of multiple San Francisco Bay Area organizations, offers scholarships to students who work in service of their LGBTQ communities. It has awarded more than $1.6 million in scholarships, according to the group's website.

"He saw the program grow from awarding a few $1,000 scholarships ... to a program that includes many large companies in a variety of industries," Rasmussen said.

In addition to Rasmussen, Barber is survived by sisters Joey Barber of Cathedral City and Rebecca Talley of Desert Hot Springs.

Penny Foreman

73, Clovis

Penny Foreman is seen at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, Calif., in July 2014. (Joanna Miller Hoffman)

The deadliest American epidemic of the 1950s was polio, which killed thousands of children and paralyzed tens of thousands more.

A Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., first-grader named Penelope A. Miller, better known in her grown-up years as Penny Foreman of Clovis, was part of the effort that defeated the disease.

As researchers searched for weapons against the virus in 1954, 6-year-old Penny and her 8-year-old brother Jim joined thousands of boys and girls in an 11-state medical trial, receiving an injection that included either the new vaccine or a placebo.

Jim stayed healthy. Penny didn't.

By April 1955, when Jonas Salk's approved polio vaccine was shipped nationwide, Penny had lost use of her legs, with both arms severely weakened. Their father later told the children that she had received the placebo.

But she retained determination, wit and patience enough to earn a college degree, marry, raise children and work 35 years for Fresno County and Fresno's Community Regional Medical Center, helping connect people with services.

She was "incredibly resilient," said Jim Miller, of Fresno.

In all, three of the seven Miller children would contract polio, posing steep challenges for their parents, a newspaperman and a nurse. Penny's case was the most severe, requiring long hospital stays, several surgeries and the implantation of steel rods to keep her spine straight.

At 6, "she spent three months in this iron lung, looking out at the world from a tilted mirror that was just above her face," Jim Miller said.

A few years later, after the family had moved to California's San Joaquin Valley, her younger brother Erick said, "she spent a year in a full body cast in our living room."

But she emerged strong enough to attend school alongside Erick, a year younger. From seventh grade to the end of 12th grade at Hoover High School in Fresno, he pushed her wheelchair from class to class. Both earned top marks.

"She definitely knew what she needed and she was not shy about speaking up," said Erick Miller.

Her sister Joanna Miller Hoffman of Simi Valley remembers Penny braving risky rides at the Fresno County Fair, sneaking out for a midnight swim at a community pool, and bucking her father's wishes in order to attend rock concerts with a boyfriend.

After high school, Foreman went on to Cal State Fresno, where she earned an English degree and teaching credential. Soon after, she married and gave birth to a son, Josh Coddington.

She also learned to drive a specially outfitted van; campaigned for the rights of people with disabilities; and began work for Fresno County, first in social services, later helping hospital patients get help and handle paperwork.

Her first marriage didn't last long. After it dissolved, her sister Joanna recalled, "she was a single working mother with a baby. And yet I'd go to see her at her house, and her house was cleaner than I was keeping my apartment."

When her son complained about one small thing or another, he remembers her telling him: "If you have something that’s a challenge, figure out a way through it. There’s always a solution.”

In 1986, Josh's mother married Robert Foreman, gave birth to a daughter and became stepmother to six children from her husband's previous marriage. And she continued working. The family home in Clovis was busy.

"It was a family of 10 in the house for a long time," her daughter, Holly Foreman, said.

Still, on many weekends and holidays Foreman steered her van toward Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Disneyland or the Ventura County coast, a couple of kids aboard. Later, she'd often join one or two sisters for museum exhibits, theater or concerts in Los Angeles.

Family members said Foreman worked into the early 2000s, when weakening muscles and lung problems forced her to retire. Her husband died in 2016.

Foreman spent the last 3 1/2 years at Pacifica Hospital of the Valley in Sun Valley. She was dependent on a ventilator but remained in touch (and frequent “Words with Friends” competition) with loved ones, using her iPad as a window to the world. She was there when the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in March.

"We knew if COVID got anywhere near her, she had no defense," said Hoffman.

About a week before Christmas — a few days after the first COVID vaccinations in the U.S., but before any vaccine could reach her — Foreman tested positive. Once again, a notorious virus had reached her just ahead of a new vaccine. On Dec. 29, Foreman died, age 73, her death attributed to pneumonia and COVID.

Besides her lifelong tenacity, family members said, they would remember her excitement and laughter at a family Christmas party 10 days before her death.

Gathering by Zoom, two dozen relatives from three generations sang and rang chimes through three carols.

“She was someone who really took life and made the best of it,” said Josh Coddington.

Foreman is survived by daughter Holly Foreman of Fresno, son Josh Coddington of Phoenix, granddaughter Quinn Coddington; stepchildren Erik, Joel, Jacob, Michael and Paul Foreman and Amber Benoy; and siblings Jim Miller, Erick Miller, Alan Miller, Matt Miller, Laurie Mobley and Joanna Miller Hoffman.

Loretta Mendoza Dionisio

68, Orlando, Fla.

Loretta Mendoza Dionisio (Family photo)

Loretta Mendoza Dionisio was a force of nature.

The kind of woman who would chase bullies through the streets of her Pasay City neighborhood in the Philippines with a wooden spoon when they made fun of her brother for being gay.

The kind of woman who, upon immigrating to the United States to escape martial law in the 1970s, became a trailblazer in the advertising industry.

“She was very, very sweet,” said her daughter, Rowena Dionisio-Connelly. “But you just don’t mess with Loretta.”

On March 10, at 68, Dionisio became the first person in Los Angeles County whose death was attributed to COVID-19.

She and her husband Roddy had flown into L.A. on March 8 after a trip to the Philippines. She turned ill the next day, and died early the following morning at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.

It was the last chapter in a love story that spanned decades.

Roddy and Loretta met in the art program at the University of Santo Tomas. Soon they were inseparable. A painting they created together still hangs on Rowena’s wall.

They eventually settled in Orlando, Fla., where Roddy was in-store advertising director for a hardware company and Loretta was its creative director. More recently, they began working with their son as co-owners of an automotive repair business.

When she started her career, Loretta was often the only woman in her department. Since her death, her family has been flooded with messages from people who said she took a chance on them when no one else would.

“My mom always did that for people,” Rowena said.

Loretta and Roddy had planned to retire and divide their time between their son’s home in Orlando, their daughter’s home in South Carolina, and travel.

“This virus is really damaging for people in their twilight years,” said their daughter-in-law, Cathrina Dionisio, “people who are looking for a life of retirement and relaxation and time with loved ones.”

Loretta was preceded in death by two brothers and is survived by her husband, Rodrigo; sisters Norma Quijano and Barbara Poole; daughter Rowena Dionisio-Connelly and her husband, Christopher Connelly; son Rembert Dionisio and his wife, Cathrina; and two grandchildren.

Read the full obituary

Jo Ann Smith

66, Pala Indian Reservation

Not quite three years ago, Jo Ann Smith got a new liver — a transplant — and a new lease on life.

Her old liver — damaged from years of unhealthy eating and diabetes, her family says — had forced her to retire after about 30 years as founding director of the Pala Youth Center in Pala, one of the loci of life for the Pala Band of Mission Indians, to which she belonged.

For a time, Smith was back to her old self again; even though she’d retired, she kept showing up at the youth center again, telling the new director — who happened to be her daughter, April Cantu — how she had done things. “It was like she never left!” Cantu marveled.

And with her new liver, she tried to police what her kids and grandkids ate and drank: “She would criticize what I was eating all the time. That’s how our phone calls were: ‘What are you eating for lunch? A pizza? Oh my God.’ And she was like that with alcohol. She didn’t like the fact that we had drinks.”

When the pandemic started, Cantu said that her mother “was very strict with us — ‘You guys need to do this, do that’ — and she’d take precautions, wear a mask, but she wouldn’t listen when I told her to stay home and stay away from people,” Cantu said. “She didn’t want to let it consume her life.”

And then, at the end of August, she came down with COVID.

She was hospitalized, and then put on a ventilator. Although she couldn’t talk much, and at the end couldn’t speak at all, the family got to say its goodbyes, thanks to a kind nurse who shared her phone so that Smith could FaceTime with her loved ones. She died on Sept. 11. She was 66, and had lived on the Pala reservation her entire life.

Hers was not the family’s only COVID death. Within days of one another, one of Smith’s aunts and the husband of another aunt also died. There’s somber understatement in what Cantu says: “It was a hard month; it’s been horrible for our family.”

Smith was an only child, but she made up for it by solo parenting her four kids and their kids and her extended family; every year, she took them all on vacation to Disneyland, and picked up the tab.

The kids who came to the Pala Youth Center were almost like family, too. Almost every summertime Friday for decades, she took the youth center kids on some field trip — to the fair, to Legoland, to SeaWorld. By the time she retired, the kids she first knew were sending their own kids to the center. She liked to say that “these darn kids keep me going and keep me young.”

The family has been watching home videos of their pre-COVID get-togethers — like a grown nephew creeping up behind Smith and scaring her with a lizard — and listening to “hilarious” voicemails of her gossiping about people they knew.

No one remembers how she got her nickname, Goo, and no one ever called her anything else. But Cantu, her daughter, and her granddaughter Gabriella Munoz, remembered fondly that there was nothing soft or gooey about her. If she didn’t like something, you knew it. And if she did, you’d know it too.

“She was a very straight-to-the-core woman,” Munoz remembered. “If she had something to say, she was going to say it.”

For April Cantu, her mother’s legacy is that “she raised us to work for our community, to work for our tribe. That’s what she put in our heads.”

Victor “DJ V-Funk” Martinez knew instinctively how to read a crowd and what to play to get them dancing.

By day, the 36-year-old worked as an environmental supervisor at the Porterville Developmental Center, overseeing custodial staff at a state residential facility for developmentally disabled adults. But his true passion was music, said his wife, Emelina Martinez.

Martinez performed as a disc jockey under the name “DJ V-Funk” for more than a decade in and around his hometown of Porterville, providing the soundtrack at countless quinceañeras, weddings and birthday parties. It was a business, but Martinez insisted on playing certain events for free, like school fundraisers or a party to raise money for a community member’s kidney transplant.

His turntable skills changed the course of his life more than 15 years ago, when his not-yet wife was looking for a DJ to play her upcoming birthday party. Martinez got the gig. And within a few months, he also got the girl. His life further bloomed as a devoted father to their son Adriel, now 14, and 5-year-old daughter Ambrielle.

Martinez never wanted to miss a moment of his children’s lives — not a ballet class or a soccer practice or a Little League game. If something conflicted with work, he would try to go on his lunch break. When Adriel marched in his first Veterans Day parade with the school band, his father walked alongside so he could take pictures the whole way.

It wasn’t just his own children whom Martinez doted on. “He wanted to be everyone’s father,” his wife said. He was a ringleader of camping trips — including an annual retreat for at-risk youth — and played Santa Claus at Boys and Girls Club holiday parties.

Martinez and his wife experienced an “instant” connection when they first met. Both of their lives had been profoundly shaped by violent tragedy. But in the long shadow of senseless acts, each found a soul mate who could grasp what the other had been through.

“He understood my pain, and I understood his,” said Emelina Martinez, who lost a brother in a shooting before meeting her husband.

Martinez’s mother and sister were murdered in the family home when he was 13. As a teenager, he was put on the witness stand multiple times to testify against the killer, and later given an award by the Tulare County district attorney’s office for the “exceptional courage” he showed in bringing the assailant to justice.

Others might have wilted under the weight of such grief. But Martinez knew what he wanted: to build something new with Emelina, and create a shelter of love and stability for their children.

“He really, really took care of us,” she said.

Her husband was cautious at times, particularly as the pandemic bore down around them. He made sure his family had hand sanitizer, gloves and masks, and took care to wipe down the inside of their cars before they got in.

But the virus still found him in mid-July. His wife believes Martinez contracted COVID-19 at work, because his job required him to enter units with COVID-19 patients to ensure they were being cleaned properly. Emelina works at the same facility as a psychiatric nurse.

Martinez died at Bakersfield Adventist Health Hospital on Aug. 27, after battling COVID-19 for a month.

He and his wife had eloped in 2005, eager to start their lives together. But as they approached their 15th wedding anniversary, the couple wanted to do it again “the right way,” with a church wedding and Emelina’s father walking her down the aisle.

By the summer, they had decided to postpone their fall wedding until after COVID-19, but the bulk of the planning was done. They had looked at rings and carefully chosen the tannish-brown suit that Adriel would wear as a groomsman, along with the princess-like dress that Ambrielle would don for flower girl duties. Emelina had found the perfect white dress at a friend’s bridal boutique.

Before Martinez’s funeral, she went ahead and put the dress on. “I asked my dad, ‘Can you still give me away, Daddy?'” she recalled. Her father said yes.

Wearing a lace-covered, strapless wedding gown, Emelina walked down the aisle of the Porterville Funeral and Cremation Center on her father’s arm, toward the box where her husband lay.

“More than Words” by Extreme and “Amber” by 311 — the songs Martinez had picked out for a very different version of this same moment — played as his wife and father-in-law made their way toward him.

It was a world away from the day Victor and Emelina had wanted or planned. But she was still going to wear the dress for her groom, and pledge her love one last time.

In addition to his wife, son and daughter, Martinez is survived by a brother, Oscar Fennel of Idaho, and sisters Antoniette Barboza of Bakersfield and Julie Martinez of Porterville.

John Breier

64, Woodland Hills

John Breier with his wife, Mona Jacobson Breier. (Family photo)

John Breier lived for three decades with multiple sclerosis, underwent four brain surgeries and often referred to himself as the “Bionic Man” because of the implant he received to treat symptoms of the disease.

By all measurements, his wife Mona Jacobson Breier said, “he was a fighter.”

Breier died of complications from COVID-19 at the age of 64 on April 6. He lived at a care home run by the Motion Picture and Film Fund in Woodland Hills, a facility hard hit by the virus.

Breier never worked in the entertainment industry, but he was eligible to live at the home because Mona, now retired and living in Sherman Oaks, is a former actress, studio crew member and casting director.

He grew up in Los Angeles, but was born in Montreal to Jewish parents who were Holocaust survivors. The family moved from Canada to the U.S. when he was 5.

For much of his career he worked as a salesman at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. but after his MS diagnosis in the early 1990s, he retired from that job and later worked at a Home Depot.

He and Mona got married in 1999 after meeting on a dating website, she said. It was the second marriage for both and each already had two children.

Mona recalled that Breier’s personal ad said he was 6’4” and only interested in a woman who was 5’4” or above.

“I’m 5’3”, so I responded by saying, ‘If you’re willing to give half an inch either way, then we should meet,’” Mona said, laughing.

Breier agreed to meet and the two had their first date at a Starbucks. They celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary March 21.

Mona said she admired the way her husband adjusted to the loss of mobility and tremors caused by M.S., even though the transition was tough.

He’d been an avid athlete as a young man, playing basketball, skiing and coaching youth sports.

“His mind was so clear — it was frustrating for him,” Mona said of her husband’s decreasing physical ability.

Still, he still loved to watch his favorite teams play on TV – the Lakers and Rams, along with the New York Giants.

Mona worked at Universal Studios and often invited her husband to movie screenings. Crew members at Universal took a liking to him, nicknaming him “Big John” because of his height, she said.

Breier wasn’t always the best at expressing his emotions to those he loved, but Mona saw him as a man with a warm, if guarded, heart.

“When he really loved somebody, he’d keep it inside, but if you gave him time, he would express it,” she says.

After he moved into the home, Mona would bring movies during her visits so the two could watch them together and she often treated him to Chinese takeout, their favorite meal.

Breier was a big fan of “American Idol” too. He and Mona would call each other to talk about who did well in each episode.

“I still want to call him the way I used to,” Mona says. “It’s so unreal to me that he’s gone.”

Shawki Zuabi

64, Laguna Niguel

In the emergency room at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, where he worked, Dr. Shawki Zuabi was the rock that everyone — patients and staff alike — depended on to get through the tough times.

Even after Zuabi was hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus, he was the one who would comfort the doctors and nurses who arrived to offer him their support.

“They called him the father of the emergency room department because that was how he treated everyone there, like they were his second family,” said his wife of nearly 40 years, Vincenza.

Colleagues said you always heard Zuabi coming before you saw him because of his rich, deep voice that patients found encouraging and soothing.

In the days that the emergency room received a seemingly endless stream of coronavirus patients, Zuabi never wavered, his wife said.

“He stood up for the underdog, and I think that was his ultimate strength,” she said. “He would help anyone that needed it.”

Zuabi died on Jan. 8, a month after he was hospitalized. He was initially cared for at Orange Coast, but was subsequently transferred to UC Irvine Medical Center, a larger hospital.

There, he was looked after by one of his four daughters, Nadia, a medical school resident in UCI’s emergency room who took time off from work to be with her father. Day or night, “she hardly ever left his side,” Vincenza said.

The family said they believe Zuabi contracted the virus while at work.

Zuabi was a Palestinian born in Nazareth, the eldest of seven brothers and sisters. He spoke five languages and was a talented painter and avid fisherman. His multiple talents led colleagues to joke that he was the embodiment of the Dos Equis beer commercial — “the most interesting man in the world.”

When Vincenza brought her parents to Orange Coast for vaccinations, she gained a deeper sense of what her husband meant to the people there. He was not just a doctor; he was friend and mentor to many.

Several times, she said, “someone would come up to me and tell me a story about how he was there for them, when they had a problem with their families, with relationships, with work, he was telling them that they can handle this, that they can take care of this, and they're going to be OK.”

He met Vincenza Pantano when she was 21. They met in Italy, while he was attending medical school at the University of Padua and she was a studying abroad as a UC San Diego student.

“We were together ever since.”

Zuabi is survived by his wife and their daughters, Vanessa, Rena, Nadia and Adriana.

Donald Sperling

85, Sacramento

Donald Sperling (Family photo)

Donald Sperling was funny, but not in a gregarious, performative sort of way. His deadpan humor ran flat and could be so sarcastic that, if you weren’t paying attention, you might miss it.

“People would sometimes ask, ‘Wait, is he serious?’” his daughter, Sandra, remembered. “And I would say: ‘No, he’s never serious!’”

Sperling was a man of habit. A lifelong golfer, he played even during his 18 months spent in the rural villages of Mawali, Japan, where he served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. He worked nights, slept a few hours, and played golf all day. At home, he had a standing tee time every Saturday morning at 9, and rarely missed Thursday night putting, his family said.

But his beloved golf game could not interfere with his No. 1 passion: his family. Sandra remembered how if she had a swim meet or school event when she was young, he would skip out on his own commitments to be there-–even if it meant missing golf time. After her children were born, he was the same type of grandfather.

“Anything we were involved in,” Sandra said. “He was involved in.”

And Sperling was just as dedicated to his wife, Janice, whom he met in sixth grade. They began dating in their senior year of high school and were engaged a year later. This month would have been their 65th wedding anniversary.

“You don’t hear love stories like this anymore,” Janice said.

In early March, Sperling was hospitalized after injuring his knees in a fall at his Sacramento home. A week later, his son, Stephen, with whom he had been in close contact, was rushed to the same hospital with symptoms of COVID-19. It was then that Sperling, who had been complaining of headaches, an earache and had a low fever, also tested positive for the virus.

A few days later, his wife became short of breath and was admitted to the same hospital. Their daughter, Sandra, also tested positive, but she did not need to be hospitalized.

Sperling, 85, died on March 22. Janice and Stephen, through the hazy fog of high fevers, saw him in person and said their farewells days before he died. No other family members could see him because of hospital restrictions.

Sperling was born in Portland, Ore., and, when he was 3, moved with his family to Sacramento, where he remained for his life outside of his time in Japan. Once he was discharged from the Air Force, he studied business at Sacramento City College, and went on to work for the city of Sacramento as an account clerk in the treasurer's office. He eventually served as president of the Sacramento Retirement Association. He retired in 1994 after 34 years.

Sperling and his wife attended Faith Presbyterian Church, where the first woman believed to have died of COVID-19 in Sacramento was also a parishioner. While no other deaths have been reported, eight other parishioners have tested positive for the virus, according to the Sacramento Bee. Sperling’s wife and children have since recovered.

Sperling kept up his passions until the end. A year ago, when he could hardly walk because of arthritis, he played in a putting tournament with the Land Park Men’s Golf Club. In a video posted on the club’s Facebook page, he hits the ball into the final hole, winning the game, and is greeted by rapturous applause and congratulatory handshakes.

“Everyone loved him,” Sandra said. “You could put 1,000 people in a line and no one would have anything bad to say about him.”

Jack Turnbull

72, North Hills

Last Thanksgiving, Jack Turnbull picked up the karaoke mic and belted out one of his favorite tunes, Fastball’s “The Way,” an elegy to love enduring against all odds.

“Where were they going without ever knowing the way?” he sang, cheered on by his friends, his children and, most important, his wife, Jesserel.

She was his love, and the story of their meeting, she said, was a fairy tale. She was a 25-year-old server at a small hotel on Subic Bay, and he was a 62-year-old guest on a two-week vacation in the Philippines. Their smiles brought them together.

It was 2009 and the first of nine trips to the Philippines that Turnbull took that year before proposing. Marrying Jesserel marked the beginning of a new chapter in a late-blooming life.

Born in Springfield, Mo., Jan Paul Turnbull, whom everyone knew as Jack, escaped the small-town atmosphere of the Midwest not long after his parents divorced. He was 21, and as much as he had grown up with values that celebrated community, he now found himself without one.

“He was a vagabond living out of his car,” said his cousin Patrick White. It was a time when the country was reeling, with a war in Vietnam and protests at home.

Touring in old knockabouts, he played in a rock ’n' roll band, making ends meet as a school photographer and briefly opening a studio, first in Missouri, then in Florida. When times got hard, he had his brother, Reginald, who was an assistant attorney general for Missouri, to help him out.

From the chaos of the road, Turnbull eventually found stability in Los Angeles, first working behind the camera and then opening Actorsite, a studio in the San Fernando Valley dedicated to teaching acting.

Turnbull found his “sweet spot” in the community he’d created, said his cousin White, adapting skills he had learned photographing children to the fundamentals of acting and refining what he had picked up from high school and from any stage he stood on.

For 25 years, Turnbull committed himself to developing talent and watched as students discovered their careers. Alumni include Holly Taylor (“The Americans”), Mackenzie Hancsicsak (“This Is Us”) and Braxton Herda (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”).

Turnbull, said Kimberly Crandall, who started working with him in the 2000s and is now running Actorsite, “embraced how everyone is different and unique, and through that acceptance, really allowed all the different actors to feel comfortable in their own skin and blossom.”

Whether he was drilling students with tongue twisters or walking parents to their cars at night, Crandall said, Turnbull developed a safe and caring atmosphere for children and adults.

Classes and workshops were conducted in the afternoons and evenings, and on weekdays and weekends. Days often began with email blasts of encouragement and reminders to persevere and could end with pizza parties and karaoke nights.

Celebrated for his silliness, his kindheartedness, his exuberant personality, Turnbull was committed to the success of his students, and as much as he gave to them, they gave to him something of their spirit and energy.

“He was a natural-born teacher,” said Susan Bernhardt, whose daughter, Jillian Clare, started taking classes with Turnbull in 2000. He believed that if his students followed their hearts, they would find their way.

Jack eventually followed his heart, adopting not only Jesserel’s daughter, Venise, but also having two children with her, John Robert and Zayne. In 2017, he and Jesserel bought their first home, in North Hills. Turnbull had found his community and family late in life, but happiness doesn’t often follow a clock or a calendar.

“He wanted more babies,” said Jesserel, who tried to take care of him when he started getting sick in May. They didn’t know where he had contracted COVID-19. Later, when he was alone in the hospital, she Facetimed him and played him the music that he loved so much.

Turnbull, 72, died in the intensive care unit on June 14. He is survived by his wife and three children.

David Werksman

51, Corona

Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy David Werksman, 51, of Corona died from complications of COVID-19 on April 2. (Riverside County Sheriff’s Department)

David Werksman was “a real cop’s cop,” said Robert Himmelberg, a retired sergeant for the Riverside County Sheriff’s department.

The two started off as sheriff’s deputies together more than 20 years ago in Jurupa Valley and were beat partners for two or three years, he said. “He wasn’t a super emotional guy at all but he was the kind of guy you could count on when you were in a difficult situation,” he said.

Werksman, 51, died on April 2 of complications from COVID-19, after fighting his illness for three weeks. He was the second sheriff’s deputy in the department to die from the virus.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said Werksman was known for his “generosity, kindness, and willingness to help anyone, whether it was work-related or not.”

Werksman spent five years as a police dispatcher for the city of Tustin before beginning his 22-year career with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. He spent 11 of those years on the bomb squad.

“He really felt like he was saving not just one person, but as many people that might be affected by a meth lab blowing up or by a suspicious package in a courthouse,” Werksman’s older brother, Harry, told The Times.

“For him, it was about helping as many people as possible. And when he told me those stories, I’d look at him and think, ‘I am the most selfish person in the world.’”

Werksman, who lived in Corona, is survived by his wife Kristin and three adult children. He had planned to retire soon and start a charter boat company in the Caribbean.

Gerald Shiroma

59, Los Angeles

(Courtesy of Union Rescue Mission)

Last summer Gerald Shiroma boarded a plane at LAX, and headed to the Big Island of Hawaii. Such a trip would have been impossible five years earlier when Shiroma was homeless, addicted to meth and deeply in debt to his family.

Born in Los Angeles to Japanese American parents, Shiroma got clean, and saved enough money to repay various family members and bought a ticket to Hawaii. The trip was a homecoming for Shiroma and a chance to celebrate his aunt Mildred’s 100th birthday.

“He always said he wanted to see Aunt Millie one more time before she passes,” said his cousin Eric Sunada, who travelled with him to Hawaii.

On April 8th, less than a year after his trip to his ancestral home, Shiroma died from complications of COVID-19. He was 59.

Shiroma spent most of his adult years living with his parents in West Covina, his cousin said. When they died a decade ago, they left him their house. Within a few years, Shiroma lost the house and his connection to his extended family.

In 2015, Sunada, along with another cousin, introduced Shiroma to the Union Rescue Mission on LA’s Skid Row.

“I remember distinctly when Shiroma first came to the mission,” said Michael McIntire, director of the shelter’s ministry, “He shared his story with me, about how his parents had left him their home and the guilt he felt at squandering everything they had left him.”

Shiroma entered the addiction recovery program and worked with McIntire and the shelter’s director, the Rev. Andy Bales, to overcome his addiction and sense of guilt.

“The photo of him in cap and gown on the day he graduated from the recovery program is right outside my door,” said Bales. “He was able to put the past behind him and move forward with a healthy self-esteem. He learned to not let his past beat him down.”

One of Shiroma’s most powerful moments of recovery occurred during the 12-step program.

“He came to me and said, ‘I don’t know how to make amends to my parents who have died,’” said McIntire, “I suggested he write an apology letter to his parents.” That letter was a turning point in Shiroma’s life.

“He wrote that letter of apology, and began to heal, inside,” Bales said.

After Shiroma completed the recovery program, the mission hired him as a custodian. He also worked as a driver, shuttling residents around Los Angeles and collecting food donations.

He lived at Union Rescue Mission until his death and managed to save more than $30,000, which will be donated to the mission in his memory.

Sunada credits Union Rescue Mission entirely in Shiroma’s recovery.

“Life was hard on him,” he said. “But through the mission, he matured and was at peace with himself.”

On his way back from Hawaii, Shiroma picked up souvenirs and macadamia nuts as a gift for McIntire, along with a renewed sense of pride and confidence.

“He was a new man when he came back from that trip,” said McIntire, “He was happier and more connected than ever before.”

Taurino and Silvia Rivera

57 and 56, San Diego

When Taurino and Silvia Rivera were laid to rest beneath a California pepper tree on a Friday morning, their white caskets were surrounded by their three sons and daughters-in-law and

seven grandchildren, members of the church they founded in San Diego and pastors who had grown close to them during their years of ministry.

The couple, who had grown up together in a small town in Oaxaca and had been inseparable since, were buried together after dying weeks apart from COVID-19. Taurino’s casket was lowered first, and then his wife’s on top of his.

Missing from the scene was their fourth son, Ismael Rivera, who watched the final moments of the ceremony on his phone while standing outside a restaurant in Tijuana. Jesimiel Rivera, the third son, held his phone over the grave as his brother sobbed on the other end of the Zoom call.

“In that moment, thousands of thoughts just raced through my head, with one question lingering — why?” said Ismael Rivera, who prefers the name Isaac.

The second of the four siblings, Isaac, had not been able to see his parents for almost a decade. He had been counting down to the summer of 2021 when he would no longer be banned from the United States and could request a visa to visit his family. His parents were not legally in the U.S. and could not cross south to see him.

At the funeral, the oldest son, Joel, read a letter from Silvia’s father in Oaxaca, who hadn’t seen his daughter since she left roughly 30 years ago. His hands shook as he held the piece of notebook paper.

“I love you forever,” he read in Spanish. “I will carry you in my heart.”

The Rivera family immigrated to the United States in the early 1990s when the four brothers were young children. They made City Heights in San Diego their new home.

Silvia and Taurino began working at a McDonald’s together, rising as early as 3:30 a.m. to arrive on time for their morning shifts.

The family didn’t have much money, but the sons said their parents always found a way to celebrate birthdays and take care of them. And even before the parents shifted to working full time as pastors, faith was a big part of family life.

Jesimiel, remembered sitting on the floor as a child and watching his father play worship songs on a guitar.

“Just seeing dad so big and the song and his voice, and then everybody around, the adults were just clapping and singing — everything was so joyful,” Jesimiel said. “I remember feeling in a magical place at that moment.”

He remembered, too, going as a teen with his father to minister at a rehabilitation center, and the way his father’s words would ease the people there.

Taurino took Daniel Rivera, the youngest of the four sons, to piano classes as a child, and they would play together. Daniel eventually became a pastor as well.

The family home would fill with people who needed help — a couch to sleep on, some food from the refrigerator.

“They left a big legacy for me and my brothers to follow,” Isaac said.

In recalling their mother, each son remembered intimate moments when they were alone with her, and the safety and love they felt in her presence.

Even after Jesimiel became an adult, she could always sense when something was bothering him.

“I could hide things from Dad, but never from Mom,” he said.

And, of course, they remembered her food — her chilaquiles, her atole, her spicy chicken soup and her mole.

The brothers cannot cross the border to console with Isaac without also becoming stuck outside of the U.S., though the three are protected for now by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which grants work permits and temporary protection from deportation to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

In 2011, the year before the program was created, Isaac was stopped at one of the Border Patrol checkpoints that are scattered across the southwestern United States and ended up voluntarily returning to Mexico. Because of U.S. immigration laws, he was barred from coming back for at least 10 years.

“What hurts me a lot is that for the last 10 years, I wasn’t over there to tell them how much I love them, how much they meant to me, hugging them really tight and telling them, ‘I love you, Dad. I love you, Mom,’ and being there on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and their wedding anniversary and birthdays,” Isaac said. “And now that will never happen.”

One of the things that brings him comfort now is that even in death, his parents are still together.

“They were two human beings glued together everywhere they went,” Isaac said. “Now they’re in heaven together forever and that’s what makes me happy. That’s the only thing that makes me happy.”

In 2011, Taurino and Silvia started a church called Fe Esperanza y Amor — faith, hope and love — and, according to the church members they left behind, they embodied those values in their work.

After the holidays, Daniel was the first in the Rivera family to show COVID-19 symptoms. He was hospitalized, followed by his mother Silvia and then his father Taurino.

Though Daniel recovered, Silvia and Taurino remained on ventilators. Early in the morning, on Feb. 1, Taurino died, and the family began to grieve and to plan for his burial.

Silvia seemed to improve. Doctors took her off the ventilator and moved her to a rehabilitation center.

No one told Silvia about Taurino’s death, but many believe that she figured it out on her own and followed after him.

“I think in a way she did know because my parents’ bond was so strong,” Daniel said.

Early on Feb. 19, Isaac got a call from his brothers across the border.

His mother, too, was now dead from the virus. He sat in his car and wept.

“I was barely dealing with the situation with my dad,” Isaac said. “Deep inside I’m hurting, deep inside I’m broken in so many pieces. I don’t know how I’m going to get myself back together.”

Daniel is now pastor at Fe Esperanza y Amor in addition to his own church in San Marcos. On his first Sunday preaching there after his father’s death, he told the church they would follow the guidance that his father had given them — to serve God and to live in peace.

He urged them to find solace in one of Taurino’s most common refrains. “God is good, all the time.”

Ronald Burdette Culp

84, Redding

(Family photo)

Ronald Burdette Culp was known for singing gospel songs in his deep bass, his ability to recreate a cow’s moo and a rooster’s crow, and his version of comedian Foster Brooks’ portrayal of a drunk man, though Culp had never been intoxicated a day in his life, his family said.

He was also known for being extraordinarily frugal, his family said.

Over the years, Culp collected spare change — including any coins from the laundromat at the Green Acres RV Park he ran for decades with his wife, Sheryl Culp — in coffee cans he kept well hidden. When he retired at the age of 83 he gathered his dozens of cans and drove them to a bank.

It took three trips to wheel the coins in with a hand truck. He’d saved more than $7,000, according to his family.

“The clerks were just fit to be tied because they had to count all those coins,” said his daughter Cindy Culp.

Ronald, 84, died of COVID-19 in Redding on April 3. He’s survived by six children — Ronnie “Curly” Culp, Bruce Culp, Nancy Culp, Cindy Culp, Lori Neighbor and Jonathan Culp — 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Ronald was born in San Fernando in 1935 and moved to Yreka with his family in 1953. The Culps funded their move by successfully investing with a donkey-riding wildcat oil driller whom Ronald’s father met at a trading post, said Bruce. In Yreka, the family bought a 160-acre dairy farm where Ronald helped milk cows and work the ranch.

He attended Yreka High School, where he met his first wife, Maxine. The two had three children together.

After high school, he worked as a stucco contractor with his father, as a concrete truck driver and at lumber yards. He eventually became the manager and part-owner of the Yreka Lumber Company.

“He could do anything. He could fix anything,” Cindy said. “He just was a jack of all trades when it came to anything that had to do with construction and building.”

After his first marriage ended in the 1970s, Ronald met Schroeder. They were married for 42 years, until her death in 2016.

Schroeder and Ronald Culp had a strong marriage, and her death hit him hard, said Nancy. She said her father once told her that when he and Schroeder left the RV Park in separate cars he “would purposefully pull up beside her at a stoplight just so [he] could look at her, because she was so beautiful.”

With his children, Culp was a gruff man; he wasn’t one to offer a lot of praise (at least not directly) and his grandchildren called him “grump-pa.” But it was a “mask,” said his son Bruce.

“Deep down inside he was just a big marshmallow,” Bruce said. Ronald would take his kids fishing, skiing or on trips to Mexico in their motorhome.

Nancy said her father was “tender hearted” and deeply religious. “I think the most important thing for him was that we knew that Jesus and that we lived our life for Jesus,” said his daughter Nancy.

That was clear in one of his last conversations with his family.

His children and grandchildren weren’t allowed to visit him in the hospital as he battled COVID-19, but he was able to speak with them on the phone two days before he died. His grandson Matt told Culp how sorry the family was that they couldn’t be there with him.

“And he said, ‘But I'm not alone, Matt,’” Cindy said. “He said ‘Jesus is right here with me.’”

Jimmy Lee

48, Orange

Jimmy Lee was the person his friends called for advice about almost anything.

Need a restaurant recommendation in Koreatown? He’d know a great place, and he’d probably take you there and tell you about the building’s hidden history. Need a drummer to jam with? Lee and some UCLA friends had played in a band called People Mover, and in his 40s he was still playing for a cover band called the Buzzrites. He was always up for a set and a chat in Lenn Kano’s basement.

When Julie Ha felt nervous about directing a documentary shoot alone, she called Lee. Of course. “He was just that kind of friend that he would push himself to try and help you if he could,” Ha said. “The fact that he could make so many of us friends feel that he had our backs and that he was there for us, I found that incredible. Where did he find the time to make us all feel that way?”

A self-taught journalist who was born in Korea and came to the United States as an infant, Lee became a writer, editor and managing editor at KoreAm Magazine, which covered arts, culture and politics for the Korean American community. It was published monthly in print until about a year ago, and a revamped version is online as It was a haven for a man who felt like an outsider while growing up in Orange County.

“We couldn’t pay a lot of money, but he loved what the mission of the publication was about,” publisher James Ryu said.

Lee, 48, died Feb. 7, a week after he tested positive for COVID-19. He had been living in his childhood home in Orange and was caring for his mother; his father had died of heart failure in October.

The swiftness of his death stunned those who knew him. “He was generous and joyful, and he had a lot of life left to live and a lot more to give, and it’s just horrible that’s been taken away when it didn’t have to be,” said Kano, who worked with Lee at UCLA’s student-run radio station.

Ha couldn’t help using the present tense when speaking of Lee during a phone interview. “When you think about the people that you have in your life and how friends can become your chosen family, too, Jimmy definitely was like family,” she said, “and it is very hard to accept.”

Lee’s work for the magazine ranged from pop culture to weighty issues. He and colleagues produced stories about Korean bath houses — with a staff visit — about Korean American actress Grace Park, about DC Comics artist-writer Jim Lee, and a series on incarcerated Korean Americans.

Ryu — who had COVID-19 over Christmas — said Lee wrote “stories of people, not only the success stories, but the struggles that they went through. Go through the archives: he has written a lot of stories that the L.A. Times would not have covered. Those are the stories that come into the heart of the Korean people.”

Ha said Lee found his identity while discovering the diversity within the Korean community in Southern California. “He called it sort of a jumbled mess, but he found beauty in that jumbled mess,” she said. “And through the magazine work, he explored that jumbled mess with passion and curiosity and imagination."

Lee’s sister, Peggy Smith, said her brother was able to do his work virtually for the media company Shout! Factory a few days after he got his test results on Jan. 31, but he began to feel ill later that week. They exchanged texts on Feb. 6 and he told her he might go to the hospital. She told him to go, but he said he wasn’t ready.

Early the next day, their mother called Smith to say she didn’t hear Lee stirring, but it was early and Smith said to let him rest. Their mother called again and insisted Smith come over. She found him in bed, barely breathing. A neighbor administered CPR until paramedics arrived, but it was too late.

“I’m glad it was me that went in because it would have probably broken my mom,” Smith said. She and her mother later tested positive, too, but they have since recovered.

Smith wonders if things might have taken a better course if her brother had gotten an oxygen monitor from his doctor. He had been told he was pre-diabetic, but he wasn’t taking medication. He had recently lost 20 pounds and often rode his bike to the beach. “It doesn’t make sense,” Smith said. “There’s no rhyme or reason why it would take him like this.”

She said she has been overwhelmed by his friends’ praise of his generous spirit and his work. “I read his articles but I guess I just took it for granted that this is what he did. Read a great article, move on,” she said. “I didn’t realize the depth of Jimmy, so that makes me really sad. I keep thinking that’s something that would have happened later on down the road, but obviously that’s not going to happen now.”

Lee wasn’t married and had no children, to his mother’s dismay. “I think that made her really sad, but then I also told her he led a very cool life,” Smith said. “It wasn’t like it was a small life. He had a lot of people that loved him, and he had a lot of love surrounding him, so I don’t think he was lacking for anything.”

He was a godparent to friends’ kids and a devoted uncle to Smith’s daughters, Peyton and Paige. “They had great, great conversations,” Smith said. “He had taken my oldest to a couple of concerts. I could see later on where they would have bonded quite well over music because that was already happening.”

Since Lee's death, Ha has pored over old magazines, emails and texts to be sustained by glimpses of his humor and caring nature.

“During the pandemic, sometimes you can think, we’re not seeing our friends these days, anyway. So you can pretend, ‘I’ll see him when it’s all over,’” she said. “Some of us actually had an outstanding date to see him right before the pandemic and we said we’ll have lunch when it’s safe. And now we won’t be able to, but I think sometimes there are days when you don’t want to accept it, so you say, ‘I’ll see him,’ you know?”

Edmundo Raul Valencia, Jr

86, El Centro

Valencia with his wife Mary (Family photo)

Edmundo “Ed” Raul Valencia Jr. never forgot about his Mexican roots. In a well-known family story, he took his family on a road trip shortly after Christmas to visit relatives in Mexico. He made his young children leave their brand-new clothes and toys for their family in Mexico.

“I’ll buy you some more when we get home,” oldest daughter Irma Rister recalled him telling his puzzled kids.

Born April 19, 1934 in budding El Centro to a Mexican immigrant father and a Mexican American mother, Valencia epitomized the American dream, said son Michael.

He was a successful businessman with a commanding presence that was felt at home and throughout the Imperial Valley, where he and his wife Mary raised six children.

Valencia boldly maneuvered for his success from a young age.

The story goes that he asked his mom to enroll him in El Centro’s white schools because he wanted a better chance of getting ahead, according to Irma.

“He was very ambitious and had a strong desire and determination to succeed — to obtain success, power and wealth,” Irma said.

He met his beloved wife of 68 years at El Centro Union High School where, like him, she was one of the only Mexican students. After he graduated in 1952, Valencia dashed plans of going to college, married Mary and became a father. He stayed put in El Centro to work for his father’s concrete construction business and provide for his young family.

He eventually took over the business along with his younger brothers, growing it to prominence in the region. Today, the Valencia name emblazons sidewalks all around Imperial County.

His local business clout helped land him a job as a regional presidential campaign manager for both future President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1960 and 1968, respectively. He organized rallies and hosted the Kennedys when they were in the Imperial Valley. But Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968 devastated him, prompting him to quit politics, according to the family.

Valencia instilled the value of hard work in his children. He taught his sons the family trade, eventually leaving them their own cement business.

In his later years, Valencia was a loving grandfather and great-grandfather, or “tata” as his grandchildren and great-grandchildren called him.

“He made it a point to be part of their grandkid’s lives. He went to their birthday parties. He traveled to them even when they were scattered all over the country,” Michael said.

Great-grandson William Fritz, a reporter who wrote about his tata in the San Diego Union-Tribune, remembers Valencia’s endless teasing. When Valencia learned that Fritz hated being called anything other than his name “William” as a child, Valencia made it a point to call him “Billy Boy” every time he saw him.

For Fritz, his tata, a man who loved cursing in Spanish and singing “El Rey”, a mariachi classic, was a living link to his Mexican ancestry.

Valencia never failed to remind Fritz “You know, you’re a Mexican, right? Don’t ever forget you’re a Mexican.”

At age 86, Valencia died in Michael’s home on Feb. 26 of health complications following a January COVID-19 hospitalization at El Centro Regional Medical Center.

Valencia is survived by his wife, two brothers, four children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Robert Brewster

88, Rancho Palos Verdes

When Robert Brewster and his family met Princess Grace of Monaco during a trip overseas, it was an unforgettable occasion. His kids still look at the photograph with fondness—despite the fact that it was missing one big thing.

“Dad is not in the picture we took with her,” said Brewster’s daughter, Susan, “because he took the picture!”

That’s the way Bob Brewster was: selfless, easygoing and kind. He died in Torrance on April 13 from complications of COVID-19. He was 88.

Brewster grew up in Toluca Lake in the 1930s. His father was an executive at Universal Studios and his mother hosted fancy dinner parties, his daughter said. Roy Disney, Walt’s nephew, was his neighbor, but Brewster was never drawn to bright lights or fame. After graduating from Harvard School for Boys, he joined the Naval Reserve and studied engineering at UCLA. He met his wife, Patricia, in 1956 and they were married a year later.

“He was intelligent and clever, and he loved math,” Patricia said. “I was a math teacher so we had that in common.”

The couple bought their first home in Rancho Palos Verdes in 1959, right around the time Brewster started working as an engineer at Hughes Aircraft Company. He spent nearly 40 years at the company working on top-secret projects, which suited him since he didn’t like talking about himself much, his daughter said. His four kids always looked forward to their father’s return from work.

“He would come in the door and say, ‘Hi family!’ and we would run to see him,” Susan recalled. “He gave us horsey rides on his back and serenaded us with piano music at bedtime. He could fix anything, and he built some things we needed.”

But Brewster’s buzzing intellect remained busy whether he was on the clock or not. He loved technology magazines, puzzles, puns and wordplay. He came up with so many one-liners that his family started a list of “Bobisms,” like the gentle joke he made about the Parkinson’s disease he developed later in life: “I can’t shake it.”

He also cared deeply about music. He had a huge record collection (mostly showtunes, classical and comedy albums) and he sang in the choir at Rolling Hills Methodist Church and Rolling Hills Covenant Church. Later in life, he and Pat took 15 trips to “elder hostels” in the U.S. and abroad, where they explored different cities and learned about topics like old radio comedians and the history of glass blowing.

The couple, who first met at a UCLA dance all those years ago, continued ballroom dancing, line dancing and square dancing together until Parkinson’s took his balance.

“That was part of his kindness,” Patricia recalled. “If you asked him to do something, he would try his best to do it.”

Brewster is survived by his wife, Patricia; children Susan, Sharon, Karen and David; and seven grandchildren.

Vivian Anne Fierro

58, Commerce

(Family photo)

Vivian Anne Fierro would have been celebrating 31 years of being sober on June 9.

She spent her three decades clean helping those around her who also struggled with addiction. She worked as a group facilitator at an addiction treatment center, a marriage and family therapist and was an active member of East Los Angeles’ Narcotics Anonymous group.

Fierro, 58, died on April 25 of COVID-19 complications — and those she helped in their addiction recovery have showered her Facebook page with memories and thank yous.

Her brother Dave remembers attending many of his sister’s basketball games in the mid-80s at East Los Angeles College, where she earned her Associate of Arts degree.

“She had that Mamba-esque mentality,” her brother said, referring to the late Kobe Bryant. “She didn’t just want to be good. She wanted to be the best.”

After attending college, Fierro left Los Angeles for the Bay Area where she joined the San Francisco Conservation Corps, an organization dedicated to helping young adults and improving San Francisco’s environment.

“By getting away from L.A. she found out it’s alright to expand, and to open up your life and boundaries,” Dave said. “She found herself up there. It opened up her heart and soul to the idea that there is more to life than the East L.A. lifestyle.”

Fierro later returned to Los Angeles and continued helping others. She was tough and intimidating, yet loving and inspirational, her brother said.

“She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” her Narcotics Anonymous sponsee Donna said. “She was really good at seeing what it was you needed help with.”

One time, Fierro even put a homeless friend in a motel for an entire week, Dave said. “She would be one of those few people who would put their hand out and make you feel safe.”

Fierro’s body was found in her Commerce apartment after a general welfare check. An autopsy revealed she was positive for COVID-19. She is survived by her father Alfonso and brothers Daniel and Dave.

“Thank you for being a rainbow in my cloud,” one Narcotics Anonymous friend wrote on her Facebook page.

Wowa Zev Gdud spent his life cheating death and celebrating life.

As a teenager, growing up outside Vilna, Poland, a city that would be claimed by three countries during World War II, he narrowly escaped the bullets of Nazi soldiers or their accomplices three times. He spent much of the German occupation hiding with his father in the snow of the surrounding forests, yet that made him one of the lucky ones: 98% of Vilna’s Jews did not survive the war.

He would later emigrate to the U.S., change his name to the anglicized William Z. Good, and settle in the San Gabriel Valley, where as a family physician in La Puente he not only saved lives but delivered more than 2,000 infants, according to his son’s count.

It was a remarkable life, one that ended Dec. 25 at an Azusa elder-care facility due to complications caused by COVID-19. Good was 96; Pearl, his wife of 67 years, was at his side.

It was a life shaped, but not defined, by the Holocaust, one in which compassion and goodness pushed out vengeance and hate.

“I’ll tell you, most people are very angry,” he said of Holocaust survivors. “So they don’t go on with their lives. They are bitter. I decided that that’s a dead emotion and I better get rid of that.”

And he did. After the war Good crisscrossed Europe to escape Soviet occupation before arriving in Italy with only a shirt, shorts, a pair of pants and sandals. He also had no familiarity with Italian.

Within months he was studying medicine in Italian – one of 11 languages he would eventually master.

Few of his patients knew any of these stories, but many of them benefited from the lessons learned from them. If Dr. Good thought any of his working-class families couldn’t pay their bill, he simply never sent it.

Good’s son Michael, who followed his father into medicine and then followed his example by devoting a morning a week to making old-fashioned house calls to his frailest patients, remembers being late for many an appointment as a child. His father refused to leave anyone – waiter, taxi driver, post-office clerk – without striking up a conversation first.

“It was his way,” Michael said. “Over time I began to see that there was something deeper than just making acquaintances. What he really wanted to know was what problems do you have – and once he extracted that deeper secret his mission was clear: Now he had to help. For [him] there was nothing more enjoyable in life than helping his fellow human beings in distress.”

That was something he learned at home at an early age, then had reinforced during the darkest days of the Holocaust. Before the war, his father would hire workers in his turpentine factory based on their poverty and need for work, while his mother made sure any beggars that passed by the house would leave with a warm meal.

His neighbors repaid that kindness, either by hiding Good and his father from the Nazis or by refusing to betray their location when they were in the forest. When the Red Army liberated Vilna in July 1944, Good’s father, Dov, had one small coin left in his pocket. He had given the rest away to families more desperate than his own.

“It was this drive to help people that caused him to choose a career in medicine,” Michael said of his father, who retired at 89. “And it’s why he threw himself totally into the task of caring for his patients, year after year, decade after decade. Who has ever seen a doctor who practiced for almost 60 years?”

Good’s mother and 14-year-old brother did not survive the war; they were captured, then killed by Nazi sympathizers in the Lithuanian police force. Two years later, Good got his chance for revenge when he and an escaped Russian prisoner got the drop on two Lithuanian policemen. They disarmed the two and marched them into the swamps, where the Russian urged Good to shoot them both in the back.

Good raised his arm, aimed his pistol – then let the policemen go. The war had taken his childhood, half his family and his father’s modest business. But it hadn’t taken the most important thing, his humanity.

Two generations of children in the San Gabriel Valley benefited from that reality, including me. Dr. Good delivered me and nurtured me through childhood, beginning just 16 years after he gave two Lithuanian police officers their lives back in a swamp outside Vilna.

Antonia ‘Toni’ Sisemore

72, Esparto

(Family photo)

Antonia “Toni” Sisemore lived to care for elderly patients as a certified nursing assistant, a devotion that likely cost the 72-year-old her life.

Sisemore worked for several decades at Stollwood Convalescent Hospital, part of the St. John’s Retirement Village in Woodland. She had retired from her job but returned three years ago “because she was lonely and said she’d rather work than stay home,” her brother Felipe Sanchez said.

Sanchez said his sister likely contracted the coronavirus from a patient in early April. After a four-week battle against COVID-19, she died April 30 at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento.

“She liked taking care of old people; she took pride and a real interest in taking care of them,” Sanchez said. “She was just that way. She and my younger sister took care of my father in his last days, before he died in 1973.”

Family members were concerned about Sisemore at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, but she insisted on continuing to work. By early May, 32 residents and 34 staff members at Stollwood had tested positive for the virus, with 14 dying from COVID-19.

“Even though we told her not to, she’s really stubborn,” Sisemore’s daughter, Ruth Edwards, told CBS 13 in Sacramento. “She’s going to do what she’s going to do.”

Sisemore was born April 6, 1948, in McAllen, Tex., and moved with her family at a young age to Solano County, where she attended school and farmed before graduating from Vacaville High School. She lived in Esparto, outside Sacramento.

As a young mother, Sisemore suffered a debilitating back injury in an automobile accident. She recovered after months of physical therapy and remained relatively healthy until undergoing knee-replacement surgery two years ago.

Sanchez said Sisemore began experiencing headaches and body aches in early April. She took a coronavirus test and went into self-isolation for two weeks, avoiding contact with family members while her daughters and nieces brought food to her door. Her condition worsened in mid-April.

“At one point, she was so weak, she couldn’t do anything,” Sanchez said. “We called an ambulance, and they took her to the hospital.”

Sisemore was hospitalized for two to three weeks and placed on a ventilator. Her two daughters were allowed to don protective gear and visit before she died.

Sisemore is survived by her brothers Felipe and Gabriel Sanchez, sisters San Juana Contreras and Mary Lara, daughters Noemie Adela Sanchez and Ruth Edwards, five grandchildren and one great-grandson.

A post on the St. John’s Facebook page described Sisemore as “one of our most talented and dedicated CNA’s” and praised her for her tireless work ethic, dedication and compassion toward those more vulnerable than herself.

“Her selfless sacrifices and unwavering commitment to our residents astounded and inspired all of us here at St. John’s,” the post read. “She loved and treated the entire St. John’s staff as if we were her family.

“Her humility, generosity and warmth never failed to put a bright smile on all of our faces. Her exuberance, dedication, bravery and devout faith had a profound impact on our campus. She was our hero.”

Sally Lara

62, Redlands

When the pandemic hit, Sally Lara was working part time as a phlebotomist at Riverside Community Hospital. Lara, who had recently retired from full time work at Redlands Community Hospital, decided to pick up more shifts to help during the crisis.

Alongside other union workers, she fought with the hospital’s administration over worker safety. They complained that the hospital provided proper protective gear only to only nurses and physicians. Lara was at the forefront of advocating for hospital workers across all departments to have equal protection and safety.

Her daughter, Vanessa Campos, said she believed the lack of protective equipment and safety protocols may have cost her mother her life.

“The legacy that she left behind is to just know who you are, and you can make a difference,” Campos said.

As a result of her advocacy, Lara was able to secure a hotel room to self-quarantine when she started showing coronavirus symptoms on Mother’s Day weekend. Over the course of the week, her cough grew more intense, so Campos and her brother took her to a hospital in Redlands, where she remained on a ventilator for nearly 20 days. She died on June 8 at age 62.

Lara had always been a gladiator, according to her daughter, who said her mother grew up in a turbulent household with an abusive father. As the eldest daughter of six siblings, Lara was their lodestar.

“She was the fighter of the group. She just would stand up for her siblings or take the hit instead of them,” Campos said. “I think because she came from such a sad childhood, she refused to have that be the way she lived her life.”

“She just didn't want that for her kids or her grandkids and she wanted to break that generational curse,” Campos added.

Lara met her first husband at Victory Outreach Pomona, a church that specializes in providing housing and rehabilitation services. She worked with women who were homeless and struggling with substance abuse and helped scores of them recover and start anew.

“When she passed and I shared her story on Facebook ... I had so many DMs, so many messages from people that I had no idea who they were, but they just knew her,” Campos said. “A lot of them have the same phrase, like, ‘Your mom changed my life’ or ‘Your mom was an angel in my life.’ or, ‘She helped me so much or she seen me when no one else did.’ ”

Campos believes her mother will be remembered for the lessons she imparted to others. “‘It’s all about perspective,’” she remembers her mother saying. “That's the way she would always tell us like ‘you can either miss me because I'm gone, or you can be happy that I lived. It's about your attitude and how you choose to apply it.’ ”

Besides Campos, Lara is survived by her sons, Tonio Lara and Steven Parque; her husband, Mario Parque; her siblings, John, Doreen, Charlie, and Guy Lara; and eight grandchildren.

Paul Hernandez

62, East Los Angeles

Boxing coach Paul Hernandez is seen in 2016 doing stretching exercises with the young boxers he trains at the East Los Angeles Community Youth Center. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In his final years, Paul Hernandez was eager to make up for lost time. He knew he had been given a second chance.

He woke at 6 a.m. and began each day with a prayer. The world, he knew, was a mystery. Every minute brings change, and every hour a new surprise. Either good or bad, there is no saying, so the best strategy is to be thankful and accepting.

Then he stepped outside the motor home in which he lived on the streets of East Los Angeles, did a few calisthenics and was ready to start his day, coaching young boxers in the mystery of the sweet science.

His technique in the ring was simple. “There are the three basic moves,” he told his students, whose ages often ranged from 8 to 16. First, protect yourself. Second, throw your punches before they do. Third, get the hell out of the way.

For almost eight years, he taught these skills to fighters at the old Cleland House before it was torn down, and then more recently at the Capatillo Boxing Academy. The lessons had as much to do with delivering a hook or dodging an uppercut than facing the blows of life.

Hernandez, 62, had experience with each, and over the years had learned that kindness and strength are not incompatible. “He told me to always think of others,” said his daughter Desiree Hernandez. “He believed that it is always better to make someone else happy than yourself.”

His generosity, she believes, contributed to his getting sick with COVID-19. He told her that he had been at a carwash where an older man without a mask had fainted. Hernandez stepped close to help him and put a wet towel on his neck. Soon Hernandez came down with a fever in mid-January and dismissed it as just the flu.

On Jan. 26, unable to breathe, Hernandez was admitted to Beverly Hospital in Montebello. He died four days later.

Hernandez grew up in East L.A., and he began boxing in elementary school. As he recalled the story, the principal had suspended him for a day and his father, eager to teach him a lesson, took him to the Teamsters Gym in downtown Los Angeles. Matched with an experienced fighter, Hernandez punched his way out.

More proud than surprised, his father began to train him as a bantamweight in the family garage. The ring was a square of carpet. His first match was in Obregon Park. He was 13.

Neighborhood bouts, as he told The Times in 2016, led to amateur events at the Olympic Auditorium and another in Las Vegas. Like many boxers, Hernandez found it easy to talk about himself.

“I was fast,” he said. “I hit like a rock with both hands, and I hardly got hit. Mayweather, De La Hoya, Paul Gonzales – none were as good as me.

”He hoped to go professional and had the 1980 Olympics in his sights. But the U.S. boycott upended the dream, which he soon replaced with the gang life, partying, girls and, as much as he tried to quit, addiction.

“The python spirit is a subtle foe,” he said. “It is a snake that engulfs you, and you don’t know it. I became my own worst enemy.”

Overmatched by his demons, Hernandez spent time on the street and in prison. Once in solitary, which he described as a dark and narrow cell, he turned to God for clarity and, as he told the story, God answered.

“I was in a lot of pain,” he said. “All I felt was aggression, seclusion and loneliness, but I soon realized that a higher power was making the moves.

”With sobriety in his heart and Alcoholics Anonymous in his corner, he returned to his neighborhood and an old gym once known as the Cleland House, and now the East Los Angeles Community Youth Center. He parked his motor home nearby and went to work, making amends.

He mopped floors, vacuumed the community room, mowed the lawn and stood beside his young boxers in the ring as they went through their paces. At the end of the day, he returned to his motor home, proud to be called “coach.”

“I’ve been called here to do exactly what I have been doing,” he said. “My job is to train kids, and as a born-again Christian, to stand on the word of God.”

In 2016, two years into his personal resurrection, Hernandez learned that the center’s board of directors planned to sell the property to a charter school, and he was determined to stop them. He enlisted his boxers and their parents in protests and marches through the neighborhood.

In the end, he lost, but he continued the fight, always looking for any opportunity to open his own gym. His friend, Gene Aguilera, described Hernandez as “a born hustler” on a mission.

“He wanted to put up a boxing ring to serve the youth of East L.A.,” said Aguilera. “It was what the barrio needed to keep them away from gangs, keep them away from drugs, and give them a sense of purpose and a sense of direction.”

Hernandez spoke at local fundraisers, the East L.A. Lions Club and recently at a library where Aguilera was signing copies of his book, “Mexican American Boxing in Los Angeles.” Hernandez never shied from the mic and worked passionately to help preserve the history of East L.A. from gentrification.

“He loved the community, and he was proud of his boxers,” said Desiree.

Hernandez is survived by his daughter, his brother Rick, and sisters Pauline Ruelas, Sylvia Natividad, Patricia Hernandez and Dolores Martinez.

Karen Hemm

69, Hemet

(Family photo)

In the early 1970s, Karen Hemm went to the fair with some friends. A ride operator wouldn’t one friend with cerebral palsy and who used a wheelchair on the Ferris wheel, but Hemm was insistent, and soon they were high in the air, grinning gleefully at the fairground below.

Such are stories about Hemm, who was a lifelong advocate for people with disabilities, a foster parent to several children with disabilities and a beloved mother.

A friend to many, Hemm died on May 17 from complications of COVID-19. She was 69.

Hemm’s life was one of great challenges and even greater optimism. Born in Delaware, she spent most of her teen years in Dayton, Ohio, where she became a volunteer at the Stillwater Center, a home for physically and mentally challenged adults and children. It was there that she developed her passion for helping people with disabilities.

“She just had a way about her of wanting to include people,” said her sister, Susan McClellan. “She wanted everyone to be happy and have fun.”

After leaving Dayton, Hemm moved around the country for several years. At a youth center in Florida, she met Linn Canning, who became her dearest friend.

“I didn’t know anybody, and Karen came up and gave me a big hug,” Canning recalled. “That hug made such a difference in my life.”

Hemm eventually landed in California, where she worked with students with disabilities at UC Berkeley and later settled in Eureka. She was a fixture in the disability rights movement, serving as an aide to movement leaders Hale Zukas and Judy Heumann. She fought for legislation and policies that remain in place today, including wheelchair ramps and accessible bathrooms.

“She was a role model for all of us to follow,” her sister said.

A single mother, Hemm adopted her son, Patrick Kuhn, and raised him herself. She later married Harlow Hemm, who died in 2018.

“She said she chose me because she saw a gleam in my eye,” said Patrick, who has cerebral palsy. “That made her decide that all the other opinions about me didn’t matter.”

Hemm also struggled with health issues of her own, including spinal stenosis and pulmonary fibrosis, for which she relied on a wheelchair later in life.

But she took the challenges in stride, and was a light-hearted and cheerful presence at Seaview Rehabilitation in Eureka and at Ramona Rehabilitation in Hemet, where she lived and served on resident councils. She loved crafts, painting, coloring and bingo—and she never stopped encouraging others to join in.

“She was always so happy and smiley,” her sister said. “I called her Sunshine.”

Hemm is survived by her son, sisters Cindy Damo and Susan, brother Jim Kuhn and grandchildren Joshua and Katie.

Alex Bernard

57, Downey

(Family photo)

His fever was spiking, the coronavirus beginning to take its toll. But Pastor Alex Bernard was still making the rounds to pick up food donations for the church food bank. As shutdown orders spread across the state, though, he found that many grocery stores had stopped donations.

The next morning, he woke up, feverish and slightly disoriented, and tried to leave the house to pick up more donations. His wife talked him out of it.

“His whole life was serving other people,” his wife Blanca wrote in an email. “He loved God and was so humble.”

The 57-year-old outreach pastor at Desert Reign Church in Downey likely contracted COVID-19 in mid-March, his wife said. A fever and cough developed into more serious respiratory issues, and after a virus test came back positive, he was admitted into Kaiser hospital in Downey. He called his wife to tell her he was going to be intubated and that he loved her.

He died of COVID-19 on March 29, after six days of hospitalization and more than three decades of service.

Pastor Alex, as his congregation called him, came to ministry from difficult circumstances. As a young man, he wrestled with a heroin addiction before enrolling in a rehab program through Teen Challenge, a Christian non-profit. He became a Christian, and eventually a pastor. He dedicated the rest of his life to ministering to people who were suffering.

“He just wanted to reach people. He knew where he came from and that’s why he loved people,” said South Pasadena Assembly of God Pastor Jose Reyes, who counted Bernard as a mentor and father figure.

“He was something different to everybody, but he was always there. Always on the phone, always available to anyone who needed it.” said his daughter, Crystal Harris.

Once, on or about Christmas, he got a call that a woman he mentored through Teen Challenge had been stabbed. Harris, then only 11, remembers loading into the car and driving through Skid Row in the middle of the night to look for the woman. They finally found her in a hospital.

“If somebody was hurt, he cared for them. No boundaries. Just to let them know they had somebody who cared,” said Harris.

At Desert Reign Church, Bernard ran the church’s food delivery program, married couples and conducted funeral services. He was a substance abuse counselor, a volunteer chaplain at the same Kaiser hospital where he would eventually die and a masterful cook who would barbecue hundreds of pounds of tri-tip at big community events.

He was the guy you could call in the middle of the night if you needed to find shelter, a drug rehab program or just a last-minute airport pickup.

“You’d start to explain and he’d say, ‘You don’t gotta explain, I’m already putting my pants on. Just give me the flight number and who I’m picking up,’ ” said Pastor Phil Cookes, who worked with Bernard for more than two decades at Teen Challenge and South Bay Celebration Church.

An inveterate prankster, Bernard wasn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers for laughs. One April Fools’ Day -- his favorite day of the year -- a manager at the church thrift shop stopped by to help out with a youth program. While she was busy, he and a few co-conspirators jacked up her car, pulled off the tires and replaced them with bricks. He returned the tires, but not before a priceless reaction, a near-call to the police and a riot of laughter.

Bernard’s greatest joy was his family -- his wife, four children, four foster children and seven grandkids.

“He was kind, gentle, loving, all that a family could ask for. He loved children and he loved to make people laugh,” said Blanca. “He was a true servant of God.”

Alfonso Ye Jr.

25, Chula Vista

Alfonso Ye Jr., 25, stood out among classmates in the pharmacy tech program at Pima Medical Institute in Chula Vista.

Rather than waiting to complete the eight-month training program, he sat for his pharmacy license and passed the exam. And he began working at a local pharmacy while still completing his studies.

“He took initiative. That is quite impressive for a student to be able to pass that exam,” said his instructor, Benjamin Montoya.

Ye also took pride in his cooking skills, impressing the pharmacy department at potlucks with dishes he mastered as a professional cook for the San Diego Yacht Club. Ye studied psychology at San Diego Miramar College, and graduated from Mira Mesa High School, according to his LinkedIn profile.

A manager at the pharmacy where Ye worked, who asked not to be identified, described him as likable and outgoing.

Montoya last saw the bright student in early March. Ye returned to his mother’s home in Riverside County with what the family believed was a cold with a high fever. He died March 25 at home in La Quinta.

He is preceded in death by his father, Alfonso Ye Sr., who died in 2018, and is survived by his mother.

W. David Stern

93, Mill Valley

When the coughing got severe enough, Carol Stern took her father to the emergency room, but no matter how bad the symptoms of COVID-19 became, W. David Stern had one request.

“If you take me,” Stern told his daughter, “you better be sure you bring me home.”

At 93, with a life that took him across continents and generations, Stern was ready for the end, so long as it came at the place that was the center of his world for the past 60 years.

Stern’s home in Mill Valley, where he died on Aug. 12 from complications of the virus, was noisy and warm, Carol remembered. Lots of food and lots of conversation. The grandchildren, eight in total, took turns grating potatoes for latke parties. Stern’s roots in Germany and England, where his family settled after fleeing their homeland in 1936, gave the gatherings a European flair.

Born Wolfgang Stern on Oct. 23, 1926, Stern often told stories about leaving Germany, where his family was secular, but still played a prominent role in the Jewish community in their hometown of Cologne. At 10, he and his family fled through Italy, Austria and Holland before settling in England. Years later, he recounted experiences to his curious children.

“He never got boring,” Carol said. “He never repeated stories. He was pretty amazing. He was just one of those old people who never, ever seemed old.”

The stories, covering Stern's childhood through his time in the Royal British Army in occupied Italy to his journey to the United States, were as diverse as his interests. The longtime computer programmer at Kaiser Industries in Oakland spoke four languages: German, Italian, French and English.

After buying his son Michael a tree 50 years ago, Stern grew to love landscaping and Bonsai. He built furniture and designed dresses for his daughters Carol and Jessica.

Stern stoically faced COVID-19, making sure to call each of his grandchildren on Zoom to say goodbye. He called his sister Eva Blumenau in London. His kids surrounded him in his bedroom during his final moments.

“He lived a good long life with no regrets about anything,” Carol said. “We’re really fortunate. We should all be so lucky.”

Rita Clausen


(Family photo)

Rita Clausen led a principled life.

Imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, she refused to comply with commands to say “Heil Hitler!” even if it meant she missed out on that day’s rations of bread and water.

The muddy water that Clausen drank to survive gave her diphtheria, but she persisted in her resolve.

“She said things the way they were,” Clausen’s daughter Judy said, “and she wasn’t bashful about anything.”

Growing up an elite swimmer in Germany, Rita Clausen was nominated to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. But her parents refused because they were horrified by the racially motivated ideology of Adolf Hitler, who eventually would be central to the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Clausen was released from the concentration camp only when her diphtheria required hospitalization. She moved to Northern California in 1947 not long after the war’s end and married a U.S. serviceman.

Together the Clausens raised six children and scores of foster children who flitted in and out of their Salinas home at any given moment. Clausen also worked in the packing industry, making boxes for cartons of lettuce.

She was a lifelong caregiver for her family until her death April 7 at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital from complications related to COVID-19. She was 92.

Clausen had fallen ill with breathing problems that required hospitalization. Judy said she was not able to bid farewell to her mother because of lockdown rules in the area.

“It was during the time when everybody had to stay home,” Judy said, “so we weren’t able to say goodbye to her or see her or do anything.”

Prior to her illness, Clausen continued to swim well into her 80s, before a downturn in her health forced her to move into a nursing home.

“She swam every day of her life practically,” Judy said. “Anywhere she could swim, she would swim.”

Clausen also had a love of old movies that she watched over and over, particularly “Gone with the Wind.”

She is survived by two sisters, Honey Horsley and Edith Loudermilk; five children, Judy, Dan, Ray, David and Bruce; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“She took care of us very well,” Judy said. “She was a good mom.”

Vidal Garay

60, Los Angeles

At 5 feet 11 and just 150 pounds, Vidal Garay looked like he was all muscle when he was young.

“To me, he was like a superhero,” said Richard Garay, Vidal’s second son. He remembered his father telling him and his brothers never to be scared of chasing their dreams.

“You guys are American citizens,” Richard recalls him saying. “You guys can get your education and ... do whatever you want to do.”

Born in the town of El Nayar in Mexico’s Nayarit state, Vidal grew up poor on a ranch. He began working at age 5 or 6, collecting water from the river, grabbing satchels of corn and grinding it to make tortillas for dinner.

Vidal immigrated to the United States when he was 14. He worked the fields, climbed power poles to fix cables, and finally arrived at QueensCare Health Centers in East Los Angeles as a security officer.

Richard remembered his father leaving in the morning before the sun was up. But he said Vidal rarely spoke about how hard he worked.

After the family had dinner together, Vidal would take a shower and grab his favorite Spanish language newspaper, La Opinión. On his days off, Vidal would kick his feet up, sitting on the porch with coffee and cigarette, and spend hours poring over the newspaper.

For English reading, he loved nonfiction, such as David Bellavia’s “House to House,” about the Iraq war, and Marcus Luttrell’s “Lone Survivor,” about Navy SEALs in Afghanistan.

Vidal was known as a “cool dad,” Richard said. He was lively, savoring Spanish corridos, and largely left the teenagers alone. But he would sometimes come in and offer, “Do you guys want to hear a joke?”

“My dad was strict, don’t get me wrong,” said Richard. “But he never judged us. He never got mad when we did something bad. He just guided us.”

“We were always able to communicate anything and everything to my dad,” Richard said. Vidal always told him and his brothers that he wanted to be their best friend first and their dad second.

In his free time, fishing was Vidal’s favorite hobby. The family spent a lot of time fishing at the Redondo Beach Pier. Vidal was also a good cook. Besides fish, he was known for his pork riblets in red salsa.

A romantic, Vidal was vocal about emotions, writing letters to Norma, his wife of 34 years, and was never ashamed of hugging or kissing her in front of their children.

On May 29, Richard felt mild symptoms of COVID-19, with a headache and a runny nose. He self-quarantined for four days at home and got a positive test result on June 4. On the same day, Vidal also tested positive, after losing his sense of smell and taste.

The two spent days quarantining in the same room and briefly spoke about dying together. “If you go, then I’ll go,” Richard said his father told him.

Richard had mild asthma but hadn’t used an inhaler for more than 12 years. Vidal suffered from sideroblastic anemia, a very rare form characterized by fatigue, shortness of breath and feelings of weakness.

On the eighth day, Richard woke up gasping for air. It felt, he said, as if “somebody pulled a bag over your head.”

Richard was taken to the hospital. “The last words I told my father was, ‘Dad, I don’t think I’m going to make it.’ And that was the last time my dad saw me.”

Richard recovered. Vidal died June 20 at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. He was 60.

Richard said 28 extended family members, including him and his father, have tested positive for COVID-19, most recovering at home, but they don’t know how they contracted the virus.

Vidal is survived by his wife, Norma; sons Juan, Richard and Benjamin; multiple siblings (his son isn’t sure how many), and three grandchildren. Another granddaughter is expected to be born soon.

Mark Appelbaum

79, San Diego


There weren’t many things Mark Appelbaum wasn’t good at.

As a kid growing up in Canton, Ohio, he conducted experiments in a lab he built in the basement of his parents’ home. In college he fell in love with another kind of science, earning a doctorate in quantitative psychology and going on to edit two respected psychology journals.

As an academic, he participated in numerous groundbreaking studies and continued to contribute to the educational mission at UC San Diego long after he retired from the faculty in 2011. And away from the classroom he loved to cook and took up acting.

“Some people can be remarkably single-minded and discipline-specific,” said Steven Adler, professor emeritus,

in the department of theatre and dance at UCSD. “Mark wasn’t. He cast his net much farther afield both on campus as well as off-campus.”

But being a renaissance man doesn’t always make you popular in your own home.

“When I was a teenager, having a father who was a statistician wasn’t nearly as cool as having a father who was a businessman or an NBA player,” said Greg, the eldest of Appelbaum’s two sons. “As I grew up, I realized just how fortunate I was.”

Greg now has an uncool job of his own as an associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke. He will soon be following his father’s footsteps to UCSD as well.

“He almost never expressed regrets,” Greg said of his father, who died Dec. 21, two days after being hospitalized because of COVID-19. “He was both an optimistic person and also, I think, he did what he wanted to and made a lot of right decisions."

Appelbaum’s 79 years of life were more than rich in other ways.

As a child he was fascinated with chemistry, mixing dangerous chemicals in his tiny lab and sometimes pouring them into his brother’s hands to see what would happen. At Carnegie Mellon, he switched to psychology, a career track that led him to teaching positions — and faculty leadership roles — at North Carolina, Vanderbilt and UCSD.

His research focused on quantitative and data analytic methods and their applications to human development, which led to a wide array of studies involving non-maternal child care, health and human behavior, HIV transmission in at-risk populations, and educational policies and outcomes. He was also a member of the SAT Committee of the College Board and worked on the Head Start program.

From a layperson’s perspective, he was perhaps best known for chairing a task force that sought to determine the link between violent video games and aggression in children. There was a link, the 2015 study found, but the evidence was insufficient to show it led to criminal violence or delinquency.

Retirement gave Appelbaum a chance to explore other interests — and they were plentiful as well. He joined the board of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, refined his skills as a chef and, at age 70, started acting.


acting came out of left field,” his son said. “He just wanted to do it. And he

wouldn’t let any of his family see him.”

That’s too bad, because Appelbaum was very talented, said Ilene Hubbs, who directed him in several productions, including a demanding two-person play. With a warm, welcoming face frequently creased by a smile,

short, trim eyebrows and bald pate framed by a shock of white hair, he could

play a range of roles — and Hubbs cast him in many.

“He was a very good actor. That’s why I kept casting him,” she said “He was a brilliant man. Very confident. I think he could have done anything he set his mind to.

“Acting gave him a chance to be a really different kind of a guy. And he got into it.”

Maybe that was the point. Mark Appelbaum the academic was a humble man of unparalleled accomplishment, one trailed by a long line of awards, successes, friendships and changed lives. But Mark Appelbaum the actor was free to try out roles he didn’t get to play in everyday life.

In the classroom, Appelbaum would have called it releasing the psychology of expectations. In the theater, he just called it fun.

“He had a light, humorous side,” Adler said. “He loved a good story. He loved telling a good story and hearing a good story.”

Appelbaum is survived by his wife, Suzanne, sons Greg and Jonathan, two grandchildren and two brothers, Frederick and Jeffrey.

Rose Matsui Ochi

81, Los Angeles

Rose Matsui Ochi was a trailblazing Los Angeles attorney who tapped far-flung political networks from City Hall to Congress in her fierce advocacy of civil rights, criminal justice reform and Japanese American causes.

Ochi died Dec. 13 at a local hospital after being diagnosed with a second bout of COVID-19, which exacerbated existing health problems, her husband, Thomas Ochi, said.

Ochi broke barriers as the first Asian American woman to serve as a Los Angeles Police Commission member and as an assistant U.S. attorney general. She advised L.A. Mayors Tom Bradley and James Hahn on criminal justice, served on President Carter’s Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy and worked with President Clinton on drug policy and race relations.

But she particularly cherished her contributions to the successful campaigns to win recognition and redress for the mass incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent during World War II — including her and her family, who were uprooted from their Boyle Heights home and imprisoned at the Rohwer detention camp in Arkansas after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Ochi was just 3 years old when she was incarcerated but it fired her lifelong commitment to fight for the underdog, said William T. Fujioka, a close friend and former Los Angeles County chief executive officer. “The injustice of the relocation burned something into her soul,” he said.

In a 2014 interview, Ochi recalled how racism shaped her. During a yearlong stay in Nevada after the war, she was made to wash her mouth out with soap by a teacher in front of the class for speaking Japanese, and soldiers threw snowballs and directed racial epithets at her, she said.

“Somehow I learned that I’m not a real American. I’m an outsider,” Ochi said in the interview with the UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research. “And instead of feeling like you’re ostracized, I just felt very strong, and I think over the years I was allowed to take on unpopular causes or stand up for people that are being beaten up ... because I was an outsider, and it’s something that I embrace and I like.”

Ochi was born on Dec. 15, 1938, in East Los Angeles, one of four children to Yoshiaki and Mutsuko Matsui. Her father was a businessman and her mother a homemaker and later seamstress. Ochi described herself as a gregarious tomboy who loved sports and never took no for an answer.

She cajoled her father to set aside his chauvinistic views about gender roles and teach her the Japanese martial art of kendo — which she said helped her develop the courage to endure getting hit and face her own fears. She dismissed her high school counselor’s remarks that she wasn’t smart enough for college but would be a good secretary.

“Excuse me? Me, take orders? You’ve got to be kidding,” she said in her UCLA interview.

When an Inyo County supervisor declared that the Manzanar project would only proceed “over my dead body,” Ochi drove to the next meeting and convinced him to go along with the plan by extolling the tourism and economic benefits it would bring to the area, according to Bruce Embrey, whose mother, Sue Kunitomi Embrey, was a founder of the Manzanar Committee and brought Ochi on as their pro-bono attorney.

“Rose, being the force of nature she was, was instrumental in winning over many in the Owens Valley to understand the benefits to have a national park,” he said.

After the war, the family returned to L.A., where she earned a law degree from Loyola Law School, where she met a key mentor: Terry J. Hatter Jr., then a law professor who would bring her into the USC Western Center on Law and Poverty and later Bradley’s Criminal Justice Planning Office.

At the Western Center, Ochi served as co-counsel on a landmark 1970s case, Serrano vs. Priest, which forced California to adopt a more equitable education funding system.

In 1995, Ochi joined the Clinton administration to work on drug enforcement, then two years later was named an assistant attorney general to head the Department of Justice’s community relations service office, which focused on race relations. After returning to Los Angeles in 2001, she was appointed to the Police Commission by Hahn and a year later became executive director of the California Forensic Science Institute at Cal State L.A.

Ochi’s many friends say her long resume of accomplishments and awards does not capture her warmth, generosity, loyalty and fun-loving spirit.

Sandra Blum

80, Encino

Music was a huge part of Sandy Blum’s life. When her sons were growing up in Encino, she’d sing along with pop songs on KBIG-FM (104.3) or KIIS-FM (102.7), and participated in local musical productions of “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Oklahoma,” “South Pacific" and others.

Later, as an empty nester, Blum joined various neighborhood singing clubs. She and Bob, her husband of 58 years, socialized by square dancing.

“If you ever went to a party, they were always out on the dance floor,” son Eric Blum said. “And they would dance to anything. Could be big band, old stuff, disco; it really didn’t matter.”

Blum, 80, died of COVID-19 complications on New Year’s Eve, less than a week after symptoms first appeared on Christmas Day. She was particularly vulnerable to the virus, having battled Parkinson’s disease for more than 15 years.

Born April 6, 1940, in Toronto, Sandra Helen Blum moved to Los Angeles with her family in 1952, and grew to love the beach and the Rose Parade. She graduated from Los Angeles High, right across the street from their home, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Cal State L.A. and a teaching credential.

She taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District, supporting her husband as he made his way through medical school. Later, the couple lived in Oceanside while Bob was stationed at Camp Pendleton during the Vietnam War.

The couple raised their two sons in the San Fernando Valley, where Bob spent five decades as a cardiologist, and Sandy taught third grade for 20 years at the VBS Harold M. Schulweis Day School in Encino. After retiring from teaching, she volunteered as a court-appointed special advocate for the foster care system, and was a docent at the Skirball Cultural Center. She always loved being around kids.

The Blums enjoyed traveling, and Sandy had a penchant for Japanese artwork and culture. Their home is filled with such mementos collected over the years. She had a sweet tooth, too. Writes Eric: “There was little that ailed her which couldn’t be cured with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a one-pound box of See’s Nuts & Chews.”

Blum is survived by her husband; sons Eric and Josh; her younger brother, Martin Frankel; and five grandchildren.

Margaret Sowma

105, Los Angeles

Margaret Sowma (Family photo)

When she graduated from eighth grade, Margaret Sowma was the top student in her Catholic school class. Success in high school and college seemed a given.

But it was 1928, the Great Depression was taking hold, and her parents, immigrants from Lebanon raising three children in New Jersey, were struggling. Further schooling for a girl was a luxury the family couldn’t afford, her father decided.

“His thinking was she would get married eventually and her husband would take care of her and she didn’t need an education,” said Sowma’s niece Julie Bawcom. “He needed all the income he could get.”

At 13, Sowma became a sweatshop seamstress. She never made it back to school, but the life she created for herself was its own study in perseverance and service.

Sowma died Jan. 10 at the age of 105, making her one of the state’s oldest victims of COVID-19. As a toddler, she survived the 1918 flu pandemic. She died at St. John of God Retirement & Care Center in L.A.’s Jefferson Park neighborhood, where she had been living. She had lived until she was 99 in a condominium in Windsor Square.

Her distinct figure — a birdlike frame, painstaking makeup and sharp outfits — was a familiar sight along Wilshire Boulevard and Sixth Street.

“I called her ‘the fashion lady,’” said Carolyn Tate, who met Sowma through a nonprofit advocacy group for senior citizens. “She used to tell me everything I wear, I make.”

Sowma spent her entire working life as an industry seamstress, ultimately securing a union job in downtown L.A. Her family had relocated to the city after World War II, when one of her two brothers was killed in a plane crash during military training exercises. Her father insisted that as a single woman she live with her parents, and she was in her 40s before she had her own place.

She told her niece she didn’t marry because her strict father scared off suitors and another friend that she simply hadn’t met the right person. She rarely seemed lonely though. She and two coworkers set a Guinness world record for cutting, sewing and ironing a dress in under five minutes.

After she retired, she launched herself into a new life of civic engagement. She volunteered at blood drives and staffed election day polling places, registered people to vote and prepared them for citizenship. She taught sewing in community college and served on the Congress of California Seniors, where she recorded meeting minutes in perfect penmanship until she was in her late 90s.

“She always wanted to be part of a group that made change,” Tate said, recalling how Sowma was fighting for universal healthcare as far back as the mid-1990s. “She wasn’t afraid to speak.”

Having endured the unsafe conditions and low wages in sweatshops, she was passionate about labor rights. At 79, she was briefly arrested after she chained herself to a sewing machine downtown to protest the treatment of workers.

She attended performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, lectures at USC and museum shows. She took the bus and walked at night, even after being mugged twice.

“She was just very, very independent,” said friend Frances McFall, who persuaded Sowma to accept rides home from neighborhood council meetings.

She continued to make friends into her late 90s. Chris Menown was seven decades her junior when he offered her a ride home from their parish, St. Brendan’s Catholic Church. At Denny’s one Sunday morning, he asked for her biggest life lesson.

“She thought about it for a good few seconds and then she said, ‘The most important thing in your life are your relationships,'” Menown recounted. Accomplishments and possessions fade, she told him. “You eventually arrive at a point where the only thing that matters are the people in your life.”

Sowma always kept the silver lapel pin she received at her eighth grade graduation, but Bawcom, her niece, said it wasn’t in her personality to regret her lack of formal education or dwell on the past.

“She just moved on with her life,” she said. “She was tough.”

In addition to Bawcom, Sowma is survived by another niece and two nephews.

Jay Calhoun

58, Bakersfield

Jay Calhoun had a passion for building houses. Framing. Plastering. Landscaping.

“He loved it all,” said Lynn Campbell, his older sister. She recalled how Calhoun gained interest in home building from their father, J.C., a building contractor. For years, the two built homes in Bakersfield.

Calhoun died of COVID-19 on Sept. 9 at Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield – the same hospital where he’d been born 58 years earlier.

The Central Valley was home to Calhoun much of his life, but he spent a few years in the Bay Area building homes.

Campbell remembers how Calhoun loved adventures and the outdoors.

Once, Campbell said, he and friends rode jet skis from a Southern California dock all the way to Catalina Island.

“We talked about that for years,” she said.

During the winter, Calhoun would spend weekends skiing in Mammoth and Big Bear.

He also loved to play practical jokes, Campbell said.

Once, he signed autographs when he was mistaken for then Los Angeles Raiders quarterback Jay Schroeder. Another time, when Campbell’s son was young and sitting on a teeter-totter, Calhoun saw an opportunity to have a bit of fun.

“And here comes Jay, running fast and he jumps on the other end,” she laughed. “My son bounced up in the air. He was safe, but that’s what Jay loved to do …he joked around.”

Some of these memories were shared at a graveside service in Bakersfield for Calhoun shortly after his death.

“Really, he lived life to the fullest,” Campbell said.

Michael Cook

84, Los Gatos

(Cook family photo)

Michael Cook spent much of his life studying to deepen his knowledge of Christ.

After being ordained as a priest in 1966, he continued his theological studies, focusing on Christology, a topic he wrote about extensively in several books, including “Christology as Narrative Quest” and “Responses to 101 Questions About Jesus.”

“He spoke in paragraphs if not volumes,” his niece, Colleen Cook, said with a laugh. “An intellect on another level.”

A longtime professor of religious studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., Cook spent the final years of his life at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, Calif., where he contracted coronavirus and died of complications of COVID-19 on Dec. 17.

He was 84.

Several other priests at the center also died of COVID-19 around the same time.

Born in Wolf Point, Mont., Cook and his family relocated to Seattle when he was around 5, but he and his older brother — Colleen’s father — briefly returned to Montana at the start of World War II, motivated by fears that the naval base near the family’s home in Seattle could be bombed.

He attended a Jesuit-run high school in Seattle and sometimes helped out at a string of foundering ice cream parlors and doughnut shops that his father had purchased in the area. Years later, Colleen recalled, her uncle — "Mike" to everyone in the family — entertained her with a story about how he spent long hours scooping ice cream while her father was out chasing girls. Colleen’s father, however, recalled it differently: While he scooped ice cream, his brother was holed up somewhere with his nose in a book reciting prayers.

Cook entered the Jesuit novitiate at 17 and continued to study throughout his life, including a few years in Rome, as well as earning a doctorate from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. He spoke seven languages, his niece said, including Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian and German, and he did teaching stints at Catholic University of Chile in Santiago and Hekima College in Nairobi, Kenya.

Despite his intellectual zeal for theology, Cook's faith was also deeply personal, his niece said, recalling that when he spoke about God, he used the term “abba,” a term for "father" in Aramaic.

“It was like that personal relationship,” she said, “of a child calling Dad 'Papa'.”

After Colleen’s daughter, Claire Bartlett, was born, Cook baptized her at Lake Goodwin outside Seattle. And every year, on the anniversary of the baptism, Bartlett recalled, her great uncle, who was also her godfather, sent her a card commemorating the important day.

He was also well known, Colleen said, for his detailed Christmas letters. The most recent note, which arrived a few days before he died, she said, focused on the strength of women told through the story of Mary.

Donald Wickham

94, Watsonville

Donald Wickham was always chasing a dream.

Known as Don to his family and friends, Wickham spent much of his adulthood in San Jose seeking success and money, as his son John Wickham tells it. With his first wife, Peggy, he opened up Wickham’s House of Design, a luxury furniture store. Then came Linder Foods, which specialized in salad dressings. He later became vice president of Ampco Auto Parks and would go on to hold various positions in the automobile industry.

“He was a dreamer,” John said. “He would blow his savings or quit good jobs to chase his dreams. But some people never chase it and they regret it.”

Following the deaths of his two wives — Peggy and Mina — Wickham stopped the dream chasing and leaned into his spirituality. He studied Shamanism and hypnotism. A movie lover who had a particular affinity for “Casablanca,” Wickham also took up screenwriting — but, his son said, nothing was ever produced.

“He was just trying to bring the world together in a peaceful way,” his son said.

He nurtured his artistic talents in other ways. He had a passion for painting and making metal sculptures. For a brief period, he had an art gallery in an industrial park in San Jose where, about every five or six weeks, he’d display his art and the work of others.

Born and raised in Watsonville, Calif., Wickham served in the Merchant Marines during World War II. Upon his return, he hitchhiked from Watsonville to New York City and back. “He just wanted to see things,” his son said.

Wickham didn’t talk much about the adventure, or his life in general, preferring instead to hear about what his family and friends were up to. And he mostly kept to himself, going to an occasional movie alone or venturing off on a solo fishing trip to Mexico or simply spending time in the studio above his home, working on his art.

His son described his father as a kind man — the sort of person who would walk around ants, careful not to crush them; if he caught a spider in the house, he’d walk it out to the garden.

Late in life Wickham developed dementia and moved into senior housing apartments in Watsonville that were directly across the street from the house where he was born. As his dementia worsened, Wickham’s family moved him into Watsonville Post-Acute Center, a nursing home. The facility experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, with several residents and staff members contracting the disease.

Wickham was among them. He died there on Oct. 20 after a 10-day stay at Watsonville Hospital. His death occurred about three weeks after he tested positive for the coronavirus. He was 94.

“He was a sweet, sweet person,” said John. “He’s the nicest person I've ever met in my life and the way he treated people and all living things was so loving. He taught me just to be a good person. To care for others and that there's more to everything than our existence here on Earth. And it's just so much easier being kind and generous.”

He is survived by children John, Thursday, Robert, Debbie and Linda, five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and a sister, Mary Jane Stanford.

Ronald Shirley

80, Camarillo

(Family photo)

Dominick Shirley has been walking around the house in a pair of Nike camouflage slip-ons that belong not to the 16-year-old high school student but to his father, Ronald Shirley, who was 80 when he died of complications from coronavirus on April 9 at St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo.

“Our son, we adopted him when was 7, he’s been wearing one of his dad’s pairs of shoes every day,” said Zoe Shirley, Shirley’s wife of nearly 30 years. “I said, ‘You know what? If you walk in your father’s footsteps, you’ll never go wrong, because he was a very honorable man.'"

Shirley was born in Phoenix on Feb. 24, 1940 and attended Santa Paula High School, where the former football player once had four teeth knocked out on a single play, and Ventura College before embarking on a 36-year career as a planner for the Southern California Gas Company.

After Shirley retired in 1998, he and Zoe fostered 13 children, adopting four who now range in age from 29 to 14. He also enjoyed photography, golf, coaching youth sports, classic cars, gourmet food and travel, the most recent family adventure a trek through Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks in Utah.

“These kids in the [foster-care] system come from drugs, severe abuse, neglect and trauma—they go from one home to the next until they age out of the system,” Zoe said. “We felt really strongly that God had placed those children in our home, and we had to ante up and give it our absolute best.

“Ron and I felt that it’s never too late to love a child. That if you open up your heart and you give a part of your heart to a child, you can make a difference. You can make the world a better place.”

Zoe said her husband underwent emergency surgery to have his gall bladder removed on Feb. 2 and spent 11 days in intensive care, where he experienced hallucinations and septic shock.

Shirley spent the next few weeks in a rehabilitation facility, where his condition worsened. His first two tests for the coronavirus came back negative, even though he showed classic symptoms of the illness. A third test was positive.

“I think he was just very vulnerable,” Zoe said, adding that she wasn’t sure where her husband contracted the virus.

Zoe also tested positive for the virus but experienced milder symptoms, a persistent headache in early March that she originally attributed to allergies.

Shirley, who was under the care of Dr. George Yu, a pulmonary specialist, became the first Ventura County coronavirus patient to receive a plasma transfusion from a person who had recovered from COVID-19.

Dwight Everett, a 65-year-old retired electrician from Camarillo, was a perfect match for Shirley, whose condition improved slightly after receiving Everett’s plasma on April 3 and 4.

But the hope for the antibody treatment was fleeting. Shirley, in critical condition and on a ventilator, died five days later, but Zoe remained grateful for the efforts of the doctors and nurses at Pleasant Valley Hospital and, especially, Everett.

“I was so honored to meet him and humbled by his donation — it was beautiful to look into his eyes and say thank-you,” Zoe said. “And I told him I would pray for him every day of my life, just like the nurses, the doctors in ICU who are fighting this every day. They are so dedicated.”

Nick Cordero

41, Los Angeles

(Getty Images for Beyond Yoga)

Broadway actor Nick Cordero, who appeared in the Broadway productions “Rock of Ages,” “Waitress,” “Bullets Over Broadway” and “A Bronx Tale: The Musical,” died July 5 in Los Angeles after a long and difficult battle with COVID-19. He was 41.

His wife, Amanda Kloots, confirmed the news on her Instagram account. “God has another angel in heaven now,” she wrote. “My heart is broken as I cannot imagine our lives without him. Nick was such a bright light. He was everyone’s friend, loved to listen, help and especially talk. He was an incredible actor and musician. I will love you forever and always my sweet man.”

Cordero tested positive for COVID-19 in March and was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he spent more than 90 days in the intensive care unit. During his hospital stay, he was given a temporary pacemaker, underwent a leg amputation and was put into a medically induced coma. He also had additional complications, including lung infections and septic shock.

Kloots had been sharing updates on Cordero’s status on Instagram throughout his treatment. On March 31, she shared the news that he was in the ICU after “having a hard time breathing” and was initially misdiagnosed with pneumonia. Fans and former cast mates circulated a #wakeupnick hashtag on social media in support of Cordero, posting video clips of themselves dancing and singing along to his “Waitress” single “Live Your Life.”

The Hamilton, Ontario, native attended Ryerson University but dropped out to sing for the band Lovemethod. After leaving Canada for New York, he originated the role of Toxie in the off-Broadway production of “The Toxic Avenger.”

At 6 feet, 5 inches, Cordero was quite literally a towering figure in the theater community, revered for his trademark tough-guy stage persona and starring turns in energetic productions such as “Rock of Ages.” He gained a new army of supporters, however, as Kloots optimistically documented his turbulent coronavirus journey.

Cordero got his start on Broadway in the 2012 production of “Rock of Ages” in which he played Record Company Man and Dennis — a part he recently reprised in a Hollywood revival of the show. In 2010 and 2011, he also performed on the “Rock of Ages” national tour.

“I hope the community gets behind it in the way it should,” Cordero told the Los Angeles Times at the musical’s Hollywood Boulevard opening earlier this year. “This is a brand new and exciting way to see this show, even if you’ve seen it before. And with everything else going on in here, I can imagine that this is really gonna be a shot of adrenaline in the arm of the theater scene here.”

He earned a Tony nod and a Drama Desk nomination in 2014 for his role as Cheech in the musical adaptation of Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway.” He also played Earl in “Waitress” and Sonny in “A Bronx Tale: The Musical,” which earned him an additional Drama Desk nomination.

Off-stage, Cordero appeared in a handful of TV series, including “Queer as Folk” and “Lilyhammer” and a recurring role in “Blue Bloods” (as Victor Lugo) and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as Anthony Marino.

Kloots and Cordero met while starring together in “Bullets Over Broadway,” and were married in September 2017.

Cordero is survived by Kloots, a personal trainer and former Radio City Rockette, and their 1-year-old son, Elvis.

The car, everyone knew the car. One of Otoniel Azañon Alvarado’s great loves was his 1992 Toyota Corolla, with its slightly tattered seats and a green-colored exterior that had long lost its luster.

“My dad had enough money, he could have bought a new truck or whatever, but no, that was his car,” said his daughter Noemi Azañon. “He would get so excited in recent years, being like, ‘My car passed the smog check!’”

It’s fitting, though, that the father of four who worked tirelessly for most of his life had a fondness for the aging but reliable sedan that shuttled him to those jobs.

Born in 1971 and raised in Retalhuleu, Guatemala, Azañon Alvarado and 11 siblings worked on the family farm growing tomatoes, watermelons and corn. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

By the mid-1990s, he migrated to the U.S. as a young father in pursuit of providing a better life for his family. He ultimately settled in the Northern California city of Petaluma, with no legal paperwork, and found work fixing refrigerators and washing machines, and other manual labor jobs, before finding his calling as a craftsman of decks.

His burly hands, roughed and callused, were marked up with his handiwork, which spruced up backyards for residents throughout Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties over the 12 years that he worked at Deckmaster Fine Decks.

It was a skill he was passing on to two of his sons, Josue and Raymundo, mentoring them on the job and trying to instill his attention to detail.

“He took his work really seriously,” Noemi said. “He worked like hell through that darn heat. He made beautiful things. I kept telling him, ‘When I get my own house, I want you to build us a deck with gorgeous wood.’ He loved working with things created by nature.”

It had long been his dream to move to Alaska and build a house.

“He would always say: ‘I want to go on the snow, get a snowmobile’ or ‘I want to go fishing.’ I’d always just be like: ‘OK, dad.’ But he enjoyed the idea of going to see what the beauty of this world was because my dad couldn't travel. I know that was something he wanted to do, yet he couldn't.

“And so he dedicated himself to working and just deciding on how he was going to help us do those things.”

It was while working, on July 22, that Azañon Alvarado collapsed. He had been coughing and was experiencing shortness of breath. He went home, but later that afternoon, with the cough still raging, his son Josue, who lived with him, called for an ambulance despite his father’s pleas not to.

On Aug. 31, Azañon Alvarado died at Memorial Hospital after a six-week battle with COVID-19. He was 48.

Azañon Alvarado will be remembered for more than his dedication to the job. Known to his family and friends as “Muco,” he was the dad who would ring the doorbell incessantly to make his presence known; and if you didn’t answer your phone, he’d call up everyone to find out why. His favorite dishes were caldo de res and tamales. And anyone in the car with him while he was driving, likely heard “Ayúdame” by Mi Banda El Mexicano.

He is survived by his children, Noemi Azañon, Josue Azañon, Alexander Azañon and Raymundo Ayala; and a granddaughter, Aryana Delgado.

Edwin Echaluce

70, San Jose

(Family photo)

The Echaluce’s home had four bedrooms. Melissa and her parents, Edwin and Celia, occupied two of them. But the spare rooms were rarely empty. They were filled with friends, extended family members, acquaintances–anyone who needed a place to stay.

“We always had people staying with us,” Melissa said. “It was just my father’s generous nature.”

Along with bedrooms, Edwin Echaluce, though living on a tight budget as a mail carrier, would give away money, too.

“Anything he had,” Melissa said. “He’d give.”

His generosity extended to everything in his life, except for the television. On weekdays at 7:30 p.m., he would watch “Jeopardy.” No matter what else was happening–or what anyone else wanted to watch–Echaluce would be in front of the TV, yelling out the answers.

“Everyone was amazed,” Anna said. “He knew all of them.”

On March 29, Echaluce had a fever, and got tested for COVID-19 at a drive-up station in San Jose. His positive test result was not so much of a surprise: A week before, just after lockdown orders were put in place, Echaluce met with three friends at one of their homes.

Within a week, one was in the hospital with symptoms of the virus, and another had a fever. In the end, three out of four in the group contracted the virus. Echaluce’s friends have since recovered.

Although Echaluce had a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure, his decline with COVID-19 was shockingly fast. Only three days after his fever spiked, he called his daughter, unable to breathe, and was rushed to Kaiser Hospital in Santa Clara. It was the last time Melissa spoke to him.

“He looked miserable over FaceTime,” Melissa said. “It was hard to see.”

When it was clear Echaluce was nearing the end, the doctors asked Melissa if she would like to come see her father to say goodbye. Though difficult, she declined.

“I have a family,” she said, crying. “I would have been taking a risk.”

After three weeks in the hospital, on and off a ventilator, he died April 29. He was 70.

Echaluce grew up in Legazpi, the capital of the province of Albay in the Philippines. Melissa remembered stories of her father’s meager upbringing, and how he and his five brothers would share shoes, fighting over the one pair without holes.

In hopes of better economic opportunities, Echaluce and his wife immigrated to the U.S. in 1978, settling in San Jose where they remained for life. Echaluce first worked as a janitor at an elementary school and went on to become a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service for the next 24 years. For a while, he was also a security guard, which meant working long hours.

In retirement, after being “constantly overworked and overtired,” as Melissa remembered him saying, he simply wanted to rest. He would fish, hang out with friends, play Candy Crush on his iPad and, of course, watch “Jeopardy.”

Most of all, Echaluce loved his grandchildren. On Fridays, Melissa said he would take his 3-year-old granddaughter, Ava, to McDonald’s to buy her a Happy Meal. Every evening, during “Jeopardy” commercials, the two would FaceTime.

“He was enamored by her,” Melissa said.

When his grandson, Austin, was born nine months ago, he looked forward to buying him fast food too.

The tradition will live on in his daughter’s house: Every Friday, they go to McDonald’s and get Happy Meals.

Echaluce is survived by five brothers, a sister, his daughter and two grandchildren.

Arnie Robinson

72, San Diego

(San Diego Union-Tribune)

The fact that Arnie Robinson learned to long jump using a discarded mattress in the driveway of his San Diego home offered the first hint of his fiery drive. Winning a gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal revealed his talent, focus and unflinching commitment.

Beyond the world-class ability, the global track and field fame, the pile of titles at the USA Outdoor Championships, the NCAA championships with San Diego State, the Pan American Games and more, Robinson’s legacy reverberates because of a warming blend of humility and service in the shadows.

Robinson, who had fought an aggressive brain tumor since 2005, died Dec. 1, according to his son Paul. He was 72.

“His accomplishments, he didn’t wear them on his shoulder,” said Paul Robinson, who said his father had contracted COVID-19. “Leading through example, that’s who he was. He wasn’t about the noise.”

To understand the fiber of Robinson’s unassuming, sleeve-rolling being, dig into the things he didn’t talk about. Paul learned his father owned a gold medal when he was about 6 or 7. Coaches, administrators and friends marveled that he never discussed his enormous

accomplishment, defying gravity and bicycling through space to go 27 feet, 4¾ inches, at Olympic Stadium.

No Wheaties box awaited, like decathlete Bruce Jenner. No lucrative athletic and TV careers loomed, like sweet-swinging boxer Sugar Ray Leonard. Robinson’s ’76 gold represented self-fulfillment, plain and brilliantly simple.

“Those days, they weren’t making much money,” said Bryan Kyle, a close family friend. “It was about heart and wanting to compete.”

What did Robinson do after he reached his sport’s mountaintop? He learned construction and, when money got tight, he built his own home from scratch. He wasn’t obsessed with the rear-view mirror. Perspective galore.

He won. He moved on. His eyes aimed forward, never back.

The family told a story about a mix-up of medication to control Robinson’s seizures a couple weeks ago. The dosage that slowed him for a decade and a half during his fight with glioblastoma was accidentally cut in half.

As he became more responsive, Robinson began to repetitively lift his leg.

“After all those years under seizure medication, he was trying to work out or exercise,” Paul said. “It’s like, it’s time to train, time to go, time to make something happen. Who does that?”

Robinson, for one. He survived a near-fatal collision with a drunk driver in 2000 — on the way home from a track meet, of course — that required the infusion of 40 pints of blood and more than a month in intensive care. Told he had perhaps six months to live after his cancer diagnosis in 2005, Robinson simply stiff-armed another life-threatening challenge.

There was too much work to do. When youth track in San Diego craved state-of-the-art timing equipment, Robinson spent more than $35,000 out of his own pocket.

Monique Henderson, a two-time gold medalist in the 4x400-meter relay, vividly recalled seeing Robinson at meet after meet as a kid. Even in relative anonymity, the two-time Olympic medalist — Robinson won bronze in 1972 — left an impression.

“I had no idea who the man was or what his accomplishments were,” Henderson told the Union-Tribune in 2018. “I just knew this man was making our meets as professional as he could. He didn’t have anybody assisting him. You go to a track meet now and there are five guys in a tent running the timing system. It was just Arnie.

“And Arnie didn’t charge any of the youth organizations a dime.”

Robinson was truly homegrown, attending Morse High School, then Mesa College, then San Diego State. He worked to make everyone along the way proud.

The financial challenges of rising through the amateur track ranks failed to faze Robinson or derail his emerging dream. While navigating the track circuit through Europe, Robinson learned of a teammate who lacked the money to secure a hotel room. Though Robinson had enough to grab a small room for himself, he decided to sleep in a park with his teammate.

Robinson’s riches came in the form of sweat equity and compassion.

“A very unique, beautiful mind,” Paul said.

Two years ago, Robinson was asked what he saw when looking at a photo of his winning jump, a moment of excellence frozen forever in time. Cancer and medication limited his ability to communicate, even then. Pride glimmered in his eyes.

Robinson flashed a rare moment of self-acknowledgement.

“The best in the world, that’s what I was,” he said.

Florentina Lopez

66, Reseda

(Family photo)

Florentina Lopez came from Mexico to the United States when she was young and spent most of her life in the San Fernando Valley.

A few blocks from her home was a man named Jose Herrera. While she worked as a seamstress for companies such as Frederick’s of Hollywood, he worked on upgrading vans, particularly the GMC models of the 1970s.

The two would meet at the food trucks and talk. Eventually they started dating. The couple didn’t make a lot of money back in the day, but there began a rich relationship that lasted nearly five decades.

Florentina didn’t know how to drive until she was in her 50s and usually relied on buses. But that didn’t stop her from making weekend trips to the thrift stores. Griselda Nava, Lopez’s oldest daughter, remembered it was “like a little treat for the weekend.”

After Griselda was born, Florentina had difficulty getting pregnant again. In her 40s, she adopted a relative’s 2-month-old girl. Two months later, she unexpectedly got pregnant and suddenly had two infants on her hands. She felt overwhelmed and at times embarrassed.

But Griselda, who was pregnant with her own second child at the time, tried to lift her mom’s spirits, “No, mom. It’s just a blessing from God because you opened your heart to a new baby that wasn’t yours.”

After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Florentina and Jose moved to Colorado. A year later, she found a job in a slaughterhouse, where she met a woman named Betty, who would become a close friend. After work, they would have a cigarette and smoke behind their husbands’ backs, quipping, “Oh, we are like little girls. We are doing something bad because we shouldn't be smoking.”

Florentina worked hard looking out for her family. “Having a clean house was her hobby,” Griselda said.

In 2012, Florentina suffered a stroke and her daughter took her and Jose back to California, where Florentina moved into the Parkwest Rehabilitation Center in Reseda. The stroke had taken away her ability to speak and she remained nonverbal the rest of her life.

If she was hungry, Florentina would touch her stomach to notify the nurses. When she was tired and sleepy, she would pat the nurses with her hand and motion that she wanted to go to bed. Hand gestures were her form of communication.

A couple of nurses fondly called Florentina “Florecer,” Spanish for "to bloom."

In Florentina's last days, families were not allowed to visit. “The last time that I took some food for her was on Mother’s Day,” Griselda said. “Her condition worsened very, very fast.”

On May 15, Griselda said a nurse supervisor told her that her mother seemed fine. But three days later, Griselda said she got a call that her mother had been taken to the hospital. At the hospital, an emergency room doctor told her that her mother had COVID-19 and had suffered a heart attack.

On May 19, Florentina died at the hospital. She was 66.

Besides the stroke, Florentina had diabetes, but seemed and looked healthy, her daughter said.

“The only problem with my mom was that she did not speak. That’s why she couldn’t say at the beginning, ‘Oh, I’m feeling weak. I’m feeling sick.’”

Griselda has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Parkwest, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus. According to the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, 65 residents and staff members have tested positive and 11 have died. The facilities owner has declined comment.

Florentina is survived by her husband, children Griselda, Jose, Claudia and Pedro, 10 siblings and 11 grandchildren.

Raul J. Arce

87, El Centro

"Where's my doughnut?"

It was always one of the first questions Raul J. Arce would ask his daughter when she visited him. So she made certain before the three-hour drives from her home in Tustin to his El Centro nursing home to stop at the doughnut shop to pick up a couple of glazed pastries.

"He loved his sweets," recalled Adela Arroyo, Arce's only child.

"He had diabetes, but even when I took him to the doctor, I'd make sure he had some Mexican lollipops to entertain him. The nurses would still ask him: 'Mr. Arce, do you want a lollipop?' I'd be, like, 'I already gave him two!'"

Arroyo's mother, Guadalupe – who was married to Arce for 58 years until her death in 2017 – would bake him pineapple cakes and take tamales or plantains to him at work.

Arce was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and met his wife at a nightclub near the border in Mexicali. She was dancing with another man, but Arce managed to charm her nonetheless, and a month later they wed. They moved to Calexico after obtaining U.S. citizenship.

At first, Arce made ends meet by working in the fields harvesting lettuce, traveling throughout California to find the best crops.

Later, he became a school custodian, a job he held for two decades before retiring.

A devout Jehovah's Witness, he spent most of his free time at church, and enjoyed attending celebrations for those in the community.

"Whenever there was a wedding, he was always the first one dancing," said Arroyo.

Arce was also passionate about table games, particularly dominoes. He and his daughter would spend most of their visits playing with the tiles, the games sometimes stretching on for hours. Sometimes, the "other grandpas and grandmas would join," Arroyo said, because her father had a reputation for being one of the most social residents.

After two employees at his nursing home contracted COVID-19 in March, the disease spread through the facility. Two weeks after contracting the illness, he died on July 9 at age 87.

"He had survived so much -- collapsing twice from diabetes and having to be airlifted to a hospital," Arroyo said.

"The last time I saw him was in February, because then they closed and said we could only see him at the window," she said. "He was just a simple man who liked to play his board games. And who loved his sweets – always."

Arce is survived by his daughter and two granddaughters, Ariana and Alyssa Arroyo.

Julia Alexander

81, Upland

(David Geathers / Reflect Music)

As music blared and a convention of skiers from all over the country partied into the night, Julia Alexander stood on a dance floor at Idaho’s Sun Valley Ski Resort in early March, smiling and dancing alongside a costumed dinosaur. She just was a few weeks shy of her 82nd birthday, but nowhere close to slowing down. She reveled in her independence.

“She was not a feeble old woman at all,” her daughter, Kathy Geathers, said.

“She was the life of the party,” her son, Lawrence Alexander III, recalled.

A retired teacher and San Diego school administrator now living in Upland, Alexander had plans to travel the world. Already, she and her daughter had been to China and Brazil and Australia. They cruised the Mediterranean and saw south France from a riverboat, packing all they could into each trip. There were plans for much more -- at least one international trip per year -- when mother and daughter traveled to Ketchum, Idaho for the National Brotherhood of Skiers’ annual Black Summit.

It was in Idaho where she and her daughter, along with hundreds of others, both contracted COVID-19 in what would later be recognized as a super-spreader event.

By late March, both were in the hospital, along with Lawrence, who would come “within an inch” of losing his life. Upon their return from Idaho, the virus quickly tore through their family, spreading to Alexander’s other daughter, Terri, as well as four others. On April 2, Alexander died, as her daughters watched on an iPad in a different room of the hospital. She was one of four known to have died after contracting COVID-19 at the skiers convention.

Still, as she lay in her hospital bed, in what would be her last conversation with her daughter, Alexander remembered their final trip with only fondness.

“We had fun, didn’t we?” she told Kathy, who was in her own hospital bed.

“She was present to the fact that she lived a good life,” Kathy said later. “She was so courageous.”

Raised in Virginia, Alexander grew up during a time that called for such courage, as segregation and Jim Crow policies reigned throughout the South. Eventually, she moved West to live with her brother and sister-in-law in San Diego, where she attended San Diego State, met her first husband and spent the majority of her adult life.

Her calling as an educator came almost as naturally as her famous banana pudding. Over 30 years with the San Diego Unified School District, Alexander taught a variety of subjects, before becoming a vice principal at Nye Elementary, where she retired in 2002.

But the teaching never ceased. When her children were young, she often pre-checked their assignments and returned them with corrections. Two generations later, she was still fortifying her grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s schooling with follow-up lessons at night.

“Up until the end, she was sharp as a tack,” said Lawrence.

After the Idaho trip, in fact, she stayed with Lawrence, who was recovering from double knee surgery, in order to help out with his young kids. A few days later, Kathy’s daughter found her grandmother shivering under a blanket at her home in Upland. The novel coronavirus had only just begun wreaking havoc in the United States. So the first hospital sent her home, attributing her fever to the flu. Within a week she was intubated.

Lawrence, who remained in the hospital through early May, wasn’t far behind. He was told of his mother’s death only after he regained consciousness several days later.

The rest of the family has since recovered from COVID-19. As she deals with her grief, Kathy has often returned to that final conversation with her mom -- and the strength she showed in her final days. It was that sense of courage that punctuated her entire life.

“She wasn’t afraid,” Kathy said. “She knew we were both sick, but she was still protecting me.”

Antonio Bernabe

60, Van Nuys

Martha Bernabe was about 16 when her father Antonio told his family one day in 2004 that they were going to Sacramento.

Later that night, the Bernabes boarded a bus, along with dozens of other immigration activists, and arrived at the state Capitol by morning. Everyone was there to rally in support of Assembly Bill 60, a measure that would allow immigrants without legal status to get driver’s licenses in the state.

Assembly members had tried and failed for more than 20 years to pass the bill. Now, Bernabe explained to an enthusiastic crowd, it was their time. He led the group in chants and cheers, then got back on the bus later that evening to return home. He made the trip for years until Gov. Jerry Brown finally signed the bill in 2013.

It was just another day for Bernabe, a legend in Southern California immigrant rights circles for his unwavering advocacy of immigration reform.

“He would tell us there were people in the world willing to fight,” his daughter said. “We were those people and we had to support him and everyone else.”

After more than two decades of organizing, Bernabe died Jan. 20 of COVID-19. He was 60.

“He gave his whole life to helping others who had been through what he had been through,” said California state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), a longtime labor leader.

“He carried the mission, acted on the mission,” said Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, where Bernabe worked as director of organizing. “There was always this incredible sense of respect. It means a lot when someone treats you as a human being, who invites you to participate and have a voice and speak your mind.”

Bernabe arrived in Southern California from Guanajuato, Mexico, in 1990, just as California was about to embark on years of legislation, ballot propositions and municipal ordinances designed to crack down on illegal immigration. Settling in the San Fernando Valley, he took on difficult jobs with little pay as a painter and handyman and went to night school to learn English. These long work days ended with blistered hands and torn clothes — and a salary of $40 a day.

Sometimes employers promised they’d swing by his place to pay his wages, but it wouldn’t happen. Finally, Bernabe decided he would no longer be a victim. He had had enough.

Teaching himself labor and immigration law, Bernabe provided counsel to newly arrived migrants. He eventually joined CHIRLA, where he helped immigrants collect millions in unpaid wages and launch projects such as a national hotline for immigrant workers facing abuse.

But his preferred office was the streets.

He enjoyed walking the Valley’s long boulevards each day to hand out fliers informing laborers of their rights. He helped paint banners and make silkscreen T-shirts for May Day marches. He approached sensitive topics with tact, encouraging immigrant families to make emergency plans for rent, bail and lawyers if a member was deported.

Bernabe ended up organizing, helping or participating in nearly all the major achievements for the immigrants rights movements over the past two decades — among them the 2006 amnesty marches and the 2017 California Values Act, which prevents state and local law enforcement agencies from using resources to assist federal immigration enforcement.

“He was so reliable. I always knew I was going to see him, no matter what the event was. Tony was always going to be there, period,” Durazo said.

Despite his dedication to the movement, Bernabe always made time for family. He felt at peace taking nature walks with his wife. When one of his daughters announced she was becoming a vegan, he was proud that she had discovered her own social justice movement. As a grandfather, he regularly took his grandson to watch Dodger and UCLA football games — and a few rallies, too.

The greatest riches for him, Bernabe told friends, was to have the chance to be with poor people just like him.

“I believe that made the difference,” he said in a video. “Because they would tell me, ‘Tony, you love us.’”

Bernabe is survived by his wife and four children.

William Minnis

70, Hayward

William Minnis loved people.

Known as Willy, he phoned family members and friends each week, sometimes more frequently, to pass along news and stay connected. He often broke into song during the conversations, even if he didn’t know all the words.

“He was the most caring person I ever met,” his sister Milo Minnis said.

Born in San Francisco and raised in Sacramento, William Minnis, 70, struggled with mental illness since his late teens. But his concern for others didn’t wane.

In his 50s and 60s, he roamed San Francisco’s streets each day. He befriended small-business owners and greeted people who patronized their shops. That fit with his friendly, outgoing nature and fondness for talking.

“They always called him ‘The Ambassador,’” Milo Minnis said. “As they got to know him, they just adored him. For someone who was mentally ill, that was unusual.”

William Minnis spent the last several years at the Morton Bakar Center, a skilled nursing facility in Hayward. He stayed up late, surfing the Internet on his iPad learning more about astronauts and space travel and the cosmos. He adored music, too, especially classic rock from the 1960s.

He fought COVID-19 for two weeks before succumbing to complications of the illness on Aug. 14.

Because of restrictions on visitors, hospital staff arranged an iPad on a table next to his bed so he could FaceTime family members as long and as often as he wanted. He had been in poor health before the illness and told his sister he didn’t want to be put on a ventilator.

“I think he really wanted to go,” Milo Minnis said. “His health had deteriorated so much that he said, ‘This is no way to live.’”

William Minnis is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Carla Marion Minnis; his daughter Margaret Mae Moodian, a grandson and his sister. He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother.

Edwin Wall

97, Lodi

(Wall family photo)

Among all the fathers and grandfathers who ever used the old line about having to walk a mile to school in the snow, few could probably tell it as well, or as honestly, as Edwin Wall. He grew up in the 1920s on a farm in Kremlin, Mont., where not even blizzard conditions could convince his strict parents that he deserved to stay home.

“If it was snowing hard, it was a mile and a half” to the one-room schoolhouse, Wall said in a family video. “They didn’t want you to lose your sense of direction cutting across a field, so they made us follow the fence line” along the road. “We had to spend half an hour thawing out our cheeks.”

Wall was the youngest of six children. He went on to serve his country in World War II, driving a halftrack for the Army and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, the last big German offensive of the conflict.

Loyalty was a standard of his life. When he moved to California and joined the Lodi Fire Department after the war, he stayed on for 32 years. When he met and then married the love of his life, Helen, they were together for 69 years, until she died in 2016. When anyone in the neighborhood needed their television or stereo repaired, Wall, the self-taught electronics expert, was there to help.

The couple also ran King’s Café in Lodi for 10 years. In 1991, they moved to Elk Grove, outside Sacramento, to be closer to their growing extended family.

Wall enjoyed many activities, including bridge, chess, dancing, music and computers. He was a dedicated San Francisco Giants fan and was at the World Series game on Oct. 17, 1989, that was postponed because of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

His family said there couldn’t have been a better father or grandfather. “He always let us know how much he loved us, and how he could not have lived so long without the love of his two daughters,” said one of them, Diane Wall Frieders.

At a Christmas party in 2019, when he was 96, Wall insisted on dancing with Frieders. She wasn’t going to, she said, but changed her mind after her father said, “’It might be the last time’ — and it was.”

Wall died on Jan. 6 from complications of COVID-19. He was 97. Frieders said that the family was told that he and four other residents of their board-and-care facility probably contracted the disease from a staff member. Two of the other residents also died.

For a family that was so close, the virus made the final goodbyes quite painful. Frieders said she was allowed to visit her father in person for 15 minutes during his final hours, to hold his hand.

“So, of course, I had to really be very careful and quarantine after that because then I could have been a carrier, but I was fine,” Frieders said. “I did risk it because I did want to go in there and be with him. And I hope he knows I was there.”

In addition to Frieders, Wall is survived by his other daughter, Chandra Wall Blake, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Helen.

Carlos Oropeza Canez was 22 years into a 30 year prison sentence when COVID-19 began to spread through his correctional facility.

By June 2020, more than 900 people at Avenal State Prison were infected with the deadly virus. Canez phoned his sister-in-law, Sandra, to tell her he’d been written up for refusing an assignment in the prison’s kitchen. It was, he told her, where many people were getting sick.

“Then he called back and said, ‘I prayed last night, and I told God that if it’s meant for me, then it’s meant for me,” Sandra said. “And he went to work in the kitchen.”

On June 20, Canez became the first inmate at Avenal to die from complications of COVID-19. He was 60.

Canez was born in Bakersfield in 1959, the youngest of 11 children. His father died when he was just an infant, and for many years, his family lived below the poverty line. Canez was full of charm and charisma; a bright and curious child who would grow into a smooth-talking Cassanova with confidence and style. He loved baseball, Soul Train and disco dancing, and in 1977, he was voted “Best Dressed” senior at Arvin High School.

“He had such a beautiful smile, and he was good looking,” said Sandra, who married into the family when Carlos was in fourth grade. “He was a kind guy, and he could talk to anybody. My husband used to call him ‘silver-tongue.’”

But life in his Lamont neighborhood outside Bakersfield was full of temptation. While working as a janitor, Canez got involved with the local drug scene and began using heroin. It was an addiction that would plague him for much of his life, even as he fell in love, got married and became a father.

In 1998, Canez made a decision that would change his life and the lives of others. High on drugs, he got behind the wheel of a car and got into an accident that killed two people: Ruben Pinon, a passenger in his car, and Virginia Adams, a passenger in another. Canez was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to back-to-back 15-year sentences.

“He made some bad choices,” said his son, Xavier.

It took Canez a long time to process what had happened. For years, he was full of anger and frustration, and the family didn’t have the resources to pursue an appeal.

More than a decade into his sentence, Canez apologized to the victims’ families, his sister-in-law said.

While in prison, Canez reconnected with Angie Jimenez, a childhood flame who visited him regularly, and they married in 2011. He checked in with his children weekly, and in the year before his death, he made it a point to reconnect with many of his siblings.

He also began studying psychology and mentoring younger inmates in need of guidance.

“He said, ‘I take them aside, I talk to them,’ ” Sandra recalled, noting that Canez had plans to become a counselor upon his release.

Last year, Canez graduated from the Avenal education program. It was one of the proudest moments of his life, Sandra said.

Today, Canez’s family doesn’t sugar-coat what happened, but they also recognize the demons he battled, the goodness he had within him and the lessons his life provided.

“His decisions in his life have given me the ability to have an open heart and open mind, and to see people for who they are versus what they’ve done,” said his son, Carlos Jr.

Xavier said he thought about his father when he taught his own son to play baseball. Sandra said she’ll never forget how her brother-in-law used to fill the house with music and dance. Jimenez said she will miss her best friend whose smile could “light up a dim room.”

But it was Carlos Jr. who seemed most openly moved by his father’s story.

“A strength I took from him was never judging anyone,” he said. “Love people for who they are, and forgive people.”

Carlos Canez is survived by his wife Angie; children Xavier, Carlos Jr., Samantha, Emanuel and Adriana; grandchildren Gabrielle, Xander and Grace and siblings Connie, Jane and Raymond.

Theodore “Ted” Lumpkin Jr.was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen whose service as a member of the all-Black unit during World War II helped desegregate the U.S. military.

Lumpkin, a native Angeleno, died of COVID-19 on Dec. 26 at a hospital, just days shy of his 101st birthday, said his son Ted Lumpkin III.

Lumpkin lived a full life. He was drafted into the military in 1942 when he was a 21-year-old student at UCLA. He was assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron of the all-Black unit in Tuskegee, Ala., as a 2nd lieutenant with the U.S. Army Air Force.

He said his eyes weren’t good enough to become a pilot, so he served as an intelligence officer, briefing pilots about missions during his overseas combat tour in Italy.

During his tenure in the military, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USC. He met his wife, Georgia, while he was a student and got married soon after. Years later, he retired from the Air Force Reserves as a lieutenant colonel.

He started a new era of his life working for Los Angeles County, serving as a social worker among other jobs over 32 years. He later shifted gears again, becoming a real estate broker and opening his own real estate company.

Although Lumpkin played a role in changing the military’s culture, his family knew only that he served during WWII, not that he was one of the fabled Tuskegee Airmen.

“He didn’t talk about it much. He’d maybe mention some incident or a buddy, but we were married for a number of years until I heard about them,” Georgia Lumpkin said. “When I realized who these guys were and what they’d done, I was just overcome at how much they persevered. They did not bow down. They achieved things that detractors said they couldn’t, weren’t capable of doing.”

Lumpkin’s son said that when he was young he was watching the television show “That’s Incredible!” when the announcer introduced members of the Tuskegee Airmen.

“Who the heck are these guys? Then, there’s my dad walking onstage,” he said. “He never talked about it, but from there it took off like wildfire.”

The Tuskegee Airmen received the highest civilian recognition in 2007 with the Congressional Gold Medal. Nearly two years later, then-President Obama invited the surviving squadron members, including Lumpkin, to his inauguration.

Now, only eight original Tuskegee combat pilots and several support personnel are still alive, said Rick Sinkfield of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc.. All are in their 90s or older.

Lumpkin traveled frequently across the nation and abroad with the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. He served as president of the Los Angeles chapter, a national board member and western regional representative. He was also a board member with the Tuskegee Airmen Scholarship Foundation.

During presentations alongside other colleagues, Lumpkin often encouraged people to do their best every day to overcome what he described as their “own Tuskegee experience.”

Although these projects took up most of his bandwidth, family members said he always carved out time to spend time with them, even if it meant boarding a flight and heading directly to a music recital or a wedding.

“I think he really enjoyed doing it,” his other son, Kelly, said. “I couldn’t have kept up with his travel schedule.”

Before Lumpkin tested positive for COVID-19, he was able to live life on his own terms. He enjoyed taking drives down Pacific Coast Highway and had recently purchased a new white Kia Sport. He wore his mask during errands. He’d occasionally call in a takeout order at the Hilltop Coffee and Kitchen in Inglewood for a breakfast sandwich. He learned how to use Zoom for virtual conferences and board meetings.

“As tragic as it is with COVID taking him, he still won in the game of life. He still got to do everything anybody should want to do,” Kelly said.

Lumpkin Jr. is survived by his wife, two sons, one daughter, several grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Evelia B. Rubio

54, Colton

(Family photo)

In early April, Evelia Rubio had a special request for her daughter. Reche Canyon Regional Rehabilitation Center in Colton, where Rubio lived, was short on personal protective equipment for its staff, and Rubio wanted to help.

She asked her daughter, Laura Garcia, to take two hundred dollars out of her bank account to pay someone to make cloth masks for the staff.

“She was loving and caring. She always wanted to help somebody,” Garcia said.

But just a week later, Rubio herself began to feel sick. Even over their daily video chats, Garcia said her mother seemed sleepy and out of breath. On April 15, Rubio tested positive for COVID-19 -- part of a cluster of 45 cases at Reche Canyon Rehab -- and was hospitalized.

Doctors treated her for a week, and her breathing began to stabilize. But then her blood began clotting -- hospital staff found clots in the dialysis machine and in the port they had installed to monitor her blood pressure. On April 22, Rubio died of COVID-19 complications. She was 54.

“She had made peace here on earth,” said Garcia. “The only reason she was pushing was pretty much for my kids and me.”

Rubio loved to spend time with family. Before moving to Reche Canyon Rehab she lived with her older sister, and the two would plot massive meals for family gatherings. She rarely measured out ingredients and preferred to eyeball the ratios for tamales, potato salad and arroz con leche -- everything with “a touch of love,” said Garcia.

Her care extended especially to her dog, Louie, a slightly sassy Shih Tzu that Garcia said was like her mother’s second child.

Rubio had a huge shoe collection as well, and especially prized her Doc Martens, Birkenstocks and Jordans. In the 90s, she bought a brand new white Ford Thunderbird. She grabbed her nephew Pierre Fero -- Garcia called her “the cool aunt” -- and took off down the highway to show him how fast it could go.

Rubio moved to Reche Canyon Rehab after a severe kidney failure. Garcia said Rubio was expecting to be released soon and was just waiting for a surgical procedure that would make dialysis easier. She had to go through dialysis up to three times a week, and there were moments the stress on her body could be overwhelming.

But most days, you’d find Rubio in her natural state, making new friends, laughing and smiling.

Rubio is survived by her daughter, grandchildren Zariah, her mother Sarisa, and six siblings.

Barbara Johnson Hopper

81, Oakland

Barbara J. Hopper, left. (Family photo)

Barbara Johnson Hopper was known for giving friends and family plum jam made with fruit picked from her yard.

Her garden — full of lemons, vegetables, and flowers — offered her a refuge when she was worried and needed to pray to God, said her daughter, Adriane Hopper Williams.

“That’s what she would always say, ‘I’ve got to go to the Earth,’” Hopper Williams said. “That was her way of just getting centered.”

Hopper, 81, died of the effects of COVID-19 on March 26 after spending five days in the hospital. Hopper Williams said her family closely follows the news, and she remembered discussing the coronavirus outbreak with her mother, thinking it wouldn’t hit as close to home as it did.

“We’re still, every night, watching this news and she’s now one of those numbers,” Hopper Williams said.

Hopper was funny, gregarious, and “the ultimate producer,” her daughter said.

“She’s the one that brought people together and knew how to inspire people toward a purpose,” Hopper Williams said. “She just knew how to talk to people and to get them back on track to what really matters.”

Hopper was born in Milwaukee and studied social work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1960 she met her husband, Dr. Cornelius Hopper, while he was completing his residency at Milwaukee County Hospital. Cornelius fell in love with Barbara, as well as his future mother-in-law’s soul food cooking. Barbara and Cornelius wed in 1964.

When the family moved to Alabama in 1971 for her husband’s new position as medical director of the John Andrew Hospital at Tuskegee Institute, Hopper started the Tuskegee Laboratory and Learning Center, an alternative school, as well as a real estate business.

In 1979 the family moved to the Bay Area and settled in Oakland, where she continued to work as a real estate agent while also founding and participating in community groups, and serving on scholarship boards for medical students. At Church by the Side of the Road, which she attended with her family, she led a yearlong reading of the Bible that ended with a trip to Jerusalem.

She is survived by her husband of 55 years, Cornelius, her two sons Michael and Brian, her daughter, Adriane, and two grandchildren.

“I know we’re all biased, but for me personally, when I think about a woman of character, integrity, strength, beauty, grace, wisdom, and charity, that is who I think of,” Hopper Williams said. “She is my role model.”

Jennifer Gibbs, 67, said she met Hopper through a mutual friend 13 years ago. Whenever Gibbs was sick, Hopper would bring her chicken soup. When Gibbs drove to Ohio to pack up her 93-year-old mother to move in with her in the Bay Area, Hopper told her she’d have dinner waiting for them when they arrived.

One of the bridge groups Hopper organized had a Zoom meeting to share how they felt about her after they learned of her death, Gibbs said. “She was the one,” Gibbs said, “that brought us all together and kind of was the glue.”

Jeffrey Stark

62, Palm Springs

“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

If Jeffrey Stark had a motto, it was that line from “Auntie Mame.” He said it so often to his daughters that the eldest, Callie Stark, 24, had it tattooed on her arm. Her father accompanied her to the tattoo parlor, and it was only there that she learned it was not a Stark original.

“I thought he had made it up,” she said.

It was certainly how he lived until Sept. 3, the day he died from complications of COVID-19 at 62.

Born in San Francisco, Stark attended Cal State Northridge and spent many years as a real estate agent in the Silver Strand Beach area of Ventura before giving up a successful career to pursue his passion for interior design.

“He said, ‘What is life if you’re not doing what you want to do?” said his younger daughter, Riley.

He was a big man, 6-foot-5, with a personality to match. He had a boisterous, memorable laugh, a love of food, travel and his dogs, and an uncanny ability to lighten the spirit of anyone who came near him.

“He was a breath of fresh air,” Riley said. “He was very attentive and kind, and he made a big impact on everyone, which is what I hope to do as well.”

Three years ago, Jeffrey Stark moved from Camarillo to Palm Springs, where he was very active in the LGBTQ community.

“My dad was a gay man,” Callie said. “He fell in love with my mom, and they got married and had us, but he was always a gay man who fell in love with a woman.”

The couple divorced when the girls were small but remained close.

“They were great friends,” Callie said. “My mom talked to him every day until the day he died.”

When they were young, the girls split their time between their father and their mother, Julie Ziegler, but in high school they spent the week with their mother, the weekends with their dad.

“My dad was always very involved,” Riley said. “When it was time for my proms or homecoming, he was the one who picked my dresses, my shoes. He loved going on Facebook Marketplace; I think he furnished my mother’s entire house.”

Stark’s daughters now live in Minnesota, Callie in graduate school, Riley in her senior year of college. His Facebook page is filled with photos of his two redheaded girls, whom he called in one caption “twins, 3 years apart.”

A Type 2 diabetic with pulmonary issues, Stark was hospitalized for seven weeks. There, he also tested positive for an inherited condition that increases the risk of liver and lung disease. Although his daughters later learned that the doctors had given him a dire prognosis, Stark remained positive and upbeat, communicating on Facetime about how he was going to beat this thing.

He was released on Aug. 30. When he went back into the hospital on Sept. 2, Callie made plans to fly to Palm Springs the next day; before she got to the airport, she got the call that he was gone.

“It was a shock,” Riley says. “But it was quick, no pain, so we are grateful for that.”

Callie, who had planned to be married this year, has rescheduled her wedding until 2021, the same year Riley will graduate from college. Callie said she has not quite come to terms with the fact that their father will not be there for either big day. Still, the sisters find comfort in the fact that Stark lived his life to the fullest every day that he could.

“Dad left it all on the table,” Riley says. “That’s what Callie and I say. He left it all on the table.”

Julie Bennett

88, Hollywood

(Courtesy of Mark Scroggs)

Julie Bennett loved to regale friends with stories about her decades-long career as a character actor in TV’s golden age and as one of Hollywood’s most successful early female voiceover artists.

She was the Southern-tinged voice for Jellystone Park resident Cindy Bear in “The Yogi Bear Show” TV cartoon in the 1960s and ’70s, and when Mattel’s Talking Barbie doll spoke, it was Bennett’s voice that children heard.

On TV, Bennett appeared in sketches with entertainers including Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and the married comedy duo George Burns and Gracie Allen, and she did guest spots on “Leave It to Beaver” and the original “Superman” series.“ She was one of the last throwbacks to that era,” says her talent agent Mark Scroggs, who remembers that Bennett never went out without her hair, makeup and wardrobe just right. “She was kind of old-glam Hollywood.”

Bennett, who had been living in an assisted living facility in Hollywood, died on March 31 of complications from COVID-19. She was 88.

Scroggs, who became her agent in 1997, practically adopted Bennett as a member of his family, often inviting her to his house in Burbank for dinner. To entertain the family last Thanksgiving, she suddenly broke into her Southern-belle voice for Cindy Bear, Scroggs said.

The voiceover work was especially lucrative for someone as versatile as Bennett.

She was in high demand, in particular for cartoons produced by the legendary animation studio Hanna-Barbera such as “Yogi Bear,” Scroggs said.

“In the voiceover world, there were only a handful of women who did that at the time, for shows like 'The Flintstones,' 'The Jetsons' and 'Rocky and Bullwinkle,' he said. “She loved entertainment — that was her life,” Scroggs said.

In her heyday at the dawn of the TV age in 1950s and throughout the ’60s and ’70s, “she would bounce from show to show,” he added. As a live-action actress, Bennett may have been less famous, but she found jobs plentiful in that arena too, appearing in TV series such as “The Donna Reed Show,” “Dragnet,” “Get Smart,” “Gunsmoke” and the sketch-comedy program about relationships, “Love, American Style.”

Bennett also starred in TV commercials and voiced the character of Aunt May in an animated “Spider-Man” series in the 1990s. Bennett had her first brushes with the world of show business when she was a little girl.

An only child born in New York City, Bennett moved to L.A. with her family when she was four or five, Scroggs said. One day while her father, a real estate agent, was doing business with powerful clients in Beverly Hills with Bennett at his side, they met Judy Garland, who kept Bennett distracted with a board game. Scroggs recalls Bennett telling him about many other stars she’d met, both in L.A. and in New York, where she briefly worked as an actress in the theater.

“Dean Martin was very nice, but Jerry Lewis was mean to her,” Scroggs recalls her confiding to him once. In the 1980s, Bennett branched out into managing other entertainers, using the name Marianne Daniels for that side of her career, Scroggs said.

But her first love was always performing. One of Bennett’s biggest — and weirdest — jobs was as a voice-over performer in Woody Allen’s 1966 directorial debut “What’s Up, Tiger Lily,” a film in which campy, English-language dialogue was dubbed over a Japanese spy movie.

Scroggs says he watched the movie with Bennett in February. It was one of the last times he was able to enjoy her company before she fell ill in late March. She died a week after being admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Bennett wasn’t married and she didn’t have any children.

Scroggs says he was grateful to have welcomed her into his family, and for the chance in recent months to listen to her relive some of her adventures from the bygone days of Hollywood.

Guillermo Ramirez

47, Azusa

(Family photo)

From the day Guillermo Ramirez held his first daughter, when he was just 18, he lived to make his family’s life better.

The 47-year-old father was his family’s provider and protector. But he couldn’t fight back when COVID-19 attacked each member of his household.

On April 28, after a few days in the hospital with difficulty breathing, Ramirez died from the virus.

Ramirez never had much time off from his many jobs, first in the restaurant industry and then as a truck driver going from coast to coast. But on his one day off each week, he spoiled his family with what he could, taking them to the movies or to explore different California beaches, his daughter Alexia Ramirez said.

He was his family’s rock, lending his wisdom when they needed advice and a helping hand to make their dreams come true.

“One day he told me, ‘Hey babe, you have an appointment and you can’t be late,’” said his wife, Luciana Ramirez.

He knew that Luciana had wanted to be a hair stylist since she was a teenager. She couldn’t believe it when she showed up to the address he had scribbled down for her. A receptionist told her that her cosmetology class began the following week.

“That’s how amazing that guy is,” she said. “I’m grateful for every moment he gave me and that he gave me all my children. That’s the best gift he left me.”

Read the full obituary

In the one-room schoolhouse in Nebraska where she launched her teaching career, Margaret Zwingman taught her pupils diligently.

Later, when her days were immersed in raising her own six children in Salinas, they too absorbed the basics of how to live honorably.

"She taught us to be a decent person. To work hard. Tell the truth. She was usually practical in what she did," said son Robert Zwingman.

Margaret Zwingman died Dec. 7 of COVID-19, which a caretaker had brought into her nursing home. She was 98.

Robert, the second of the six siblings, said his mom "was a homebody who figured things out on her own. The way she learned to bake bread was when her mom told her, 'Bake bread for dinner tonight' and left the house.”

Margaret Spiekermann Zwingman was born Aug. 8, 1922, in Beemer, Neb. During her first year teaching, she boarded with some of her pupils' parents, earning $45 per month. She steered grades one through eight in Elgin, Neb., finishing in 1944, when she moved 80 miles south to Grand Island to work in an ammunition plant.

Among her tasks was installing safety devices in 250-pound bombs. That lasted until her soon-to-be husband, Clarence Zwingman, came home from naval war service in 1945. They married, leased a farm with cattle and an apple and mulberry orchard before relocating in 1957 to California, where Clarence Zwingman set up a fertilizer application business.

"She had five kids already and a '52 Plymouth," said Robert Zwingman of one of his earliest memories. His parents "hauled a truck full of furniture” to Sacramento, where he entered fourth grade. After four months, the family once again left for Salinas, where they remained in a three-bedroom tract home, his mom eventually rearing two engineers, a fire chief, a union boss, a restaurant owner and an elementary school teacher.

Along the way, she became a San Francisco Giants baseball fan and became active at the Madonna Del Sasso Catholic Church

Apart from Robert Zwingman, Margaret Zwingman is survived by her other five children: David Zwingman, Sharon Socha, Duane Zwingman, Alice Pellerin and Alan Zwingman, along with 14 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

"We had a meat and potatoes upbringing -- solid, comfortable," Robert Zwingman said. "You could always depend on my mom."

Patsy Merrill Nelson

94, San Mateo

(Family photo)

In Patsy Merrill Nelson’s home in San Carlos, every dinner was an occasion. She would don her signature pearl necklace and do her makeup before greeting her guests with a candlelight feast. Hors d’oeuvres would be served on a silver platter, and could be enjoyed on the patio or in the garden.

An experienced mother of six, she knew just how to put her grandchildren to bed in order to leave the rest of the evening for the adults to enjoy a drink or two.

“Everything she did looked very effortless,” said her daughter-in-law, Mona Sherif Nelson. “But every aspect of the things she did was memorable.”

Nelson’s elegance and grace made the San Francisco native a natural at being a diplomat’s wife. Her late husband, Clifford Nelson, worked in the Foreign Service and they spent decades overseas, in Greece, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Tunisia, Egypt and London. All the while, Nelson kept busy hosting social gatherings, taking care of the children and finding work during longer stays abroad.

She extended her hostess work after Clifford’s retirement as the social director of Kohl Mansion, a historic home and events venue in Burlingame. Christmas at the mansion was extravagant, with a tree that reached from floor to ceiling, “as big as the one in the White House,” Mona said.

In her travels around the world, Nelson was especially interested in food culture. “She was fascinated by the different kinds of flavors and spices of the places she’d been,” Mona said. One of the dishes Nelson had learned to make was couscous, a staple Moroccan food.

Out of all the places she’d lived in, the Middle East was her favorite. Two of her sons, Chris and Michael, were born in Eritrea and Tunisia, respectively.

After settling back in the Bay Area, the couple enjoyed going to Carmel for a weekend getaway, or the Top of the Mark penthouse level bar at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins in San Francisco. For something more casual, they enjoyed Far East Cafe on Grant Avenue.

After Clifford died in 1992, Nelson divided her time between a house in Lake Tahoe and the Bay Area, as well as visiting her children all over the world. She spent the last few years of her life in Sterling Court, a senior living facility in San Mateo.

Nelson died on May 14 at Sterling Court of complications from COVID-19. She was 94. She tested positive after an employee at the living center contracted the virus.

She is survived by her children Lee, Chris, Geoffrey, Michael, Jennifer and Juliet Kelley; 17 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Year after year at Eastin Arcola Elementary school in Madera, Janet Carvalho would make sure if you were a student in her classroom, you had her complete attention.

“You didn’t mess around with Mrs. Carvalho,” said Ruth Magallanes, an administrative assistant who attended the grade school outside Fresno and later saw her in action as an adult.

“She had a stance you knew she meant business, hands on her hips. I was grateful for that time I got to see a different side, the teacher who cared about her students and saw the classroom being her family.”

Carvalho spent 24 years teaching at the school before retiring in 1995 and leaving for the family farm in nearby Kerman. Later she moved to the Autumn Ridge Assistance Living and Compassionate Care Hospice. On Aug. 11, she died from COVID-19, according to her paid obituary. She was 83.

Born Jan. 14, 1937 in Hanford, she went to Downey High in Modesto and later Fresno State University, where she earned her teaching credential. In 1957, she married Frank Carvalho Jr. and had three children.

Magallanes said she didn’t have Cavalho as her teacher in sixth grade but her reputation as having high expectations for students was well known. And then later as an administrative assistant at the school she watched her in action in the classroom to receive a better understanding for her business-like approach.

“I feel very lucky to have come back as an adult and work side by side and see another side from the adult perspective,” she said.

Carvalho is survived by a daughter, Patty; sons Ron and Rick; and four grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband.

Kenneth Butori

71, Concord

When Kenneth Butori had loved ones over, he took care of everything.

The smell of onions, garlic and tomato wafted through his home as he prepared pasta sauce with Italian sausage. He’d send guests home with food featuring elk meat he brought back from his hunting trips. And when he hosted Thanksgiving or Christmas, he made everything himself and didn’t want anyone to contribute.

“He was cooking something all the time,” his daughter Stephanie Ulman said. “It was comforting to walk into the house and have that, and you know, it's tough, but that's gone.”

Butori, 71, died July 29 after battling COVID-19.

The San Francisco native was born in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, the son of gas station owner Edward Butori and caterer Mary.

He rose up the ranks at the San Francisco Municipal Railway, first as a truck driver and eventually a mobile equipment assistant supervisor. After 32 years at the city’s public transit system, he retired in 2009. He loved spending time with his family, cheering on his grandchildren at swim meets and basketball games.

He was just unstoppable,” Ulman said. “So the fact that this took him down the way it did, it's just kind of unbelievable.”

His family doesn’t know how he got the coronavirus. The Concord resident took safety seriously, packing a mask, gloves and Clorox wipes in his truck.

When his daughter Angela Fix visited him for Father’s Day, he was feeling under the weather. Still, he insisted on doing household routines, such as mowing the lawn, because that’s what he did on Tuesdays. He packed Fix’s bag into her car before she left for San Diego.

Days later, Butori was diagnosed with COVID-19. His oxygen levels dropped. Despite his resistance, his wife, Linda, persuaded him to go to the hospital. Within 24 hours, he was brought to the ICU and later intubated. He never recovered.

“What I found is when you lose a father, you lose a security that you can never get back,” Ulman said.

He is survived by his wife, daughters Ulman, Fix and Kristin Lauria, brother Ron and several grandchildren. Butori is predeceased by another brother, Allen. On Aug. 14, after Butori’s memorial service, his former co-workers drove Muni trucks in a parade-like formation as a tribute.

Bernard J. Bush

86, Los Gatos

Fr. Bernard J. Bush, 86, of Los Gatos, after his ordination in 1965. (Courtesy of Jean Bush)

At various points in his life, Fr. Bernard J. Bush was known by a handful of nicknames and designations.

The 6-foot-3, strongly built Bush, the eldest of three brothers, was born in 1934 in Garberville, a small town about 170 miles south of the Oregon border.

His kinky red hair earned him the moniker “Corky” among close family, a nickname his sister-in-law Jean Bush of Mill Valley shared with a reporter, with some delight.

Colleagues eventually christened the Jesuit priest “Bernie.”

Perhaps the title most closely associated with Bush during his life was that of assistant chaplain, one he earned while visiting inmates for four years at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in the San Francisco Bay.

There, a who’s who of American criminals and celebrity gangsters — locked up for murder, armed robberies and other violent crimes — called Bush by another name: friend.

“Corky carried this sense of curiosity and courage wherever he went and with whatever he did,” said Jean, who married Bush’s brother Gerald, an early Peace Corps leader who died 22 years ago. “He’s also always been strong in his faith and empathy.”

Bernard Bush was 86 when he died on Dec. 7 at a San Jose hospital shortly after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He had been retired for 10 years and living at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos before his death. The center was the site of a COVID outbreak that took the lives of several retired priests.

In an interview with KCBX radio in San Luis Obispo in 2016, Bush said he was the last living clergy member with ties to Alcatraz. Bush offered spiritual services there from 1958 to 1962 as he accompanied Fr. James Tupy, the prison chaplain. The prison closed in 1963.

At Alcatraz, he said, he earned the trust and respect of several infamous gangsters, such as Los Angeles mobster Mickey Cohen. One friendship sister-in-law Jean remembers well, however, is the one Bush struck up with Chicago bank robber Lawrence A. Trumblay.

“He became extremely close to Larry," Jean said, "and would talk about how much Larry changed and reformed, and they became friends.”

Trumblay was paroled in 1965 from the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan., just in time for Bush’s formal ordination into the priesthood.

At that ceremony, Trumblay gave Bush an alb, a ceremonial tunic-like vestment worn during services, that he had made in prison.

Less than a month later, Trumblay was killed in a car accident.

Despite that trauma, Bush returned to Alcatraz frequently for reunions and said Mass with former convicts, guards and staff.

In addition to his work at Alcatraz, Bush was a spiritual director at Santa Clara University’s Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley and a counselor at Catholic treatment centers in Boston and Montara, Calif., known for their work with priests who had committed sexual abuse.

For much of his later life, Bush led retreats at the Jesuit Retreat Center of Los Altos. He never lost his sense of adventure, learning how to fly in his mid-50s while stationed near Half Moon Bay.

“He was a devout Jesuit and committed to his faith but also had a life beyond the priesthood,” Jean said. “Everything was an adventure with Corky.”

In addition to Jean Bush, he is survived by sister-in-law Joan Bush of Rancho Cucamonga.

Arcelia Martinez

65, San Jose

Arcelia Martinez, 65, of San Jose died from complications of COVID-19 on March 21. (Family photo)

Among the things that Arcelia Martinez could not tolerate was the sight of someone hungry.

When young co-workers at the FoodMaxx grocery store in San Jose where the 65-year-old woman worked as a clerk took their breaks in the back room without anything to eat, Martinez went into action.

She used her own money to buy food, and spread the groceries out in the break room before them.

“I would say, ‘Mom, you know, we don’t have very much money. How are you going to do that?” said daughter Maryann Martinez. “She said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it. They were hungry…

“We were always living paycheck to paycheck, but she always wanted to help. And she always wanted to make sure that everyone was OK.”

Arcelia Martinez grew up and still lived in San Jose, working early in life at a cannery with her mother, and later as a maid, a fact that her daughter only later learned, realizing that was the reason for the neat perfection with which her mother kept the family home.

Martinez and her husband raised four daughters in San Jose.

In early March, she attended the birth of a grandchild before traveling to Disneyland in Anaheim to celebrate the birthday of another grandchild. She began to fall ill while on the trip and returned home, where her condition worsened. She died of complications from COVID-19 on March 21.

She is survived by her husband, Samuel, daughters Gina, Sherri, Maryann and Samantha, and six grandchildren.

Terry Blanchard

56, Oakland

(Family photo)

Tall and weighing 300 pounds, Terry Blanchard could be an imposing sight, but those who knew him said he was a “gentle giant,” a hard-working, determined man who would help anyone he could.

While he accomplished much in life, he couldn’t overcome COVID-19, and died from complications of the disease on April 12. He was 56.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Blanchard spent much of his adult life in Oakland. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1985 with an economics degree. He worked in telecommunications with banks for over 30 years, but dreamed of being an entrepreneur.

“He always wanted to work for himself,” said Noelle Gemberling, his daughter.

At one point, he and his wife owned four Wing Stop locations in the Bay Area. He also served on the board of the East Oakland Youth Development Center.

Reading was his favorite hobby, and Gemberling said every gift she gave him over the last four years was a book.

He also loved sports and was an avid Golden States Warriors fan. Two years ago, Gemberling and her husband took Blanchard to a Cal football game against USC, Gemberling’s alma mater.

Both Blanchard and his wife, Debra, believed they contracted the coronavirus from a family friend living with them. At first, Blanchard had what appeared to be a cold and gastrointestinal problems. But then he experienced difficulty breathing.

Debra recovered and contacted the Red Cross about the possibility of donating her plasma to her husband. But that treatment was just experimental at the time, and her offer was rejected. After three weeks on a ventilator, Blanchard died.

“He was a big teddy bear type of person,” Gemberling said. “He was incredible and very warm. He was even-keeled and so smart. He was really special.”

Since her husband’s death, Debra Blanchard has been able to donate her plasma to help other coronavirus patients.

In addition to his wife, Blanchard is survived by his mother Alma and his daughters Gemberling and Sydnie Blanchard.

Jack B. Indreland

94, Los Angeles

Whether he was competing in a giant-slalom ski race as a 70-year old, backpacking through the High Sierras or driving from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas in a Volkswagen Microbus, Jack B. Indreland was born thrill-seeker.

“He would drive across deserts with maybe enough gas to get through … or not,” David Indreland said of his father, who was 94 when he died of complications of COVID-19 on April 22.

“He did some risky stuff. He was a great outdoorsman, but he liked to use topography maps, not trail maps. He really liked getting off the trail, and he knew a lot about it.”

Jack Indreland was born in Los Angeles on July 14, 1925. After graduating from Alhambra High School, he enlisted in the Army at age 17. He was deployed to Europe as part of an artillery battalion in October of 1944, and that winter, he took part in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the last major battles of World War II.

“Everyone was really anxious to fight in the war,” David Indreland said of his father’s desire to enlist before his 18th birthday. “He was inspired by the mission and the general patriotism of the time.”

Indreland returned to Southern California after the war and graduated from Occidental College with a degree in geology in 1949. He co-founded a company that worked on water and geothermal projects in the U.S. and abroad.

He spent some 30 years as a member of the ski patrol and rescue team at Mount Baldy, competing in age-group ski-race events well into his 70’s, and 20 years as a substitute teacher in the L.A. Unified School District.

He and his second wife, Vania, were married for 30 years, and he remained active up until about three years ago, when he fell down a flight of stairs leading up to his Los Angeles apartment and broke his hip.

“He was a great spirit and he really loved the outdoors—he was at one with nature,” said his son. “And he had a very tough Norwegian spirit that carried him though his adventures. He would challenge himself on some hikes to the edge of risk.”

David said his father was in and out of hospitals because of pneumonia for much of January, February and March and spent part of that time at the Kei-Ai nursing home in Los Angeles, where his family believes he may have contracted the coronavirus.

Indreland was sent to the Alhambra Medical Center with a temperature of 102 degrees on April 13. On April 15, Vania Indreland received a call from hospital staff saying her husband’s condition was deteriorating and that he probably wouldn’t survive. He tested positive for the virus on April 20 and died two days later.

“I was able to go into ICU with all the protective equipment and talk to him for one last time,” his wife said. “I’m very proud of my husband. To me, he was one of a kind. He was Intelligent, brilliant, the best husband a woman could have because he lived to make us happy. We loved each other dearly.”

Dolores Shoebotham

88, San Diego

(Courtesy of Cindy McIntyre)

Dolores Shoebotham was known as a loving mother, a warm hostess and a free spirit who loved to travel.

“She had a really good sense of humor,” daughter Cindy McIntyre said about Shoebotham, whom she said was the family member who always hosted get-togethers. “The grandkids loved to be around her. The kids loved to come over and play games. She always had good desserts for us.

Shoebotham was born in 1931 and died June 14 at 88 of complications from COVID 19. Her final days were spent in hospice care at a facility for people with dementia, where she had lived for 17 months. Although safety precautions were followed, McIntyre suspects her mother was exposed to a staff member who was asymptomatic but contagious.

She left behind a daughter, McIntyre, son Steve Shoebotham, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many happy memories.

“Everybody would come over to our house and hang out,” McIntyre remembered about her mother’s hospitality while growing up in Clairemont. “She’d bake the cookies. She took care of us really, really well.”

McIntyre described her mother as a career homemaker who loved to get out of the house and hit the road. She was afraid of flying, so Shoebotham and the family took road trips across the country, once driving all the way to Alaska.

“We all had our own RVs,” McIntyre said. “It was a big family vacation each summer. We were a very close family.”

Shoebotham was the oldest of five siblings, and quit high school to work as a switchboard operator to help support her family while growing up in Nebraska.

At 20, she married her high school sweetheart, Edgar, whose position in the Coast Guard took the couple to several cities. He was stationed in North Island when he retired at 55, creating more opportunities for travel.

“They had a great life,” McIntyre said. “My dad took good care of her and she took care of him.”

The couple was married for 66 years, and Edgar died last year.

McIntyre took her mother out for dinner March 12, but would not get to see her again for three months because of restrictions on visitors at the facility where she was living.

“One of the hardest things was not being able to go see her and tell her everything was going to be OK,” she said.

On May 28, someone at the facility called to tell McIntyre that her mother had signs of COVID-19. She was taken to Scripps La Jolla, but after 10 days her condition grew worse.

Her mother was transported back to the facility for dementia patients and died four days later.

“They are together again,” she said of her parents. “My family, along with the families of the other 200,000 plus families who have lost a loved one, miss them daily. The dementia had taken my mother from us in many ways. COVID took her forever.”

Lowell Parker Dabbs

95, Santa Barbara

No particular art form, no single type of expression, could contain the creativity in Lowell Dabbs.

Over the course of his life, this man who had “a poet’s heart,” as his family says, devoted himself not only to the written word, but also to photography and architectural design.

“He was quiet, often shy,” his daughter, Ellen Parker, said. “It was an internal commitment to art, to things that were beautiful.”

Contracting COVID-19 at 95, he died May 25 in Riverside.

Born in Burlington, N.C., in 1924, Lowell Parker Dabbs served in the Navy during World War II, assigned to a destroyer in the Pacific. Having already attended some college, he returned home after the war to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at USC, subsequently taking work as an English professor at Bakersfield College in 1955.

It was a position he would hold for many years, eventually serving as department chair, teaching while writing poems, plays, professional articles and textbooks. Dabbs married a colleague, Phyllis Selby.

From the time he was a boy, he had dreamed of building his own house,” their daughter said. “He and Mom did that.”

The Selby-Dabbs residence was later included in a 2019 symposium and tour. The Bakersfield Californian noted that its Midcentury Modern design allowed “copious light into the living room” and made the roof appear “as though it’s floating above the structure.”

Dabbs retired in 1979 and moved to Santa Barbara, where he attended the Brooks Institute of Photography to pursue yet another long-time fascination. Drawn to taking pictures of nature, he continued to write and served as writing coach at Santa Barbara City College.

The final years of his life were spent at an assisted-living center in Riverside, near the home of his daughter and son-in-law.

“He did lots of different things,” Parker said. “The thread through his life was these interests he had and some of the dreams he was able to fulfill.”

Marvin W. Carpenter

84, San Ysidro

(Courtesy of Sandra Hyman)

One could say that Marvin W. Carpenter had vision — something he shared for a living, quite literally.

For more than a decade in the 1970s and ’80s, Carpenter installed peepholes into the front doors of homes across San Diego County.

The expert salesmanship that Carpenter brought to his peephole business made a lasting impression, even on complete strangers. In April 2020, Richard Ybarra, the interim executive director of the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles, met the then 84-year-old Carpenter at a senior citizens community group event in San Ysidro — a meet-and-greet for mayoral candidate Barbara Bry.

Ybarra was struck by Carpenter’s confidence and gregariousness. “You could tell he was one of the key influencers in the room — he was large and in charge,” he said.

But something also felt naggingly familiar about Carpenter, Ybarra said.

“I said, ‘I think I know this guy’ — and it was him! He’d put in our peephole 40 years ago!”

Details came flooding back. Ybarra’s family had moved into the new San Diego home just days earlier.

“Just the matter-of-fact way he walked up to my door,” Ybarra said. “He knocked, as if he had an appointment. ‘I’m here to put in the peephole.’ I didn’t hesitate. I asked him how much. He said 10 bucks — this was 1981 — and five minutes later he was gone. I felt very good about it. He said he’d done thousands of them. But I remember him more than the peephole.”

Carpenter was born in El Centro to Willard Weed Carpenter, who died when Marvin was 11, and Madge Lavina Cox Carpenter, who ran an insurance business. His two older sisters, Vivian Helen Lorensen and Mary Catherine Grant, died in 2002 and 2019, respectively.

“He liked to say he was the last of his generation,” said Netanya Cranford, Carpenter’s grand-niece.

Cranford described her great-uncle as a serial entrepreneur who, in addition to drilling peepholes, also dabbled in real estate and for more than 30 years operated his Import Storage business in San Ysidro.

Though Carpenter never married, his life was full of family, friends and modest adventures. He was a member of the California National Guard for about eight years starting in the mid-’50s; he went on active duty in the Army in Fort Lewis, Wash., from 1961-62 before being honorably discharged. Carpenter spoke Spanish fluently and was passionate about singing and composing corrido-style ballads. He had a cabinet full of original songs, scribbled on unlined white paper in his distinct, fluid cursive.

“He was a border guy. His world was as much in Mexico as here,” Cranford said. “He was always going back and forth. He’d call my grandma and sing ballads for 30 minutes on the phone. She’d put the phone down and just listen while she knitted.”

Carpenter was especially active in San Ysidro civic and community activities. He co-founded a Rotary Club there with his close friend Fritz Neumann and was a member of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce.

He hadn’t intended to stop working, Cranford said — “he was a force of nature” — but Carpenter contracted COVID-19 in early October and died 15 days later, on Oct. 20.

“If he were still alive, he would want to tell everyone that COVID is real and to wear a mask,” Cranford said. “He wouldn’t want what he experienced to happen to anybody.”

Lourdes Pizarro

62, Gilroy

Whenever Lourdes Pizarro put her hands in her pocket, everyone knew what she would soon reveal. It was more valuable to her than a $100 bill. She carried her rosary everywhere. Her Catholic faith was ingrained years ago as a child living in a convent of Paulinian nuns in the Philippines.

Most people knew her simply as "Mom.

When she died on Feb. 7 at the age of 62 in Gilroy, Calif., from lingering complications of COVID-19, which she contracted in December, her son, Kevin, went through her diary and discovered she was helping strangers and family members by sending small amounts of money, even though she was working only part time at a Walmart and earning about $600 a month.

“She has a list of friends and family members she’s been wiring money,” Kevin said. “I’m just finding out she’s a mother figure to a lot of people. They were calling her ‘Mom’ and crying.”

Born Nov. 11, 1958, in Manila, she was one of 12 children in her family. Her parents sent her to be raised by nuns and distant relatives. Perhaps that’s why later in life, family meant everything to her.

She married her husband, Jan Vincent Pizarro, in 1978. They had three children and came to the United States in 2012.

Lourdes loved to research family ancestry on the internet and kept a notebook containing the names of ancestors dating to the 18th century.

Kevin discovered that his mother loved saving photos of herself with family and friends. He found more than 400. He said in every one, his mother was smiling “with her teeth showing.”

“The only time she was in tears in the pictures was at my wedding and she was smiling,” he said.

Lourdes is survived by her husband, son, daughters Janice and Maureen, five grandchildren, and eight brothers and sisters.

Joseph Alexander

95, Hayward

Later in life, Joseph Alexander, a Marine veteran and Congressional Gold Medal recipient, became a documentarian of sorts.

He liked to record things: He taped television programs and kept a scrapbook of news and magazine articles. The content varied, but mostly dealt with the military, or anything historical. When family or friends would come to his home in Hayward, he’d share an item or two from his collection.

“We called him the librarian,” his daughter Kay said. “He’d have recordings about people you’d never even heard of.”

And like a true librarian, he would let people check out shows or articles based on their interests.

“But he would want them back,” Kay said, laughing. “And he’d remind you if you forgot!”

Alexander had other nicknames, too. When General Motors, where he worked as an assembler for nearly 30 years, shuttered its Fremont assembly line in 1982, they offered him a job at their Kansas City plant. Alexander agreed to the transfer, but his wife, Elmarie, vetoed the idea, so they stayed put.

With Alexander’s willingness to leave their Bay Area life and relocate to Missouri, his family teasingly began to call him “K.C.” Mostly, though, people just called him Joe.

Six months ago, when his health began to decline amid a history of congestive heart failure, he moved into an acute nursing facility in Hayward.

Kay and her sisters would typically visit him three or four times a week. But when the lockdown began, they couldn’t visit him any longer and suddenly were unable to reach him by phone.

“We called and called, with no answer,” Kay said, “I have no idea what his health was like for those few weeks.”

In early April, Alexander was rushed to St. Rose Hospital in Hayward when he had difficulty breathing, Kay said. Two days later, on April 7, when one of his daughters called to check in on him, she was told by the hospital staff that he had died earlier that day. His positive COVID-19 test result came back the next day. He was 95.

Alexander grew up in New Orleans. At 19, he joined the Marine Corps, one of the first African Americans to do so. “A real trailblazer,” Kay said.

Alexander, like many African American soldiers at that time, did not get the recognition or veteran benefits that his white counterparts received once World War II ended. When he returned to Louisiana, he would go into restaurants–in his Marines uniform–and was still refused service, he told Kay.

Along with 6 million other African Americans seeking to escape the racial oppression in the South, Alexander decided to move west to California. Settling in Oakland, he began working at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, and soon met his wife. He remained an East Bay resident for the rest of his life.

Though 70 years late, Alexander did finally receive recognition for his service when, on Aug. 2, 2019, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for helping end segregation in the U.S. military by joining the Marines’ first African American unit.

“I’m glad he was able to get that before he died,” Kay said.

Alexander didn’t achieve all of his goals, though. He told his family he would make it to 100. He died just five years shy.

“That’s just his spirit,” Kay said. “And if it weren’t for this virus, who knows?”

The family held a small funeral service for relatives in Hayward. They paid their respects in the church–6 feet from the casket–and watched from afar as it was lowered into the grave.

Joyce Marie Pierce Johnson

71, Houma, La.

(Monique Johnson)

Joyce Marie Pierce Johnson had one of the meanest Mardi Gras spreads in Houma, La. Fried turkey, Cajun dirty rice, gumbo, Johnson’s special potato salad; it’s the place people wanted to be.

“When she was there, the party was on,” said her daughter, Monique Washington.

But this year, for the first time her children can remember, she missed Mardi Gras. Instead of being at home in Houma, Johnson was in Atlanta, nursing Washington back to health from a double mastectomy.

Even at 71, Johnson was a force to be reckoned with, lifting her daughter’s full weight to help her around the house or to use the restroom. “That kind of strength,” said Washington.

It’s why, two months later, it was so jarring to hear her voice over the phone from the hospital. Gone was the “strong, joyful” voice that was the center of every party; in its place, “a whisper.”

“She cared for me, and all of us [children],” said Washington. “We could not be there one second to help take care of her.”

In late March, Johnson and her 10-year-old granddaughter were on vacation visiting her son and his family in Hemet when she began to have diarrhea and nausea. She went to the doctor and tested positive for COVID-19, and then on April 1, as her condition worsened, was admitted to a hospital.

Even from her hospital bed, Johnson was confident she would recover. She called her granddaughter, who had flown back to Louisiana, on April 4. Her voice was weak, but she was convinced the hospital wouldn’t hold her long.

“Her last words to us were that she loved us and that she couldn’t wait to come see us,” said Kristie Johnson, the girl’s mother and Johnson’s daughter.

On April 15, Johnson died of COVID-19.

A year earlier, Johnson had retired after 25 years as a grocery store cashier. Her daughters say everybody knew her, that she would make people’s day with her banter.

Johnson dedicated her retirement to making sure her children were taken care of, whether it was nursing through recovery from a surgery, helping with a home purchase or just paying a visit.

Washington said Johnson was the person people would go to for confidence or inspiration. In the middle of Washington’s battle with breast cancer, Johnson spray-painted her hair pink to show support. She taught her children to stick together and to be honest.

“She made me the woman I am,” said Washington. “The ugly truth and the sweet truth. Whatever it was, she told it.”

Johnson is survived by her children, Monique Washington, Trisha Brownlee, Kristie Johnson, Terrence Johnson and Frank Johnson Jr.; stepchildren Gregory Wallace and Ivy Wallace; 31 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. Her son Corey Johnson died in 2010.

George Whitmore

89, Fresno

George Whitmore was a member of the first team of climbers to scale El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and a conservationist who devoted his life to protecting the Sierra Nevada.

Whitmore died on New Year’s Day at age 89 from complications of COVID-19, said his wife, Nancy. She said Whitmore, a cancer survivor, was extremely careful about wearing a mask and his family doesn’t know where he contracted the coronavirus. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 13, after developing a rattling but occasional cough and subsequent fever.

Whitmore died in a Fresno rehabilitation facility from damage to his lungs about a week after being released from a hospital, his wife said.

Friends, family, colleagues and fellow climbers mourned the passing of a legend in the world of rock climbing and the last surviving member of the trio that was the first to reach the top of El Capitan on Nov. 12, 1958. Ascending the 3,000-foot sheer granite rock wall that now attracts climbers from around the world was, at the time, a feat considered out of human reach.

In 2008, Whitmore gathered with climbers from around the world at Yosemite to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ascent with Warren Harding and Wayne Merry. Harding died in 2002 and Merry in 2019.

Whitmore said they didn’t realize at the time “how special” their climb of the rock formation would be.

“They were kind of inventing the sport of big wall rock climbing,“ said Daniel Duane, author of “El Capitan: Historic Feats and Radical Routes.”

El Capitan now has dozens of routes, scaled by some in fewer than three hours. But at the time, it seemed “utterly outside the bounds of the possible,” Duane said. Whitmore and his team plotted a path that came to be known as “The Nose.”

They created this kind of pilgrimage path in the sky that, to this day, every climber on Earth wants to someday walk,” Duane said.

In interviews over the years, Whitmore spoke of his ascent with humility. Mountain climbing was a lifelong passion, but he often said he considered his work in conservation to be his greatest accomplishment.

A pharmacist by trade, Whitmore retired in the 1970s to focus on conservation, his wife said. He was involved with the Sierra Club in local, state and national capacities, including serving as a chairman of the Tehipite Chapter based in Fresno.

It was during a Sierra Club outing in the 1970s that he met his wife, who was impressed with his knowledge and intellect.

“I was like, wow, this guy is impressive,” she said. They married in 1979.

Whitmore helped establish the Kaiser Wilderness in 1976 and the California Wilderness Act of 1984, which added 1.8 million acres into the National Wilderness Preservation System. He helped protect lakes and block dam projects and proposed highways and also helped prevent the Walt Disney Co. from developing a proposed ski resort at Mineral King in the 1960s and ’70s. It was stopped after sustained opposition by the Sierra Club and other preservationists and the valley subsequently became part of Sequoia National Park.

“A lot of times what it takes is someone like George who sticks to his guns and doesn’t back down from a fight that he knows is the right thing to do,” said Gary Lasky, current chairman of the Sierra Club’s Tehipite Chapter.

Melinda Wernick

78, Palm Springs

Melinda Wernick felt comfortable on the ice. A born and bred Minnesotan, she learned to skate on frozen ponds in the Minneapolis suburbs. Wernick, who went by Nina, was naturally athletic and enjoyed diving, tennis, swimming and cheerleading, but skating swept her away. She would glide on the ice for hours, practicing pirouettes, jumps and arabesques.

Wernick didn’t skate professionally, or for admiration -- she skated to feel free.

“She marched to the beat of her own drum,” said her daughter, Laura Wernick. “She was funky, so cool, and a true free spirit.”

In 1962, Wernick met her future husband, Bob, during her freshman year at the University of Minnesota.

“I thought she was very pretty,” said Bob, who asked her out on a first date to that weekend’s football game, leaving out a small detail. “I said, I’ll pick you up at five in the morning!’” He had been planning to take her to the away game against Wisconsin, a four and half hour drive.

Wernick said she would not leave the state on a first date. Instead, they went to the movies. The couple were married in 1963 and raised two daughters just outside of Minneapolis.

Wernick became a full time mom and was unafraid to get messy with her children: “Growing we made forts, played sports together and made mud pies -- she loved to play,” said Laura.

Occasionally, her playfulness and eccentricities were overwhelming. Carrie, Wernicks younger daughter, recalled a middle school memory.

“I was taking the bus home and saw my mom waiting for me at the bus stop, she was wearing a tube top, shorts and homemade inline skates with neon wheels.” At the time Carrie was mortified, but in retrospect, she viewed it as a perfect example of her mother’s fearlessness.

After both daughters left home, Wernick and Bob headed west. As a child, Wernick spent family vacations with her parents in Palm Springs — living in California had been a lifelong dream. Although she left the cold Minnisota winters behind, Wernick made sure to bring her ice skates to the desert.

“Nina went to the local ice skating rink in Palm Springs all the time,” said Bob. Wernick was also president of the Desert Blades Skating Club, and competed in skating competitions.

Wernick skated well into her sixties and founded an ice skating group specifically for seniors. “She loved skating because it combined several of her passions,” Carrie said, “music, sport and dance.”

Eventually, skating became too difficult, but it didn’t stop Wenick from visiting the rink. “She went to volunteer and help at the rink seven days a week,” said Bob. “She loved it there.”

Much of Wernick’s athletic activities slowed down three years ago when she was diagnosed with lung cancer and some neurological disorders that made walking challenging. The family hired a caregiver, Belinda Cortez, who became part of the family.

“Mom loved Belinda so much,” Laura said, “she became the center of my mom’s world.” And anyone who was part of Wernick’s world, naturally needed to learn to skate.

“One day we went to visit the ice skating rink,” Belinda said, “and she told me to invite my family, so we all went -- she helped us get our skates on.”

Wernick delightedly watched Belinda and her family skate—she always revelled in seeing others succeed.

Friendship was important to Wernick, “her address book was thick,” Bob said.“She made friends easily and kept in touch with people, even if she didn’t see them for years.”

“She called me every Sunday, just to say hello and I love you,” said Laura.

In March when the lockdown first began, Laura and her eight-year-old son, Sasha, decided to go stay with her parents in Palm Springs.

While Wernick and her family took precautions against COVID-19, she contracted the virus in May and it was too much for her already weakened immune system. Wernick died on June 29th at the age of 78.

The last few weeks of Wernick’s life were spent with her family. In the evenings, when the desert heat wore off, Sasha would take his grandmother out for strolls in her wheelchair. “They chatted about snakes, and birds,” said Laura, “and mom told Sasha about her childhood,” the four wheels gliding beneath her.

Ronald Harris

82, Los Angeles

(EA Photography)

If you were fortunate enough to meet Ronald Harris in the late 1970s, you likely had to answer two questions: What would you like to drink, and where you would like to go?

The larger-than-life luxury travel agent, renowned as much for his charisma as for his eye-popping global excursions, died Aug. 5 from complications of COVID-19. He was 82.

Harris was born in Los Angeles in 1938. His mother was an aspiring vaudeville singer, and his father a pioneer of the tourism industry who traveled on steamships. Harris had a happy childhood of surfing, skiing and outdoor adventures, and he graduated from Loyola High School.

After his father died, Harris took over the family business and eventually went on to co-found Hemphill Harris Travel, a premiere travel agency. His passion, his family said, was Travel with a capital “T.”

To him, there was no limit between cultures and countries,” said his son-in-law, Daniel Franco. “There were no boundaries. Anything was possible.”

Harris’s custom tours — fantasias of elephants and exotic dancers, flashy sports cars and French river boats, African trains and jumbo jets reimagined as flying piano bars — were enough to garner a 1986 write-up in the Los Angeles Times, which dubbed them a “first-class spectacle” designed for “the rich and the restless.” A single ticket could cost upwards of $23,000.

The trips were incredible feats of resourcefulness in a pre-Internet era, his children said, and were often only feasible because Harris himself had done them first.

“He was definitely a visionary,” said his daughter Marissa. “He had this drive to make things different, fun and exciting.”

And although the agency commanded much of Harris’s energy, he also made time for his family. He enjoyed taking his children camping (or “glamping,” Marissa said) and pushed them to try new foods and experiences. He also encouraged them to take an interest in the travel business.

“I felt so fortunate that he exposed me to different things,” said his son, Marc, who worked with his father for several years. “To go to Africa on safari when I was 10 years old was just mind blowing.”

A longtime member of the Traveler’s Century Club — a club for people who have been to at least 100 countries — Harris also kept a baby crocodile and a pet piranha in his office that were meant to encourage visitors to “dream more,” his children said.

“He would always say, ‘If the why is important enough, you’ll figure out the how,’” Franco said. “His ‘why’ was to make it incredible. He wanted to outdo what anyone else had experienced in the world.”

And although Hemphill Harris folded after a disastrous sale to Weststar, Inc., in 1989, it wasn’t enough to dampen Harris’s spirit. He went on to found another travel agency with his second wife, Sylvia, and also made time for two of his other passions: fishing and golf.

Harris maintained his sharp mind and sense of adventure to the end. Once, his son-in-law remarked that he was like those explorers who had flown around the world in a hot air balloon.

“Yes,” Harris replied, “but that’s way too slow.”

Ronald Harris is survived by his wife Sylvia, children Marc and Marrisa, and brothers Tim and Tony. He was previously married to Lily Harris.

Azar Ahrabi

68, Santa Clara

Azar Ahrabi, 68, emigrated from Iran in the 1980s. (Family photo)

If a room of people could have a conductor, seeking to accommodate needs, lift spirits and bring all together with inclusion, Azar Ahrabi was it.

The 68-year-old woman lived in a Santa Clara apartment with her elderly mother, for whom she was the full-time caretaker. She did not drive. But she was far from isolated.

Ahrabi went out daily on what her family describe as “rounds,” checking on the apartment complex staff, the postal carrier, the clerks at the Safeway where she bought daily supplies.

Those who lived within the radius of her daily walks were her village — much like the Tehran neighborhood in Iran where she grew up, before immigrating in the 1980s to the United States.

Those Ahrabi befriended with a cup of her special Turkish coffee, sweetened with milk and only a little sugar, were rewarded afterward when Ahrabi studied the grounds in the bottom of their cup and pronounced their fortune.

“I have the confidence to say I will never meet anyone so unconditionally selfless,” said her son, Amir.

Ahrabi died March 9 in a Santa Clara County hospital, and is believed to have been the first person in the San Francisco Bay area to die of COVID-19. Amir said she had been sick since at least Feb. 17.

She is survived by her mother, son and sister.

Michael Ayala

66, Sonora

Michael Ayala retired from the California Highway Patrol in 2009 after putting in 30 years. But he never really stopped working. He just shifted his focus to his church and local civic groups around his Sonora home, filling needs, lending his time, getting things done.

“He had the heart and the talent and the personality to meet just about any demand,” said his daughter Erin Natter. “His life was defined by service. He was so charismatic that people just gravitated toward him. And he embraced that.”

Born in Burlingame and raised in San Bruno, Ayala married his high school sweetheart Nancy in 1974 in Long Beach and joined the Highway Patrol five years later. Though that choice of vocation was made with an eye toward stability, Ayala soon realized that law enforcement was a good fit for his leadership and problem-solving skills. During his career, he served as a patrolman and sergeant, retiring as a lieutenant commander in Sonora.

Ayala then shifted gears, stepping in to be the executive director of the Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce for three years when the organization was struggling. Ayala also was active with the Kiwanis Club and Sierra Bible Church in Sonora. Possessing a personality as big as his heart, he was known and liked by just about everyone in the small community.

“If someone needed help with bills, he’d throw a dinner,” Natter said. “If a fundraiser came along, he’d organize it. He was a high-energy guy and loved diving in to help out.”

Being a huge San Francisco Giants fan – he and Nancy and their two daughters, Erin and Heather, would drive from Modesto to Candlestick Park when they held season tickets – Ayala was thrilled to celebrate the team’s three championships during the past decade, sharing that delight with his family.

“He was a very present father,” Natter said.

Ayala was hospitalized and diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly after Thanksgiving. He died in Sonora on Dec. 6. He was 66.

In addition to his wife and daughters, he is survived by his mother, Mary; a sister, Lisa; and four grandchildren.

Frederick W. Cook

88, Stockton

(Courtesy of Alan Cook)

Two years after moving his family from Upstate New York to Hollywood, minister Frederick W. Cook watched as South L.A. erupted in the Watts uprising of 1965. In a stroke that would define his style of spiritual work, Cook, then associate pastor at Hollywood United Methodist Church, took to the streets of the smoldering city to offer ministry.

"He thought it was so important that a Caucasian person be there to be supportive of his Black clergy brothers as they — together — ministered to people on the street," said his son, Alan Cook, 65. "He was a man ... of action and concern."

Frederick W. Cook, who lived in Stockton, died on July 25 of complications from COVID-19. He was 88.

Born in Watertown, N.Y., on Dec. 23, 1931, Cook kept the Methodist Church at the center of his life — an anchoring that began at a young age.

After his father was killed in a train accident when Cook was a toddler, he was raised by his mother, supported by ministers who acted as his mentors. He remained in New York state for his college education, earning his undergraduate degree at St. Lawrence University and a master's degree from Syracuse University.

In 1952, after university, he married Aletha Brown, whom he had met years earlier at a church gathering. (She predeceased him by two years.)

Before long, California beckoned. During his stint in Hollywood, Cook and his family lived on Hillcrest Road across from the church, and his ministering took him to the rough stretches of the community.

"There was a huge runaway population — teens — that were on the Sunset Strip," Alan Cook said. "A group of ministers would walk the strip and talk with young people, and my dad brought a few of them to our house to tell their parents [by phone] that they were safe."

Cook later was a minister at congregations in Blythe, Westchester and South Pasadena, also serving a term on the latter jurisdiction's school board, his son said.

He retired more than once — ending a period of leisure at one point to minister to California's prison population. He stopped working for good in the mid-2010s.

Ministering, Cook said, brought out his father's "hidden talents." "It really satisfied him," he said.

In addition to Alan Cook and his wife, Jane, the elder Cook is survived by son Fred Cook, as well as two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Marie Cardoza Martin

99, Sacramento

When one of Marie Martin's loved ones was in need of good luck, she would give them a sculpture of a rooster, a nod to the Portuguese folk tale of the Rooster of Barcelos.

"When I got my first job, she gave me a rooster figurine to put on my desk," her granddaughter Emily said. "She was an incredibly kind and open person. I don't know anyone who didn't like her. But she wasn't your stereotypical sweet little old lady. She had this really biting wit."

The daughter of Portuguese immigrants, Martin was born on a dairy ranch in Tranquility, Calif. After graduating from Merced Business College, she found work as an office manager and later owned two businesses, including a janitorial service. In 1952, she married Edward Morgan Martin Sr., and they settled in San Francisco.

Although she was a working mother at a time when that was uncommon, Marie Cardoza Martin always found time to put her four children first.

"When I was in the fifth grade, I was in a play and I needed several costumes made, so she sewed all my costumes," her daughter Lynette said. "And as she was sewing, her sewing machine broke so she actually finished sewing all my costumes by hand. Not once did I ever hear her complain that she had work the next day or she was making sacrifices. That was just what she did out of love for her family."

Martin was most serious about two things: her Catholic faith and her Portuguese heritage.

"When we were little, like 6, 10 and 12, she taught us a song in Portuguese that her aunt had taught her," Lynette said. "We didn't know what we were saying, but she'd make us sing it at all the family functions. And all my aunts and uncles and everyone would be laughing and we didn't know why. Apparently what we were singing was not necessarily appropriate. But we all still know it to this day."

"She was hysterically funny," Emily said. "She was just very fun. She had this wisdom where she was willing to talk through all kinds of things."

Martin was also fiercely independent, insisting on living alone in a Roseville apartment well into her 90s. She kept her mind sharp by reading mystery novels, doing crossword puzzles and keeping up with current affairs.

"She was really aware of what was going on politically," Michele said. "She was very topical. She really wasn't a TV watcher; she would read newspapers and go out for walks every day. She really liked good challenging conversation and she loved a good laugh."

Lynette said her mother was well versed on a range of topics. "She had a great gift of gab where she could talk to anyone about any subject. She set the bar high for us and really taught us how to stand on our own two feet and that we didn't need to rely on others."

Martin, who was living in a care facility at the end of her life, is believed to have contracted COVID-19 but was never tested. She came down with a fever and died Nov. 21.

In addition to daughters Michele and Lynette and granddaughter Emily, Martin is survived by her son Edward Martin, daughter Celeste, sister Alyce, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband, who died in 1993. The couple had been married 41 years.

Susan Kam

94, Encino

Sister Susan Kam was just two years into her job supporting adoptive families at Holy Families Service in Los Angeles when she was tapped by the Catholic Welfare Bureau to direct its Indochinese Resettlement program in Los Angeles and Orange County in 1975.

It was an enormous undertaking.

“After the fall of Saigon there were hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the region, and Los Angeles had a huge resettlement program,” said Sister Maribeth Larkin, general director of the Sisters of Social Service, the order to which Kam belonged for 72 years.

“She was in charge of that effort for the diocese of Los Angeles.”

As part of the work, Kam identified local Catholic families willing to house new immigrants until more permanent housing could be found. The work also included helping families with other necessities, such as registering children for school.

Born and raised in Hawaii, Kam joined the Sisters of Social Service in 1948 — an order of nuns who feel called to serve in the center of urban life, rather than pursue a life of contemplation at a cloister.

Kam served in the Stanford Home for dependent high school girls in Sacramento, and in the Stanford Settlement for children, as well as in the Catholic Youth Organization. In 1963 she and four other nuns were sent to Taiwan to help establish their social service ministry there.

She returned to the U.S. seven and a half years later and earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of Hawaii. Following graduation she went to work at Holy Family Services in Los Angeles, working primarily with adoptive parents.

Kam was skilled at quilting, sewing, woodwork and Chinese brush painting, and her friends said she was adored by everyone who knew her.

“She was just a sweetheart,” said Sister Patricia McGowan, who met Kam in the 1960s. “I never saw her be harsh or short-tempered or anything.”

Toward the end of her life Kam suffered from dementia and was living in a facility in Encino for people with memory issues. The facility experienced a COVID-19 outbreak in November, and Kam was among those who tested positive. She died Nov. 15 at age 94.

“The staff was devastated to lose her because she was such an upbeat person,” McGowan said.

Herbert J. “Buzz” Evers loved to laugh. Grandpa Buzz, as he was known to his many grandchildren, had a life filled with funny stories to tell.

Before he died Aug. 17 in San Juan Capistrano of COVID-19 at age 88, eight of his nine children got a chance to reminisce during a final video call as Evers’ caregiver held up a tablet for the entire 45-minute conversation.

“He opened his eyes at one point, lifted up his arm and scratched his head,” son Paul said.

Born Dec. 21, 1931, in San Diego, Herbert grew up in Oceanside before moving to Orange with his first wife, Roberta. They were high school sweethearts. He served in the Air Force from 1951-58, then started a catering business, Buzz’s Catering.

Soon he was feeding workers for a giant new project known as Disneyland going up in Orange County. There’s an old family film of Walt Disney showing around Evers’ oldest child, Blaise, as the buildings went up. In the 1960s, he also became friends with some of the baseball players of the new professional team in town, the Angels.

Evers would go on to operate an auto upholstery business and dabbled in real estate.

He loved music and loved to dance and just be goofy, his family said. He once participated in a lip-sync contest with two of his sons, dressing up as Fidel Castro. He also carried around an old film roll canister filled with wax so he could put it on the floor to guarantee he would always have the smoothest moves when he danced.

Married three times, Evers is survived by daughters Mary Rowe, Kathryn Van Loon and Margaret Cruikshank; sons Blaise, Michael, Terry, Sean and Paul; 30 grandchildren, 37 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren

Rosemary Rushka

89, San Mateo

(Family photo)

After graduating high school in Wisconsin in 1948, Rosemary Hoell was expected to find work and get married without a college education because “her parents didn’t think the daughters needed to go to college,” according to her daughter Mary. Rushka fulfilled her parents’ wishes by finding a job in public health and marrying David Rushka.

“She was just a really pleasant, smart, loving woman,” Mary said. “She was always trying to please people, and she’s taken a lot of initiative in her life.”

The couple moved to San Francisco, and Rosemary Rushka decided to go to college at age 45, with her sons Joseph and John still at home, and Mary also off at college. At age 50, the Green Bay native graduated magna cum laude from San Francisco State University with a degree in health science. Immediately after, she found a job as a health information officer at the American Academy of Ophthalmology in San Francisco, which fit her perfectly as she loved to take on responsibility, travel and work in public health.

“She’d already done a great job at being a wife and a mother,” Mary said, “but she was able to pursue a lot of her goals.”

Rushka retired after 20 years at the academy, and spent her time traveling, volunteering with Bay Area health groups and spending time with her family. David, who worked in sales management, died in 2012, and Rushka eventually moved from their home in Daly City to Sterling Court, a senior living center in San Mateo. She contracted COVID-19 while living there, and was transported to Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco Medical Center.

None of her family members were able to see her after calling the ambulance to pick her up from Sterling Court. Only one of her three children still lives in the Bay Area. Instead, they kept in contact through FaceTime.

She died on May 3 at the hospital, two weeks after contracting the coronavirus. She was 89. She is survived by her three children, nine grandchildren and great-granddaughter.

Joseph Radisich

84, San Pedro

Former Mary Star of the Sea tight end Tim Wrightman, left, talking with coach Joseph Radisich Sr., who died April 25, 2020. (Courtesy of Tim Wrightman)

Joseph Radisich Sr., a 2006 inductee into the San Pedro Sportswalk of Fame who distinguished himself as a high school football coach at Mary Star of the Sea in the 1970s and 1980s, died Wednesday after testing positive for COVID-19, his son, Joseph Jr., said. He was 84.

“Last week he got sick and was in bad shape, sweating and hallucinating,” his son said. “He had been having health problems. We called 911.”

He said his father was hospitalized and tested positive for COVID-19. Joseph, a former Los Angeles harbor commissioner, had earlier put himself in self-quarantine because of the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Radisich was well known in the coaching community, having worked at Santa Fe Springs St. Paul, Bellflower St. John Bosco and San Pedro High, among others. He was head coach at Mary Star for 11 years.

Former San Pedro coach Mike Walsh, who played for Radisich for one year at the now closed Fermin Lasuen High in San Pedro, praised his former coach’s work ethic.

“He’s a great man,” Walsh said. “He was hard-nosed. He spent a million hours preparing. You’d run through a brick wall for him. He was that kind of a coach.”

Among the players Radisich coached was former NFL tight end Tim Wrightman, who wrote on Facebook, “Today, I lost my ‘coach,’ my mentor and a father figure during the most formative years of my life. He didn’t just coach kids how to play football, but how to be men.”

Richard Charles Bendel

75, Carpinteria

Richard Bendel and his wife, Melinda, celebrate their anniversary in 2019. (Courtesy of Melinda Bendel)

Melinda Bendel made sure to take one last picture of her husband before he was cremated.

In one of Richard Charles “Dick” Bendel’s hands was an American flag and a construction pencil.

Dick Bendel “was very patriotic,” Melinda said, having served in Vietnam as an Army surveyor, and later spent four decades as a residential remodeling contractor, building and remodeling three homes with his wife in San Diego.

“He did everything around the house, and I mean ours and everybody else’s,” Melinda Bendel said. “We would visit friends, he’d walk in and see something wrong, and he’d just go get parts and fix it.”

In Dick’s other hand in that final picture was a Snickers bar, an Almond Joy and a package of Reece’s peanut butter cups.

“Oh my god, he was a chocolate addict,” Melinda said of her husband of 31 years. “A day didn’t pass where he didn’t have chocolate. We’d go to the store together; I’d get the food and he’d get the chocolate.

“He always had stashes of candy all over the place. I didn’t think it was good for him … but the last seven weeks [of his life], you know who brought chocolate to him every time they visited? That was me.”

Dick Bendel was born Oct. 25, 1944 in Middletown, Ohio. He attended junior college in Ohio before being drafted into the Army.

While in Vietnam, Bendel was exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical that may have contributed to developing Parkinson’s disease later in life.

Bendel moved to San Diego in 1978 because he thought it offered a better opportunity to expand his business. He and Melinda, a teacher from Chicago, were married in 1989. They spent three decades together in San Diego, often filling their summers with travel.

Dick was also a huge football fan, rooting for the Ohio State Buckeyes and San Diego Chargers before they moved to Los Angeles in 2017.

“He was a fantastic man, with a rare combination of traits,” Melinda said. “Dick was tall, strong, handsome, loving, generous, adventurous. He was so giving of himself, and he had a great sense of humor.”

The couple moved to Carpinteria in 2018 to be close to their daughter and three grandchildren. With his health in decline in June, Dick was moved to an assisted living facility in Carpinteria, where he contracted the coronavirus. He was 75 when he died of COVID-19 on July 30 in Carpinteria.

In addition to his wife, Bendel is survived by his son Daniel Bendel; daughters Beth Rice and Kristie Reden; step-children Carson Green, Dana Zertuche and Ramsey Green; brothers Fred Joe and John; a sister, Ginny Draa; nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Roger Santicruz

71, San Jose

Distance could not stop Roger Santicruz from taking care of his family. When his niece in Las Vegas texted the family group chat that she had car trouble, he was ready to book a flight from San Jose to help her.

“He [would drop] everything he’s doing when one of us needed help,” his oldest son, Lester, wrote in an email shared with The Times.

As a former ground crew worker for American Airlines, Santicruz flew for free, and used that to his advantage in his retirement. He and his wife of 51 years, Tessie, traveled together frequently and had seen the pope at Vatican City, and been to Australia and Singapore.

The couple had just returned to their home in San Jose from the Philippines, with a layover in Japan, in late February. After a week, Santicruz came down with a cough and was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose. A day later, he tested positive for the coronavirus infection. He died in the hospital March 25, two weeks after being admitted.

Born in Manila in 1948, Santicruz, along with Tessie and their three children, immigrated to the United States in 1976, settling first in Santa Maria, where he found a job at the Columbia Records pressing plant. After two years, the family relocated to the Bay Area, where he worked at San Jose International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.

“Once he woke up in the morning and made his coffee, after that he would start working,” Lester said. Santicruz had a green thumb, and would spend his free time working on backyard projects and gardening.

One of his best friends, Ed Fadrilan, met Santicruz while coaching a local basketball league that his grandkids were in. Over their 15 years of friendship, Santicruz would come over to Fadrilan’s house to watch boxer Manny Pacquiao’s championship fights, and Fadrilan would attend Santicruz’s golden wedding anniversary celebration. Whenever Santicruz saw him at an event, he would leave whomever he was with to welcome Fadrilan.

“He was very down to earth,” Fadrilan said. “You didn’t have to impress him.”

After Santicruz died, Fadrilan and his wife planted a succulent in his name. “As long as that succulent keeps growing, then I have a continued memory of Roger,” Fadrilan said.

Santicruz is survived by his wife, children Lester, Eileen and Oliver, five grandchildren, and friends and family all over the world.

Tran Ngoc Chau

96, Los Angeles

Throughout his life, Tran Ngoc Chau was a fighter. A Vietnamese soldier against colonial France, a lieutenant colonel against the communist Viet Cong, a leader of South Vietnam’s counterinsurgency training program.

"He was first and foremost a man who fought for peace, independence and meaningful resolution," said his daughter, Tamminh Tran Kapuscinska.

"And he sacrificed everything to do what was right."

Chau was arrested in 1970 for treason, after attempting clandestine peace talks with his brother, then a senior intelligence officer in North Vietnam. He spent five years in prison and two years at a communist reeducation camp, and turned down numerous opportunities to escape.

"His American friends tried to help smuggle him out, but he said, 'Well, if I go with you, I would be safe, but it would imply that I was guilty,'" said Kapuscinska of the pro-Communist allegations that plagued her father.

"And when the communists were marching into the capital in 1975, the U.S. Embassy said they had room for him and my mother to fly out on a helicopter, but he refused because he'd have to leave his children."

Chau and his family later fled to the United States and settled in Los Angeles. His oldest children enrolled in vocational programs, while he studied computer programming at a community college and worked nights on an assembly line.

"People ask him why he would take classes at a community college, even though he's so old," Kapuscinska recalled.

"They said, 'You're gonna be 70 years old when you're done!' And he said, 'I'm gonna be 70 anyway, even if I don't go to school. What's the difference?'"

Chau then started a successful desktop publishing business, and steadily wrote his memoir, which was published in 2012. Even in the latter years of his life, he battled aspiration pneumonia and was in the midst of recovering from a hip replacement when he was diagnosed with COVID-19 at a nursing home.

Chau died June 17. He is survived by his wife, seven children, 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was 96.

"I definitely think if there was no coronavirus, he would've lived longer," said Kapuscinska.

Phil Specter

81, Stockton

Phil Spector awaits sentencing in a Los Angeles courtroom on May 29, 2009. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

For all the hit songs he drove up the charts, for all the power and wealth he amassed, for all the admiration he drew as he rearranged the pop music landscape, there was a darkness deep in Phil Spector’s soul that would forever shadow his genius.

Even as anthems such as the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin‘” erupted from radios across America, the acclaimed record producer was a brooding, manic man with a white-hot temper and a fondness for gunplay, all of which would manifest itself on a winter morning in 2003 when he fatally shot actress and nightclub hostess Lana Clarkson in the foyer of his castle-like mansion in Alhambra.

Dispatched to prison after being convicted of second-degree murder, Spector died Saturday while in custody in a Northern California hospital where he was being treated, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He was 81.

Spector was hospitalized after becoming ill with COVID-19, said a source familiar with his medical condition who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Before he was transferred to a hospital, Spector had been an inmate at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton, which specializes in housing medically vulnerable people with existing health conditions, the corrections department said.

“It’s a sad day for music and a sad day for me,” said Ronnie Spector, the producer’s former wife and muse. “The magical music we were able to make together was inspired by our love. I loved him madly and gave my heart and soul to him.”

But Ronnie Spector added: “Unfortunately Phil was not able to live and function outside of the recording studio. Darkness set in. Many lives were damaged.”

Decades removed from his days of glory, Spector was twice tried for Clarkson’s death, the first trial ending with a hung jury and the second with a conviction.

Clarkson died of a single gunshot wound to the mouth on Feb. 3, 2003, just three hours after meeting Spector at the House of Blues, the Sunset Strip music club where she worked as a hostess.

“Lana Clarkson was a warm, compassionate, kind, loving woman who would be 58 years old now,” her family said Sunday in a statement. “Her energy, brightness and love of life have sustained her family since her murder 18 years ago.”

Spector’s subsequent second-degree murder trials laid bare the producer’s erratic mood swings, darkening depression and isolation from an industry he once seemed to rule. He was ultimately sentenced to 19 years to life in prison. Stripped of his flamboyance and tassel of dark hair, he appeared to be just another senior citizen in prison photos — a balding man with a pair of hearing aids.

But in his prime, Spector was brash, driven and as much a star as the artists he produced. He made the top 10 chart 14 times between 1958 and 1965, created a signature sonic avalanche in the studio known as “the Wall of Sound” and — record by record — revolutionized popular music.

In the studio, Spector awoke pop music from its early-1960s doldrums and crafted a sound that would influence record-making for generations, informing the music of such acts as the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie.

“Nobody, it’s fair to say, ever wrought deeper changes in the way the rock industry looked, felt, behaved.... To come out of a vacuum and force such changes at such speed, with such totality — even now it’s hard to conceive the force and self-belief it must have taken,” author Nik Cohn wrote after spending time with Spector in 1969.

Harvey Philip Spector was born Dec. 26, 1939, in the Bronx. His father, Benjamin, an ironworker, died by suicide when his son was 9, and three years later his mother, Bertha, moved to an apartment in Los Angeles’ Fairfax district with Spector and his older sister, Shirley.

During his 1962 flurry of hits, Spector honed his fabled Wall of Sound methodology. Up to half a dozen guitars strummed chords in unison. Then came two, and sometimes three or more, pianos. The instruments bled together, the texture so thick that the horn and string arrangements were almost subliminal, absorbed into the great sonic mass.

He fostered a core of studio musicians who became known as the Wrecking Crew, many of them highly respected jazz and session players. Among his regulars were Don Randi, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Hal Blaine, Sonny Bono and Oscar-winning arranger Jack Nitzsche.

Spector reveled in his celebrity, dressing flamboyantly, flaunting his success and delighting in public confrontations. He hobnobbed with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in London, surrounded himself with bodyguards and was the subject of one of Tom Wolfe’s earliest pieces of “new journalism,” “The First Tycoon of Teen,” a portrait of youthful excess.

In 1989, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Though deeply affected by the death of his 10-year-old son, Phil Jr., from leukemia, Spector seemed socially outgoing again, without the bodyguards and confrontational attitude that had punctuated his forays in public as a younger man. He began hosting an annual party at an old-fashioned bowling alley in suburban Montrose, and he regularly held court in his home with friends.

But everything darkened again the night of Feb. 2, 2003, when Spector went out on the town in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Witnesses recalled Spector downing cocktails as he moved from restaurant to restaurant.

He ended the evening at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip, where Clarkson worked as a hostess. At closing time, she helped him to his car, and after some persuasion she agreed to accompany him to his home after her shift.

On the way to Spector’s castle-like estate in Alhambra, Clarkson told his driver, Adriano De Souza, that she planned to leave after one drink.

De Souza was sitting in the black Mercedes-Benz in the estate’s driveway when he heard a popping sound about 5 a.m.

According to the driver’s trial testimony, Spector emerged from the house holding a handgun.

“I think I killed somebody,” he said.

When L.A. County sheriff’s deputies arrived, Spector had to be subdued with a Taser.

According to testimony before a Los Angeles County grand jury, Spector told police that he shot the actress by “accident,” but he later changed his story and said she had killed herself.

Clarkson had appeared in small roles on television series including “Three’s Company,” “Night Court” and “The A-Team,” and she was a cult heroine after playing the title role in the 1985 period adventure “Barbarian Queen.”

On May, 30, 2009, Specter received a mandatory life sentence, with eligibility for parole in 2028. He was 69 at the time.

Read the full obituary

Gaspár Gómez

51, Pacoima

(Family photo)

On April 13, Gaspár Gómez got a call from his brother, Marcos. The pair were day laborers who often found work one short-term job at a time, and Marcos’ employer needed another worker. But Gaspár turned it down, saying he felt sick.

Gaspár's family says he was the type to downplay illness, to work through it. If he felt sick enough to turn down work, it meant something was really wrong.

A few days later, Gómez tested positive for COVID-19, then was hospitalized with respiratory problems. On May 3, after almost three weeks on a ventilator, he died. He was 51.

Gómez was born in Santo Domingo de Atani, a small town in the Sierra Juarez mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico.

As a teenager he immigrated to the United States, along with his sweetheart, María. He didn’t have papers, so he found work as a day laborer on construction projects, the same work he would do for more than three decades. The couple moved to Van Nuys and had four children.

When the children were still young, Gómez and his wife divorced. The children went with their mother. His daughter Lucy called the divorce his “downfall.”

Gómez's long battle with substance abuse that his family says resulted in multiple stints in prison and at least three deportations led Lucy, the last of his children who still spoke to him, to cut off contact.

“If you don’t want to change, I can’t change you," Lucy recalled telling him.

Then, one day, while waiting in line at the supermarket, he met Elba Regalado. Gómez was abundantly friendly and quickly struck up a conversation — it was in his nature, Regalado said. She was getting ready to pay and Gómez wouldn't stop chatting. They became friends and, eventually, a couple.

With Regalado’s help, his family said, he began to turn a corner.

Gómez stopped drinking and began attending Mass with Regalado. His brother Marcelo says it was faith that helped both him and Gaspár recover. Regalado and Gómez moved in together with her teenage daughter in Pacoima. Lucy started talking to him again. She got to dance with him one more time at Regalado's daughter's quinceñeara a few years ago. He even began communicating with his other children again.

Regalado and Gómez never married. She wanted to take it slow, to make sure it was a good match, especially after things were so difficult early on. In the months before he died, she says she had been warming up to it, jokingly asking him when they were going to get married.

His answer was always the same: “If you want to, let’s go tomorrow.”

In addition to his partner, brother and daughter Lucy, Gómez is survived by daughters María, Stacie, Janette and Sara and son Cristián.

Betty Gentry

94, Chula Vista

(Family photo)

Betty Gentry could be incredibly stubborn.

In the 1950s, her husband, Jim, asked her to drive his car periodically to keep the battery alive while he was deployed overseas. She did so dutifully, but when Jim returned to find the battery dead, he was hopping mad. Betty stood her ground and swore right then and there that she wouldn’t drive again—and she never did.

“We had to take her everywhere she wanted to go for the rest of her life,” recalled her son, Kevin Gentry.

Strong-willed, adventurous, confident and caring, Gentry died May 13 due to complications of COVID-19. She was 94.

Gentry came from a long line of independent women. Raised by a single mother in Grand Rapids, Mich., she joined the Navy’s WAVE program straight out of high school. While stationed in Great Lakes, Ill. Gentry cared for maternity patients and for the war’s wounded.

It was there that she met fellow Navy Corpsman Chesley James “Jim” Gentry, whom she married in 1948.

Their relationship was full of “loving, good natured bickering and endless teasing,” her daughter, Bonne Bandolas, said, recalling with fondness a never-ending argument about which spices belong in marinara sauce.

“This was an ongoing difference of opinion that went on for as long as anyone can remember, and no spaghetti sauce was complete without it.”

After the birth of their sons, Kevin and Ross, the couple was transferred to Yokohama, Japan. Gentry took to the move right away.

“She loved everything about living there,” said her son-in-law, Joseph “Banjo” Bandolas. “The food, the tailored clothes, the affordability, she just drank it all in.”

While in Japan, Gentry visited an orphanage with a friend. She spotted Bonne, who was then just an infant, and it was love at first sight. A few years after Bonne’s adoption, the family was deployed again, this time to Chula Vista near San Diego, which remained their home base from then on. They adopted another child, Chris, in 1967.

“She brought her children up to be caring individuals and always extended a hand whenever she could,” her son-in-law said, adding that Gentry instilled in her children a deep love of sports (the Dodgers in particular) and “tortured them with her great love of Hollywood musicals.”

For all of her fun and foibles, Gentry was also a great friend and nurturer. She never forgot a birthday—loved ones could always count on a card with a $5 bill tucked inside—and she made sure the family was never without the comfort of a canine companion. She adored tulips, read the newspaper from cover-to-cover and was ever willing to lend a hand in her community.

“That’s what I remember most about my mom: her warmth, caring, always taking the time to help someone,” Bonne Bandolas said. “I’m so grateful I could be her daughter.”

Gentry is survived by her children, Kevin, Ross, Bonne and Chris, grandchildren James Gentry and Lauren Petticolas and six great-grandchildren.

Wayne L. Strom

85, Thousand Oaks

Wayne Strom (Pepperdine University)

The irony was not lost on David Feinberg, the former UCLA Health System president who is in his second year as vice president of Google Health in Mountain View, Calif.

Reflecting on the life of Wayne L. Strom, a former Pepperdine professor of behavioral science who was 85 when he died of complications from COVID-19 on April 2, Feinberg recalled an assignment from Strom’s organizational behavior class that still sticks with him two decades later.

“You had to write your own obituary, speaking of obituaries,” Feinberg, 58, said. “It was a high-powered group of executives in the class, and it was, like, ‘Do you want to be remembered for making a lot of money and that your stock went up, or do you want to be remembered for helping humanity?’ I think it taught me to lead with empathy, and that was the best thing I learned from Wayne.”

Strom, who earned a bachelor of divinity degree from the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School and a PhD from UCLA, became a full-time Pepperdine faculty member in 1970.

He was a founder of the prestigious Pepperdine Presidential and Key Executive MBA program and was selected as a Harriet and Charles Luckman Distinguished Teaching Fellow in 1991.

Strom’s primary interests during a 42-year teaching career were organizational performance enhancement and spirituality in business. He coached, assessed and taught leadership to more than 1,500 company presidents and senior executives, and served as a consultant to numerous corporations in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

“He really helped create the business school that we have today,” said Ann E. Feyerherm, 59, an associate dean and 27-year professor of organization theory and management at Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business. “He believed you develop leaders through a better understanding of one’s self.”

Strom retired from Pepperdine in 2012.

Strom and his wife, Kathy, were married 38 years and lived in Thousand Oaks, where Strom turned their backyard into something of a nature retreat, planting several redwood trees and fruit trees — fig, cherry, nectarine, apricot, peach, persimmon — and a rose garden.

“He was a very caring person, a gentle person,” his wife said. “He loved nature and the mountains, and he really loved to garden.”

The couple also enjoyed biking along Pacific Coast Highway and hiking. In 1988, they climbed Mount Fuji—at 12,389 feet, the highest peak in Japan—reaching the summit in time “to watch this beautiful sunrise,” Kathy said.

Wayne Strom’s health began to decline last fall, and he moved into the Kensington Redondo Beach senior living facility in December. He developed pneumonia in late March and was admitted to Torrance Memorial Hospital on March 30. He was diagnosed with the coronavirus and died three days later.

“He went quickly,” his wife said. “It was just a matter of three days, so I was really shocked. It was very hard to not be able to be with him when he passed, and that we’re not able to have a memorial right now. That’s been challenging.”

Strom is also survived by his son, David, and a grandson, Everett.

Dr. Manuel Ramirez

81, Montrose

(Family photo)

Dr. Manuel Ramirez had two strong passions: cooking and medicine.

The day before his daughter Bonnie Denise’s high school swim meets, he’d always make sure that she would get her carbs. He would prepare his specialty: lasagna or spaghetti. He’d let the sauce simmer for hours — he called it “Sophia Loren” sauce, after the Italian actress.

“He told his children that Sophia came to see him at his office and told him how to prepare the sauce,” his wife Bonnie said in an email. “They believed him!”

Ramirez, 81, died of COVID-19 complications on April 25 at Keck Hospital of USC in Los Angeles. He contracted the virus at Montrose Healthcare Center, a skilled nursing facility in Montrose where he was recovering from gallbladder surgery. Before then, he had been living at the Mountview assisted living community, also in Montrose, since 2018.

As a family medicine doctor for nearly 40 years in Eagle Rock, East Los Angeles and Chula Vista, Ramirez was meticulous and would take his time recording his patients’ medical history, his daughter Bonnie Denise said. He inherited his love for medicine from his father Manuel, who practiced in Guadalajara, Mexico, where Ramirez was born.

“There were several times where he was able to treat a patient and help them recover when other doctors weren’t able to,” Bonnie said. “He was really big on making sure his patients got their treatment, even if they couldn’t pay.”

One time, a patient who couldn’t afford treatment offered him a crate of oranges in lieu of payment, she said. Ramirez accepted.

“To him, it was more important that they were healed,” his daughter said.

Ramirez expressed his love through food and he enjoyed watching his family eat his delicious meals. He could make a gourmet meal out of a few ingredients and his dishes ranged from teriyaki steak to carnitas to pozole.

Ramirez passed down his Mexican family recipes and taught Bonnie Denise how to make a rice dish dubbed “Grandma Tati’s rice,” after Ramirez’s mother.

“When I finally got it right, he said, ‘Mija, you got it. The texture. The flavor,’” she said. “He enjoyed every bite.”

The last time Bonnie Denise saw her dad in person, Ramirez asked her to cook Grandma Tati’s rice for him. She promised that once he left the skilled nursing facility, she would cook it.

“I didn't get to make it for him,” she said in tears. “But I made a huge birthday dinner in his memory [on May 22]. And I made that rice.”

Ramirez is survived by his wife, Bonnie, his children, Manuel III, Michelle, Donald Hugo and Bonnie Denise, and his sisters Maggie, Elsa, Diana and Pati. He also leaves eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Lynn Naibert

83, San Diego

(Family photo)

Lynn Naibert’s life forever changed the day of his freshman orientation at the University of Iowa. It was 1954, and the young, intellectually minded student was prepared for a rigorous course of academic study. What he wasn’t prepared for was what happened next: He spotted a young blonde woman in high heels leaving a building, and he learned her name, Penelope Prentiss. Six months later, the two married.

“They were the best couple,” said his daughter, Pamela Reeb. “She was like Hollywood to him.”

Lynn and Penelope were together for 60 years until her death in 2015, and their love story is one of many achievements in a life well-lived. A beloved teacher, father, mentor and friend, Naibert died on April 20 due to complications of COVID-19. He was 83.

After their wedding, Lynn and Penelope (or Penny, as she was known) lived for five years in Quonset huts designated for married couples on the school’s campus. Naibert’s daughters, Pamela and Beverly, were both born during that period.

“They were freezing in the wintertime and so hot in the summer,” Reeb recalled, “but my mom and dad had the best time there.”

In 1959, the young family moved to San Diego, where Naibert taught English and history at Lincoln High School. He became an advocate for the school’s Latino students, who later honored him for his tireless commitment to securing scholarships and admissions to colleges and universities.

In the late 1960s, Naibert became associate dean of student affairs and financial aid at UC-San Diego, but he soon returned to his passion for teaching at city schools and working in district counseling. He retired in 1996.

Naibert read deeply and vastly on all kinds of subjects. He subscribed to the New York Times Book Review, and he loved going to the corner market on Sundays to purchase the Los Angeles Times, his daughter said. He had a particular passion for books about the Middle East, and he enjoyed bocce, golf and growing roses.

He was also a spiritual person. In 1980, Naibert visited St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown San Diego after losing a friendly handball bet to the dean of its cathedral — and he loved it so much that he never left. He found kinship in Alcoholics Anonymous, where he was a mentor and sponsor and, for a time, a meeting leader at Donovan State Prison. He also cherished his time volunteering at the San Diego Czech House, a gathering place for people of Czech and Slovak heritage.

“He was just a really thoughtful person,” Reeb said. “He was very cerebral, he had a really great sense of humor, and he was really sweet.”

Later in life, Naibert was moved by the Buddhist teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Ever curious about the world, he visited Buddhist temples and relayed his learnings to his family. His daughter said he will live on through his favorite meditative mantra: “Breathe in, breathe out.”

Naibert is survived by his children, Beverly, Pamela, Paul and Jay, as well as his seven grandchildren.

Carolyn Buhai Haas was six weeks shy of her 95th birthday when she was diagnosed with COVID-19. She died Nov. 17, just 24 hours later. "She had a good long life," said her daughter Betsy.

Carolyn battled dementia in the last seven years of her life as a resident of Marin Convalescent and Rehabilitation Hospital in Tiburon, Calif.

Before breaking her hip and later losing much of her memory, she’d maintained an independent lifestyle, participating in more than 50 educational travel programs geared toward senior citizens.

In her youth, Carolyn was an outspoken champion of civil causes. She was a member of the League of Women Voters and an ardent supporter of Hubert Humphrey, who served as vice president under President Lyndon B. Johnson.

She graduated from Smith College in 1947 and married her husband Robert the same year. After his death in 1984, she spent time living in Chicago, East Hampton, N.Y., and Santa Fe before finally settling in Marin County.

A lifelong advocate of children's education, Carolyn taught at Francis Parker School until the birth of her son, the first of five children.

She went on to coauthor three children's books, "I Saw a Purple Cow and 100 Other Recipes for Learning," "Purple Cow to the Rescue" and "A Pumpkin in a Pear Tree," and later authored two of her own: "Recipes for Fun" and "Big Book of Fun."

"She was very outgoing," said Betsy. "She was somebody who did a lot of volunteer work: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, children's museums. She was very crafty. She was [a person] who loved to do crafts but made a mess and left it for us to clean up. Anything to entertain the kids."

In addition to Betsy, Carolyn is survived by her son Thomas; another daughter, Karen; sister Sandra; nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Rosary Castro-Olega

63, Los Angeles

(Family photo)

Rosary Castro-Olega loved Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before Bryant’s last game, she bought an $800 nosebleed seat to watch No. 24 shoot hoops at Staples Center one last time. Her house was filled with Lakers merchandise and Bryant jerseys, her daughter said.

When Bryant died in a helicopter crash earlier this year, Castro-Olega was devastated.

Castro-Olega’s daughter Tiffany takes solace in thinking that now her mother gets to see her favorite player.

“She probably gets to watch him now all the time that she wants,” Tiffany said.

A longtime Los Angeles resident, Castro-Olega died on March 29 of COVID-19 complications at Panorama City Medical Center. She was 63.

Castro-Olega worked for 37 years as a registered nurse at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center before retiring. She continued to work as a traveling nurse at short-staffed hospitals in Los Angeles County after that.

“She was more than a nurse. She was more than a mom,” Tiffany said. “She was always taking care of everyone before herself.”

Castro-Olega and her twin sister, Rosalie, both dedicated their lives to nursing. Rosalie lives in Washington state but visits L.A. as a traveling nurse. She said she occasionally worked at the same hospitals as her sister, and on occasion, co-workers and patients mistakenly call her by her sister's name, a painful reminder of her sibling's death.

“I cry every day,” Rosalie said. “When I’m driving, I think about her.”

And although it hurts to hear people confuse their names, she’s also reminded of the memories the twins shared. The two attended grade school together in Los Angeles, where they were often separated for being too talkative. They graduated from Franklin High School in 1974.

“Sometimes we would get mischievous,” Rosalie said with a chuckle. “One time, she got in trouble and they taped her mouth.”

The twins had a favorite pastime: disco dancing. Even after 12-hour shifts at the hospital, they would find the energy to dance.

Castro-Olega graduated from the University of San Francisco with a bachelor's degree in nursing. She always did her job with a smile on her face, her daughter said. And, Tiffany added, her mother was open-minded.

Castro-Olega was in the middle of watching a Lakers game when her daughter Tiffany shared that her friend was actually her girlfriend.

“She was very accepting,” she said. Her mom loved the woman Tiffany married, she added. "I was very grateful to have a supportive mom.”

Castro-Olega fell ill during the last weeks of March and started having trouble breathing. It was unknown whether she became infected with the coronavirus at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, where she last worked. Her condition may have been complicated by a family history of heart trouble, Rosalie said.

Castro-Olega is survived by her three daughters, Tiffany, Tatiana and Trisha; her husband, Mario; and her five siblings, Jessie, Joe, Conchita, Rosalie and Pa.

Frederick K.C. Price

89, South Los Angeles

(Patrick Liotta / Associated Press)

The Rev. Frederick K.C. Price, a televangelist who founded the Crenshaw Christian Center, a South Los Angeles megachurch with a 10,000-seat sanctuary, died Friday from COVID-19. He was 89. His family said he had been in the hospital suffering from the virus infection for the last five weeks.

Opened in 1989 on the former site of Pepperdine University, Price’s South Vermont Avenue church was topped by a massive aluminum sphere known as the FaithDome, 320 feet in diameter and 63 feet high. At the time, newspapers proclaimed it the largest geodesic church structure in the world, and it remains a landmark visible to air travelers arriving at Los Angeles International Airport.

“He chose to build the FaithDome in the inner city, as opposed to doing it in the suburbs, because he wanted to minister to the disenfranchised,” said Angela Evans, his daughter and the church president. “He had a heart for his own people, people of color. He wanted to lift them out of their ills and raise their hopes, that in God they could be something, do something, raise their children well.”

The Crenshaw Christian Center has served as a coronavirus testing site since early in the pandemic, and recently as a vaccination site. In a statement, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti described Price as “a towering giant of our faith community in Los Angeles and an inspiring force for justice worldwide,” and added: “His ministry had local roots, but a global impact — providing care, resources, and a helping hand to the most vulnerable in our city and far beyond our borders.”

A Santa Monica native, Price met his future wife, Betty, in the early 1950s when they were both students at Dorsey High School. Price’s family says his religious awakening began when he followed her to a Christian tent revival service. He joined her at a Baptist church, and preached for years while making a living at other jobs, such as driving a truck for Coca-Cola.

“He was the consummate family man, and that’s one of the hallmarks of his ministry and his life,” Evans said. “That’s why his children are so devastated. He was everything.”

She said her father wrote more than 50 books on religious themes. Price and his wife were married for 67 years. They lost an 8-year-old son when a car struck him in 1962.

“He was generous to his children,” said Evans. “If they needed something, he didn’t say, ‘You know, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, you do the same.’”

Price founded the Crenshaw Christian Center in Inglewood in 1973, and his popularity was hugely boosted by his appearance on television and radio, including a show called “Ever Increasing Faith.”

Price was a preacher in the charismatic tradition, with a belief in miraculous healing. He also preached what some described as the “prosperity gospel,” or the idea that God rewards faith with abundance, material and otherwise.

As crowds multiplied, Price dreamed of assembling his congregation in one room. Frederick Price Jr., who took over his father’s pulpit in 2009, said his father got the idea for the FaithDome after walking into the geodesic dome that used to house the Spruce Goose seaplane in Long Beach.

“He realized we needed another building. ‘How can we get everyone in the same building? How can we get a good seat for everyone in the house?’” he said. “The geodesic dome can be pillarless. He said, ‘Yeah, this is it.’”

The geodesic dome was also much cheaper than traditional architecture would have been for a sanctuary of its size. When the FaithDome opened in 1989, The Times called it “the nation’s largest house of worship,” with a 16,000-member congregation that made it the largest Protestant church in Southern California.

“We’re located where we are, where others might not want to come in and help,” said Price Jr. “It was important to him to be that oasis in the desert, so to speak.”

The church has a school and a youth center, hosts food and blood drives, and does prison outreach. It employs about 150 people. At times, the church has boasted membership of 28,000, a number the family says encompasses parishioners throughout its history.

Price Jr. said that before the pandemic, the church had a congregation of roughly 6,000 people, a number that he estimates has grown massively during COVID-19 lockdown, with online videos reaching 20,000 to 30,000 viewers.

Besides his widow, Price Jr. and Evans, Price is survived by daughters Stephanie Buchanan and Cheryl Price, as well as 10 grandchildren.

Cindy and Ruben Trejo

47 and 51, Inglewood

When Cindy Trejo was in her early 20s, working as a receptionist at a Los Angeles hospital, she spotted a man coming out of the elevator wearing strange clothing. It was her first day on the job and she thought he was a psychiatric patient escaping, so she called security.

As it turned out, the man wasn’t a patient. He was the brother of another young man who worked at the hospital, Ruben Trejo.

Ruben appeared in the lobby and teased the new employee. He never stopped giving Cindy a hard time about that day in 1996.

Through teases and jokes, a romance blossomed. The couple married months later, according to their daughter, 22-year-old Brianna Trejo.

“They were big goofballs,” she said.

In January, Cindy, 47, and Ruben, 51, of Inglewood, died hours apart from COVID-19 in separate hospitals. Cindy and Ruben Trejo were essential workers, working at different hospitals, Cindy in administration and Ruben with mental health patients.

“Their love story was crazy,” Brianna Trejo said. “It was like they couldn’t last without each other.”

Cindy, her daughter said, was bubbly and outgoing. She was obsessed with all things Mickey Mouse and when family members saw anything Mickey-themed while out and about, they’d buy it thinking of her.

Her father was a jokester, Brianna said. He would tease Cindy or prank her often.

He loved to barbecue. And Cindy was his sous chef, Brianna said. They loved sports and had lively rivalries, especially when USC and UCLA football games were on. Cindy would don a USC jersey while Ruben wore UCLA colors. Brianna said she wasn't sure why, but her mom was born at the UCLA hospital and her father at USC's.

“It was just fun,” Brianna said. “Even during the holidays, we made it very special. It could be St. Patrick’s Day with green cupcakes. On Valentine’s Day, my mom would be getting ready for work and give us a card and piece of candy [with the note] ‘Thank you for being my Valentine.’ She made every little holiday special.”

Brianna said she and her parents all started feeling sick the first week of January. After Jan. 4, Cindy had difficulty breathing and had to be hospitalized at Little Company of Mary in Torrance.

“The last thing she told me was ‘Be good’ and we waved goodbye,” Brianna said.

Ruben drove himself to Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood on Jan. 6. “I was thinking, ‘OK, he’s just going to come home,’” Brianna said. “It didn’t happen that way.”

On the night of Jan. 7, Brianna was also hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms just floors below her father at the Inglewood hospital. Her father had no idea she was there, she said.

On Jan. 12, Ruben died. The next afternoon, Cindy died.

“I was just like, no, this can’t be happening. This isn’t real,” Brianna said.

Now Brianna says she takes comfort in knowing her parents are together.

Brianna said that while she knew her parents loved each other, she realizes the strength of their love more now that they’re gone.

“Now that they’re not here and I can see their love through the eyes of my family, it’s like, ‘Whoa, they really did love each other.’ It’s like, ‘OK, I want that.’”

In addition to Brianna, Cindy is survived by her brother and parents. Ruben is survived by seven siblings.

Joseph Fierroz

64, San Fernando

Joseph Fierroz, 64, loved the Dodgers and pizza, hanging out with the tight crew of friends he had known since childhood, playing guitar and working on his lawn.

“He loved his lawn,” said daughter Estrella Fierroz. “He canceled his first meeting with my mom because he said he had to work on his lawn.”

Fierroz was also a great dad. Whatever activities Estrella participated in as a child — softball, theater, piano — she said he was there, cheering her on.

“He showed up for everything, and now that I’m an adult I realize it was so incredible to have that support,” she said.

His daughter said Fierroz — outgoing and funny in a “Dad-jokes” kind of way — was raised in the San Fernando Valley and lived there his whole life. For 26 years he worked as a mechanic for the U.S. Postal Service in Santa Clarita. He had a lot of friends and loved to have a good time.

Grabbing pizza and a beer at a local restaurant called Tony’s Pizza was one of his favorite things to do. He also loved to go to Santa Barbara for the city’s annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta and grabbed a table at the same restaurant every year. That way, all his friends knew where to find him.

Fierroz had just started filling out his retirement paperwork in early December when he tested positive for the coronavirus. His symptoms didn’t worry his family too much at first.

“I thought, he’s healthy, he’s strong,” Estrella said. “I told him, ‘Just rest. It will be OK.’”

But Fierroz’s health soon declined, and the week before Christmas he called an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He was transferred to a rehab center on New Year’s Day and seemed to be improving.

“He was in good spirits — even the doctors told me he was a really chatty, happy person,” Estrella said. Fierroz told his mother he would be coming home soon.

But his health took another turn for the worse, and he was intubated in the last week of January. He died Jan. 30.

The family decided to have a quick burial. Fierroz had many friends who would have wanted to attend his funeral and mourn his passing, Estrella said. But with the virus still raging, the family didn’t want to encourage a gathering.

"My dad," Estrella said, "wasn’t just a number and a statistic. He was a person, and he was loved.”

Merrick “Jenks” Dowson

67, San Francisco

(Courtesy of Laura Dowson)

It’s probably not a coincidence that Merrick “Jenks” Dowson founded his own wine-importing business and developed a great love for the San Francisco Giants after emigrating from England to the Bay Area in 1976.

Fine wines and batted-ball sports were all but hereditary traits for Dowson, who was 67 when he died from complications of COVID-19 at Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center on April 10.

Dowson’s great-great-great grandfather, Sir Walter Gilbey, was at the center of England’s wine trade and founded Gilbey’s Gin in the mid-1800s. His grandfather, Edward Dowson, was an English cricketer for Cambridge University and Surrey during a first-class career that lasted 13 years.

“We still have engraved cricket bats that his grandfather used,” said Laura Dowson, Merrick’s 39-year-old daughter. “It was kind of cool to hear the stories of his famous family members. I think he was really proud of his heritage.”

Merrick Dowson was born 30 miles outside of London on Sept. 12, 1952. He attended Magdalen College School in Oxford, where he sang in the chapel choir.

He moved to the U.S. in 1976 to explore the growing California wine market, and 10 years later founded Adventures in Wine, importing fine wines from around the globe and storing bottles for customers in temperature-controlled lockers in a Daly City warehouse. He headed the company until his death.

Dowson married Sharon Ackel in 1980, and the couple had three children, Laura, Douglas and Nathan. They divorced 28 years later.

“He was quiet and soft-spoken, but he was also very personable,” Laura Dowson said. “To his family, he was sweet, thoughtful, full of good humor and had a huge heart. To his business associates, he was a man of integrity. He always did what was right. They all say he made them feel valued.”

Merrick coached several of Laura’s youth soccer teams, endearing himself to kids with his British accent and sense of humor.

“He was one of those cool dads that even your friends like,” Laura said.

Merrick became a Giants season-ticket holder in the 1980s and remained a loyal fan from their days at wind-swept Candlestick Park to their championship run at downtown Oracle Park, where the Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

“As a kid, I always remember KNBR 680 on in his car,” Laura said. “We would listen to sports talk radio driving from Mountain View to Candlestick. That was one of the highlights of his life, going to Giants games.”

So were the weekly dinner dates Merrick had with Laura and her daughters, Zoe and Cori. Laura would cook. Merrick would bring the wine. They’d watch one of their favorite British-based Netflix shows, like Downton Abbey or The Crown.

“He had lots of friends and business associates he could spend time with, but he always made time for us,” Laura said. “He would read stories to my girls, hang out and play with them. He was a really good grandpa.”

Laura believes Merrick caught the coronavirus while traveling to Los Angeles by plane in early March. He developed a fever and a cough and was admitted to the hospital on March 15.

“He had a serious case of the swine flu in 2009, and when he checked into the hospital, he said, ‘Oh, these viruses seem to really like me,’ ” Laura said. “His lungs were compromised, and the coronavirus destroys your lungs. He was unable to overcome that, even though he put up a strong fight.”

Merrick was on a ventilator for 3 ½ weeks. When his kidneys began to fail along with his lungs, doctors summoned his kids to the hospital. Laura and Nathan donned gowns, masks and gloves. Douglas joined on a FaceTime call from London.

“We were lucky to be with him when he passed—many people don’t get that option,” Laura said. “It was great to be there and talk to him one last time, tell him how much we love him and that he was a great dad.”

Francia Hernandez

77, Bakersfield

(Family photo)

If there was anything that Francia Hernandez knew how to do for her daughters, it was throw elaborate birthday parties.

Her daughter Laura Ehlers remembers her 8th birthday, which included scavenger hunts, magic keys and ruby slippers.

“We would even stage plays during the parties,” Ehlers said. “She was a good mom.”

Hernandez died of COVID-19 complications on May 18 at Adventist Health Hospital in Bakersfield, where she lived for most of her life. She was 77.

Ehlers said her mother lived with “nonfunctional, incapacitating mental illness” over the last 10 years and during other times in her life. As she remembers her mom, she’s had to grapple with those memories.

“She was always a difficult person in addition to having these good qualities,” Ehlers said.

Hernandez worked as an interior designer and also designed furniture. During some summers, Ehlers and her mother did home improvements on some of Hernandez’s boyfriend’s properties. During those times, Hernandez taught Ehlers how to lay tile and carpet, apply wallpaper and strip a kitchen and rebuild it from scratch.

“She could just take rooms and make them look gorgeous,” Ehlers said.

For Ehlers, it’s the small, positive memories that she’ll try to remember. The mother-daughter pair loved cooking, wrapping Christmas presents and doing housework together.

When Hernandez was healthy, she was vivacious and enjoyed having debates.

“She overcame, I think, a lot of her mental illness struggles with a lot of bravery and courage as a single parent,” Ehlers said.

Hernandez contracted COVID-19 at the Kingston Healthcare Center, where 18 residents have succumbed to the virus.

In addition to Ehlers, she is survived by her son-in-law, Michael Ehlers, and three grandchildren. She was estranged from another daughter, Sarah, and Sarah's son.

John Patrick Doyle

62, Stockton

(Courtesy of Grace Heller)

For more than a decade, John Patrick Doyle developed an expertise in personal protective equipment — learning the ins and outs of gear that could keep people safe.

As a senior account representative at 3M, Doyle worked with hospitals, law enforcement agencies and other organizations to make sure their personnel were properly outfitted with the company's masks, respirators and more.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Suddenly, Doyle was uniquely positioned to help amid the crisis. At first, the work was intense. The Stockton-based sales specialist found himself inundated with requests from customers for PPE and not enough supplies to meet the spiking demand.

But as the pandemic wore on — and Doyle was able to meet his clients' needs — the stress turned into satisfaction, said his sister, Kelli Johnson.

"When you have hospitals and first responders that are depending on you, to be able to come through for them — it's a rewarding experience," she said. "And it feels like you've done some good in your life."

Doyle died Dec. 21 of complications from COVID-19 at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Stockton. He was 62.

Doyle was born in Stockton to Rose Marie and Frank Doyle on Dec. 2, 1958. Growing up in the Central Valley city, he embraced music, learning to play several instruments. Eventually, Doyle mastered the saxophone — his favorite — along with the clarinet, guitar, piano and bagpipes, the latter of which was a more recent endeavor.

"He took [bagpipes] like he took everything — really seriously," said daughter Grace Heller. "Within six months, he was playing everything really well."

Heller, 32, said her father performed in several jazz and blues bands over the years, and played in one at their church, too. For decades, around Christmastime, he played carols with friends outside one of their homes on a Stockton street known for impressively decorated houses.

"Hot chocolate, live music and friends ... it was one of the best Christmas traditions," Heller said.

Doyle, a graduate of Cal State Stanislaus, began at 3M in 2001. At first, he worked in hearing conservation, a fitting discipline, given his love of music, Heller said. Later, he branched out to handle sales for a variety of PPE. As part of his work, Heller said, her father often trained people on the correct way to use various PPE. And Doyle was known to inject humor into the dry training sessions.

"He would throw in jokes, riddles and songs," she said.

Doyle worked up until his COVID-19 diagnosis in December. Heller said that in recent months he had expressed pride for the work he was doing to keep people safe during the pandemic.

"He would smile," Heller said, "and he would say, 'Yeah, I talked to this person, in this hospital, in this city, and they were calling to thank me for the supplies coming in.'"

Doyle is survived by his wife, Martha Suarez Doyle, whom he married in 1986. He also is survived by daughters Annye Doyle, Jacquelyn Doyle and Heller; and siblings Ken Doyle, Mike Doyle and Johnson.

Joe Luna

38, Los Angeles

Los Angeles comedian Joe Luna died from COVID-19 just days after being hospitalized and documenting his horrific battle with the virus on social media.

The comic from East L.A., who performed under the stage name Joe El Cholo, died at an L.A. hospital on Nov. 23 at the age of 38.

Luna first opened up about his novel coronavirus journey llast month on Instagram, revealing that he had been suffering from chest pains and pneumonia.

"I’m a double amputee and I’m a diabetic, so I’m dealing with a lot." Luna told viewers.

He later added: “Wow this is no joke and especially if you are diabetic it will rain hard on your parade. And no i didn’t get it from going out and performing. It was due to close contact.”

“Please take care of yourself,” he added in a followup video. “Don’t think that you can take care of it on your own. ... If you think that COVID is a joke — if you think that this won’t be you — then trust me, because it hits everybody different. ... I got hit with it very severe.”

His last video was filmed the day he died from his hospital bed in a COVID-19 unit, which he said had unsanitary conditions. Luna speculated that he contracted the virus at his mother-in-law’s house, adding that his partner and kids fell ill as well.

“This is horrible, guys,” he said while wearing an oxygen mask in the Instagram clip. “My pneumonia got very bad. Everything has just been ... in a downfall right now.”

Known for his witty commentary on cholo culture, Luna grew up in East L.A. and Fontana and performed at local clubs such as Hollywood’s Improv and Pasadena’s Ice House.

“I’m gonna live forever through my videos, through my comedy, through my stuff,” Luna said in a 2018 interview. “Then my grandkids ... will always know when they hear my voice. They’ll always know what’s up.”

Ed Pearl

88, Los Angeles

Ed Pearl, who owned the landmark folk and blues hot spot the Ash Grove in the 1960s before briefly relocating it to the Santa Monica Pier, has died from complications of COVID-19 and pneumonia.

Pearl died Feb. 7 in a Los Angeles hospital, his daughter, Jolie Pearl, said. Pearl, who had been living in an assisted living facility with Alzheimer’s disease for about a year, was 88.

The soft-spoken East L.A. native brought raw blues and even rawer Appalachian folk music to the heart of Los Angeles, when the Ash Grove was housed on Melrose Avenue in what’s now West Hollywood. The venue became a training ground for artists such as Ry Cooder, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt.

The club also housed a record store and a music school.

Pearl believed part of the club’s appeal was that it showcased a variety of regional and ethnic music, from gospel to jazz, Jewish to Latino, and presented it with respect. The club “educated a lot of people to the cultures of America,” Pearl told The Times in 1993. “It legitimized the American potpourri and gave it a dignified stage.”

Unabashed about his politics, Pearl, who helped found the Peace & Freedom Party in 1967 as the Vietnam War deepened, made enemies along the way. He long believed that a series of arson-related fires at his club were attempts to stop his social activism.

Under Pearl’s direction, the Ash Grove was billed as the “West Coast university of folk music.” Hundreds of artists appeared there, ranging from New Orleans zydeco master Clifton Chenier to Jim Croce, Johnny Cash and the Byrds.

The Ash Grove hosted events and was a meeting place for people involved in a variety of causes, including the emerging civil rights movement. It served as the center of Los Angeles’ highly influential folk music scene when it was in West Hollywood from 1958 until the 1973, when a fire closed it there for good.

Born Edwin Morton Pearl on May 24, 1932, Pearl grew up in Boyle Heights. He was the middle of five children born to parents who had both fled the violent attacks on Jews in Russia in the early 1900s. The two met at a Jewish youth social club in Los Angeles. His father, a tool and die maker, was an intellectual who was not religious, though his mother was.

“Growing up in Boyle Heights, there was a lot of different racial and ethnic communities there,” Pearl’s daughter Jolie said. “He had a lot of different kinds of friends, and that set the stage for him to be open to other cultures. I got the feeling that he always enjoyed music. He was curious about life and determined to make his own way — through music or social activism.”

His older sister, Bernice, hosted the Ash Grove’s predecessors — the famed hootenannies — at her home in the early 1950s. Pearl was attending UCLA at the time and was a member of the university’s folk song club that produced concerts, including Pete Seeger’s appearance at the university while he was blacklisted.

According to letters reviewed by his daughter, Pearl would stay up all night having discussions and playing music instead of studying. He ultimately dropped out and convinced several family members to help him finance the Ash Grove, which began as a coffeehouse before evolving into a shrine for the emerging folk and rock musicians of the 1960s.

After years of delay, the club finally reopened on the renovated Santa Monica Pier in 1996, but its beachside tenure was short-lived. It shut in 1997 when the city evicted the beleaguered nightspot.

His venue eventually lived on as the Ash Grove Foundation, a philanthropic organization that stages concerts, lectures and community performances to support young artists.

Pearl is survived by his daughter and granddaughter, Ari Pearl-Butler, as well as Bernie Pearl and two other brothers, Stanley Pearl and Sherman Pearl.

Robert Mendoza

43, Oceanside

(Family photo)

When Robert Mendoza graduated from high school at 17, he offered his mom a choice.

She could give her legal consent for him to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps as a minor. Or, when he turned 18, he would move from Texas to San Diego and enlist without her blessing.

Despite Yolanda’s fears, she signed the papers, helping her son fulfill a dream he’d had since middle school. Mendoza was a selfless person, his family said, someone who constantly insisted that he was willing to put his life on the line for his country.

He survived the battlefields, but not COVID-19. Mendoza was 43 when he died April 20 from complications of the virus.

Mendoza served in the military for nearly 13 years -- eight in active duty and nearly five in the reserves. His deployments included stints in Iraq and Afghanistan, eventually earning a rank of staff sergeant.

Mendoza suffered a serious injury while he was stationed in Japan, forcing doctors to insert a titanium rod in his leg. In order to remain in the Marines, he had to perform a series of tests to demonstrate that he could handle the rigors of military life, including running a mile in a set period of time. He trained and barely made the cut. His mother said it underscored how determined he was to succeed.

“He did what he could to live his life to the fullest,” she said.

Mendoza loved to sew and repair things. So after returning to California, he opened a tactical gear store in Oceanside for military personnel and police officers. He also had a son, Christian. Working on his own time allowed him to be active in his son’s life.

Yolanda said it’s unclear how her son contracted the coronavirus, though she believes it may have been from a customer or even an encounter during a delivery. His first symptoms, which struck Easter weekend, were headaches. Then he began losing his sense of taste and smell.

He tested positive for the virus and was admitted to Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside. Within days, he was transferred to intensive care and placed on a ventilator. A week later, he died.

Mass-gathering restrictions forced the family to have a small funeral, where they viewed the gravesite from a distance. There were no military honors, such as a 21-gun salute –because of these restrictions.

“My son served in three wars and he had his life cut short by this virus,” Yolanda said. “He deserved so much. Robert was loved by so many people. He was a good guy, he loved his country and was willing to die for it.”

Mendoza is survived by his 9-year-old son, Christian; his parents, Yolanda and Robert; and a sister, Patricia.

Winfred Grissom

91, Eureka

(Family photo)

The sound of “paypee!” echoed through the streets of Eureka for decades. Winfred Grissom or Winnie, as he was known to family and friends, would walk through the northern California city’s historic downtown making his rounds, delivering the local Times Standard Paper.

Sometimes he would yell out the headlines, but usually, “paypee,” (his word for paper), would suffice. Everyone in Eureka knew it meant Winnie was on his way.

“He was the old town, downtown paperman,” said longtime friend Leroy Richmond Zerlang.

While Grissom was a dedicated paperman, he wasn’t actually able to read, at least not until much later in his life. Born in Arkansas in 1929, Grissom was seen as “slow,” and teachers lost patience with him easily, deeming him incapable of learning to read or write.

During adolescence, Grissom, his twin brother Wilson and their mother headed west to Eureka. They landed in a yellow house with a white picket fence, where Grissom lived into his late 80s.

Despite his setbacks in school, Grissom, who also had a speech impediment and stutter, was determined to make his way in the world. When a job delivering the local paper opened up, he applied and was accepted.

Grissom loved the social aspect of the work and he enjoyed the purpose and direction a job gave him. He would walk for miles around Eureka and delivered the Times Standard for 45 years.

“I remember first hearing his voice echoing through the alleyways of downtown Eureka, delivering the paper,” said Dalene Zerlang, Leroy’s wife. She developed a particularly special relationship with Grissom, bringing him into the family. His twin brother moved to Redding, CA, So Grissom became a regular fixture at Zerlang gatherings.

By 1994 Grissom was ready for a change in routine-- the paper route had begun to get a bit tiring, so the Zerlangs hired him as a docent at the museum they run, the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum.

But part of the new job required basic arithmetic, adding up the money visitors donated. So, in his late 60s, under Dalene’s tutelage Grissom began to learn math. He was also inspired to start reading and began taking lessons at Eureka Adult School.

“He is proof that you can keep learning well into your 80’s” said Dalene.

Grissom worked as a docent at the museum for over 26 years. “People would come in all the time and say, ‘Winnie! We remember you from the paper route!’” said Leroy, “everybody loved Winnie.”

As he neared his 90th birthday, Grissom and his caregivers decided it was best that he move out of the yellow house and into the nearby Alder Bay assisted living home. “He liked it there,” said Dalene, “he had friends and loved showing us his room at Alder Bay, he felt comfortable.”

Grissom’s work as a docent stopped but Dalene would still go pick him up and take him over to the museum to walk around and say hi to his friends.

While the calls of “paypee!” no longer echo through the streets of Eureka, and Grissom isn’t at the door of the Maritime museum warmly welcoming guests, his love can still be felt. “He was an icon and a legend in Eureka,” said Lerory.

“He was honorable and honest,” Dalene added, “I really miss him.”

Grissom died June 1 from complications related to COVID-19, the day after his 91st birthday. He was the fourth person to die who contracted the virus at Alder Bay. Grissom is survived by his many nephews, nieces and cousins. .

Having given her son up for adoption amid the alcoholism that plagued her in early adulthood, Mary Joanne Rosario became a mother to almost everyone she met the rest of her life.

She made a slew of lifelong friends, including Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, while running the first-aid station at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

After following Ellis to Southern California, Rosario nurtured patients and employees for nearly two decades while managing a family medical practice in Orange.

She straightened out scores of inmates as part of a Catholic worker detention ministry, her tough-love approach forcing criminals to confront the consequences of their actions.

Coming full circle, Rosario reconnected with her own son long before she died at age 87 from COVID-19 complications on Aug. 10 at New Orange Hills nursing home in Orange. Michael Kaesbauer handled his mother’s ashes at the funeral.

“It was very touching,” said Dr. John B. Luster, Rosario’s boss at the family medical practice, who also considered her a mother figure.

The woman universally known as “Chicago Mary” didn’t always display a tender touch. She was fun-loving, hard-partying and brutally frank, her bluntness partly a function of having grown up in a small Iowa town during the Great Depression and heavy drinking. It was a trait that many found endearing.

“She had no problem speaking her mind,” Joanne Budka-Clines, who worked with Rosario at the first-aid station, wrote in a tribute after her death. “If she didn’t like you, she let you know.”

Rosario befriended Ellis after treating one of his friends during a Major League Baseball game, prompting the pitcher to bring the nurse a dozen roses. Though they weren’t romantically involved, she would sometimes fly to meet Ellis in different cities when he traveled, and she loved to cook for him and other players.

After Ellis completed rehabilitation for his own alcoholism, he gave Rosario an ultimatum to do the same or he wouldn’t speak to her again. She complied before moving to Southern California to be near Ellis, who counseled prisoners with addictions after his baseball career.

Not long after meeting Luster, Rosario suggested that she become his office manager.

“When Mary looked at you and said that,” Luster said, recalling her huge smile and commanding presence, “that was it.”

Rosario became deeply involved in Alcoholics Anonymous and often upstaged the priests who accompanied her on prison visits during her ministry work. Recalling a story that was told at her funeral, Luster said Rosario would often enter a room and tell the prisoners, “The only problem with you guys is you’re all liars.”

After a hush fell over the room, the priests mortified by the possibility of unrest, one prisoner after another would confess to his sin. At the end of the sessions, the prisoners would line up for blessings not from the priests but from Rosario.

“She’d give them the blessing,” Luster said, “and say, ‘Now, don’t come back!’ and slap them on the cheek and send them out the door.”

Over the years, some prisoners would run into her at a store or at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting upon their release, telling her that her straight talk had saved them. It was just Chicago Mary, being a mother once more.

Rosario is survived by her son and a brother, Joe.

Deborah Elizabeth Gallagher

96, Sacramento

(Family photo)

It was always easy to spot Deborah Elizabeth Gallagher -- she liked to stand out, starting with her car.

“She drove an orange Volkswagen bug with flames on the sides,” said Gallagher’s son, Charles. “She bought it from a high-schooler who was a neighbor.”

Gallagher didn’t mind the flames, on the contrary, the car matched her personality — fiery, fun and vivacious.

“She loved wearing red,” said Charles. “She didn’t want to be seen in anything that wasn’t showy.”

Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1923, Gallagher was one of seven children. Raised Catholic, she and her sisters attended Notre Dame Academy. With her jet-black hair and bright blue eyes, Gallagher was voted the “Irish Colleen” of Toledo by the local newspaper -- an award given to the girl who looked “most Irish” in honor of St. Patrick’s day.

In 1944, she married Harold F. Gallagher, an engineer and Naval officer, and they started a family. Because of Harold’s career, the Gallaghers moved often, but their home base eventually became Idaho Falls, Idaho, where they lived for 45 years. It was there that she picked up the flaming VW bug, and several unlikely friends.

“My mom had really close relationships with older people and was connected to them. We called them her, ‘little old lady friends,’” said Charles.

Gallagher enjoyed the company of the older residents. She liked to help them with their grocery shopping or just take them around town.

“She really believed older people were worthwhile and found them to be so much fun, plus, they needed help, and she had time,” Charles said.

Gallagher would often enlist the support of her seven children too.

“She always had us helping, bringing meals over to the elderly or shoveling their walks and mowing lawns,” Charles said.

Despite her affinity for octogenarians, Gallagher felt youthful. “She was very young at heart -- she never thought she was old,” said Charles.

Six years ago, when Gallagher was 90, she relocated to Sacramento, where two of her sons, Pat and Charles, live. “She always wanted to come back to California,” said Charles, “she hated the cold.”

She moved into an assisted living center in Sacramento and quickly got to work befriending the other residents. But Gallagher refused to see herself as a senior. Accustomed to being the one taking care of others, Gallagher was resistant to being on the receiving end of caregiving.

“She told my brother and I, ‘I don’t need anyone to take care of me,’” said Charles. “So, at the assisted living home we said, ‘Mom, these people are not taking care of you, they are your friends.’”

And Gallagher made it her mission to befriend everyone. “She was a get-up-and-go gal,” he added. “She thought she was 30 years younger than she actually was.” Her vim led to quite a few accidents. “There were a few falls in the last couple years where she broke her wrist, neck and hip. She was like Evel Knievel.”

Pat said when he visited his mother, he’d often bring along Werther’s butterscotch candies, her favorite. “I would open them for her, that was part of our afternoons together. We would walk around the building together too, to keep her muscles strong.”

But in early March, Gallagher contracted COVID-19.

“I got special permission to go in before she died,” said Pat. “Having me in the room was good for her, knowing she wasn’t alone.”

Before she died, Gallagher had made several trips to the hospital, and the last time Charles saw his mother, she was being helped into an ambulance. Despite the difficult situation, he knew it was one last opportunity for her to have a ride in an attention-grabbing vehicle.

“I told the people driving the ambulance to put the lights on and the siren. I said, ‘My mom likes to be the center of attention. Give her a drive she will remember.’”

Deborah Elizabeth Gallagher died from complications related to COVID-19 on April 22 at age 96. She is survived by her seven children, nine grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

James Lanier Craig

64, Santa Paula

On sunny weekend afternoons, James Lanier Craig liked to visit Flight 126 Cafe, one of his favorite breakfast spots in his hometown of Santa Paula. He would order pancakes and eggs, sip a cup of hot black tea and watch the planes fly in and out of the town’s small airport. It was the perfect spot to meet up with friends, which Craig, a social and outgoing man, did often.

“The staff absolutely loved him. Everyone loved him,” said Flight 126 owner Evie Kramer. “He was truly cherished in this community.”

Craig was deeply involved in Santa Paula. He volunteered for 15 years as the football coach at Santa Paula High School and went on to work as an announcer and statistician at school basketball games.

He was an active member of the local Masonic community and spent 38 years working in the Santa Paula oil industry as an oil gauger.

In his free time, Craig would photograph the Ventura County landscapes surrounding his home.

“We loved to go down to the Ventura beach at sunset to take photos,” said his son Jason Craig. “The tranquility of the beach helped him relax, but he didn’t like the sand!”

Familial love was a driving force in Craig’s life. He was a father to three and grandfather to 10. To his youngest two granddaughters, Adelle, 3, and Madelyn, 1, he was known as Papa.

“Adele would come over and say, ‘Papa, sit,’” said Craig’s wife of 45 years, Martha Jo Craig. “She would sit on his lap and inspect his arm for ‘owies,’ and he would just sit there for ages and let Adele put Band-Aids all over his arms, and make her laugh.”

Those who knew him said Craig treated everyone in his life with that same love, affection and patience, as though they were part of the Craig clan too. Many people outside of his immediate family saw him as a paternal figure.

“He was always so positive with the kids he was coaching,” said Santa Paula High School football coach Mike Montoya. “During a game, he would often tell them, ‘The next play is the most important play,'” to buoy their spirits.

And it’s that closeness so many in Santa Paula already miss. Craig died May 9 at Ventura County Memorial Hospital of complications related to COVID-19. He was 64.

Born in 1956 in Santa Paula to Wilford and Martha Craig, James Craig spent his life serving the Ventura County community he called home. His mother and his wife had the same name and were known as Big Martha and Little Martha.

“We met when I was 17 and he was 18, the summer after he graduated high school,” his wife said. “I met him in August, and we were married by July the following year — that was it. We had a wonderful life together.”

In many ways it was Craig’s ability to blend in that made him stand out. “He got along with everyone,” she said. “People just wanted to be around him.”

His own children experienced that warmth throughout their lives. “As a father growing up, he was a good and fair disciplinarian,” said his daughter Melissa, mother to Adele and Madeline. “He never broke a spirit. He would never make you feel bad about yourself.”

And Craig’s surefire way to lift his loved ones spirits? A hug. “I loved those big bear hugs so much,” his wife said. “He was a gentle giant. He is so missed.”

Craig is survived by his wife, Martha Jo Craig; children Jason Craig, Josh Craig and Melissa Lewis; and his 10 grandchildren.

Tony M. Sanchez

73, Tulare

In California’s Central Valley, where he spent more than 30 years as a registered nurse and nurse practitioner, Tony M. Sanchez was so well known that once, two states away in New Mexico, when Sanchez’s younger son, Jon, stopped to help a stranger fix a flat tire, the stranger reared up from his labors and said, “Hey, aren’t you Tony Sanchez’s son?”

Tony Sanchez was the man people went to if they needed help. “If someone came to us and didn’t have much,” Jon said, “they certainly went away with something.”

Sanchez died July 30 of COVID-19. He was 73.

In June, Sanchez and his wife, Lydia, began quarantining after Sanchez had treated a patient who later tested positive for the virus. At first, he used the time to work in his garden. But then he developed a fever and went to the hospital. So did his wife. Lydia Sanchez recovered and went home, but Sanchez’s medical knowledge told him he would not be pulling through.

Sanchez was born in Hanford, Calif. He had wanted to be a doctor, but he married young, and with a family to support, he devoted himself instead to nursing. He built up a thriving practice of loyal patients in Tulare and Visalia. “We always called him a workaholic,” said Jon.

When Sanchez did relax, it was to play golf, or go backpacking in the Sierra. “He shared his love of nature with us,” Jon recalled. “We often laughed at my father because he was very particular about the boots he wore. He would spend days oiling his boots and then it turned out he missed a spot.”

At Kings River one summer, Sam, the family Doberman, leaped in the water and didn’t come up, “and my dad just jumped right into the river and got the dog. That was very heroic for me.”

In early 2020, Sanchez sold his practice. His family was looking forward to his retirement — no more missed family celebrations, no more missed nights of sleep. But Sanchez had committed to seeing patients through their transition to new providers — and one of those patients was carrying the fatal virus.

As a young man, Jon said, Sanchez had been drafted during the Vietnam War. When news came of a troop drawdown, Sanchez and his comrades were asked whether they wanted to go into combat. Sanchez, with his young family, opted for Germany, his son said, where he became an Army medic. But it haunted him.

“On his dying bed, he said that he regretted not going with his friends,” Jon remembers. “I was always very proud of his service. … I said, can I put recognition for your service on your headstone? He said, no, I don’t want it because I don’t deserve it. I chose not to go to Vietnam. And my friends were killed.”

Toward the end, Sanchez’s wife and children — a daughter and two sons — were given five minutes each to say goodbye in person.

Jon stayed up the whole night before, trying to decide what to say in those scant moments. At his dad’s bedside, “we were both in tears the whole time. … He said, I want you to take care of your mom. I asked him for forgiveness and he asked me for forgiveness and we said we loved each other and that was it.”

Terrell Young

52, Murrieta

Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Terrell Young served his department for 15 years. (Riverside County Sheriff’s Department)

Melvin Young said his older brother, Terrell, had a strong protective instinct.

Terrell would always extend his arm across Melvin’s chest to shield him anytime he made a turn while driving around their hometown of Beaumont, Texas. It made sense, then, that he would go on to join the Marines and become a sheriff’s deputy, Melvin said.

“I think that’s probably what he was put on Earth to do, is to keep people safe,” he said. “There’s nothing that he’s ever done that hasn’t been for other people.”

On April 2, Young became the first of two Riverside County deputy sheriffs to die from COVID-19. He was a 15-year veteran of the department, where his most recent posting was the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center near his home in Murrieta.

Young, 52, likely contracted COVID-19 from an inmate he transported from the Byrd center to the Riverside University Health System Medical Center, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Melvin said he spoke to his brother while he was sitting with the inmate in the hospital. “He was like, ‘Oh, I’m sitting here with this real cool dude,’” he said. “‘He made some mistakes in his life, but I think it’s going to be OK.’”

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco described Young as a “fantastic role model” for his children, who “were involved in basketball and music, and could count on their dad for help.”

One of Young’s sergeants said he was well-liked, Bianco said. “Employees knew they could always depend on Terrell for good advice,” he said. “He was known for his smile and he will be deeply missed.”

Young’s aunt, Jackie Seals of Beaumont, described her nephew as a “sweet young man” who loved his family and going to church.

“When he laughed, he laughed from his soul,” she said. Seals helped look after Young and his brother after their mother was killed by a drunk driver when Terrell was 11.

Their father, who lives in Portland, Ore., was a member of the Air Force. As a toddler, Young picked up some Japanese when the family was stationed in Okinawa, his brother said.

Young enlisted in the Marines after high school, and served for eight years before getting a bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix, where he later earned a master’s degree in business administration. He spent one year as a stockbroker and seven years as a college career counselor before deciding police work was the best use of his military training and desire to be a public servant, his brother said.

Young’s mindset when making decisions was first to do no harm. “Does it hurt your family? Are you happy doing it? Will it hurt other people?” Melvin said. “He had this sort of Hippocratic oath approach to what he did in absolutely everything.”

Young is survived by his wife Marie of 31 years and four children.

Joni Berry

89, Los Angeles

(Nathan Sternfeld)

When Stephen Maitland-Lewis was asked to describe his late wife, one word came to mind.

“Philanthropy,” Maitland-Lewis said. “She basically spent all her life giving back.”

A prominent leader of several charitable and non-profit organizations in Los Angeles, Joni Berry died June 28 from complications of COVID-19. She was 89.

Born in Chicago in 1930, Berry was adopted by Joseph and Inez Eichenbaum at just five days old. When she was eight, her family moved to California, where her father worked as a real estate developer and her parents co-founded the Joseph K. and Inez Eichenbaum Foundation, which has since donated millions to charity. The family lived in Beverly Hills and Palm Springs, and Berry graduated from Beverly Hills High School. She was, at one time, a state bowling champion.

As the Eichenbaum’s only child, Berry eventually became president of their foundation. She endowed several projects, including the Joseph and Inez Eichenbaum Wellness Center at the Jewish Family Services in Los Angeles, and the Eichenbaum Laboratory of Alzheimer’s Disease at Tel-Aviv University.

“From a very young age, she realized she was greatly blessed,” Maitland-Lewis said. “She reckoned that [her adoption] was like a crapshoot: she got parents who were so wonderful, and she was motivated to give back.”

But Berry had another passion: dance. As a toddler, she joined Merriel Abbott’s Chicago Baby Professionals, a classical dance studio. She later went on to dance with beloved stars like Sammy Davis, Jr., Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, her personal favorite.

Berry’s love for dance remained throughout her life, both on stage and in her philanthropic work. For 24 years, she served as president of the Professional Dancers Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting dancers in need.

In 2019, she and her PDS successor, actress Mitzi Gaynor, were awarded the Medal of Honor from the Actor’s Fund in recognition of their organizations’ decades-long partnership. It was, Maitland-Lewis said, one of Berry’s proudest achievements.

Berry was also a founding member and former president of SHARE Inc., which works to improve the lives of developmentally disabled, abused and neglected children. She received that organization's Shining Spirit Award in 2019 in honor of her more than 60 years of service.

Berry’s first husband, Jody Berry, died in 2005, and she established the Jody Berry Theatre at RiverPark Center in Owensboro, Ky. in his memory. Berry met Maitland-Lewis, an author and attorney, at the Friars Club of Beverly Hills, and they were married in 2009.

And although Maitland-Lewis said he’s proud of his wife’s many achievements, it was the memory of their trips to the Satchmo SummerFest jazz festival in New Orleans, where they had a second home, that made him most tender.

“Joni absolutely loved that,” he said. “The whole thing: the music, the friends. She liked to walk in the French Quarter. Some of our happiest times were spent in New Orleans.”

Berry’s many years of philanthropy and volunteerism were also recognized by the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles and the City of Beverly Hills.

“I was blessed to be her husband,” Maitland-Lewis said.

Joni Berry is survived by her husband; a son, Tony; stepchildren Douglas, Howard, Toby, Benjamin and Victoria; and five step-grandchildren.

Carmella Cristofaro

88, Mission Viejo

Whenever Dave Cristofaro has an important task he’d rather set aside for a while, he’ll remember the voice, his mother’s voice, and then grit his way through whatever has to be finished.

“She would just never allow us to quit in the middle of anything,” Dave said of his mother, Carmella Cristofaro, whether it was finishing a baseball season or a dance class.

Carmella didn’t just preach it; she enforced it.

“My sister, Cheryl, and I were on a swim team, and we used to hide from our mom in the morning before practice. She would just hunt us down. She'd be like, ‘Get in the car. You are going to finish this season. You are not going to be the kind of people who start and don't finish things.’"

It had an impact. Cheryl wound up being a success in four sports. Dave was more rebellious, however -- playing Led Zeppelin on his drum set rather than practicing the piano, and joining the plumbers union instead of going to college and becoming a doctor.

But that summer, Dave wound up doing the most taxing of plumbing chores, such as digging ditches. He remembered co-workers asking him what he had done to aggravate the boss. It was so exhausting that Dave finally changed his mind and headed off to college, going on to become a business owner and market researcher.

Years later, he would find out that his mother and his dad, Dan, leaned on the boss to make sure he wore Dave out that summer.

Cristofaro was living at a Mission Viejo assisted living facility when she was diagnosed in January with COVID-19. She was hospitalized and died six days later, on Jan. 19. She was 88.

Cristofaro was born in 1933 in Cincinnati. By then, nearly half of the banks in the U.S. had failed during the Great Depression, and unemployment climbed as high as 80% in Ohio's bigger cities. It had a lifelong impact on Cristofaro.

“Everything that she would get or buy, she always took really good care of it,” Dave said. “I'd give her a pair of sunglasses, and she would never leave them out of the case. She always taught me that it was really important to take care of the things that you spend money on, and that stuck with me.”

Cristofaro also handled the family’s finances, and no one was above reproach when it came to balancing the family budget.

“She’d call up the bank and say, ‘You’re off on our checking account by 20 cents,” he said. “And she’d be right.”

Andy Marin

38, Porterville

(Family photo)

For Andy Marin, weekends were for barbecues and family.

Blasting his “lowrider oldies” playlist, Marin would spend the weekend cooking up tri-tip and ribs for his family and neighbors. After he was done, he’d sit back and watch with a smile on his face as his wife and children ate his delectable meals.

“It didn’t matter how long he was away from home, he’d spend his weekends barbecuing,” his wife Krystal Magno said. “That was how he unwinded.”

Andres “Andy” Marin III died on July 1 of COVID-19 complications at Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville. He was 38.

From tacos on his flat-top grill to Filipino lumpias and pancet, Marin always knew the way to people’s hearts: his cooking. When Magno took lunch breaks during her 12-hour shifts at the Sierra View emergency room where she worked, he’d feed everyone there, she said.

“What’s our husband bringing us for dinner today?” her coworkers would ask jokingly.

This year, Marin began living his dream of being a long-haul truck driver. After working with truck drivers for much of his life at a shipping and receiving company, he took on this new challenge to help his family. He wanted his wife to focus on nursing school.

Marin loved being on the road and taking in the scenery. One of his first road trips on the job took him across the country to Florida. He came back inspired (and with some trinkets).

“He wanted to see and absorb as much as he could,” Magno said.

Marin started developing COVID symptoms during a two-week work trip in early June, when he started having headaches and a light cough.

“We were always afraid it would be me who would get it,” Magno said, referring to her job at a hospital emergency room. “I had seen so many people recover from it; I never thought it would kill one of us.”

Marin later went on a second trip and cut it short after experiencing body aches, nausea and vomiting. On June 15, his oxygen levels dropped, and he was admitted to the hospital. He died 16 days later, after being diagnosed with both bacterial and viral pneumonia. He spent his last days intubated.

“It was a roller coaster ride from the day he was admitted to the day he passed,” Krystal said.

Marin is survived by his wife, Krystal, children Karrie, Andres IV and Alyssa, his parents Maribel and Andres II, his grandmothers, Jovita Marin and Graciela Mercado, and his sister, Lorraine.

“I cry tears of happiness because so many people made it and with them, a little bit of Andy [does] too,” Magno said. “One victory is a victory for all of us.”

Marc Wilmore

57, Claremont

He lived in pain for decades, but Marc Wilmore will be best remembered for the many laughs he brought to people over the course of a long, successful comedy career.

“He was such a funny guy, so funny and just genuine,” Wilmore’s brother, Larry, said. “He kept it 100% real before I even knew what that was.”

A 10-time Emmy Award-nominated producer and writer, Marc Wilmore died on Jan. 30 of complications from COVID-19.

He was best known for his work on “The Simpsons,” “In Living Color” and “F Is for Family.” He was 57.

Wilmore’s death came a little more than a week after he was found to have contracted the virus. It ended a long stretch of health issues related to a kidney transplant in the 1990s.

Speaking on his podcast “Black on the Air,” Larry — himself a well-known comedian, actor and producer — said his younger brother’s passing brought sorrow but also comfort.

“He had been in a lot of pain for a number of years,” Larry said. “This is a very, very sad occasion for the entire family. But, in some ways, you know, I am relieved that my brother is not in pain anymore.”

Born in Fontana, Wilmore began his career as a stand-up comedian before becoming a writer for “In Living Color” in 1990. He later joined the show’s cast and became well known for his comic impressions.

Wilmore went on to write for “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “The PJs,” an animated series created by Larry and comedian Eddie Murphy.

A few weeks after his death, the producers of “The Simpsons” dedicated an episode to Wilmore’s memory, using an animated depiction of him.

The social media reaction to his passing was swift and heartfelt. Michael Price, who worked with Wilmore on three different shows, called him “irreplaceable.” Writer Henry Gammill said Wilmore was “empathetic beyond measure, not to mention the funniest one in the room every damn time.”

“If there’s a heaven, I know he’s in it ’cause he was one of the warmest, loveliest men I ever met,” television comedy writer Mike Reiss said in a YouTube video.

Larry, who shared a bedroom with his brother growing up, called him a “pure soul” and “a special, special guy.”

Among others, Wilmore is survived by his wife of more than 27 years, Soumaya, and their two children, Anika and Brendi.

Walter White

95, Rancho Mirage

They were married for 72 years, an unbreakable courtship that began for Walter White in Palm Springs in 1948 when he first noticed Mary Anne Jorgenson.

They both had arrived that night at the Chi Chi Club with someone else.

“My mom and dad met on the dance floor, and that was pretty much it,” his son Randall White said. “They were inseparable after that and married the next year.”

A World War II veteran, White received two Purple Hearts and returned from his stint in the Marines with shrapnel in his leg.

That souvenir remained for the balance of his life, which ended Feb. 7 when White died from complications of COVID-19 in Rancho Mirage. He was 95.

Born in Hayward, White was severely burned by boiling water in a kitchen accident early in life. His father, Robert, died in 1929, the same year the Great Depression began.

To survive, White and other members of his family did odd jobs, including caring for seniors and working as fruit pickers throughout Northern California. They hunted and fished for their food.

During the war, White was evacuated twice because of his injuries but both times returned to the front lines in the South Pacific. He was recognized for actions above the call of duty on Guam when he carried wounded Marines to safety.

Upon his return to the States, White attended Compton College and USC, becoming a lifelong Trojan fan. He worked in sales for years, mostly in office supplies before finishing in the insurance business.

Primary among White’s passions was restoring vintage cars, a love that dated to his purchase of a 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe shortly after he was married.

“When we were kids, he would buy and sell cars all the time,” Randall White recalled. “He had everything from Jaguars to Model A’s to everything you can imagine from the ’30s and ’40s and into the ’50s.”

White’s last such car was a 1950 Studebaker that his son now owns.

Years after they were married, White and his wife brought a second home in Powers Lake, N.D., where they would spend their summers. There, he found another 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe, which became his North Dakota car.

White collected coins, loved music and, along with Mary Anne, became “grandparents” to dozens of members of their extended family, the couple’s homes in California and North Dakota were the centers of many celebrations.

White also raised horses — Arabians and quarter horses — at a ranch he started with a friend in Indio. That business began with a stallion named El Greco. White also was active in the Coachella Valley community as part of various charitable and service organizations.

And, of course, he and Mary Anne never stopped dancing.

“They were members of every dance group that existed out in the desert,” Randall said. “When they would go to North Dakota, they were known as ‘The Dancers.’ Any event that went on, they attended, and they danced. They would dance regardless of whether anyone else was dancing.”

Cari Ramirez

45, Redlands

As an elementary school teacher and mother to a young son with autism, Cari Ramirez believed strongly in an individual approach to education.

“She was very innovative in her teaching philosophy,” longtime friend Emily Bradford-Lewis said. “She hated putting kids in a box: ‘You have to learn to read this way, you have to learn to do math this way’ — she hated that.”

Ramirez began teaching in the Redlands Unified School District in 1997 and was a kindergarten teacher at Judson & Brown Elementary School. She was known for her vivacious personality and a boisterous laugh that you could hear “from two blocks down,” her daughter Alexa said.

“You could put her in a room full of strangers and she’d make friends with practically everyone,” Alexa said.

When Alexa was 7, they began visiting Mexico regularly for weekend road trips; her mother liked it so much that she eventually bought a condo in Rosarito. A former cheerleader and water polo and volleyball player who grew up in Idaho, Ramirez enjoyed “anything with the ocean,” Alexa said.

But Ramirez’s biggest passion was education, and it was her dream to open a school for children with special needs in Mexico, where her husband, Jesus, lives and where she split her time. Ramirez named the school Azulado and wrote on its website:

“We are committed to allowing every student, especially children with special needs, a school where they are not confined to curriculum contained in a workbook, but rather driven by their own curiosity and desire to understand the world around them.”

Bradford-Lewis said Azulado, in Rosarito, had obtained nonprofit status and was set to open when the pandemic hit.

“With Cari passing away,” she said, “its future is in limbo.”

Ramirez and her parents, Roger and Mary Tomlinson, contracted COVID-19 after a Thanksgiving trip to Mexico. Ramirez died at Redlands Community Hospital on Dec. 11, at age 45. Her father died later that month.

Ramirez is survived by her mother, who is recovering; her husband; her daughter, a son, Jesus; and her brother, Dylan.

“My mom used to say she liked to sit down, but really she wanted to do anything and everything,” Alexa said. “She wasn’t one to wait for the next thing to come to her — she would go and seek it.”

Even at 99, Erane Marie Garrett was known for her energy.

Before the pandemic, Garrett enjoyed passing out popcorn with the staff at her Sonoma nursing home. She played bingo, and looked forward to monthly hula exercise lessons and shows put on by her daughter. She still knew the words -- some in Hawaiaan -- to the popular song, “Little Grass Shack.”

“She learned them as a child on the radio,” said Donna Keegan, her daughter.

Garrett died Aug. 2 after a weeklong battle with COVID-19, Keegan said. Garrett, who spent her entire life in the Bay area, was born and raised in San Francisco and worked as a secretary for years in Oakland. The mother of two also lived in Alameda for a while to be close to her younger daughter.

Garrett was originally going to be named Irene, but the priest who baptized her pronounced her name “Erane”. Her mother thought it sounded pretty, so it stuck, Keegan said.

After her husband left her alone to raise two young girls, Garrett got a job as a secretary in the personnel department at Moore Dry Dock, a ship repair company in West Oakland. She also worked as a secretary for a now-defunct paper company.

As a single mother, Garrett made sure her daughters attended private Catholic school, despite the cost. Each night she’d put curlers their hair, and the two awoke to freshly-polished shoes each morning for school.

Every Saturday, Garrett and the girls would walk or take the bus to a local swimming pool, even though Garrett did not know how to swim herself.

“She would always take us down there to give us a nice thing to do on the weekends,” Keegan said.

After retirement, Garrett volunteered at her grandchildren’s school and for Meals on Wheels. She also worked as a saleswoman for Avon, selling beauty products.

When her granddaughter, Marlena, got married in 2000, Garrett, then 80, made the trip to Kona on the big island of Hawaii just to be there.

“She wouldn’t miss anything,” Keegan said.

When Garrett tested positive for COVID-19 and had to be isolated, she tried sneaking out of her room at her nursing home, because she didn’t like being alone.

“She wanted to be out where the people were,” Keegan said.

Before the pandemic, Keegan taught a hula exercise class once a month for the residents. Though in a wheelchair, Garrett always participated. Keegan would also take her mother to her own hula performances at the nearby Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club.

Garrett beamed with pride as she watched her daughter, Keegan, dance.

“That’s my daughter up there,” she’d say.

Garrett is survived by daughter Keegan, six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her daughter, Lynne Madigan.

Jim Farrell

69, Long Beach

When Jim Farrell contracted COVID-19 in early November, he kept the news to himself. Farrell, 69, had been an athlete in his youth, and he knew what it meant to fight – and even to lose.

As a competitive swimmer in high school, Farrell excelled in freestyle and butterfly, filling his bedroom in Long Beach with first-place ribbons and trophies and Olympic dreams. But the more he raced against a dark-haired swimmer from Santa Clara, the more that ambition drifted away.

Future gold medalist Mark Spitz was just too fast, and Farrell adapted, changing over to water polo in college.

“He was disappointed,” said his sister Mary Farrell, “but he never complained or let the loss get to him.”

An avid reader, Farrell studied philosophy at Cal State Long Beach, and later, having attended est seminars developed by Werner Erhard on human potential, he learned that he was responsible for his own happiness.

That responsibility took him after graduation first to Oregon, where he headed the aquatics department at a YMCA, then to Iowa, where he studied at the Palmer College of Chiropractic, just as his father and mother had done.

In the mid-1980s, Farrell joined his father’s practice in Downey. “Dad was ecstatic to have Jim work with him,” Mary said.

Coming home also meant returning to the Long Beach State campus, where he met Teresa Murphy, who had played women’s basketball, and the couple eventually married. Enthusiastic fans, they followed teams on the road, memorably watching young volleyball player Misty-May Treanor in Madison, Wis., cap off an undefeated season for the 49ers in 1998.

Teresa was on the athletic department’s statistics crew, and she eventually persuaded Farrell to join her when the scorer position opened up in 2005. By then, Farrell was considering retirement.

A few years earlier, he had listened to doctors who told him that due to his diabetes, they would have to amputate his leg. His brother tried to humor him by greeting him in the hospital with an eyepatch and toy parrot.

“Jim was always ready for a laugh,” said Mary, “even after a hard time.”

Farrell found returning to work with a prosthesis difficult and eventually closed the family business and devoted himself to the stat crew at Cal State, chronicling the fortunes of the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams, almost 60 games a year, from August to May.

From tip-off through overtime, from first serve to last point, Farrell had the best seat in the house.

“It sounds easy,” said Roger Kirk, assistant athletics director, “but if you make a mistake, everyone sees it.”

At the university’s arena, the Walter Pyramid, that meant up to 4,200 fans. The going rate – initially $15 a game – was enough to compensate for the heckling and afterward, pay for dinner with friends at a local coffee shop or Mexican joint.

His work at Cal State saw him through more recent losses: his mother, his brother and Teresa all within a year. Time spent tutoring student-athletes or putting up the final points of a game helped Farrell with the loneliness.

“Jim was a genuinely kind person with a wry sense of humor and who cared a ton about the game,” said Kirk. “It was a pleasure seeing him on game day and knowing we were in good hands with him at the table.”

A proud man, Farrell kept news of his hospital admission to himself, but his desire for privacy didn’t mean he was without love.

Mary got the call three days after he had been admitted. By then, he was in the ICU, and she was allowed to sit beside him for his final hours.

“It was so sudden,” she recalled. “What a good life this man had. He was always so generous to everyone.”

Farrell is survived by his sisters, Mary and Barbara Dillon.

Saludacion “Sally” Solon Fontanilla

51, Kentfield

(Ben Fontanilla)

Saludacion “Sally” Solon Fontanilla came from the Philippines and built a full life in the United States, traveling regularly with her husband and enjoying a community in their mutual workplace: St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley.

Fontanilla was born in the town of Tupi in the southern Philippines and began her nursing career soon after moving to the U.S. in 1993. She returned to her hometown every year, spending about a month each time reuniting with family and friends — including a high school buddy, Ben Fontanilla. The two had sat a couple of desks apart in class. They went to the movies and bowled together.

As they each neared 30, mutual friends started nudging them: “Hey, guys, you’re getting older, what do you think?” Ben recalled with a laugh. The pair married in 2000, at a wedding their friends arranged in the Filipino city of General Santos.

After three years in a long-distance marriage, Ben finally joined Sally in Victorville. Though she’d been in the U.S. for a decade, she waited for him to arrive so they could decide together which house and car to purchase.

Trained as a lawyer, Ben went back to school for nursing and soon landed a job at St. Mary, where his wife had been working since 1997. They adjusted easily to their new life together, making friends and developing a work family.

Sally worked the night shift in the telemetry unit, where patients are often in critical condition and need constant monitoring. Her team was the first at St. Mary assigned to care for COVID-19 patients, and Sally piled on layers of personal protective equipment before doling out medication, food and other care to infected patients. Sally initially took some time off work when the pandemic started, but the veteran nurse couldn't stay away too long. Her professional calling was too great, and her patients needed her, so she returned to work in July.

Haley Lampman, a nurse who worked alongside Sally, said she was always “super happy.”

“Even at the end of her shift, even at the end of 12 hours, she was always joyful,” Lampman said. “Her patients always felt that.”

It was at the end of one of those shifts that Sally began to feel sick. She came home with a low-grade fever and cough. Ben took her the next day to St. Mary’s emergency room, where she was tested for the virus and soon hospitalized.

Tethered to a ventilator for almost two months, the 51-year-old died of COVID-19 on Oct. 5 at the hospital where she had worked for 23 years.

“These cases of COVID are real for front-line workers like us,” Ben said.

Co-workers in Sally’s tight-knit work community gathered recently to release a bouquet of colorful balloons, etched with heartfelt messages: Miss you forever. Love you always. We will never forget you. We will remember you every single day.

“I guess you don’t realize how tight you are with your work family until you experience something like this, and I think everybody kind of came together at the end and realized how much we mean to each other,” Lampman said.

That extended work family continues to embrace Ben, who would have celebrated his 20-year anniversary with Sally in December. As a married couple, the two took trips almost every spring and autumn, including visits to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., and the leaves change in New York. They had planned an Alaskan cruise this spring, before the pandemic shut everything down.

Ben, who continues to work at St. Mary, is transitioning into another new life, this one without Sally.

“I have friends, close friends that are supporting me. Sometimes they come in and bring me some food, stuff like that,” Ben said. “Basically, I’m all alone in the house because there [were] just two of us.”

Leonard Auerbach

73, Terminal Island

(Family photo)

After 12 years in prison, Leonard “Lenny” Auerbach was just three months away from being released to a halfway house when COVID-19 began to spread in California in late March.

Auerbach was being held at the federal correctional institution at Terminal Island as it experienced the worst prison outbreak in the federal system. The first case was confirmed in early April, and within three weeks, 700 out of 1,000 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19.

“It was a blatant mismanagement of all the warnings they had,” said Auerbach's son Ben.

His family was worried. Auerbach already had a slew of underlying health problems — heart issues, shortness of breath, diabetes — and news of the coronavirus ravaging state prisons was circulating. In line with the U.S attorney general’s recommendation, they tried to get him compassionately released to a facility or a hospital — anywhere out of the prison, “which was basically a tinderbox for COVID,” Ben said.

“We were just watching the number go up every day on the bureau prison’s website,” Ben recalled.

After days of frustration and unanswered calls, Ben finally received a call back, but it was not from the unit manager as he was expecting.

“I knew when I heard the chaplain’s voice, we had bad news,” he said.

On April 30, the chaplain informed Ben that his father had died earlier that day, six days after he had tested positive for COVID-19. Auerbach was 73.

Auerbach was born in New York but grew up mostly in Chicago. A prodigal mind, he was young for his class and then skipped a grade, allowing him to finish high school at 16 and graduate from the University of Wisconsin in Madison at 20. By 26, he had received a doctorate in operations management from UC Berkeley on a full scholarship, Ben said.

Unsure of what he wanted to do next, he moved to Hawaii. He sold puka shell necklaces on the beach and became an avid surfer. After a year, he moved back to the East Bay and became a professor at UC Berkeley and St. Mary’s College, but would spend the winter quarters in Hawaii, surfing all day and teaching classes at night. While teaching at Berkeley, he met his wife, Carol, and they soon had their twin sons, Alex and Ben. As his sons grew, Auerbach wanted to provide a better financial life for his family, so he transitioned from academia to finance, becoming a successful mortgage executive.

In 2003, Auerbach began a relationship with an underage girl in Costa Rica. When the girl’s family alerted local authorities, who then contacted U.S. authorities, Auerbach became a fugitive and fled to Cuba. When he was finally captured, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confiscated his laptop, finding three nude photos of the girl. He was convicted in 2008 for production of child pornography and received a 15-year sentence. It was later reduced to 12 1/2 years for good behavior.

While Ben knows his father’s faults, he chooses to remember the positive. Growing up, once Auerbach transitioned to finance, he would work from 6 a.m. till 3 p.m., and then rush home to coach his sons’ sports practices. Ben remembers him as a hard worker and a down-to-earth guy.

“He was a big role model for me,” Ben said. “And a really good dad.”

A couple years after the arrest, Ben, just like his father did in his 20s, moved to Maui to start his own business, and embark on a path of self-development and healing. Ben wishes that his father, who was molested as a young boy, had done the same type of healing work.

Most of all, Ben will remember his father for his mana — meaning spirit or energy in Hawaiian.

“He could connect with people from all walks of life,” Ben recalled. “On this deep soul level.”

In addition to his wife and sons, Auerbach is survived by a brother, Mark. A celebration of life will be planned once restrictions on public gatherings are lifted.

Jorel Alfonso

38, Riverside

Jorel Alfonso, his wife Ashling and their three children, Jason, Hayden and Adelyn. (Family photo)

On Feb. 15, Jorel Alfonso stood as the best man at his younger brother’s wedding. He had been debating whether to give a speech then or wait until June, when his brother and his wife would celebrate their vows in the Philippines.

Alfonso decided to go ahead and toast Justin then. Nearly two months later, after Alfonso died due to complications from coronavirus, that moment would serve as a gift, a lasting image of the 38-year-old as a loving husband, a doting father of three and an inspiration to his little brother, who was about to start his own family.

Throughout his life, Alfonso had grown to love being on stage. He was known for singing karaoke, belting out boy-band hits. His favorite group was the Backstreet Boys, and he was unashamed to admit it. In Justin’s eyes, his older brother was larger than life, a towering figure whom he could never beat in basketball.

So on April 7, when Alfonso lost his two-week battle with the virus, Justin put aside his personal torment and stepped up to lead the family, just as his brother had.

He set up a GoFundMe page to support his brother’s children, raising more than $87,000 in just one week. He organized a eulogy and Zoom memorial service and streamed both live on April 14. The next day, continuing to power through his emotions, he filmed and streamed his brother’s burial service.

Graveside, it was only Justin, his father, the priest and the chirping birds on a sunny morning.

Alfonso had come down with a fever March 18 and went into quarantine. He drove himself to a hospital near his Riverside home six days later and tested positive for the virus. Despite being borderline pre-diabetic and having to go on a ventilator, he was confident he would be fine. After about a week, his prognosis got better and then worsened quickly. He died in isolation without having a chance to say goodbye.

His wife, Ashling, was able to visit him at the hospital, telling him, “We’re all still waiting for you.” She didn’t think that was good-bye.

Alfonso died in isolation.

Thanks to Justin, the family gathered virtually to reflect.

“We grew up and grew closer,” Justin said of his family during the memorial. “Those things you remember don’t hurt as much as time goes and you just smile instead, and I hope one day that will be something I do.”

Others chimed in, recalling everything from Jorel’s gossiping to his hosting of parties for Manny Pacquiao fights.

“Jorel is loving this,” his sister, Jennifer Alfonso Ly, commented on Facebook. “He’s being viewed all over the world with so much love and support.”

Alfonso is survived by his wife, Ashling; three children, Jason, Hayden and Adelyn; his parents, Jessie and Lydia; and his brother and sister.

Vernon Robinson

81, Burbank

Vernon Robinson, 81, of Burbank died from COVID-19 on March 26 at Adventist Health Glendale after a week in the hospital. (Family photo)

Vernon Robinson was the kind of man who showed up for his friends unconditionally. He was known for his honest, no-nonsense advice. And he always gave people the benefit of the doubt.

“I used to say that even if something had happened to us and our marriage didn’t last, I would still want him to be my friend,” said Willa Robinson, Vernon’s wife of 55 years.

Vernon grew up in Kansas City, Kan. He ran a landscaping business with his brother for many years in California, a job he enjoyed because he was able to work outside and tend to plants.

He loved jazz clubs and family reunions, and long drives up the coast with Willa. He was a skilled dancer with a sharp sense of humor. He could mimic just about anyone. “A lot of the time he had me laughing so hard I was almost on the floor,” she recalled.

Vernon spent his final two years battling Alzheimer’s disease at the Alameda Care Center in Burbank, but he never forgot who his wife and sons were, Willa said. He died from COVID-19 on March 26 at Adventist Health Glendale after a week in the hospital.

The 81-year-old was previously diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.

He is survived by his two adult sons, Vernon Jr. and Raymond, as well as four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Tommy Macias

51, Lake Elsinore

Tommy Macias, 51, of Lake Elsinore, with his niece Alessandra Zaragoza

With no children of his own, Tommy Macias spent most weekends with his two sisters and their children.

The big rig driver had a “big, booming laugh” that brought a smile to those around him, said his 28-year-old niece, Danielle Lopez. For her entire life, she was the butt of jokes Macias would make, and the constant teasing had left a soft spot in her heart for her uncle, who showed his love through laughter.

An average weekend for Macias included barbecuing or cruising in a boat on Lake Elsinore with his mother, sisters and nieces.

It was at a barbecue with friends that he contracted the coronavirus, apparently from a guest who had tested positive for COVID-19 but was asymptomatic. Macias died June 21 of complications from the virus. He was 51.

Lopez said that a day on Lake Elsinore with her uncle was “one of the best days ever” — even though she didn’t share his love of the water. She felt at peace, a feeling she often experienced in her uncle’s presence.

Gustavo Lopez, Danielle’s father and Macias’ brother-in-law, cherished the relationship Macias had with Lopez’s daughters.

“He was there for every holiday, and he actually checked in with his extended family on a weekly basis,” Lopez said. “In these last couple of days, many family members have reached out to make sure he was taken care of, because he would have done the same for them.”

And this year, Lopez and his family were excited to move from Mission Viejo to Lake Elsinore and Wildomar to be closer to Macias. They had already made plans for him to help unpack their moving boxes.

Macias’ 53-year-old sister, Norma Macias Norris, was heartbroken that her brother would not be around to see their family come together a year after their father passed away.

Macias Norris, who lived five minutes away from her brother, often ran into him around town, and “everywhere he went, he would make friends.” Even from an early age he would strive to make people laugh and never wanted to make anyone angry.

This held true to the very end.

A day before his death, Macias posted a warning on Facebook, urging people to wear a mask and practice social distancing. His final message was one of regret.

“My brother didn’t blame anybody, he took full responsibility,” Macias Norris said. “I know my brother, and in the end all he wanted to do was take care of his family.”

In addition to Macias Norris, Macias is survived by his mother, Hilda Martinez; another sister, Veronica Lopez; and four nieces.

Read the full obituary

Noe Montoya

66, Hollister

(El Teatro Campesino)

Tonatiuh, the Aztec sun god and patron to Jaguar and Eagle warriors, was among the first roles that Noe Montoya embodied for the Bay Area theater company El Teatro Campesino.

The year was 1972 and, as the sun, a teenaged Montoya rose majestically behind a pyramid for the group's first TV special in Los Angeles.

The role would eventually lead to many more within the troupe, including that of Juan Diego — the man who witnessed the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe — in El Teatro's biennial production of "La Virgen del Tepeyac" at the Old Mission San Juan Bautista. He played the role of Diego from the 1970s to 2008.

Before the pandemic hit, his last role was Benito Juarez in the premiere of “Adios Mama Carlota” at San Jose Stage.

A cultural warrior, musician and civil rights champion, Montoya marched alongside Caesar Chavez and connected his audiences with indigenous music he played for the United Farm Workers. He always performed while wearing the union’s emblem — a black eagle stylized as an inverted Aztec pyramid.

The theater was founded in 1965 as the cultural arm of the union, specializing in Spanish-language performances about the struggles of agricultural laborers. Montoya was the "blood and bone" of the company, his fellow performers said.

"The COVID 19 pandemic has been merciless to an extreme, especially among farm workers, so it comes as no surprise that despite the risk, Noe did his utmost to alleviate the suffering of our fellow campesinos, continuing to make appearances to sing at car caravans organized to raise food for the workers," Teatro founder Luiz Valdez wrote on the group's Facebook page.

"His great heart was always at the core of his humanity and commitment to our community."

On Nov. 19, Montoya announced on Facebook that his COVID-19 test came back positive: "I got careless for a moment and I apologize to all of you," he wrote.

His symptoms included body aches and fatigue. He planned to isolate for 10 days. Three days later, he said he was feeling better and encouraged fans to "please stay safe, wear your face covers, wash your hands and social distance."

He died on Thanksgiving Day at the age of 66.

Rosa Luna

68, Riverside

(Family photo)

Rosa Luna had a servant’s heart ---she loved her job and her family and would do whatever she could be the best mother, grandmother and worker she could.

She took pride in her job as an environmental services housekeeper at Riverside Community Hospital, where she worked for 25 years, her daughter Dora Reaza said. At times, she would even scrub tiny surfaces with a toothbrush to make sure it was as clean as possible.

Luna died May 4 after contracting COVID-19. She was 68.

Born in Mexico, Luna migrated to the United States in the 1970s, settling in Riverside. She learned English, earned her Certified Nursing Assistant and CPR certificates. When her daughter turned 19, the single mom became a United States citizen.

“She was a loving, caring, compassionate person,” Reaza said. “She persevered every obstacle life gave her.”

Reaza said she believes her mother contracted the disease while working at the hospital. She tested positive April 25 after complaining about body aches and quickly lost her sense of smell and taste.

On May 4, she developed a fever and cough, and her health declined so rapidly she couldn’t get to the hospital. Rosa died in her home, just minutes after her daughter checked in on her.

“It happened so fast,” Reaza said. “She was an awesome mom.”

Luna is survived by her daughter and two grandchildren, Rubie and Oscar.

Cynthia Brasil

64, Modesto

Theirs was a classic high school love story.

She was in the band and he played on the football team. They met after a game and were married less than a year after they graduated, the new wife becoming Cynthia Brasil after taking her husband Manuel’s last name.

They eventually ran a trucking business together, Cynthia handling the books and Manuel hauling hay. They took one last vacation as a couple to Monterey in late August, checking into a hotel for a three-day getaway, before falling ill.

Cynthia did not immediately know that the flu-like symptoms were a sign of COVID-19. She was admitted to the hospital in early September and her husband a day later, the couple sharing a room before Manuel was discharged in less than a week.

Cynthia never made it home, succumbing to the virus at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto on Sept. 19. She was 64. Her father, Joe Perez, who lived with his daughter and son-in-law and made that trip with them to Monterey, also contracted COVID-19 and died Sept. 26.

A flurry of tributes started pouring in on Facebook after Cynthia’s death from passengers who rode on the bus routes she navigated for more than a decade while driving students and special-needs children before departing for the trucking company that she ran with her husband.

“She was just a very kind, memorable, sweet person,” said Tina Gassittie, Cynthia’s daughter.

Always the doting mother, Cynthia made sure her children stayed busy with activities they loved. Tina was a cheerleader and son Mauel Perez Jr. played football from Pop Warner through high school.

“She was just always present in our lives,” Gassittie said, “and always made us the No. 1 priority.”

One of Cynthia’s favorite hobbies was collecting miniature Christmas villages from Department 56 that she displayed around her home during the holidays.

Survivors include her husband, two children and three grandchildren.

Alby Kass

89, Guerneville

Alby Kass, a resort owner and Yiddish folk singer, died from complications from COVID-19. (Family photo)

Alby Kass was the owner of a popular resort along the Russian River north of San Francisco. But the former Los Angeles schoolteacher was also known as the lead singer of a Yiddish folk group and as a passionate theater performer.

So when the 89-year-old was left alone and voiceless as he battled COVID-19 in a San Leandro hospital, his loved ones knew there was only one way to comfort him. They sang.

As he drew his final breaths, Kass was surrounded by the sounds of his friends, children and grandchildren playing the piano and singing the Yiddish folk songs he had taught them. Each had recorded their own pieces, uploaded them to an old cellphone and delivered it to his nurses, who hooked up the phone to a speaker. He died March 31.

“The sound might be over, but there’s still a lot of echoes,” his son Larry Kass said.

Kass was born in the Bronx. At age 9, after his father died, he was often left to care for his younger sister as his mother worked in the garment industry. It was the tail end of the Great Depression.

When his mother was home, they would sing Yiddish songs together as they cleaned.

At 18, Kass joined the Air Force and was stationed in the Travis Air Force Base in Northern California. He then moved to Los Angeles, taking various jobs — including working at a furniture factory and hammering serial numbers into engine blocks at General Motors — before getting his teaching credential at Los Angeles City College.

He taught sixth grade for 20 years in Los Angeles schools as well as in schools for the children of military personnel in Japan, Germany and the Philippines.

In Los Angeles, Kass met and married his wife, Wallie, and they had two sons, Larry and Jonathon. The family moved to Guerneville, where Kass began running the Riverlane Resort.

Kass and his wife founded the Russian River Jewish Community group and a local choir. They performed often as Tevye and Golde in local productions of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

He was also an activist, once fighting for residents affected by sewage dumping into the Russian River.

Kass is survived by his wife, two sons and four grandchildren.

Read the full obituary

Margarito Guillén

71, San Pablo

Margarito Guillén was never a rich man.

He spent most of his days inside a hotel, working in the kitchen, and raised his boys in a small two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Still, in those years, he managed to save enough to buy a dream car for his family – a new 1986 Dodge Ram van with fuzzy seat covers. He carefully pasted a huge decal on both sides of the van to remind him of his Durango, Mexico: A prized bull with a big bump and long horns.

On the weekends, Guillén and his wife, Marlene, would load their three sons, Kevin, Abel and David in their van, play some rancheras and treat them to ice cream.

“It was his way of giving us all the things he couldn’t have, all the things we couldn’t have ourselves,” said his son Abel Guillén.

When a massive earthquake struck the San Franscico area in 1989, killing dozens, Guillén huddled his family in his van to keep them safe.

“He never failed us,” Abel said. “He was the kind of man who would do everything to take care of us.”

On Dec. 18, 2020, the 71-year-old great-grandfather of three died from COVID complications after battling the virus for weeks in the hospital. His family was with him in his final moments via an iPad screen.

At home in San Pablo, the Bay area suburb where Guillén last lived, his family mourned his loss. He was the first to die out of a family of 13 siblings.

One by one, the brothers and sisters had migrated north from a tiny, remote pueblo, following the path of their father who had once worked in the fields of California as a bracero.

Guillén eventually settled in the Mission District and found work at the Hilton Hotel Union Square. He started in the laundry room and moved to the kitchen, working his way up, in the course of 45 years, to assistant pastry chef.

With time, Guillén became known for his baking skills. He’d show up at family celebrations -- in his cowboy hat and boots – to indulge everyone with his homemade cakes. He used to surprise neighbors with his cheesecakes and make German fruit cake each Christmas.

“Every time, his cream had to be perfect and his fruit had to be fresh,” Abel said. “Everything he made had to be just right.”

Guillén is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, three sons, two grandchildren, three great grandchildren, seven sisters and four brothers.

Erica McAdoo

39, Los Angeles

Erica McAdoo always wanted to serve her community. She began her career in the Coast Guard, but after several years at sea, McAdoo returned to land and joined the Los Angeles Police Department.

She was a custody services officer for several years, working with inmates. At the start of this year, she was promoted and began a new role as a senior detention officer, overseeing other officers. But not long after her promotion, McAdoo felt ill and was admitted to a hospital. She remained in intensive care for 98 days and died from complications related to COVID-19 on July 3, the first LAPD officer known to have died from coronavirus.

“She had everything going for her,” said Keith Royston, McAdoo’s uncle. “She was 39 years old, and this virus took everything.”

“Erica was so smart,” said another uncle, Lamont Royston. “She was one of the smartest people in our family.”

McAdoo was born in Oklahoma in 1981. Four years later, her mother, Donna Royston, moved Erica and her elder sister Danielle to Los Angeles.

“Erica and her mother were best friends,” Keith said. While McAdoo loved her work, she had another passion in life: food — specifically Oklahoma style barbecue. In 2016, McAdoo along with her mother founded Reddz Foodz, a barbecue catering service.

Donna had grown up cooking Oklahoma barbeque and taught her daughter how to prepare perfect ribs, cornbread and greens.

“She was a great cook,” Lamont said. “Their dream was to open a food truck.”

McAdoo had created a Yelp page for Reddz Foodz and written about her love of cooking and delight in sharing delicious food with others.

“I have a passion for making people happy and feel good from the inside, out,” McAdoo wrote. “My reward is seeing people dance a little when they eat.”

Cooking was also part of McAdoo’s heritage and an homage to her grandmother Ruth, who died last year. McAdoo wrote on the Yelp page: “We are here to continue to build her [Ruth’s] legacy with love for our family, passion for cooking and commitment to our goals.”

Donna and Erica devoted time to supporting their community in Carson.

“They would make food bags for the homeless people,” Lamont said. “Their friends would come over and they would all go out together to pass out food, just out of the kindness of their hearts.”

The two also loved to travel together and would take cruises. Cancun was a favorite destination. McAdoo had a close-knit circle of friends within the LAPD who enjoyed spending time together. Within the Custody Services department, McAdoo was seen as a leader. In a statement posted on Instagram, her co-workers wrote: “Our hearts grieve as we mourn the loss of our sister, Erica McAdoo. Our condolences are extended to her mother and family. We hope they take comfort in knowing she was loved, respected and admired.”

The post also praised McAdoo’s drive to improve the department: “If one of the ultimate goals in life is to make a difference in the lives of others, Erica accomplished that. Our division and its personnel are better because of her time and commitment.”

Among those issuing statements of condolence were Gov. Gavin Newsom and his wife, Jennifer, and Beatrice Girmala, assistant chief director of support services at the LAPD, who wrote about McAdoo: “She left us a hero.”

In honor of McAdoo, flags at the state capitol building were flown at half-staff. Donna posted about her daughter on Facebook writing: “I can't begin to tell you all what the loss of my daughter and friend has done to me, my heart will forever be broken and changed.”

She also called for people to take COVID-19 seriously.

“Please wear a mask, people, if not to protect yourself then for all the others folks you love or care about — it's that simple.”

McAdoo is survived by her mother, sister, uncles and extended family.

Cornelia Talbott

75, Brawley

A second-generation American, Cornelia “Connie” Talbott grew up understanding the value of self-sufficiency.

Talbott had taken after the other women in her family. Her grandmother, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, owned and operated a grocery store in Aberdeen, Wash., and, before her younger brother was born, Talbott and her two older sisters were the ones tending to the house.

Strong will was a family trait that flowed through the generations and ultimately to Talbott's daughter, Sarah, who said her mother set an example as a curious, capable and caring person.

“There was never that sort of focus on ‘You have to have a man do it for you’ or, you know, ‘You're a woman, so you can't do those things.’ She had that kind of spirit,” Sarah said.

“We were always very self-sufficient. She wanted to make sure that I knew how a car operated and how to change a tire.”

Talbott often demonstrated this through her ability to tinker with cars, specifically the family’s Datsun 240Z. Talbott maintained the car on her own for nearly 20 years.

“She was the one that did, you know, the basic maintenance on it,” Sarah said. Talbott would change the oil, replace the spark plugs and take care of flat tires.

Sarah recalled the time they were dropping off a friend from school on a rainy, dark, winter day and got a flat tire.

“I'd never changed a tire before, but we changed that tire.”

Besides her steadfast nature, Talbott never balked at taking care of anyone — or anything —in need. In addition to hosting her nieces and nephews during summers, Talbott had an affection for her furry family, at one point taking in 30 stray cats.

Sarah and her mother, who lived in Brawley, both began exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms on May 12, and after visiting the emergency room in nearby El Centro, Talbott was admitted.

According to Sarah, Talbott's pulmonologist “seemed really hopeful that she was gonna pull through, because that's how she was. She was tenacious like that.”

But on May 24, days after receiving convalescent plasma therapy, Talbott died. She was 75.

Talbott is survived by her daughter Sarah, son Adam, sisters Paula and Sandra, brother Steve, stepbrother Gary and stepsister Patricia. She was proceeded in death by her husband, Clay.

Adul Tangtam

64, Eagle Rock

Whether he was delivering newspapers, driving a cab or selling insurance, Adul Tangtam embraced the American dream.

He grew up in a small farming town north of Bangkok, came to the U.S. as a young man, attended Los Angeles City College and raised a family while often working two jobs to make life comfortable for his wife and four children.

Tangtam started off delivering newspapers and pizzas. His son Danny said he would sometimes wake up at 3 a.m. to be with his father when he headed out on his newspaper route. Danny recalled how his father would lean out the window and toss the papers perfectly onto a driveway or trudge up a staircase to drop a paper at the front door of an apartment.

Tired of the low pay, Tangtam started driving a cab and eventually opened his own service with a fleet of four green taxis. He would drive one and lease out the others.

Once when he was driving his taxi, Tangtam witnessed a burglary and pulled over and grabbed the suspect. “Why did you do this?,” Danny said his father asked. When the man said he was desperate and that his mother was in the hospital, Tangtam took the man to see his mother and then handed him some cash.

“He helped them have a better life,” Danny said.

Tangtam continued driving the cab even when he got into the insurance business about eight years ago.

Divorced, Tangtam remarried about 15 years ago. He and his new wife moved to Eagle Rock, where they grew Thai basil, lemongrass, mint, lemons and limes in a side yard for authentic Thai meals.

When Tangtam wasn’t working, he was generally watching sports. An avid basketball fan, the Clippers were his team and when he could afford it, he would head to Staples Center to watch them play.

In early April, Tangtam tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to Adventist Health Glendale hospital. He died on April 11 and age 64

“He worked hard till he couldn’t,” Danny said.

Tangtam is survived by his wife, Montatip, children Danny, Surachai, Alex and May, and siblings Wilia, Udon, Sancom, Aot and Sangraloom.

Ralph Duprey

98, Signal Hill

(Family photo)

Well into his 80s, Ralph Duprey could be found biking around his Long Beach neighborhood. Snaking through the streets he had called home for over 70 years on two wheels was calming. It was Duprey's time to collect his thoughts and relax at the end of a long day.

But biking hadn’t always been a peaceful practice for Duprey. As a teenager, he would bike down the Steep Shell Hill in Long Beach.

“I remember him telling me that his bike didn’t have very good brakes,” said Duprey’s son, Mark, “he would get to the top of the hill and it had a pretty good grade.”

“Yes!” chimed in Mark’s sister Karen, “He talked about sticking his foot out and rubbing it against the front tire to slow the bike down. Even at that age, he realized that it wasn’t the brightest idea.”

Duprey’s life began far from the hills and sunny shores of Long Beach. He was born in Canada in 1922 to Thomas and Amada Duprey, the sixth of seven children. Early in his life, his parents decided to head west and landed in California, a place Duprey would come to love.

The family settled in Long Beach and lived in a small three-bedroom house. Duprey ended his days just a few blocks from that house — at St. Mary’s Hospital, Long Beach where he died on April 18 from complications related to Covid-19. He was 98.

Duprey celebrated his birthday just three weeks before his death. While his children were unable to be in the same room due to coronavirus restrictions, they improvised and found a creative way to share their love.

The three children, Mark, Karen and Arlene stood outside his assisted living facility in front of a big window that faces the street. Karen brought along a chalkboard.

“We were writing messages and wearing crazy hats,” said Mark, “we looked like idiots but dad got a big kick out of it, he was laughing and smiling.”

The separation instigated by coronavirus was particularly difficult for the family, who loved spending time together with their father. “Mark and I would split the time” said Karen, “between us we were usually there six nights a week.”

They would bring their dad his favorite food ... chocolate. “We would take him chocolate malts, or Hershey bars.” said Mark, “but he just really loved any chocolate, and I mean, he loved chocolate.”

Nurses at Duprey’s assisted living facility encouraged the children to bring their father healthier treats, for fear of the almost 100 year old man developing diabetes. But, he was fit and trim until the end.

Duprey’s confidence in his own physical ability was built on years of working in plumbing and construction, skills he began to develop during WWII. After graduating from Long Beach Polytechnic in 1941, Duprey joined the Coast Guard and served as a motor machinist mate during the war.

Upon returning home, he became a union plumber, working on new buildings in and around Long Beach. He was also comfortable with most parts of construction work and put his skills to good use around the family home.

“He was fixing things like the furnace under the house well into his 80s,” said Karen, “we practically had to drag him out of there!”

“He just never moved like an old man” said Karen, “No, he was spry and graceful” added Arlene.

Duprey’s physical grace was also apparent when he danced. “We would have parties at the house,” said Karen, “there was usually dancing, and mom and dad would also go out on dates to go dancing.”

Duprey met his wife, Mary Lee Smith after WWII and the couple married in 1948 and the couple were together until her death in 1987 at the age of 60. “It was a pretty tough time for about a year,” said Mark, “but dad came out on the other side.”

The children knew Duprey was beginning to heal when he got back on his bike. “I remember him riding along Newport Ave. he actually rode the bike half the length of the block backwards,” said Mark, “he wanted to prove to himself that he could still do it — and he was satisfied.”

Ralph Duprey is survived by his three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Gloria Martinez

91, Visalia

Gloria Martinez wanted to look good. It didn’t matter where she was going.

Even if she was just heading to a doctor’s appointment with her daughter Emilia, she’d sport a colorful blouse or dress, and accessorize with a watch, rings and earrings. Oh, and she’d never forget her red lipstick.

Her favorite pattern? Cheetah print.

“She had a drawer full of it,” her daughter said, laughing.

After a long, full life, Martinez, a Visalia resident, died of COVID-19 complications on April 17 at Kaweah Delta Medical Center. She was 91.

Before moving to Visalia, she had lived in Montebello for 40 years and for a dozen of those years worked in the cafeteria at Ford Boulevard Elementary in East L.A..

“Every morning, no matter how early, she’d always say, ‘Good morning!’ in a happy voice,” Emilia said. “She really never let anything bother her.”

Martinez was blunt yet loving, her daughter said. She’d tell you things as she saw them and didn’t hold back — but it all came from a place of love.

“She never said what she didn't mean,” Emilia said. “And she always did what she said she was going to do.”

She also opened the doors to her home to anyone who needed it. After Emilia’s divorce, her mother welcomed her and her three youngest children home. If someone was in need of a place to sleep, Martinez offered her home.

“We always had someone living with us,” Emilia said. “Always.”

Martinez was a devout Jehovah’s Witness and would make it clear to all of her guests that “this is a Christian home.” She loved making tamales and her delectable chile verde, her daughter said.

Her favorite pastime was shopping at the “goody goodies,” the term she used when referring to thrift stores. She’d roam around and check out the clothing.

Martinez tested positive for COVID-19 on April 15, yet showed no symptoms until two days later when her oxygen levels started to drop. The family believes she acquired the virus at Redwoods Springs Healthcare Center where 124 residents have tested positive and 29 have died. She had been receiving physical therapy at the facility after a serious fall a month earlier.

She is survived by her husband Raymond, children Emilia, Freddie and Daniel, 14 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and a great great grandchild.

“She was the icon of the family,” Emilia said.

Dulce Amor Aguilo

55, San Jose

(Family photo)

After Dulce Amor Aguilo died, her mother was going through her belongings when she found a notebook filled with recipes. Reading the instructions for traditional Philippine dishes reminded Dalisay Aguilo of how much Dulce loved the kitchen — and, by extension, the people she fed.

When Dulce Aguilo was alive, Dalisay would sometimes pass by her room and catch her watching cooking videos on YouTube for hours, sometimes deep into the night.

Born in the Philippines, Dulce Amor Aguilo died of COVID-19 complications April 19 at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose. She was 55.

For the last 10 years, Aguilo worked as a caregiver for seniors, specifically those who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

She last worked at San Jose’s Belmont Village, where she became close friends with some of her coworkers. Dalisay said Aguilo would join her friends and take trips to casinos.

“She really liked to win,” Dalisay said with a laugh. “Sometimes $4,000, $2,000 a night. She enjoyed it.”

Dalisay said Aguilo was a loving and jolly person who would always remember everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries.

Aguilo’s death means not only no more touching notes on milestone dates, but also that Dalisay and her husband, Silvester, who live in a retirement community, won’t have anyone to bring them groceries and take them to doctor’s appointments.

“When I think of her, I still cry,” Dalisay said. “She would drive for us. Now, nobody will drive for us anymore.”

Dalisay said that when Aguilo would see elderly people from their retirement community walking to nearby stores or pharmacies, she would pull over and offer them a ride.

“She loved us,” Dalisay said. “She was always very thoughtful.”

Aguilo started having shortness of breath and a fever on April 6. Dalisay said she was unsure how Aguilo acquired the virus, but she presented symptoms a couple of days after her last dialysis treatment, which she received three times a week for the past four years.

She was admitted to the hospital April 6 and never came back.

“We never saw her again until she became ashes,” Dalisay said.

Aguilo is survived by her parents, Dalisay and Silvester, and her sister Pamela.

Kermit Holderman

73, San Diego

Kermit Holderman, 73, of San Diego, with grandchildren. (Family photo)

Kermit Holderman dedicated four decades of his life to teaching. But his generosity didn't end there.

During his many years teaching high school English in Colorado and the Bay Area, Holderman was known for the care he took with his students. He would check in on them, even taking them out for a meal if they were feeling down.

His generosity extended to leaving his body to science.

After he died from COVID-19 on March 31 at age 73, his body was transported to UCLA, where researchers will study his brain to gauge the effects of the virus on older patients.

“From the moment he was able, to the end of his life, he was always super-selfless,” his eldest son, Zack Holderman, said.

After retiring eight years ago, Holderman and his wife, Susan, moved in with Zack and his family in San Diego, staying in a casita in their backyard. Holderman enjoyed playing catch with his grandson Nash, watching San Francisco 49ers games in the living room and being the go-to driver for family airport pickups.

In early March, Holderman picked up his daughter-in-law Kelley Holderman from the airport after a girls' trip to Vail. It wasn’t until after the trip that they found out the popular skiing destination was the center of a coronavirus outbreak.

Kelley later tested positive, though she suffered only a mild case of COVID-19. Her mother-in-law, Susan, later tested positive and also only had mild symptoms, but Holderman became severely ill and was sent to Thornton Hospital at UC San Diego with pneumonia. A day later, he tested positive for the coronavirus infection.

Zack spoke of Holderman's relationship with his daughter-in-law. The older man taught Zack and Kelley in high school, where the couple first met: “He loved her as a daughter and she loved him as a father.”

Holderman exercised daily, ate healthfully, and didn’t drink or smoke. Nevertheless, his illness was severe, requiring that he be intubated and placed in a medically induced coma. He never woke up.

Since Susan and Kelley had coronavirus antibodies, the doctors allowed them into the hospital room with masks and other protective gear. Zack was also able to see his father one last time.

Holderman’s body was transferred to a UCLA medical center to study the neurological effects of COVID-19 on his brain. Kelley and several of her friends from the trip have been donating plasma and participating in statistical and medical studies since recovering from the virus.

Holderman is survived by his wife; sons Zack and Dane; and his grandchildren, Layla, Nash, Finnley and Connor.

Dave Browner

78, Los Angeles

(Family photo)

In his flamboyant Tommy Bahama shirt, leather jacket, Hugo Boss jeans and shiny dress shoes, Dave Browner was hard to miss.

The ensemble, paired with a thick New York accent, his husky 6-foot-2 frame, endless pipe smoking and a bombastic personality, made him a bit intimidating.

A lifelong athlete, Browner started each morning the same way: jumping jacks, sprints, squat lifts, pushups and crunches. The routine, including the precise number of reps, seconds and rest intervals, was plastered onto the refrigerator, and followed meticulously.

All day long, he would lift dumbbells, or simply use large rocks found throughout the neighborhood, strengthening his biceps. Until his mid-70s, he could bench press more than 200 pounds. He called it “old man’s strength,” his daughter Alexandre said.

When his health began to decline, his strength served him well. He survived multiple heart attacks and open heart surgeries, bouncing back to full health every time. So when he got sick with COVID-19 in early April, the family assumed he would pull through, like he always did.

“My sister didn’t even register that it could be a problem,” Alexandre said. “When he wasn’t turning around, she was shocked.”

Browner had a stroke in 2016, and in 2018, after various other health complications, moved into Sunray Healthcare Center home in Los Angeles. Alexandre, who was living in Mammoth Lakes, would drive down to check in on him several times a week. But in early March, she got a call from the home that visitors would be prohibited due to the pandemic. She was not able to see her father in person again.

On April 11, Browner was rushed to Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center with a high fever, dehydration and pneumonia. He was soon confirmed positive for COVID-19. He died April 21. The night before, the doctors alerted Alexandre that he was declining, and so she prepared to leave her home in Mammoth to be with him. But, before she was even able to get on the road, he died. He was 78.

Browner grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island, and graduated from Syracuse University. He went on to get his law degree at Johns Hopkins, but ultimately decided not to practice and to instead join his family’s textile business.

After a family dispute, the business dissolved, and Browner made his way to Los Angeles, landing in Playa del Rey, where he worked in fashion and soon met his wife, Cheri.

At their wedding–true to form–he wore a Brown velvet jacket, a matching velvet bowtie and a ruffled pink shirt.

“Wherever he was,” Alexandre said. “you knew he was there.”

Later, they moved to Mammoth where Browner opened a ski shop. But after a seven year drought that battered the local economy, they moved back to Los Angeles, where he remained for life.

Browner also served in the U.S. Army, although he liked to pretend he didn’t. Growing up, Alexandre said he never discussed his time in Vietnam.

It wasn’t until Alexandre was with her father in Costa Rica eight years ago that she finally got to hear about his time in the Army. Browner, after many beers, began telling war stories to a stranger at the bar.

“I overheard him tell someone about ‘one day in the jungle,’ and I ran over to listen,” Alexandre recalled. “Otherwise, I have no idea about his time there.”

As a father, Browner was involved in everything, Alexandre said, laughing. When she went to college, he insisted on going with her. She showed up the first day of class with him, holding hands.

“I had to say: ‘This is my dad. He’s going to sit in today,” she remembered. “It was not normal!”

Though perhaps overly so, Browner’s deep love and care for his family was unmistakable. When Alexandre enlisted in the Army herself, Browner wrote her a letter every day, sometimes two.

“He always said mail time was the worst if you didn’t get a letter,” Alexandre said. “He never missed a day.”

Browner is survived by his sister, four children and three grandchildren.

Ramon Arthur Rivera, Jr

56, Palmdale

(Family photo)

As a child, Angel Rivera was scared of the dark. She’d shake her younger brother Ramon awake so he could “keep guard” of the bathroom while she used it. He’d stand next to the door half-asleep waiting for her sister to finish before they returned to their shared bunk bed.

“He’d fight it every night, but he’d always cave in,” Angel said. “He was always protective of us. Family was always the thing that drove him.”

Ramon Arthur Rivera Jr. died on April 18 of COVID-19 complications at his Palmdale home. He was 56.

His family always called Rivera by his nickname Sluggo, after the character in the iconic Nancy comic strip. As a kid, like the cartoon, Ramon was chubby, had a round head and very little hair, his sister said.

Rivera was always a funny guy. He’d come off as tough, but “he had a heart that was so soft,” his sister said.

“He had a racy sense of humor. Let’s just put it that way, ” she said with a laugh. “He turned everything into a joke. Everything.”

He worked as a roofer until 10 years ago when he suffered a workplace accident that forced him to retire, his sister said. Since then, he spent his time building military vehicle models and hanging out at Fox Airfield in Antelope Valley to watch planes take off and land. He also loved Slipknot, the heavy metal band.

“He was always messing around with tools and seeing what he could do,” she said. “If someone brought him a table, he would totally refurbish it. He was really good with that.”

Rivera, his wife Jeanette and brother Fred started suffering from headaches in early April, but Rivera’s symptoms only worsened.

The week before he died, he had shortness of breath and was running a fever, Angel said. He went to the emergency room, but decided to return home after witnessing another patient die.

Rivera then asked Angel, whose breathing is regularly aided by an oxygen tank, for a tank to use himself.

“When Sluggo called me that night, he told me and my daughter Athena, ‘Thank you for everything you’ve done for me,’” Angel said. “He also called his son Ray and told him to be strong without him. He knew he was dying.”

Three days later, he died at home. An autopsy revealed he was positive for COVID-19. His condition may have been complicated by his diabetes and a heart condition. The whole family was tested soon after and Rivera’s wife and brother both tested positive for the coronavirus. They have since recovered. Angel and her daughter Athena tested negative.

“You’re so used to losing your parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles, but when it comes to losing your siblings, it’s something totally, totally different,” Angel said.

Rivera is survived by his wife Jeanette, son Ramon Arthur, III, siblings Fred, Angel and Alex, and his grandson Ramon Arthur, IV.

Vic Lepisto

75, Agoura Hills

Vic and Sue Lepisto (Family photo)

Other than his family and the young people he coached, Vic Lepisto led a self-contained life, making it to 75 without an email address.

Grit and determination, honed in a life of physical action, carried him through as he fought diabetes, dementia and then COVID-19, dying peacefully Dec. 28 after a three-week battle.

Born June 29, 1945, Lepisto grew up in unincorporated La Cañada and played football and baseball and ran track at John Muir High School in Pasadena.

Entering UCLA in 1963, he played two sports. As a defensive end on the "Gutty Little Bruins" football teams led by Heisman winner Gary Beban, he competed for national championships. He co-captained the 1968 team.

His performance on the rugby pitch earned an induction into the UCLA Rugby Hall of Fame. He continued to play after graduation, and holds a spot in the Santa Monica Rugby Club's hall of fame.

At Mom's, a Westwood dancing spot, Lepisto met 21-year-old Sue Henderson in 1970. A brief courtship was interrupted by his desire to explore Europe before marriage. A month into the expedition, he called, and she answered. She joined him in Rome, where he proposed.

Upon learning that 10 witness signatures would be required at the American Embassy, they took a ferry to Athens and found an American church whose minister's prime concern seemed to be the odds of the union lasting.

Twice, he "pointedly said to me, 'Did you know that one out of three marriages here ends in divorce?'" she recalled.

Sue, who has spent 43 years as a teacher, counselor and principal with the Los Angeles Unified School District, got the last laugh. The marriage lasted 50 years.

The couple settled in North Hollywood. With a daughter and two sons, they eventually made Agoura Hills home.

"His children were the light of his life!" Sue Lepisto said. "He was omnipresent on the sidelines at youth basketball and soccer games, cheering from the dugout at baseball games and imploring runners to ‘GO’ down the homestretch at track meets."

After 14 years as a Los Angeles County probation officer, Lepisto retired to go into teaching. At El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, he taught physical education and coached cross country and track for another 14 years.

He retired in 2010 to have more time for family, exercise and travel.

He is remembered for "his kindness, selflessness, loyalty, determination, and love for his family," said his son Garrett. "Vic gave his all to others, always putting them ahead of himself and celebrating the success of those around him."

He is survived by Sue, their three children, eight grandchildren, his sister Carol, brother Dave, cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Bruce Barack

79, Los Angeles

Bruce Barack would have turned 80 in April and had no intention of slowing down.

A thoracic radiologist who spent most of his career practicing at the Veterans Administration and training UCLA residents, Barack continued working even after retirement until his death Dec. 31.

“He just loved what he did,” his daughter Lauren said. “He loved teaching. … He loved looking at film to problem solve, to find – what was it going to tell him?”

Carol Wu met Barack in 2002, when she was a radiology resident first learning how to read a chest X-ray.

“As new residents, we were usually not so knowledgeable,” Wu said. But Barack provided a low-pressure learning environment.

“He would always be very enthusiastic in pointing out the interesting findings and asking us what we think,” she said. “If we got anything right, he was usually very complimentary.”

More than just teaching radiology, Wu said, Barack made a real effort to get to know his trainees – their family situations, their goals, their hobbies.

“He loved those young people,” said Adrienne Barack, Bruce’s wife of 55 years. “They all trusted him and came to him – he listened to so many people crying.”

“You know that children’s store Janie and Jack? We kept them in business for years,” she said. “Every time there was a new baby we would go and buy clothes.”

Even after trainees moved on, Barack continued to mentor them, write recommendations and connect them to job opportunities.

Over the years, Wu said, whenever she published a new article, gave a lecture or earned an award, he would call or text to tell her she was doing a great job.

“He’s like a father figure in my life,” she said. “It was just so sad for me to realize that there’s not going to be somebody there to cheer me on.”

A Missouri native, Barack earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees at Washington University in St. Louis. He completed his internship at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, then was drafted.

A lifelong liberal who opposed the Vietnam War and disliked President Nixon, Barack contemplated fleeing to Israel or Sweden with his wife and young daughter to avoid becoming a soldier. But a call from the National Institutes of Health saved them, offering Barack a research position and a means of completing his service without going to combat.

Barack later finished his residency at UCLA, beginning a half-century devotion to the Bruins, whose games he and Adrienne attended almost without fail since 1971.

Barack’s other passions included music and sushi. The couple regularly attended performances of the L.A. Philharmonic and ate weekly at his favorite sushi restaurant, Kiriko on Sawtelle – which was where Bruce took people if he liked them.

“We were not stay-at-home older people,” she said. “We couldn’t cram enough in for him.”

Barack also raised hundreds of orchids in the backyard of the couple’s Brentwood Glen home.“

“He was diligent, he was out there every day,” Lauren said.

Barack and Adrienne both caught COVID-19 in December, possibly from repairmen who came to the house to fix a furnace. Amid the winter surge of patients in Southern California, the ambulance couldn’t take him to his beloved UCLA and he was instead treated at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, where he died.“

I never really realized that I would speak about him in the past tense,” Adrienne said.

It seems there wasn’t anything Milton Melzian Jr. didn’t excel at when he applied himself, be it as a husband and father, engineer, or a hobbyist nurturing an interest with both tenderness and care.

Born in San Jose in 1931, Melzian was a 10-year-old boy fishing on a San Francisco pier when news spread of the attack on Pearl Harbor, scrambling all the servicemen in the Presidio as warning horns blasted across the city.

With his father absent, Melzian took on odd jobs as a teenager to help the war effort and to support his mother and siblings, then took culinary training at San Francisco State University after graduating from high school.

When the Korean War broke out, Melzian’s skills helped him climb to the rank of sergeant in a mess unit that fed the frontline troops. He “only had to dodge a bullet once,” his daughter, Ann Compton, said in an email.

But it was after he returned from the war that Melzian’s eye for detail and love of family truly propelled him.

Melzian earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and then opted to make the grueling commute from Aptos, a small seaside town in Santa Cruz County, to Silicon Valley each day so his children could grow up by the beach.

He traveled the world and brought back gemstones and fine silk fabrics for his daughters, taught jewelry casting at a community college and took up photography and botany, entering his prized orchids into local shows.

When a recession set in during the 1970s, he left engineering to run a Carmel Valley delicatessen with a friend.

“Apparently, we didn’t have much money during those years, but my sister and I never knew that there were struggles because they were such happy years,” Compton wrote.

When a career change prompted Melzian and his wife to relocate to Idaho in the 1980s, he quickly ingratiated himself in the community and joined the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise.

“My father was a man that everyone loved; a gentle, intelligent, unselfish soul with a passion for this beautiful world and all of its creatures,” Compton wrote.

He was looking forward to becoming the first man in his family to reach 90, but contracted COVID-19 while staying in an acute care center in Sunnyvale, his daughter said. He died Jan. 5 at age 89.

Since his passing, friends that Melzian made over the years have shared stories with his family they’d never heard, deepening their appreciation for how he raised them and shared what he knew with others.

“My dad always made me feel larger than life, like I could accomplish anything,” Compton wrote. “Like all great fathers, he made me feel like the most creative and intelligent person on Earth, and I felt the same about him.”

Melzian also is survived by a second daughter, Claudia Frazeur; grandchildren Chase, Tyler, Erica and Nicole; and a sister, Paula Connors.

Jeanne Mary Roche

82, San Rafael

Jeanne Mary Roche was a lifelong Californian, never living far from her birthplace in San Francisco.

A nun for years and later a teacher after leaving the order, Roche died Oct. 2 at Nazareth House assisted living community in San Rafael from cardiac disease with COVID-19 officially listed as a contributing factor. She was 82.

Dianne Kelly, a family friend for more than 60 years, said Roche lived “a pretty quiet life, but she was happy.” Kelly considered Roche her honorary aunt. Kelly’s aunt was in the convent with Roche, and the two women also left the order about the same time – “They were too independent,” Kelly said.

In 2017, after having cloudy vision in one eye, Roche was diagnosed with giant cell arteritis, which can affect the optic nerves, and within days she had gone completely and irreversibly blind. Around 80 at the time, Roche did not want to learn Braille or use assistive devices and so, Kelly said, “She began to resign from life. She just gave up and then got COVID and I think that did her in.”

Roche was part of the first graduating class from Mercy High School in San Francisco in 1956 and became a nun with the Sisters of Mercy in 1957. She received a bachelor's degree in education and taught in several parochial schools in the Bay Area. She left the order in 1967. She was married to Keith Fraser for about 15 years, and then they divorced. She would later work in the office of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Parish in Novato.

Throughout her life, Roche made a real impact on many others.

“She was really a much beloved teacher,” said Kelly. “People would still come up to her in recent years, to say hello and to tell her how much they loved having her as a teacher. Which is interesting because she was very strict, coming from the nuns.”

Nicholas Dees

54, Vallejo

Shana and Alexandria Dees compare being their father's daughters to walking with a giant. In a poem about him, they wrote: “You're up with good down with bad in every walking stride.”

“He had a greatness in him,” Shana said. “He liked to project this general type, strong commanding type of person. That’s what he would like to always put forth in front of the world, but deep down inside he was a marshmallow.”

Born in Oakland in 1964, Nicholas Andre Dees worked as a groundskeeper for a golf course on a naval base, but after work, Dees followed the beat of his heart and played drums, cymbals and xylophone with the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps with his brothers.

After aging out of the B Corps, Dees failed an audition to place in the higher rank of the organization. But that didn’t stop him. Instead, he continued to use his talents by volunteering to train students at Hogan High School so that they were prepared to join the Corps.

As a teacher and a counselor, Dees guided the members of his community to become giants, too.

He got his steadfast spirit from his father, who was in the military, and his kindhearted nature from his gentle mother, Ozella.

Although Dees struggled in his schoolwork growing up because of his dyslexia, he excelled in his extracurricular activities, including sports, Boy Scouts and music.

“He believed in being a champion. A champion is not somebody who always wins, not somebody who always loses,” Shana remembers her father saying. “It’s somebody who is unstoppable.”

His time training youth for the Blue Devils was interrupted by a struggle with substance abuse, according to Shana. However, he persisted after each relapse, and through his faith was able to recuperate.

After recovering from his addiction, Dees paid his sobriety forward by helping others recover from substance abuse.

“My brother's whole life was always about taking care of everybody else. He was immersed in the Church of Christ,” Dees’ older brother, Harold, said. “He had a really giving spirit.”

After having a series of seizures, Dees was admitted to Sutter Solano Medical Center and was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“When I found out that my dad was diagnosed with COVID, I remember the first thing I thought was, ‘COVID has his work cut out for him because no way it’s gonna kill my dad,’ ’’ Shana said. “I don't care if he's a diabetic and has high blood pressure. It doesn't matter because my dad always overcomes these things.”

Dees spent his last few days increasingly more disoriented and confused about his condition. He died May 20 at age 56 after going into cardiorespiratory arrest.

Dees is survived by his mother, Ozella Dees; his wife, Annette Dees; his brothers, Harold and Charles "Bill" Dees; his sister, Sandra Dees; and his daughters, Shana and Alexandria Dees.

Camille Ellington

66, Marina del Rey

Camille Ellington, 66 of Marina del Rey, died from COVID-19 on March 31. (Family photo)

Camille “Sasha” Ellington had big hopes for how her life might change after the removal of a benign brain tumor, which for the last few years had severely diminished her vision.

She would paint and spend more time with her grandchildren. She would go on walks with her dog, Katarina. She would take herself to the beach and dip her toes in the water.

Ellington had the brain surgery in mid-February, said her daughter, Joyel Frank. But she came down with pneumonia as she recovered at Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills.

Though her condition improved for a few days and she was sent to a residential care facility in Culver City, her respiratory symptoms returned with a vengeance. She was admitted to Adventist Health White Memorial in downtown L.A., where she would test positive for COVID-19 and spend her final days.

Ellington died on March 31. She was 66.

Ellington lived in Marina del Rey with her daughter Ashley. Originally from Michigan, she moved to the Los Angeles area in 2004 after living in Virginia and Massachusetts.

She adored life in California, Frank said, being able to see snow and the ocean in the same day if she felt like it.

Ellington was a retired entrepreneur who helped people start their own businesses. She was a Patriots fan and an excellent cook, and she had a knack for interior design. She was a devoted Christian.

“My mama was brilliant — a brilliant woman,” Frank told The Times. “You could talk to her about all kinds of things.”

Ellington is survived by her daughters Joyel, Tiffany and Ashley, and her son, Nicholas. She had 10 grandchildren.

Bayron Salguero

30, Los Angeles

(South Pasadena Police Dept.)

Bayron Salguero’s family worried for his safety on his solo late-night hikes in the mountains above Los Angeles. When a video of a mountain lion chasing a hiker up a hill went viral late last year, Salguero’s uncle cautioned him against a similar fate.

But Salguero didn’t worry.

“I’m so at peace with nature that me and that mountain lion would be buddies,” Salguero assured his uncle, Cristian Allen, who, being just a couple of years older, was more like a brother.

Allen didn’t put it past Salguero, whose charm and famously jovial personality allowed him to befriend just about anyone.

Salguero was born Sept. 25, 1990, in Los Angeles to Albilio and Olga Salguero, two immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala, respectively. He lived his entire life in L.A.

His sister Jocelyne can’t recall ever being mad at her older brother.

“If there was some sort of tension, he would just obliterate it completely,” Jocelyne said.

Friends and family remember a young man who spread infinite love wherever he went, especially at home, where his booming laugh penetrated walls and lifted spirits. He put thought into every relationship.

One year, for his mom’s birthday, he flooded the house with flower bouquets at 5 a.m. to surprise her before she left for work.

And then another morning at 4, he called his co-workers pulling the overnight shift at his old job at LAX to invite them over for home-cooked breakfast.

He was ever determined to be happy and to make the people around him happy.

That determination saw him through a difficult chapter that began in early 2015, when a rare, incurable condition called systemic capillary leak syndrome, also known as Clarkson’s disease, nearly cost him the use of his legs.

When doctors were unsure if he’d fully regain his mobility, he worked to become the self-described “Miracle Man” who not only relearned to walk, but transformed into an avid hiker who conquered a new trail every week.

Salguero wanted to follow in the career footsteps of Allen, an officer with the Pasadena Police Department.

So in late 2019, Salguero landed a job as a police assistant at the South Pasadena Police Department.

On Jan. 15, Bayron told his sister he had a sore throat and was feeling tired. He tested positive after getting a COVID-19 test later that night while he was at work. They sent him home.

The next morning, paramedics rushed him to Kaiser Medical Center in L.A., where he died that afternoon at age 30. The virus had triggered a deadly flare-up of the leak syndrome.

His family doesn’t know how he contracted the virus. He had been living alone in the family’s old house as a COVID precaution.

According to the South Pasadena Police Department, Salguero had just completed dispatch training and was due to begin his first solo shift the week after he died.

Remembering that Salguero enjoyed sharing scenic hiking photos with inspirational quotes he would come across, his family printed one of his favorites on a T-shirt: “Only one who wanders finds a new path.”

Allen Garfield

80, Los Angeles

Ronee Blakley and Allen Garfield star in “Nashville,” a film directed by Robert Altman. Garfield, 80, of Los Angeles died from complications of COVID-19 on April 14. (Herbert Dorfman / Corbis via Getty Images)

Allen Garfield, a veteran character actor who was a vital player in classic 1970s films such as “The Conversation” and “Nashville,” has died at a rest home in Los Angeles from complications of COVID-19.

Garfield’s sister, Lois Goorwitz, said he died April 14 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, the industry retirement facility where several staffers and some residents have tested positive for the virus. The actor was 80.

The Newark, N.J.-born Garfield first set out as a boxer and a sportswriter. While covering sports for New Jersey’s Star-Ledger, he studied acting at night and eventually joined the Actors Studio. There, he studied under Lee Strasberg.

Garfield would become a supporting-player mainstay of some of the best films of the ’70s, including Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation”; “The Candidate” with Robert Redford; Robert Altman’s “Nashville”; Woody Allen’s “Bananas”; Billy Wilder’s “The Front Page”; William Friedkin’s “The Brink’s Job”; and Richard Rush’s “The Stunt Man.”

In “Nashville,” Garfield played the manager and husband of Ronee Blakley’s country star, Barbara Jean.

He plays the furious police chief in 1987’s “Beverly Hills Cop II” who goes on an expletive-laden tirade against Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold and John Ashton before he gets fired himself.

Garfield, born Allen Goorwitz on Nov. 22, 1939, had suffered several strokes, including one shortly before filming Roman Polanski’s “The Ninth Gate” in 1999 and one in 2004 that led to his residence at the Motion Picture & Television Fund home in Woodland Hills.

Read the full obituary

Manuel Villanueva

67, Reseda

(Family photo)

Liliana Monteza was waiting at a bus stop in Van Nuys the first time she saw her future husband, Manuel Villanueva. They traded glances, then he walked up to her and asked for the time. She looked up. He was already wearing a watch.

At first, she wasn’t impressed, but she didn’t know when the bus was coming, so they started talking. They soon discovered that they were both from Peru — she was from the capital, Lima, he was from Chimbote, on the northwest coast — and with their respective families back in their home country, it was good to talk with someone who understood. They married soon after and had two twin daughters, Amy and Annie.

Villanueva tested positive for COVID-19 on April 11. He was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator. At first, he appeared to recover and was taken off the ventilator after a few weeks. He called his family to tell them he’d be home soon and to “take care of each other." But almost immediately, he developed pneumonia, then had a heart attack.

On May 8, after a monthlong battle with COVID-19, Villanueva died at 67.

Villanueva, who lived in Reseda, was a hard worker who woke up at 5 a.m. every day and “never took any days off,” his daughters said. He worked as a handyman in his native Peru, and then in an auto shop once he moved to the United States before taking a job as a maintenance worker at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana.

“Everyone knew who he was because he was always smiling,” said Kristin Charness, El Caballero’s chief financial officer.

But Villanueva’s chief joy was in his family. He was a romantic who picked his wife up from work every day and would sing to her in the car on the way home in a deep, beautiful voice — his favorites were Los Angeles Negros, Leo Dan, and Los Pasteles Verdes from his hometown of Chimbote. He brought her flowers whenever he could.

He was incandescently proud of his twin daughters and kept a photo of them on his phone background to show people. Amy and Annie were students at UC Riverside. They graduated in June, a month too late for him to see. But while he lived, he would talk about them to anyone he met. “Son mis ojos,” he would say. They are my eyes.

Villanueva is survived by his wife and daughters.

Anita Schiller

94, San Diego

A reference librarian and social services bibliographer, Anita Schiller was credited with bringing to light the pay inequities for female librarians and co-wrote an award-winning, prescient article on the privatizing of government information.

Schiller, who died Jan. 23 at 94, worked many years at UC San Diego, was appointed a member of the California Council for the Humanities and received the highest honor from the American Library Association for what it described as “her groundbreaking efforts to enhance the status of women in librarianship.”

She died Jan. 23 after testing positive for COVID-19 and eventually being hospitalized. She was 94.

Schiller was born in New York City in 1926 and lived in San Diego since 1970, working at UC San Diego over the years as a reference librarian, social sciences bibliographer and data services librarian.

Her son Zach Schiller of Cleveland, Ohio, wrote in a memorial to his mother that she was very young when she learned about the need for collective action from her parents.

She met her husband, Herb, in New York, and married him in Berlin where he was working as an officer in occupied Germany in 1946. Once while she was flying to Paris on a military aircraft with a friend, the plane caught fire and she parachuted over the eastern zone of Germany.

Her son Dan Schiller of Santa Fe, New Mexico said her friend survived after the plane crash-landed and his mother was rescued from a tree by Russian soldiers.

Anita earned a master’s degree in library science from Pratt Institute, and was working at the University of Illinois when she researched unequal library service delivered to poor areas in East St. Louis. She also conducted a major survey of salaries paid to employees by 2,000 colleges and research libraries across the country, revealing significant pay disparities between men and women. The work resulted in speaking engagements and the publication in 1968 of her study, “Characteristics of Professional Personnel in College and University Libraries.”

“It was the first such study that showed the extent of the disparity,” Dan said. “It has made her a kind of heroine for librarians, especially women librarians, across the breath of the United States.”

After their mother’s death, Dan said he and his brother began receiving emails from people across the country, including from people they did not know, telling them of the impact she made on their lives.

“It does give you a feeling of here’s a life well spent, a life fully engaged in a cause,” he said.

His mother had other causes as well. She and Herb, a renowned sociologist, media critic and scholar, together won the 1982 Gold Pen Prize by the Los Angeles-based Pen Center for their article about the privatizing of government information, “Who Can Own What America Knows?”

Herb died in 2000. Dan said his mother tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 4, but had no symptoms for about two weeks. After symptoms did appear, she was hospitalized just days before she died.

Patricia Jewel Lopes treasured her family and its rituals, including walking her only son -- her miracle baby -- to elementary school in the mid-1970s in the East Bay city of San Leandro.

But when her son, John Lopes III, entered third grade, he wanted to walk himself. His resistance crushed Patricia Lopes, so her husband crafted a compromise: Patricia would accompany young John three-quarters of the way, until they reached a coffee shop near the school.

“Let her have that,” John Lopes III recalls his father telling him.

Young John soon warmed to their routine because they often would stop at the shop, where Patricia would treat him to hot chocolate before school.

“She was the best mom she could be,” John Lopes III recalled. “She brought a lot of value to people’s lives by making them feel special.”

Born Aug. 21, 1935, Patricia was the eighth of 10 children born to Orren and Bessie Hartman of Marshfield, Mo. (Eight survived to adulthood). They were farmers, and it was a hard life. She had scarlet fever as a small child. At age 11, she lost her beloved mother.She had to drop out of eighth grade to care for her ailing grandfather on the farm. That’s when she became a caregiver, a role she embraced throughout her life.

In the mid-to-late 1950s, she moved with an older brother and his wife to Alaska and became a nanny for their children. She eventually accompanied them to Northern California, where she met her future husband, John Lopes Jr., at church. They married in 1960.She adored her husband and yearned for a family.

After five years, she finally got pregnant. In the third trimester, tragedy almost struck when a motorist smashed into the Lopes’ vehicle. The couple feared they had lost the child due to the collision. Days went by. Then, finally, the baby moved. “They were elated,” said that child, John III.

Patricia’s life revolved around her family. They took trips to the beach. They attended John’s Little League games. She shagged fly balls for him during practice. For a few years, she frequented a neighborhood nursing home just to chat with the patients. “She was a good Christian woman, as she would say,” John III said.

In 1981, the Lopes relocated to Tracy, Calif. When John entered the Army, she lovingly sent care packages to him in Germany. Her husband died in 1989, and seven years later, she found a new love, James Aaron. They were together until he died in 2009.

After Aaron’s death, John would bring dinner and groceries every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Patricia loved chicken nuggets. They would watch the San Francisco Giants; she enjoyed Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and the amiable former manager, Dusty Baker. “She always loved people who smiled,” John III said.

She also adored her grandson, John Lopes IV. Phone calls included the question: “How’s John-John doing?,” her son said. “She always cared about other people -- much more than for herself.”

In 2017, Patricia entered a skilled nursing center near her son’s Modesto home. She adjusted well, bonding with her 90-year-old roommate -- until the pandemic struck. Families were not allowed to visit, and the isolation took its toll and her health declined.

Six months into the shutdown, Patricia contracted COVID-19. She died Sept. 30 from complications from the virus. She was 85.

Survivors include her son, John R. Lopes III; a daughter, Cheryl Lowery; grandsons John R. Lopes IV and Brandon Burgess; granddaughter Stacy Reeves; brother Orren C. “JR” Hartman; and sisters Linda S. Ashbridge and Mary Ellen Wheelwright.

Artemio Ramos

77, Reseda

(Family photo)

Artemio Ramos met his wife Sylvia on the dance floor. The two would dance to música norteña at the weekly bailes that drew other young Mexican Americans on weekends.

“It took awhile for me to date him because I really didn’t like him,” Sylvia said, laughing. “I just loved to dance, but then after a while, he was the only one asking me.”

Now, Sylvia reminisces about Ramos’ moves, his hardworking nature and the love he had for his grandchildren.

Ramos died April 4 of COVID-19 complications at Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City. He was 77. He had been in a wheelchair since 2014, when he became a quadriplegic after falling from a tree.

Long before then, Ramos and Sylvia settled in Reseda in the mid-1960s, where Ramos worked in construction for 30 years.

“He never missed a day,” Sylvia said.

Along with his daily work, he was known for being the handyman in his neighborhood. If the drain was clogged or the toilet needed plumbing, Ramos was the first person people called.

From the age of 12, he helped his family pick crops in the South, before he decided to move to Los Angeles at 19. As an adult, he worked full-time but took English language classes in the evenings, before earning a GED and diploma in 1985, the same year his son Andrew graduated from high school, Sylvia said.

“You can never have enough education,” his daughter Sandra said her father would say.

Ramos rarely shared his emotions, like many Mexican dads, Sandra said. He loved going to casinos with his wife and watching soccer, especially his favorite team, las Chivas de Guadalajara. Sandra described him as a “big provider.”

Ramos’ quiet nature shifted once Sandra and Andrew started having their own children.

“The grandkids brought out a whole different Artemio,” Sandra said, adding that she would set her youngest son, who lives with special needs, on his lap and he would sing him Mexican lullabies. “You would never see my dad doing that.”

Sandra said Ramos became a father figure for her children, and they’ve emulated his special work ethic as they’ve grown up.

“I can see where they’re like my dad,” she said. “Everything has to be perfect, otherwise they don’t accept it.”

Ramos contracted the coronavirus at the Windsor Terrace Healthcare Center, where at least eight patients have died. He had been recovering from pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus since late February.

He started running a fever March 24 and was put on antibiotics the next day. A week later he started having trouble breathing and was transferred to the hospital where he tested positive for COVID-19. He died four days later.

Ramos is survived by his wife, son and daughter, and six grandchildren.

“Grandpa was like their superhero,” Sandra said. “That’s the best guardian angel they can have.”

Luz and Israel Teicher

85 and 85, Stockton

Each in their own way, Izzy and Luz were misfits. He was a Holocaust survivor who yearned for acceptance from his Orthodox Jewish family. She was a Puerto Rican woman in New York, trying to break through in the male-dominated field of science.

Together, they sparked. They met in a speech and debate class in New York City in their mid-20’s. Soon she was riding around with him in his old Chevy. He twirled her in dance halls across the city.

But the union between Israel “Izzy” Teicher and Luz Selenia Teicher (neé Colón) was initially fraught. His siblings harassed them about their relationship, even though Luz, who was raised Methodist, converted to Reform Judaism. Izzy’s father disowned him for eloping with someone outside the faith, forming what would become the deepest trauma of Izzy’s life.

What Izzy lost among his own kin, he gained in Luz’s family. “Family is someone you can go to no matter what happens,” Izzy once told his friend, the writer Mark Singer, who shared notes of interviews he did with Izzy in the 1990s. “The Teicher family, according to that definition, was not a family. [Luz’s] family was.”

The couple lived most of their life in New York, with Luz obtaining a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Rochester. She once predicted that a virus could wipe out the human race. Izzy had a mathematics degree and worked as a computer engineer before starting a new career in social work. Their only child, Victoria “Vika” Lynn Teicher, said they were the type of people who “didn’t look back.”

“They were fun people. We did vacations. They liked to laugh. They liked to play,” Vika said. While her mother was prone to having sophisticated philosophical discussions, her father was the one to crack a joke. “And she would always laugh.”

In their early 80’s, Izzy and Luz were both diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Vika said. When the coronavirus hit, they were living in an independent living facility in Stockton so they could be closer to Vika and other family members. They had frequent contact with home health care nurses and were in and out of the hospital in December, heightening the possibility of contracting the virus.

Luz was hospitalized at a Kaiser hospital in Santa Rosa on Christmas and passed away there on Jan. 1. She was two hours away from Izzy, who was admitted to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton on Dec. 27 and died there on Dec. 29. Both were 85 and died due to complications from COVID-19.

They are survived by their daughter, Vika; son-in-law Andrew Shanken; siblings Jorge D Colón, Ruth N Lopez, Rosa M Colón, Edwin Colón, John E Colón, Elisamuel Colón, Judith Nightengale, Miriam Navarro and Lydia Robinson; and two grandsons.

“The painful thing is they had to be alone,” Vika said. Still, there was one benefit to the way things played out.

“They never really knew the other one was dying,” she said. “They got spared that grief.”

Maria Teresa Banson

62, Huntington Park

At St. Paul University in the Philippines, Maria Teresa Banson was known as "Mama Teng," the go-to person for students or coworkers who were looking for advice.

In her Human Behavioral Organization class, she motivated her students to “go out of your comfort zone and explore the world in a different perspective,” wrote Ria Uy-Salazar, a former student of Maria's, on a GoFundMe page. “Teachers teach, but a great teacher leaves a positive impact to one’s journey in life after school.”

Banson taught computer science, among other courses, at St. Paul in Iloilo City for more than 20 years before moving to Southern California in 2005. Once here, she worked as a secretary for an immigration law firm and later as a clerk at the Hubert H. Humphrey Comprehensive Health Center.

Banson had hypertension and borderline diabetes, and had had a stroke 20 years ago, which made her more susceptible to the coronavirus. She died of complications from COVID-19 on June 27. She was 62.

Banson, whose four adult children also immigrated to the U.S., lived in an apartment with her husband, Rolando Banson, in Huntington Park. On her days off, she would go to the malls with her best friend, Mary Therese Valdevieso, who had been a co-teacher at St. Paul’s when they were both in the Philippines. In recent years, the two also traveled extensively, sometimes visiting former students in different parts of the United States.

A member of the Household of Faith, a Catholic charismatic group, Banson was deeply religious. Every Sunday, she would attend Mass at either St. Columban Catholic Church near downtown Los Angeles or St. Basil’s Catholic Church in Koreatown, her daughter Aileen said.

Banson had a good memory and often sent cards on her friends’ birthdays, according to Aileen. With limited money, she was generous, especially with food, and always brought extra food for her colleagues and friends.

Valdevieso wrote on the GoFundMe page: “Teng was a caring and thoughtful person. She would show up in my doorsteps with fruits or just anything she could think of.”

“She remembers everything,” Aileen said.

During struggling times, Banson made sure her children were fed, Aileen added.

“We were not brought up [on]...sodas and juices, but every time she would remember to give extra sweets like chocolates to us,” Aileen said. She remembered getting the sweets in school lunch boxes, with notes saying “good luck today” or “I love you.”

Aileen inherited the knack of helping others from her mom. But when, fresh out of college, she lent 10,000 pesos to a friend and didn’t get it back, she remembered her mother telling her: “You have to look out for yourself. You only give extra to other people if you know we have something for yourselves.”

“That’s my mantra in life now [that] she’s away,” Aileen said.

Maria is survived by her husband; two brothers, Danilo Baltazar and Mario Baltazar; her four children, Aileen Banson, Kim Roland Banson, Jule Bryan Banson and Ken Philip Banson; and one grandchild.

Hatsy Yasukochi

80, San Francisco

Hatsuye “Hatsy” Yasukochi, 80, ran a bakery with her husband in San Francisco’s Japantown for nearly 50 years. (Family photo)

Hatsuye “Hatsy” Yasukochi’s bakery in San Francisco’s Japantown stood for more than just its popular specialty, coffee crunch cake.

The small family business also reflected the character and personality of its owners.

For almost half a century, Hatsy and her husband, Hisao “Moses” Yasukochi presided nearly daily over the community landmark.

Hatsy manned the front counter, decorated the cakes and greeted her customers by name. It was almost like they had stepped into her living room. The wall behind the register was filled with family photos.

“She was very well-liked in the community,” said her daughter, Stacey Nolan.

She did not talk a lot about her struggles. A native of the Bay Area, Hatsy and her family were sent to internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II, first in rural Arkansas, then at Tule Lake, in Northern California. Nolan didn’t learn full details from her mother until she took an Asian American studies class in college.

A year ago, Hatsy, then 79, was diagnosed with lung cancer, and underwent chemotherapy and immunotherapy last summer. Nolan said Hatsy worked her way through that with grace and optimism, still showing up at the bakery, a scarf adorning her head.

“She felt like she had to overcome that in order to get to her 80th birthday,” Nolan said.

At first the treatment worked. The tumor shrank. But in November the cancer began to grow again and treatment resumed. In February, Hatsy moved to a rehab center. When the coronavirus began to ravage care homes, Hatsy’s family moved her out as a precaution, but three days later, it was apparent she had contracted COVID-19.

She died March 27. She had just turned 80.

She is survived by her husband, Moses, daughters Stacey, Wendy and Erin, sisters Lois and Kristine, and five grandchildren.

Gregory Bundy

65, Inglewood

Gregory Bundy, a pastor from South Los Angeles, did what many have done in the past year.

With a few days of vacation, he took a mini-break to Las Vegas with his wife and one of his daughters in early November. When they came back, all three tested positive for COVID-19. By Nov. 16, he was admitted to a hospital in Moreno Valley, where the family is based.

His wife and daughter recovered, though both were also hospitalized. But Bundy, who suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, died of the disease on Nov. 24, his daughter Shonda Bundy said. He was 65.

“I miss him terribly, he was my best friend,” Shonda said.

His clothes, shoes and Bible are constant reminders of the loss. “Everything is still there, I feel like it’s fresh every day,” she said.

Bundy grew up in South LA. He didn’t graduate from high school, but he found a path in life through his faith, becoming an elder and an assistant pastor at the Greater Page Temple Church of God in Christ in the Adams-Normandie neighborhood. He later received an honorary bachelor's degree in theology, his daughter said.

“I remember him best for just being a happy guy, he loved the Lord, he loved talking about the Lord, he loved his children,” Shonda said. “He always gave us great advice. He always pushed us.”

Bundy founded Blessed Ministry, a foundation that distributes food, clothing, blankets and personal care items for homeless men, women and children in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

He had once been homeless himself and had empathy for those without a home.

Shonda recalled losing the family home in the late 1990s and spending nearly a year living in a motel room.

“He understood what it was to be homeless,” said Shonda. “That's why he was so passionate about helping them out.”

Bundy is survived by his wife Jacqueline, six children and three grandchildren.

Trini Lopez

83, Palm Springs

Trini Lopez, a singer and guitarist who gained fame for his versions of “Lemon Tree” and “If I Had a Hammer” in the 1960s and took his talents to Hollywood, has died in Palm Springs at age 83

Filmmaker P. David Ebersole, who just finished shooting a documentary on Lopez with Todd Hughes, confirmed that Lopez died from complications of COVID-19 at Desert Regional Medical Center.

Mentored by Buddy Holly and Frank Sinatra, Lopez became an international star while performing in English and Spanish. Unlike Mexican American singers such as Ritchie Valens, Lopez rejected advice to change his name and openly embraced his Mexican American heritage despite warnings it would hurt his career.

“I insisted on keeping my name Lopez,” he told the Dallas Morning News in 2017. “I’m proud to be a Lopez. I’m proud to be a Mexicano.”

Sinatra signed Lopez to his Reprise Records label after seeing him perform at a West Hollywood nightclub. They became friends and were spotted together regularly in social circles in Las Vegas and Palm Springs.

Lopez also appeared in the film classic “The Dirty Dozen” and the comedy “The Phynx.”

Born Trinidad Lopez III to immigrants from Guanajuato, Mexico, Lopez grew up in Dallas’ poor Little Mexico neighborhood. The family’s dire economic situation forced Lopez to drop out of high school and work.

His life changed after his father bought him a $12 black Gibson acoustic guitar from a pawn shop. His father taught him to play the instrument, which led the young Lopez to perform at Dallas nightclubs that didn’t allow Mexican American patrons.

Buddy Holly saw Lopez at a small nightclub in Wichita Falls, Texas, and introduced him to Norman Petty, his record producer in Clovis, N.M. Holly died in a plane crash six months later, and Lopez briefly replaced him as lead singer of the Crickets.

Lopez moved to Southern California and got a regular gig at P.J.’s Night Club in West Hollywood. Sinatra saw him perform and offered him a contract with his new record label, Reprise, where Lopez got his first major hit with “If I Had a Hammer.” It went to No. 1 in nearly 40 countries.

Lopez was rarely on the charts after the 1960s, but his line of Gibson Trini Lopez guitars released from 1964 to 1971 unexpectedly influenced a generation of younger guitarists, including Dave Grohl, the Edge and Noel Gallagher.

Ebersole and Hughes recently finished shooting a documentary on Lopez called “My Name Is Lopez.”

Lopez never married and had no children.

Garry Bowie

59, Lakewood

AIDS activist Garry Bowie, 59, of Lakewood died earlier this month of complications from COVID-19. (Family photo)

Garry Bowie would frequently counsel people newly diagnosed as HIV-positive who didn’t know where to turn. Many would end up staying with Bowie and his husband, Jeff Wacha, proof of Bowie’s commitment to his work as an AIDS activist.

“He was very compassionate,” Wacha said. “There are times I would find out at the last minute one of his clients would be staying in the guest room because they had no place else to go, and he wasn’t going to allow them to stay on the street. That’s just who he was.”

Bowie, 59, died earlier this month of complications from COVID-19. He was the executive director of Being Alive, a nonprofit that provides health and mental health services for HIV-positive people in West Hollywood. Bowie, who lived in Long Beach for three decades before moving to Lakewood in the fall, formerly led the Long Beach AIDS Foundation.

“He was a kind and compassionate person who dedicated his life to supporting others, leading the fight against AIDS/HIV, supporting LGBTQ health and wellness, and giving back to the community,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.

Bowie and Wacha were members of gay motorcycle clubs and met at an AIDS charity ride in the spring of 1999. Later that year, they were paired as a motorcycle team to shut down intersections to allow safe passage for Avon breast cancer walkers. They became inseparable. One of Bowie’s hobbies was creating an archive about gay motorcycle clubs in California.

“We lost so many people during the AIDS crisis, we were at risk of losing our history, especially in the leather and motorcycle community,” Wacha said. “He wanted to make sure the younger generation knew their roots.”

Bowie was born in Maine, the son of a military cartographer who met his mother in Japan during World War II. The family lived in Texas and Hawaii before settling in Orange County.

Bowie’s Japanese mother was shunned by his father’s family and her relatives remained in Japan. He had three siblings, all of whom preceded him in death, as did his father. He never experienced a large, rambunctious family until he met Wacha’s sprawling Iowa clan, who adored Bowie.

“Whenever someone would have a baby, we would go back and Garry was sort of the baby whisperer. The first thing he would do is grab the baby, even if they were fussing,” Wacha said. “They would immediately get quiet with him. He was their special Uncle Garry.”

Bowie started having flu-like symptoms on March 19. He was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator eight days later. He died on April 7.

Bowie is survived by his mother, Tomoyo Bowie, and Wacha.

The first time someone met Bishop Anthony Pigee Sr., they might notice his “ever-glowing” smile or his laugh “like a lion in the jungle.” Maybe he’d pay for their meal or fill up their gas tank. But if they asked him what he did for a living, said his son and successor Elder Anthony Pigee Jr., all he’d say was that he was “in the business of changing lives.”

Bishop Pigee was a powerful preacher who traveled around the United States and the world to preach, but who also went out of his way to care for his community and the Life of Faith Community Center, the nondenominational church he founded in Long Beach 15 years ago.

“If you needed it, he had it. If you didn’t need it, he’d give it. He just wanted to be a blessing,” said his wife, LaVicia Pigee.

Pigee was so well known in the community that when LaVicia called a friend to tell him of her husband’s passing, the friend already knew: Someone at the corner convenience store Pigee frequented had heard it and shared it with the group that hung out outside.

It may have been Pigee’s care for those around him that led to his contracting the coronavirus in late March. With stay-at-home orders about to go into effect, Pigee was driving around town stocking up on staples. “He was the epitome of a provider,” said Anthony Jr.

On March 28, with Pigee’s breathing becoming more and more labored, LaVicia drove him to Kaiser in West LA. He tested positive for COVID-19, and doctors told him that the breathing problems he’d had for three months weren’t from allergies after all. They were from pneumonia. Eleven days later, on April 8, Pigee died. He was 49.

His family and friends remember a man who, when he wasn’t preaching from the pulpit, was constantly cracking jokes. He had a deep, joyful belly laugh and a beaming smile that could turn a bad day to a good one in a moment, said longtime friend Bishop Sherman Gordon of Family of Faith Christian Center in Long Beach.

Pigee loved to embarrass LaVicia with compliments. Once when they were out to dinner, he explained to the waiter that the couple was on a date, then suddenly burst into a song about how beautiful she was, made up on the spot.

Pigee had a few different catchphrases that he’d return to from time to time. These days, one stands out:

“The best time you have is the time you have.”

In addition to his wife and son Anthony Jr., Pigee is survived by another son, Darius; daughters Sandrika, Adrina, Camran, Laniya and Lanicia; daughter-in-law Tineisha Pigee and sons-in-law Albert Parish and Anthony Arzu.

An earlier version of this obituary contained errors. It described the Life of Faith Community Center as affiliated with the Church of God in Christ; it is nondenominational. It also said Pigee had founded the church in South Los Angeles a decade ago; it was founded in Long Beach 15 years ago.

Ronda Felder

60, San Diego

Ronda Felder gave her life to people in need, always doing whatever it took to make room in her home, her heart and her family for anyone who was hurting, lost or abandoned.

A social worker for the County of San Diego, Felder died Aug. 3 at Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center, where she had been battling COVID-19 for a month. She was 60.

One of Felder’s two daughters, Treasure Felder, said her mother leaves behind a legacy of love and service, something she showed not just to her own daughters, Treasure Felder and Chomedy Curry but to the dozens of foster children she helped raise, her church family at New Creation Church of San Diego, her relatives, the children she watched over as a social worker and anyone else in need.

“She was all about her family, those related to her by blood and those related to her by love,” said Treasure.

When Treasure was in middle school, her mom would take in her classmates and friends “whose moms weren’t doing OK,” sharing with them her family’s modest home and resources.

“Even though we didn’t have a lot she always made space,” Treasure said. “Sometimes we were all sleeping on top of each other, but we had a home.”

Felder was constantly on the move, always working to improve life for others, never slowing down, rarely getting exhausted, almost never getting sick, Treasure said. As a single mother, she worked full time after the family moved from New York to San Diego in 1998. She began pursuing a college education in 2003, graduating from San Diego State University with a degree in social work.

Ronda Felder graduated from San Diego State University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

“She’d go to work at 5 a.m., work eight hours, come home, make sure we had what we needed and then she would go to school,” Treasure said. “She’d come home late and do it all over again, every day for years.”

Once Ronda Felder graduated from college at the age of 50, she did not slow down, Treasure said. She got a job as a social worker for the county, and worked tirelessly for the children on her list, even after the pandemic descended on California. First she visited them on video chat services, then, when the county directed social workers to resume visiting children, in person.

Treasure said her mother felt her work was a calling, and she answered the call even though she knew she was putting her life in danger with every in-person visit amid the pandemic.

“She knew the risk, but in many ways, she thought she was protected by God because she was doing God’s work,” Treasure said.

She is survived by her mother, sister, children and grandchildren.

Julio Ramirez

43, San Gabriel

(Family photo)

It was the last day of high school and Julio Ramirez didn’t have money to buy his yearbook so his friend Julie Murillo helped pay for it. The two would go separate ways and begin their own lives, until 10 years ago, when Murillo received a Facebook message.

“A million years later, he found me and he’s like, ‘Is this really you? Don’t think I forgot, I still owe you money for your yearbook,’” Murillo said. “That’s kind of how we started talking again.”

The rekindled love led them to get married in 2017 and the two lived together in San Gabriel where he worked as an executive sales representative at MK Diamonds.

Everything changed, however, when Ramirez returned from a business trip with a fever in early March. After a week of flu-like symptoms and trouble breathing, Ramirez died at the age of 43 next to Murillo in their bed.

Ramirez’s death was originally pinned to pneumonia, but weeks later a private autopsy company hired by Murillo found that he tested positive for COVID-19.

“I kept fighting for answers,” Murillo said.

Ramirez's story sparked multiple local news stories and a GoFundMe page started by his “MK Family.” The page has already raised over $46,000.

Seeing people come together for her husband has helped Murillo cope — especially when his co-workers share stories about him on the job.

Linda Guerrido showed Ramirez “the ropes” when he started at MK 17 years ago. Since they spent so much time together at the job, he became like a little brother. As he was one of the younger workers at MK, Guerrido called him “my little pulga” or “my little flea.”

“He always had a big smile on him,” she said. “He talked to everybody, regardless of who they were.”

Guerrido and Ramirez would often travel to diamond trade shows where, on their days off, Ramirez would be “one of the girls.”

“He could hang out with us, because he had patience to put up with all of our crap,” she said with a laugh.

As a group, they’d go to karaoke bars, where Ramirez was never afraid to grab the mic.

“He could sing anything, but everything sounded like a mariachi voice,” Guerrido said. “We would laugh and laugh. Singing brings joy and it was a sharing experience. That’s just how Julio was.”

Ramirez is survived by his wife Julie, two sons Juan and Isaac, siblings Claudia, Guillermo and Luis, and his parents, Esperanza and Julio.

“He was the true meaning of what a gentleman is,” said Murillo.

Ron Rowe

83, Hollywood

In the 1970s, at the end of a club date by Oscar Peterson, Doris Rowe persuaded the jazz piano virtuoso to come home with her and her husband and show Ron Rowe a thing or two on the keyboards.

Ron Rowe, a jazz pianist who performed in Hollywood, Tahoe, Reno, Las Vegas and at Disneyland, had an enviable and very expensive Steinway piano he had brought from Germany to the couple’s Hollywood condominium. Peterson sat down and improvised for a couple hours, “showing him different ways he could play a tune,” Rowe’s nephew, Stefan Mrakich, recalled.

“Ronnie likened it to meeting, in terms of the music world, Jesus Christ,” Mrakich said.

Rowe’s only job, and the only one he ever needed, was playing jazz piano, his brother-in-law, George Mrakich, said. Rowe died Dec. 14 of COVID-19 at a Kaiser hospital in Los Angeles. He was 83.

An only child and a piano prodigy, Rowe was born into a Detroit family that had displayed no particular musical affinity — his father was a salesman and his mother a homemaker. Holing up in his bedroom, he trained his ear on vinyl recordings of Peterson and George Shearing, George Mrakich said. At age 18, he joined the burgeoning Los Angeles jazz scene.

He attended the now-defunct Westlake College of Jazz in Hollywood, majoring in piano and arranging, then began booking professional gigs. He played with the Claude Gordon Band and spent a summer on Catalina Island with Eddie Grady and the Commanders.

In the early 1960s, Rowe met Doris, a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher who sometimes sang in clubs, at one of her gigs. Rowe, the story goes, had one too many and nodded off between games of pool. He awakened to find a beautiful blond with the cue in her hand at the pool table.

They were married in the Mrakich family home in El Sereno, built in 1936 by Doris’ parents.

Rowe was steeped in straight-ahead jazz and bebop and jazz popularizers ”weren’t for him,” said Stefan Mrakich, who studied piano with his uncle after he retired in the 1980s. His favorite song was the Count Basie Orchestra’s “Lil Darlin’”; he and his wife made it their song.

In the late 1960s, Rowe was hired for the Disneyland Jazz Orchestra’s Pearly Band, which played in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Fantasyland and in New Orleans Square. The combo’s natty suits with rows of white mother-of-pearl buttons were modeled on a British music hall tradition; an animated Pearly Band was featured in the 1964 Disney musical “Mary Poppins.”

For the Disneyland Christmas parade of 1968, Rowe was handed a bass drum, an awkward and entirely unfamiliar instrument, at least to him. He mastered it, playing with a comically solemn expression that belied his genial temperament.

“Ronnie was the easiest-going guy you’d ever want to meet. Everybody liked him; he was one of those nice guys,” George Mrakich said.

Ron and Doris never considered living anywhere but Hollywood, near the clubs and then-office of Local 47, the Musicians Union of Los Angeles, where Rowe played cards with his friends. “They liked to be where it never sleeps,” George Mrakich said. They loved MOCA and the Norton Simon Museum, and collected art, including a Picasso lithograph and works by Carol Jablonsky.

Doris died in 2002. In November, Rowe was residing in an assisted living center in Glendale when he was hospitalized with stomach pains, Stefan Mrakich said. A precautionary coronavirus test turned up positive.

Hy Cohen

90, Palm Desert

(Family photo)

Hy Cohen had so many witty stories as a teacher, coach and Major League Baseball player, that those who knew him will never forget the smiles he always brought to their faces.

During his days as the baseball coach at Birmingham High School in the San Fernando Valley from 1965-77, he perpetually had a cigar in his mouth and a one-liner at the ready. His teams won city championships in 1966 and 1969.

Cohen, a onetime professional baseball player, died on Feb. 4 at Eisenhower Memorial Hospital in Rancho Mirage of complications from COVID-19. He was 90.

“He was a character,” said John Klitsner, a member of Birmingham’s 1969 championship team that played at Dodger Stadium. “He was a real gentle coach. He let us play with no undue pressure and no stress.”

Hyman Cohen was the son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Jan. 29, 1931, he grew into a 6-foot-5-inch right-handed pitcher who, as a 17-year-old prospect, attracted the attention of pro scouts at the Polo Grounds, where the New York Giants played. He signed with the New York Yankees for a $750 bonus, then signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1951. He was drafted into the Army during the Korean War and played baseball in the military with Don Newcombe, Sparky Anderson and Maury Wills.

He pitched against four future Hall of Famers in either the major or minor leagues: Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Monte Irvin. He made his Major League debut for the Cubs in 1955, throwing 17 innings and allowing 15 earned runs — a less-than-stellar record that got him sent down to the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. That’s where he met and married his wife, Terry.

Gaylon White’s 2014 book, “The Bilko Athletic Club: The Story of the 1956 Los Angeles Angels,” includes an entire chapter on Cohen.

“Hy had a great sense of humor,” White said. “He wore No. 42 during his brief stint with the Cubs in 1955. I kidded him about being the only MLB pitcher with a lifetime record of 0-0 to have his number retired. He loved it. Of course, Jackie Robinson wore No. 42, and it has been retired by every team in MLB.”

Birmingham Athletic Director Rick Prizant remembers when Cohen’s doctor told him to give up coaching baseball because it was too much pressure, so he was told to take over coaching the tennis team. On his first day, two of his top tennis players got into a fistfight, leading him to quip, “I’ve never had more pressure.” He coached tennis until 1991.

He was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.

He was buried in his No. 42 Cubs jersey with his hat, his favorite cigar, favorite cookies and mandel bread. He is survived by his wife, son Jeff and daughter Jill.

George Bender

88, Rancho Palos Verdes

Bender at Half Dome. (Family photo)

John and Marie Bender immigrated to Southern California from the Netherlands in the middle of World War I, looking to build a better life for their family.

They settled in Venice, where one of their four children, George, would embark on his version of the American dream. He married his high school sweetheart from Venice High, Shirley, and raised four kids from the breathtaking ocean views of Rancho Palos Verdes. He joined the Air Force and helped the Korean War effort as a mechanic. He started his own plumbing company, George Bender Plumbing, in 1958 and spent 31 years as a firefighter with the Los Angeles Fire Department.

George and Shirley Bender found enjoyment in water sports, ran marathons as part of the Palos Verdes Pacers running club and once hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney, 14,505 feet high in their favorite place in the world, the Sierra Nevada.

“He was tough, a tough Dutchman,” said his daughter, Cindy Farber.

Yet, reflecting on Bender’s 88 years after he died from complications of the novel coronavirus March 30, Farber said the defining aspect of his life wasn’t toughness but the tenderness he had for his wife.

“That was his main thing, his love for her,” Farber said. “He never really got over her death.”

A two-time breast cancer survivor, Shirley died in 2004 of pancreatic cancer. She was 72.

“He was just never the same after that,” Farber said.

But Bender kept going, trying to maintain the same rhythms. He handed down his plumbing company to his son, David, who kept his dad’s name on the business. He continued to help Shirley’s charity of choice, Las Candalistas, a philanthropic group of women who raise money for children’s programs in the South Bay. In 2006, Bender even hiked Half Dome at Yosemite National Park on his own, a 13-hour effort.

As the years went by, his walking became less ambitious but more social. He had a large group that he would take daily walks with around his Rancho Palos Verdes neighborhood, and those friends would also keep Bender busy with handyman and plumbing projects.

Bender died from COVID-19, but Farber said his health had been in decline in the last year. His blood pressure was being monitored, and he had heart problems. The family assumed natural causes took him until they received notification of a positive test for the virus the day after he died in a hospital.

He is survived by a youngest sister, three children, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife and their daughter, Debbie, who died in 1992 of breast cancer at age 29.

Angelo Chavez

41, San Jose

(Family photo)

On a typical Friday night, Angelo Chavez could be found with his brother Daniel at the Foothill Lounge, a San Jose sports bar where Chavez would do his best to convince his brother to buy tickets to an Oakland Raiders game or even a concert.

“He was very into going to different places and just having a good time,” said his sister-in-law, Stacy Felix.

Chavez dreamed of visiting every baseball park in the U.S. His favorite team was the Atlanta Braves. But he also loved sports as a way of spending time with his family.

He would always look forward to seeing his relatives from Stockton at Raiders games, where they would tailgate before kickoff.

Chavez served in the Marines and later continued government work as a U.S. Postal Service supervisor in San Jose.

On the weekends, Chavez enjoyed relaxing with his family.

“He would give you the shirt off his back,” said Felix. “Possessions didn’t mean that much to him.”

Instead, family was the most important thing in his life.

He was close with his two sons, who did not live with him, and remained in San Jose with hopes of watching his younger son, AJ, graduate from high school. Chavez, though, never got that chance.

Chavez died from COVID-19 on March 25 in his home at age 41. He shared the home with his parents and had been self-isolating after becoming ill.

Felix described Chavez as AJ’s “rock.” “His father was his constant,” she said.

He is survived by his parents, Eddie and Patse; sons Robert Ramirez and Angelo “AJ” Chavez Jr.; brothers Eddie, Daniel and Mario; and sisters Rachel, Denise and Desiree.

George Shark Chou Chin was a true family man. Born in Pyinmana, Burma, in 1940, he was the fifth-eldest son of 16 children born to successful businessman Chin Lin Ngoon and his wife, Chow Toy King. Family members said he was his mother’s favorite.

At the age of 18, Chin married his sweetheart, Nelly Wong, whom he met studying abroad in Taiwan. They had four children in Burma (now Myanmar), and the family immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1970s, settling in San Francisco.

“He sacrificed a lot to bring us all to this country,” said his youngest daughter, Grace. “We had to sell everything we owned.”

While living in the Bay Area, Chin worked as a warehouse clerk at the General Motors plant in Sparks, Nev., during the week. When he made it back home on the weekends, he would spend time with his family and occasionally take Grace to the movies.

“The weekly commute between Nevada and San Francisco was difficult for him because he would only be able to spend one or two days with us before returning,” Grace said.

Chin was a huge soccer fan. “One of my fondest memories was going to watch the FIFA World Cup in 1994 with my dad and my brother, Richard,” said his oldest son, Simon.

On many Saturdays, he would get tea and pastries at ABC Bakery in San Francisco with family and friends, many of them also immigrants from Burma, where they would talk and catch up.

After 15 years at General Motors, Chin retired early, at the age of 56. He loved traveling, eating sweets and spending time with friends and family. He traveled to over 15 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy and China. He would always joke around and tease people. But he would also go above and beyond to help people, Simon remembered.

In the late '90s, Chin and his wife moved to Davis to stay closer to their newborn grandson. Later, they moved in with Grace to help her raise her three children and teach them Chinese while she started her own business.

Chin contracted COVID-19 while at Stollwood Convalescent Hospital in Woodland and died at Woodland Memorial Hospital on April 22. He was 80. He was tested for the coronavirus after a housekeeper had tested positive on March 30. His first test came back negative, but he tested positive a week later.

Chin is survived by his wife of 61 years, Nelly; son Simon; daughters Catherine Cheah and Grace Osborne; and seven grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his son Richard.

June Pantages

96, Pleasant Hill

June Pantages was always a natural caregiver, even before the duty was thrust upon her later in life.

She was only 18 when her son Dick was born without an ear. The young mom changed out his bandages and in subsequent years, when he returned from one of his surgeries, had his favorite meal ready.

When she and her late husband, Harry, took their three kids camping off Lake Chelan in Washington, it was Pantages who made sure the trips went off without a hitch, cooking and cleaning while everyone else enjoyed the outdoors. When Harry was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Pantages became his primary caregiver. She even learned how to drive their RV and load his wheelchair, so they could continue traveling with the American Clipper Owners’ Club.

After her husband died in 1991 and the RV stopped running, Pantages still wrote the club’s newsletter.

“She was always behind the scenes,” Dick Pantages said, “but she was the glue that held the whole thing together.”

It wasn’t until Pantages was in her 90s that she stopped driving and traveling and decided to move into a senior living home. Her health had worsened over the past year, and in mid-July, she contracted COVID-19. She died July 31, a little over a month after her 96th birthday, at the Carlton, an assisted living home in Pleasant Hill.

An only child of alcoholic parents, Pantages left home shortly after graduating high school and married Harry. They were married 49 years, the last five of which she spent caring for him as his condition deteriorated. Although Harry was the more outgoing of the two, her quiet warmth and compassion were her calling card, her family said.

Pantages was a busy member of her church for more than 50 years, coordinating weddings and memorial services and making lunch for its men’s group every Thursday. When a family friend began suffering from dementia, she took time every week to visit. She also spent decades volunteering with Kaiser Hospice, out of gratitude for their help with her husband.

“She was always a mama bear, trying to take care of everyone,” her son Dick said. “She was amazing.”

Aside from her oldest son, Pantages is survived by a daughter, Jerri Long; son Timothy Pantages; and grandson Geoffrey Long

Carol Ann Murphy

91, Vallejo

(Family photo)

Carol Murphy loved French wine and German beer. She traveled to more than 20 countries as a civil servant and Peace Corps volunteer, but her penchant for being in the right place at the right time—Seoul in the 1950s, East Berlin in the 1960s and Saigon in the 1970s, for example—led her family to joke she was really a member of the CIA.

“She was everywhere,” said her niece Anne Mendoza, “although she never did fess up to that!” Murphy died at a skilled nursing facility in Vallejo on May 10, 2020, at the age of 91 from complications of COVID-19.

Murphy was a firebrand from the start. Born in San Francisco in 1928, she was the second of three sisters, with Lois above and Elinor below. She chose to remain single and dedicated her life to her work overseas, returning to California only once or twice a year to make her rounds with family. Her many nieces and nephews treasured her visits, which often came with trinkets and gifts from the places she had been.

Carol spent much of her career as an educator in the U.S. Army’s Morale Welfare & Recreation program, which took her to military bases across Europe, Southeast Asia and the U.S. She helped set up the first education center for the Army Sergeants Major Academy in Fort Bliss, Texas, before eventually making her way to Belize with the Peace Corps, where she ran an education center for teachers.

“We’re all giving to a point, but Carol would go without in order for you to have something,” Mendoza said. “Helping people” was her aunt’s favorite hobby.

Ever the activist, Murphy never shied away from a protest or a political debate. She called the Berlin wall a “a pathetic tottering partition” and advocated for women’s rights “even before Gloria Steinem,” her niece said. Her stories ran the gamut from tea parties with Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie to meetings with Norodom Sihanouk, the prince of Cambodia, in the jungles of Angkor Wat. They were enough to fill a book, although she hardly sat still long enough to write one.

“She would show up in her red Porsche,” recalled her nephew, Tom O’Brien. “She would always come rip it up. She was pretty cool.”

Upon retiring at the age of 66, Murphy knew precisely what to do next: she traveled to England with a friend from Korea, then embarked on a months-long trip to India, Singapore, Bali, Bangkok, Saigon, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan and Hawaii. She continued traveling until her mid-80s, at which point she had friends all over the world.

Although Murphy was reluctant to name a favorite country—she called them all “great places”—her niece said India was the one she loved most.

“Out of all her pictures,” Mendoza said, “the one with the biggest smile on her face is at the pool in front of the Taj Mahal.”

Oscar Leonel Rosa

25, Bell Gardens

At home, Oscar Rosa was a quiet boy. At school, he was the star debater, and later, a star coach.

“Oscar helped many students grow into the people they are,” said Samantha Rosas, the current debate team captain at Rosa’s alma mater. “He consoled me as I cried after losing in debate and he never failed to make all of us laugh.”

Rosa put Cudahy’s Elizabeth Learning Center debate team on the map, Rosa’s sister Irma said.

After graduating from ELC, where he was debate captain, he returned to the school to help coach the team. At competitions, he’d even lend a hand to students from opposing teams.

He taught “our team everything we know,” students wrote on a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $17,000 for his family. “He always listened and provided the best advice anyone could hope for.”

Oscar Leonel Rosa died of COVID-19 complications on June 26 at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood. He was 25.

Rosa always found time to help others. Although he commuted to Cal State Fullerton from his family’s Bell Gardens home, he’d use his business smarts to help his dad with the paperwork and payroll at his mechanic shop in Commerce.

“Somehow, this kid was getting his major, his minor, helping my dad with his job and would go back to Cudahy from Fullerton to coach the kids twice a week,” Irma said. “It’s so strange to explain how he found the time to do everything.”

It was just who Rosa was, his mother Sonia said. He always made time for those he loved.

One time, after going to the bank, he spotted a woman selling Salvadoran quesadillas, a sweet cheese pound cake. He approached her and bought all of the slices she had left and even gave her some extra money.

“He was just like that,” Sonia said. “He did so many good deeds and he’d never say a word about them.”

A few months ago, Rosa bought his two younger siblings their own cars so they could commute to their classes at Cal State Northridge. He was paying the cars off and told them not to worry about the payments. He wanted his siblings to focus on school and have a future, like the one he was building for himself.

“He always would tell them to echarle muchas ganas”, his mom said. Put in your best effort.

After Rosa died, his sister called the dealership to see when the next payments were due for both cars. Rosa had them paid off until October.

“Oscar left but he blasted a lot of love into the universe,” Irma said. “He was always planning ahead.”

Rosa started running a fever on June 11, a few days after using a rental car. Three days later, he tested positive for COVID-19. His family tried to keep him in isolation as his symptoms worsened.

He was taken to the hospital on June 15 as he started having trouble breathing and his body began to ache. He died 11 days later.

Rosa is survived by his parents Sonia and Oscar, siblings Irma, Eduardo and Noé and nieces Amarey and Adalie, who was born just after his death.

“It feels as if they cut off my right arm,” his mother said. “He was everything to us.”

Soon Sun Kim and Timothy Kim

85 and 68, Los Angeles

Joseph and Hannah with their father, Timothy, and grandmother Soon Sun in Washington in 2005. (Family photo)

It had been five years since the Kim family had all lived under the same roof in their Koreatown apartment. But the coronavirus brought them all home.

First the grandmother, Soon Sun, came home in mid-April after checking out of Olympia Convalescent Hospital. The family worried, particularly her daughter Eun-Ju, about the rapid spread of the virus in assisted living facilities.

Then the father, Timothy, closed up his acupuncture practice and started delivering sermons from home for his weekend job as a pastor at L.A. Nasung Church in La Crescenta. Eun-Ju, meanwhile, took care of the household while her children, 22-year-old Hannah Haein and 17-year-old Joseph, finished the school year at home, their classes now online.

Despite the nagging fear sweeping the state, the family was enjoying its time together.

But the homecoming was short-lived. After contact with sick patients through the nursing home and Timothy’s acupuncture practice, both Soon Sun and Timothy tested positive for COVID-19 in April. Eun-Ju also came down with serious symptoms. The rest of the family tested positive later that month, including Hannah and Joseph.

One after another, Soon Sun, Timothy and Eun-Ju were all admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital by the end of the month, leaving Hannah and Joseph alone in the apartment.

Hannah felt that the women in her mom’s family were particularly strong, since many had lived to be more than 100. “We have a lot of grit and passion,” Hannah said. “My grandmother was alive and well, up until this virus.”

But when Soon Sun died just one week later at 85, Hannah took to Instagram to give her friends a warning: “This virus is not a joke.”

Hannah and Joseph grew up with their grandmother, who immigrated from Seoul to live with the family in the small town of Randle, Washington. Soon Sun would always make “old school” Korean dishes like galbijjim and yakgwa for the family. Soon Sun and the kids would bring a ladder from their house to a local park to pick nuts from a huge gingko tree to add to their meals, Hannah remembered.

Then, Timothy died May 21. He was 68. “He was my favorite person,” Hannah said of her father. He had been born just as the Korean War was ending, and always had stories to tell. Hannah knew she’d miss him deeply.

Hannah and Joseph said their father's sense of humor was so powerful that it could turn a sour conversation around. “We would be so mad one second, and the next second we’d be laughing,” Hannah recalled. “That’s what he did for our family.”

While the family sometimes struggled financially, their father always found work so that Eun-Ju could focus on taking care of the children and her mother. At one point, he worked as a real estate agent, and once as a businessman for a solar panel company. When they first moved to Los Angeles, he worked for World Vision, a nonprofit that provides humanitarian aid for children.

The family tried to keep news of their father's death from their mother, as she battled the virus in the ICU. But she could tell something was wrong. After all, the couple had been married more than 20 years.

“I’ve already lost my dad, and I promised my dad I would take care of my mom,” Hannah said. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”

Eun-Ju is now virus-free, but her lungs were damaged so severely she’ll need a double-lung transplant. She is currently receiving treatment at USC Keck Hospital while Hannah and Joseph are taking care of family finances and the home.

Read the full obituary

When Raul Miramontes and Adeline Lopez met, they were both working in the fields of the Central Valley. Raul was a truck driver, while Adeline picked crops. The two would marry and move to San Jose, where they would settle and raise their family.

“They were real cute,” their daughter Michelle Miramontes-Medina said. “He’d always crack silly jokes at my mom.”

Both longtime residents of the Seven Trees neighborhood of south San Jose, Raul and Adeline Miramontes died of COVID-19 complications April 27 and June 21, respectively. He was 90 and she was 83. They were married for 61 years.

On a typical Sunday, Raul would be roaming at “la pulga,” or the Berryessa Flea Market in San Jose. He’d sometimes repair bikes and wagons or build things to sell.

“He’d always take neighborhood kids to help them make some money,” Michelle said.

Raul started his own gardening company, which he ran for more than 30 years. Adeline dedicated her time to raising their three children, but also offered a hand to a local bank teller, babysitting her two children while the teller worked.

“They were practically our brother and sister,” Michelle said.

At family gatherings, Adeline would bring her specialty Spanish rice and Raul would bring the tunes. He loved playing the corridos of Los Tigres del Norte, the iconic norteño band that started its career around the same time that the couple settled in south San Jose.

“My dad would always ask to play them at get-togethers,” Michelle said. “They’d talk about going to their concerts.”

Michelle remembers going on two-week vacations every year to Disneyland or the San Diego Zoo or Mexicali, in Baja California. She said those trips were some of her best memories.

Raul and Adeline lived with their daughter Norma, who died of COVID-19 complications May 3. They developed symptoms too. Norma was admitted to the hospital April 13, about a week before Raul suffered from severe chest pains and a hard time breathing.

Raul tested positive for COVID-19 on April 25 and was diagnosed with pneumonia. He died two days later at Regional Medical Center.

After first testing negative for COVID-19 and later positive for antibodies, Adeline was taken to Visalia to stay with Michelle following the death of daughter Norma. She showed no symptoms.

“We thought she was going to be OK,” Michelle said. Then, on May 21, she started developing symptoms, including trouble breathing. She tested positive two days later and was intubated that same day. She spent a month at Kaweah Delta Medical Center, where she died June 21.

“My grandma passed on Father’s Day,” their granddaughter Melissa said. “She wanted to go be with [Raul].”

Raul and Adeline are survived by their children Michelle and Carolyne, five of Raul’s siblings, six of Adeline’s, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Scott Woodard, 67, wasn’t a talkative man, but his words and actions spoke volumes about what and who was important to him.

He was known for his habits: getting the same concession stand combo at baseball games, leaving in the fifth inning, wearing a ball cap and fanny pack whenever he went out, walking around Oakland’s Lake Merritt tidal lagoon for exercise each day.

He was quietly proud of his apartment, the janitorial job he held for more than two decades, and the life skills he had learned from Clausen House, an independent living program in Oakland for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He cherished time with family and friends.

“Just about every time I ever saw Scotty, it was at something routine, like a family event, which he loved,” said family friend Scott McFadin. “He’d talk about it for months in advance. Everyone knew how important it was to Scotty, so it became that much more important to them.”

Scott Douglass Woodard was born June 8, 1952, to Clarence and Patricia Woodard. The third of four children, he was born prematurely with serious complications, severely impaired vision, and developmental disabilities. With the support of his family, he graduated high school and went through the independent living program at Clausen House.

Every season for about 35 years, McFadin and Woodard attended San Francisco Giants or Oakland A’s games together on weekends. As McFadin drove, Woodard would ask about things McFadin had mentioned in past conversations and friends he’d been introduced to at previous games.

His memory was incredible,” McFadin said. “He could remember details about a person he met 25 years ago. He was a very caring person, very loving, very interested in other people.”

Woodard also loved going to restaurants and exchanging family gossip over a meal. He called relatives often and persistently to ask how they were doing, said Jessica Woodard, his niece. “You’d get lots of missed calls from Scotty if you didn’t pick up.”

They started meeting regularly after Woodard’s older sister, Sarah, died two years ago. She had been a pillar in Woodard’s life and a big help with weekly tasks including banking and helping him pay his rent and utility bills. Her death was the latest in a series of losses, including the deaths of his eldest brother, Charles, and his best friend and roommate of over 30 years, Bob Gaede.

Woodard found these big, destabilizing changes a difficult adjustment, but he did his best to carry on and adapt, said his youngest brother Tom, who took over many of Sarah’s responsibilities.

Health issues in October landed Woodard in the hospital and then in the Orinda Care Center to recover in February.

“It was a very difficult last couple of months for him,” Jessica said.

During their last in-person conversation, she said he seemed frustrated and wanted to go home. She tried to cheer him up by reminiscing about his favorite meals and restaurants, and encouraged him to focus on getting better.

Then visits were halted because of COVID-19 restrictions, another jarring change. Tom, who had visited almost daily while Woodard was in the hospital, tried to get the staff to arrange daily phone calls instead.

“That didn't exactly happen,” Tom said, though one nurse did use her personal phone to let them FaceTime him a few times in his last weeks.

In early April, news broke of a cluster of coronavirus cases at the Orinda Care Center, infecting 11 staff members and more than half the residents.

Woodard tested positive but when he didn’t show any symptoms for two weeks, his family dared to hope that he’d be all right. On April 15, they heard that Woodard had developed a fever. He died three days later of complications of COVID-19.

Mike Gotovac

76, Los Angeles

(Courtesy of Dan Tana’s)

Miljenko “Mike” Gotovac knew a thing or two about Los Angeles. As a bartender at West Hollywood’s iconic restaurant Dan Tana’s for more than 50 years, he was the one constant amid an ever-changing sea of actors, rock stars, barflies and dreamers.

Until his hospitalization on March 16, he remained one of the oldest working bartenders in L.A. He died due to complications of COVID-19 on May 14 at the age of 76.

“Mike was a piece of iron in this city,” said Craig Susser, owner of Craig’s restaurant and Gotovac’s longtime friend. “No matter what happened in your life or what happened in the world, Monday through Friday, he was there.”

Gotovac was born in the village of Lećevica, Croatia, in 1943. As a young man, he joined a wave of Croatians who traveled to Germany to escape the poor economy of what was then Yugoslavia. He landed in L.A. in 1967, where he quickly became part of the city’s tight-knit Croatian community. He became the bartender and resident curmudgeon at Dan Tana’s a year later, but despite his position at the center of the star-studded restaurant, his sons said he couldn’t tell a movie star from a customer off the street.

“He liked old cowboy westerns and he enjoyed sports, so what did he care if you’re an actor or actress in the highest grossing movie of the year?” said his son Domagoj. “That was one of the reasons a lot of these famous people really liked him, because it was really the only time they got treated normal.”

So many customers relied on Gotovac’s steadfast presence that toward the end of his career, he showed up as much for them as he did for himself, his sons said. It wasn’t uncommon for him to bring some of the bar’s customers home for the holidays because they had nowhere else to go.

“There were a lot of lonely people in L.A., and he did have a soft spot,” his son Matija said.

When Gotovac wasn’t at Dan Tana’s, he was the consummate family man. He was a parishioner at St. Anthony Croatian Catholic Church, an avid soccer player and longtime president of San Pedro Croat Soccer Club. His idea of a good time was dinner and dancing with his wife, or doting on his granddaughters, Emelia, Iva and Beatrix, who became his greatest joy.

“He took care of people like nobody else,” said Christian Kneedler, manager of Dan Tana’s. “He really was one of a kind.”

Read the full obituary

Ken Caley

59, San Clemente

Ken Caley, right, with his family. (Family photo)

In the days since Michelle and Christine Caley lost their father, Ken, to the novel coronavirus, they’ve been consoled by being able to break through the fog of sadness and share a laugh.

“It’s funny; he was very much a ‘Girl Dad,’” said Michelle, using the phrase made famous after Kobe Bryant’s death in January. “He didn’t have boys, but he taught us all the skills he would have taught a boy. How to throw a spiral, how to bait a hook. We still hold that we caught bigger fish than he ever did, much to his dismay.”

There’s proof, too. On the wall of Ken Caley’s office in the family’s San Clemente home hang two stuffed trout the girls gave their 59-year-old father, a retired Orange County firefighter, as a reminder of the strong young women he’d raised.

“He still displayed them proudly,” Michelle said. “He was very proud of the two of us, and he let us know that regularly.”

As much as Ken Caley was a “Girl Dad,” Michelle and Christine could be called “Fireman Daughters.” Because of their father’s unpredictable schedule, there were certain events he could not attend that most fathers could, yet there were also moments he could take advantage of.

For instance, Caley would appear unannounced at the girls’ elementary school and bring them lunch or join in a basketball game during recess. Because he put in that effort, they could more easily handle his absence when duty called at an inconvenient time.

“It wasn’t by choice,” Michelle said. “It was that he was serving the community and making sure that someone else’s life was taken care of.”

Michelle and Christine left Southern California after college, moving to Chicago and the Pacific Northwest, respectively. After he retired, he and their stepmother, Karla, would often visit.

This spring, they had been planning a surprise golfing trip for his 60th birthday, in June. But they never got the chance tell him about it.

He fell ill with what seemed like a normal flu in mid-March. But it persisted longer than usual, and he began to feel shortness of breath.

On March 28, he went to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo and tested positive for COVID-19. He updated his daughters via text, and they told him they loved him.

Soon, he was put in an induced coma. He died April 15.

“We couldn’t hold his hand,” Christine said. “We had to exercise so much patience to wait for the doctor’s phone call every day to get an update. We wanted to let them do their best work, so we had to support from afar. That was the most difficult part of this horrible situation.”

The daughters believed their father’s 38 years as a firefighter likely did not help his lungs in his battle with the virus.

The day after he died, three fire trucks escorted Caley’s casket, covered by an American flag, from the hospital to the mortuary.

“He loved his job,” Michelle said, “but retired a couple years ago and was really looking forward to just kind of living life. Unfortunately, he got robbed of that.”

Allen Daviau

77, Woodland Hills

Allen Daviau (Associated Press)

Allen Daviau, the Academy Award-nominated cinematographer behind “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Color Purple” and “Bugsy,” died Wednesday of complications due to COVID-19. He was 77.

The news was confirmed by a representative from the American Society of Cinematographers.

Daviau was nominated for five Academy Awards, two of them for Barry Levinson collaborations: “Avalon” (1990) and “Bugsy” (1991). He was nominated for three others alongside Steven Spielberg: “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982), “The Color Purple” (1985) and “Empire of the Sun” (1987), for which he also won a BAFTA.

“In 1968, Allen and I started our careers side by side with the short film ‘Amblin,’” Spielberg said in a statement. “Allen was a wonderful artist but his warmth and humanity were as powerful as his lens. He was a singular talent and a beautiful human being.”

Allen Daviau was born in New Orleans on June 14, 1942, before relocating to Los Angeles with his family. He got his start shooting early music videos for The Who and Jimi Hendrix before transitioning to moviemaking.

Over the course of his decades-long career, he shot John Schlesinger’s “The Falcon and the Snowman” (1985), the Spielberg-produced “Harry and the Hendersons” (1987), Frank Marshall’s “Congo” (1995) and Stephen Sommers’ “Van Helsing” (2004), his final feature. He was awarded lifetime achievement awards from the Art Directors Guild in 1997 and the American Society of Cinematographers.

After a 2012 surgical procedure left him using a wheelchair, Daviau moved into a facility run by the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills, where he spent his final days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. He is the fourth resident at the facility to die from complications of the coronavirus.

Zella Campbell

94, Bishop

Zella Campbell with great-grandson Giovanni (Family photo)

Few things in life made Zella Campbell feel happier or more at home than working the soil.

Decades ago, she planted rosebushes at her home in Bishop, Calif., and they still produce beautiful flowers.

“Pinks and reds and purples, all kinds of colors,” said her granddaughter, Carrie Pizzalato. “She grew strawberries and blackberries, too, along with other kinds of flowers.”

Campbell, 94, died Aug. 14 from COVID-19 complications in a Bishop nursing home, just a week after she was diagnosed.

“One day they said she tested positive but only had mild symptoms,” Pizzalato said. “They said she had a low-grade fever and didn’t feel like eating, but that she was fine and didn’t have a cough or any other symptoms. They gave us a phone number to call for the COVID unit, but it would just ring and ring, and nobody would answer. We didn’t know what was going on.

“Then a week later, her primary care physician goes in and checks on her and tells my mom, 'She’s dying. She’s about to die.’ She’s in a nursing home. They’re not taking her to an ICU or providing her with any real end-of-life comforting care. I guess they had limited medical capabilities.”

It only heightened the family’s frustration and despair when they discovered many of the cards and letters they had sent since the start of the pandemic had gone unopened.

Campbell’s family called her Granny Zella, or simply Granny because "Zella" was hard for the young kids to say. She was born in Iowa, one of 13 children, and moved to Southern California to start a family. She and her husband lived in Orange County — he picked oranges during the lean years — before saving enough money to buy a piece of land in Bishop.

There, Campbell helped make ends meet by running a daycare out of her home.

“She was very loving and caring but expected people to be respectful,” Pizzalato said. “She grew up during the Great Depression, so being respectful was very important to her. She would take care of me after school because both my parents worked full-time. I would come and help her with the kids, hang out and do my homework.”

Pizzalato’s fondest memories of Granny Zella were times spent gardening.

“I always remember her feeding the hummingbirds,” she said. “The urn I got was white ceramic with a pink hummingbird on it. Pink was her favorite color.”

Campbell is survived by her daughter, Carol, her granddaughter, and three great-grandchildren.

Anthony Ragonesi

74, San Jose

Anthony Ragonesi always had a powerful sense of wanderlust.

During summer breaks from his job as a high school math teacher in San Jose, when he wasn’t at his beloved family cabin, he loved nothing more than to travel through Europe with his wife, Julianne. Even toward the end of his life, as dementia began to rob him of more and more of his memories, he could still recall the places they'd been.

”Every time my husband and I would travel, my dad would say, 'Here’s where you need to go and here’s what you need to see,' " said his daughter, Melissa Parvis. "My mom and him would sometimes go for months at a time. He loved Paris. He loved Italy. We’ll find books in the house like 'Europe on 5 Dollars a Day,' which I think you used to be able to do back in the ’70s.”

Ragonesi had a particular passion for exploring his own family history in Sicily, which could be traced back to a tiny village called Presa that had been founded by his grandfather and boasts a street called Via Ragonesi.

He was a man who never forgot his roots. Born in New York and raised there to the age of 11, he remained a loyal Yankees fan throughout his life and wore his baseball cap virtually wherever he went.

After he was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, however, Ragonesi's world became smaller and smaller. As the disease progressed with ruthless aggression, he lost his driver’s license. In February, after he began to have seizures, his family moved him into a memory care facility just as the pandemic was taking hold.

"I was pregnant at the time and we were unable to see him and spend time with him because of COVID,” says Melissa. "That was the hardest part for everybody. Nobody could go in there.”

In early October, the virus infiltrated the facility, which had recently started to allow limited family visits.

They sent an email to all of us saying that one of the caregivers and one of the residents had COVID,” Melissa says. "Two days later, they said, 'Your dad has COVID.’ By the end, we heard that like 32 out of the 42 residents had it.”

On Oct. 24, one week after testing positive, Ragonesi died at age 74.

In June, Melissa gave birth to her son, Frank Anthony Parvis. Ragonesi, who was affectionately called "GP" by his grandkids, was able to see the new baby only over FaceTime.

"That's the saddest thing, that my dad will never meet Frankie," Melissa says. "The most important thing is that my dad will live on through the stories we tell about him.""

Ragonesi is survived by his wife of 50 years, Julianne; his children, Alfio, Nicole and Melissa; and his grandchildren, Kaylee, Wesley and Frank.

Leticia Chavez Godinez knew numbers.

She was a math whiz, her daughter Erika Godinez Morquecho said, and she would tote up complicated math problems in her head -- at lightning speed -- while doing routine errands. Navigating household bills and estimating grocery store totals were her forte.

“You could give her 20 sums and she’d total them in her head – sometimes she’d correct the bank teller,” Morquecho said. “I’d want to pull out my calculator, and she’d stop me: ‘Just gimme the numbers!’ She never doubted her math.”

Chavez Godinez’s very first numbers were 7-3-44, the day she was born in La Ribera in Jalisco, Mexico. Her father, Leopoldo Chavez Bustos, was a surgeon, and her mother, Hilaria Rom, worked as a midwife and fieldworker. When Chavez Godinez was 2, the family moved to Mexicali in Baja California, where she grew up.

Love struck at 16, when Chavez Godinez met Manuel Duenas Godinez through a mutual friend. They married when she was 17 – he was the love of her life, Morquecho said. In 1961, the couple emigrated to El Centro and eventually had four daughters and one son.

Raising her family in El Centro, Chavez Godinez -- who received her GED at Imperial Valley College -- worked seasonally in the fields, picking grapes and melons alongside her mother on private farms in the Coachella Valley and as far north as Delano. She packed tomatoes at Green Valley Farms in Brawley and asparagus at the Abatti Farms in El Centro.It was hard labor – something she didn’t wish for her children -- but Chavez Godinez took pride in work well done.

“She was proud of the strength that it took,” Morquecho said. “When she was pregnant with me, she said she picked melons like it was no big deal.”

She was especially proud of her work in the asparagus-packing shed, where she was known as one of the most prolific and efficient workers. As the freshly picked asparagus rolled by on the conveyor belt, Chavez Godinez quickly counted and bunched them, making sure that no damaged, stubby or overly tall stalks made it into her groupings before binding them with rubber bands.

“My mom’s uniqueness was, you shouldn’t ever have errors,” Morquecho said. “Her daily count of asparagus bunches was always high because of her quickness and her accuracy.”

Chavez Godinez was a good cook, specializing in traditional Mexican dishes. She made three special varieties of tamales for Christmas: one with especially juicy pork, one a mix of sauteed

chicken and vegetables in a unique spice blend, and one a sweet tamale with chopped pineapple. When she baked, it was always in multiples – elaborate, tiered cakes topped with tiny fountains for weddings and quinceañeras.

She loved to travel, particularly back to Mexico City to visit family, where she’d often toast the reunion with two shots of tequila. And she blew off steam at California’s Golden Acorn Casino and Quechan Casino on outings with her sister or friends.

Chavez Godinez wasn’t a high roller – she played the slots -- but the excitement was no less palpable. She’d toss quarters into the machine and yank its arm, gleefully watching the clusters of cherries and golden bells whirl by while waiting for the red 7s to line up just right. Numbers.

But the single number Chavez Godinez was most proud of? Twenty-six. The sum of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Her family meant the world to her,” her daughter Patty Talamantes said. “She loved to give gifts, and she always wanted a house full of guests, family and friends. She always wanted to host celebrations.”

Chavez Godinez was hospitalized on March 8 after enduring chest pain and trouble breathing; she died April 5 from COVID-19.

She is survived by her husband of 59 years, Manuel Duenas Godinez; children Patty Godinez Talamantes, Manuel Godinez Chavez, Leticia Godinez-Fraher, Ivonne Godinez Miranda and Erika Godinez Morquecho; sisters Bertha Romo Avendano, Rosa Margarita Romo, Silvia Romo Olivarria and Lourdes Romo Chairez; 15 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

She was 75.

Larry Robertson

72, San Pedro

(Family photo)

Some people are deeply woven into the fabric of their community. They are the people everybody knows: the neighbor with the right tool, the familiar face at the town watering hole, the person on the sidelines of every local football game. Larry Robertson was one of those people.

“He was Mr. San Pedro,” said his wife of nearly 40 years, Faye Robertson. “He was just a real community man.”

A familiar face in the South Bay until the end, Robertson died April 4 from what is believed to be COVID-19. He was 72.

His family and friends are still reeling. To them, he wasn’t just Larry -- he was a permanent fixture at the YMCA, the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club, the Harbor Bocce Club and at his beloved San Pedro High School, where he spent more than 20 years as a volunteer fundraiser for the booster club, despite never having kids himself.

“It was a legacy his dad started, and Larry took it over,” Faye said. “He would give endlessly to them, cook hot dogs and hamburgers for the team, go to every Friday night football game.”

Robertson was the kind of guy people felt lucky to know. Born in San Pedro in 1947, he graduated from Harbor Community College and spent more than 30 years working in the newspaper industry as a press supervisor for the San Pedro News-Pilot and the Torrance Daily Breeze.

He watched the industry change before his eyes, his wife said. Over the years, his team in the pressroom shrank from 50 people to just a handful. He was devastated when the paper was sold and he was let go. He was just shy of 60 at the time.

“That was the first time he’d ever really been depressed,” Faye said. “He felt like he gave his soul to the place.”

But Robertson, ever the optimist, bounced back, and soon he was working alongside his wife at the Port of Los Angeles assisting cruise ship passengers. It was a seasonal position that allowed him to take advantage of his retirement and of one of his favorite pastimes: being around people.

“He was always so sociable,” Faye said. “My girlfriends would come over and he’d sit there with us. At the gym, I’d have half my workout done and he’d just be arriving because he’d been busy talking to someone.”

In the weeks since his death, his family has received an outpouring of support from the community.

“Everybody in San Pedro knew him,” said his sister, Linda Cherney. “When he passed away, I got phone calls from people I hadn’t heard from in years that knew Larry, and I didn’t even know they knew him.”

Linda remembers fondly the time her brother and a friend made an audition tape for “The Amazing Race,” a global scavenger hunt television show.

“Their slogan was, ‘Retired but not tired,’” she said. “He was a very special man.”

Once, Gabriel B. Zavala envisioned himself playing rock ’n’ roll in Mexico in front of a million fans. He wrote music and played his guitar in front of anyone who would listen.

But the young man’s dream turned into a different reality. He needed money and there were finite instruments he could buy in his hometown of Acámbaro, Guanajuato.

He followed the path paved by his father and uncles. He headed north in 1965 to earn money as a bracero in the city of Placentia. When he had saved enough, he’d return to his native land with a PA system, a Fender guitar and other instruments — ready for stardom.

That was the plan, anyway. Except Zavala never returned home. Instead he cultivated a new audience in the U.S. keen on embracing their heritage through music, albeit a different type.

“He built a bridge across an immigrant generation of elders, parents and youth as they became active in the U.S. and Orange County, a place that is known to be very conservative and not necessarily making diversity a priority,” said Leonor Xóchitl Pérez, director and founder of the Mariachi Women’s Foundation.

This is the story of Zavala, a mariachi teacher, who died Feb. 26 of complications from COVID-19, according to his son Oliver Zavala. He was 76.

Before he became a teacher, Zavala picked strawberries and oranges and later melted steel at the Anaheim Foundry. During the evenings, he attended English classes or rehearsed mariachi songs with his brothers. They were known as Los Siete Hermanos Zavala and enjoyed local stardom for over a decade.

The trailblazers were one of the first mariachi groups to play in Orange County in the late 1960s, and business boomed. They performed at restaurants, weddings and churches and shared the stage with popular singers such as Amalia Mendoza, Gerardo Reyes and Angelica Maria.

Zavala’s band and solo act never got any big record deals or played major arenas, and his desire for fame slowly faded. His religious spirituality helped him realize his life’s mission.

In 1996, Zavala created the nonprofit Rhythmo Mariachi Academy in Anaheim, where he taught thousands of students the power of music and the culture of mariachi.

“In reality, he wanted to bring kids and the Latino youth in particular to feel comfortable in their own shoes, in their own skin of being Mexican,” said Oliver Zavala, who started singing with his dad when he was 5. “Sometimes it’s difficult as a first-generation immigrant to adapt to a different culture. Your friends are eating Wonder Bread and you’re eating tortillas.”

For Gabriel Zavala, every lesson was an opportunity to share and analyze the meanings behind song lyrics. He encouraged students to use their hands to connect with the audience and distributed sheets of diaphragms showing exactly how students should open their mouth when singing. He and his son taught children how to pluck the guitarrón and play the violin and trumpet. At the end of class, students regrouped to perform songs together.

Vivian Fernandez met the beloved teacher when she was a shy preteen in 2004. Her parents enrolled her in classes when she told them she wanted to play the guitar. During her first day of class, Zavala singled her out to lead the group in a song of her choosing.

“I freaked out. I had never sung in my life. All I knew was Selena [Quintanilla’s cover of] ‘Tú, sólo tú,’” the Santa Ana native said. “I don’t know how I did it, but maestro pushed me to do it. He had all this confidence in me. It ended up being the best thing to happen to me.”

She returned to class every week after that and took private singing lessons with Zavala. “La Palma” by Mariachi Mexico Jalisco became her song, and Zavala would regularly duet with her during festivals.

Under Zavala’s watch, lessons transcended instruments. He carved a space for girls interested in performing in the male-dominated field. He founded the program’s “crown jewel,” an all-girls group known as Mariachi Rosas del Tepeyac, Oliver Zavala said.

“We’ve had our part in upholding this tradition and very few people know, but Gabriel Zavala was important to empowering young women, letting them know they have a place in this history and the genre,” Pérez, a performer herself, said. “In mariachi, they learn independence, assertiveness, the discipline of music, which is intellectually rigorous.”

In the last few years, Zavala’s academy struggled to stay afloat. The money earned — less than $1,000 — went toward the school and its $2,000 rent. He accommodated families who couldn’t afford to pay tuition in full through payment plans. He even let some students learn and take home instruments for free. Sometimes students stopped showing up to class and those instruments would be lost.

“Stuff like that made me angry, but my dad would say, ‘No, maybe somebody is playing it,’” his daughter Laura said.

Eventually, the pandemic and Zavala’s death forced the academy’s temporary closure.

One day, Oliver Zavala plans to reopen the school for his father’s memory. These days, he reminisces on students his father helped get into the Orange County School of the Arts, where other notable musicians got their start, or those who went on to perform in professional groups.

“We have no intention of stopping,” he said.

Gabriel Zavala is survived by his wife, Oralia Luna Zavala, and his three children, Gabriel L. Zavala, Laura Zavala Perez and Oliver Zavala.

Rose Cadena Lord

83, Yucaipa

(Family photo)

It was close to midnight when Danielle Enriquez got a call from her grandmother, Rose Cadena Lord.

“Danielle, what size shoes do you wear?” Danielle recalled her asking.

Lord had been watching QVC, the TV shopping channel, and saw a pair of boots she wanted to buy Danielle. It was her favorite TV channel and she loved its advertised lotions and jewelry, but that night, it was just another opportunity to care for her family.

“She would spend her last dime on her family. If you needed help, you just had to tell her,” said Enriquez.

On March 31, Lord’s family found out she had tested positive for coronavirus, part of a cluster of cases at Cedar Mountain Post Acute Care in Yucaipa, where the 83-year-old lived. She developed a lung infection and the sodium level in her blood began to spike. By April 11, she was hospitalized and unconscious, though her breathing was strong enough that a respirator was not needed.

On the afternoon of April 15, Lord’s family saw her for the last time, on a video call. One by one, they said goodbye and told her they loved her.

Not a half hour after they hung up, Lord died, almost as if she’d been waiting.

Lord’s life revolved around her three sons, Ernie, Jimmy and Gilbert Enriquez. After a divorce, she began working at a local boat motor factory to support them. Ernie went to work with her when he was 15.

“I was amazed at her work ethic,” he said. When the factory closed, she became a caregiver and worked another decade until retirement.

Lord was strong-willed and meticulous. She kept things spotlessly clean and loved to decorate her home with handmade bouquets. Her opinions were especially strong on matters of style. If she didn’t like your shirt, or shoes or makeup, she’d tell you.

“You know, you don’t look good in that. I wouldn’t wear it,” Ernie recalled her saying.

Later in life, Lord developed dementia. Her family cared for her, with Danielle acting as her main caregiver, but when it became too difficult, she moved into Cedar Mountain.

Even as her health deteriorated, Lord remained a big personality. She made fast friends with her roommate and several staff members. She hated the food in the care facility, so Ernie and Danielle regularly delivered some of her favorite foods: fast food tacos, sopita, pan dulce, tamales. She’d dig into her meal with a grin and a throaty alto laugh, joy evident in her face.

Lord is survived by her sons; eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Gerald Locklin

79, Long Beach

Known by many as the preeminent poet of Long Beach, Gerald Locklin was perhaps even more esteemed among those who knew him as Professor.

Over half a century, Locklin was a defining literary voice on the West Coast and beyond as a writer of poetry, fiction and essays, tracing an evolution from bear-like, hard-drinking bacchanalian to gray, slender, sober — and ever free-spirited — elder statesman of letters. Poet Charles Bukowski's long-ago praise of him as "one of the great undiscovered talents of our time" has been eclipsed by the years: Locklin published some 150 books and thousands of poems, many in translation and studied and admired around the world.

And as an erudite and gregarious Cal State Long Beach professor of literature and creative writing, Locklin was widely beloved by students and colleagues alike. From 1965 to 2007, he taught and nurtured thousands of students, inculcating a love, appreciation and celebration of the written and spoken word. He was crucial in helping transform a commuter state college into a destination for aspiring writers, and he propelled the careers of generations of poets, novelists, journalists and college instructors.

On Jan. 17, Locklin died of complications of COVID-19 at Kaiser Permanente's Irvine Medical Center, one month before his 80th birthday.

"I can tell you that Gerry was one of the kindest, most generous and accessible humans I've ever met," said Los Angeles poet S.A. Griffin, who had known Locklin since the 1980s. "Gerry's legendary presence was felt in Southern California, the Southwestern U.S., across the U.S. and across the oceans."

Taking root in the little magazines and small presses of the late 1960s and flourishing in them through the decades, Locklin's poetry focused on the everyday, even the banal, which he often rendered memorable in verse that was direct and clear, typically concise and playful — and at times very funny. Locklin poems were periodically featured on Garrison Keillor's syndicated radio program "A Writer's Almanac" and in the pages of the Los Angeles Times.

Locklin was championed early on by the Wormwood Review, and he would become indelibly associated with the celebrated literary magazine by the time it ceased publication in 1999. He was himself the longtime poetry editor of the Chiron Review. His poetry collections, by a multitude of publishers, included "The Firebird Poems," "The Life Force Poems" and the early underground classic "Poop and Other Poems." He enjoyed something of a mini-bestseller with the 1984 novella "The Case of the Missing Blue Volkswagen," a clever, hilarious cross between detective novel spoof and metafictional reverie, which he followed with two sequels.

In one of his better-known poems, "The Iceberg Theory," he exalts the unappreciated virtues of iceberg lettuce, while upbraiding food and literary critics: "All the food critics hate iceberg lettuce," he begins — "you'd think romaine was descended from / orpheus's laurel wreath."

When writing about couples he could be brutally blunt, even severe. Yet he had a streak of sweet melancholy, especially in poems about his children. In "No Longer a Teenager," about his grown daughter's visit home, he concludes: "literature and opera are full of / characters who die for love: / i stay alive for her."

Locklin delighted in performing for an audience, which he did regularly for decades in and around Long Beach, turning the poetry reading into a festive and raucous event, punctuated by his signature song-and-dance finale. He co-founded a minor literary movement known as the Stand Up Poets, for whom a poem's performability and humor were as important as its language and cadence.

As a teacher Locklin brought to the classroom an encyclopedic knowledge of literary history — and many subjects intersecting — which he shared with an enthusiasm, amiability and humor that made him a perennial campus favorite.

"He was the true essence of the renaissance person," said Eileen Klink, Cal State Long Beach English Department chair since 1996 and a faculty member for nearly 50 years. "But above all he was a person of the people. ... His concerns were always with the students."

Born Feb. 17, 1941, in Rochester, N.Y., Locklin attended the College of the Holy Cross on a football scholarship before returning to his hometown, where he earned his bachelor's degree in literature from St. John Fisher College.

By then, he'd had his fill of Rochester and the Eisenhower years, so he ventured west, to the University of Arizona, where he earned his master's and PhD. From there he moved to Los Angeles, where he landed his first teaching job at Cal State L.A. in 1964. The next year he joined what’s now California State University, Long Beach, where he taught for 42 years.

Locklin had long endured heart and lung ailments, and developed dementia in the last couple of years. When the pandemic struck in March, his family moved him to Sunrise of Huntington Beach, an assisted living center. The facility was free of coronavirus infection until December, when two people tested positive. Locklin and the other residents were tested for the virus, and he was negative. Then on Jan. 4, he experienced severe breathing problems, and his daughter Vanessa rushed him to Kaiser in Irvine. He was tested again, and was positive.

When the family established him at Sunrise in March as the pandemic was taking hold, it seemed the necessary move, said his son Zachary, an English professor at Cal State Long Beach. At that time, Locklin was receiving round-the-clock in-home care, and the family feared exposing him to a changing rotation of outside caregivers.

"It's unfortunate, because one of the benefits of getting him in the assisted living facility was we figured it would be safer from COVID," Zachary said. "We were thinking at the time, thank goodness. ... That seems to have really paid off for nine or 10 months."

Two weeks after arriving at Kaiser — and two weeks away from receiving his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine — Locklin died on a Sunday morning.

In addition to Zachary and Vanessa, Locklin leaves behind his wife, Bobbie; five children from two previous marriages: James, Heidi, Rebecca, Blake and John; 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Costelle Akrie

88, Hayward

(Family photo)

They met at the Silhouette Club in Oakland in 1954. Costell Akrie was 23 and stationed at the Air Force base in nearby Pleasanton. Dianne Swanigan was 19 and an EKG technician at a local hospital.

On a break from his gig as a stand-up bass player with the jazz band performing that night, Akrie went to Dianne’s table and asked for a cigarette, even though he didn’t smoke. They chatted. He got her phone number.

“When I got home from the dance, I woke my parents up and said, ‘I have met the man I’m going to marry.’ I just knew it,” Dianne said. “Two weeks later he proposed, and I accepted. We were married a year later.”

Costell and Dianne Akrie would have celebrated their 65th anniversary on May 1 if Akrie had not died from complications of COVID-19 at the Gateway Care & Rehabilitation Center in Hayward on April 4. He was 88.

“He was the best person I ever met, and I’m not exaggerating,” Dianne said. “He was a wonderful father, a devoted husband. He made friends with anybody. He did so many things for so many people and never talked about it.”

Costell Akrie was born in Pittsburgh in 1931 and lived in an orphanage from age 9 to 16. He moved in with a sister and worked his way through high school as a busboy.

He entered the Air Force and was stationed in Korea before returning to the U.S. After marrying Dianne in 1955, Akrie earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration from Cal State Hayward.

He worked three jobs — musician, package deliveryman and Lever soap company salesman — while supporting his wife and two kids.

Akrie went on to become chief of veterans affairs for the Bay Area Urban League, procuring millions of dollars in grants for veterans looking to reenter the workforce, and one of the first African American managers for United Airlines, running maintenance bays at the Oakland and San Francisco airports.

While his jobs varied, one constant was Akrie’s devotion to community service. He spearheaded fundraisers to purchase the land and playground equipment for Tassafaronga Park in East Oakland in 1964.

He helped start a program called Bikes Unlimited, which lent bicycles to children who couldn’t afford them. He was an active participant in city council meetings.

“People used to call him ‘St. Costell’ because he was so kind and compassionate,” said Scott Akrie, his son. “He was the least pretentious man you could meet. He didn’t care who you were, what you did, if you were seeking advice or help to better yourself, his door was open to you.”

Akrie retired in 1996. He loved to read and was an avid chess player, collecting more than 50 chess sets from around the world. He designed and built the couple’s retirement home in Rumsey, north of Sacramento.

He was hospitalized twice, once in February and again in early March, for problems related to his diabetes medication. He was sent to Gateway for physical rehabilitation on March 5 and diagnosed with a low-grade fever on March 28.

He tested positive for the coronavirus on March 31 and died four days later, one of at least 13 patients who have died at the facility from COVID-19.

In addition to his wife and son, Akrie is survived by a daughter, Dawn Edwards, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. With Gateway on lockdown, family members could not visit Akrie in his final days.

“All he wanted was to get home and have a cup of my coffee,” Dianne said. “It’s hard when you can’t see your loved one and you know they’re going to die.”

Ever since Robert Garcia was elected mayor of Long Beach, Gaby Elena O’Donnell had been a fixture in city affairs, beloved by the many who knew her. During council meetings, city events and other engagements the mayor was involved in, there she was to support her son.

“I think sometimes she still thought I was 18 years old in her head,” Garcia said.

O’Donnell, 61, died July 16 from complications of COVID-19. Two weeks later, a day after Garcia attended his mother’s small, socially-distanced memorial service, his stepfather died, also from COVID-19 complications. Greg O’Donnell was 58.

Garcia proudly remembers his mother as a hardworking woman who inspired him to give back to his community and his country even in hard times. “My mom taught me to be really strong,” the mayor said in an interview with The Times. “When you get elected mayor of your community, that’s a hard job that requires a level of toughness and knowing what you signed up for. I signed up for a job regardless of hard moments in my personal life.”

He was a 5-year-old boy when he left Peru with his mother, father and grandmother in search of the American dream, fleeing domestic terrorism and economic uncertainty. Together, Garcia and his mother learned English and made a new home in California. His mother worked at thrift stores and as a housekeeper, eventually landing a job at her most recent workplace, a clinic where she was a medical assistant for more than 25 years.

A couple of years after arriving in the U.S., Garcia’s parents divorced. Eventually, Gaby met Greg O’Donnell on a night out at a disco bar in the San Gabriel Valley. They married, and he remained loyal to her and his family ever since.

Greg was a quiet but also gregarious man who loved simple things in life, Garcia said. He worked hard to start and maintain his contracting business for about 30 years. He liked to host barbecues and spend time with his family.

Garcia’s mother and Greg, who lived in Whittier, eventually had a son together. “He was just a good dad and good grandpa to my brother’s son,” Garcia said. “He was a hard worker and took care of the family really well.”

“He was very humble and the strongest person I have ever known,” Garcia’s brother, Jacob O’Donnell, wrote in a public Facebook post. “He had a heart of gold.”

And he and Garcia’s mother were “just totally in love. They were always happy.”

Anne Lehner

96, Encino

Sister Anne Lehner never forgot her narrow escape from communist Hungary in 1952.

She and two other nuns were about to cross the border into Austria on foot when they were spotted by guards. Ducking beneath the bushes to avoid the bullets whizzing past her head, Lehner found a hole in a fence and crawled through it, eventually making her way to a farmhouse where she knew she would find shelter.

Her two traveling companions were less fortunate. One was killed, the other imprisoned.

“The political structures of the Soviet Union made life really terrible for nuns in Hungary,” said Sister Maribeth Larkin, general director of the Sisters of Social Service. “Even though there were a couple of hundred sisters there at the time, they all had to go underground and stay underground until the Cold War ended.”

Lehner, who died Nov. 19 at age 96 after being hospitalized with COVID-19, was born in Hungary on Jan. 14, 1924. She joined the Sisters of Social Service in 1944 just after graduating from college.

The Sisters of Social Service is an order of religious women who are called not to the contemplative life of the cloister, but instead to work in centers of urban life. The mission is twofold: Help those on the margins of society, and work to change the systems that create injustice. The order was founded in 1923 by Sister Margaret Slachta, a social worker and the first woman elected to the Hungarian Parliament.

After fleeing Hungary, Lehner joined Slachta in Vienna. The two traveled to the United State in 1953, landing in upstate New York. Lehner worked at the Catholic Charities in Lackawanna, and at the House of Providence in Syracuse — a residence for children with difficult backgrounds.

She took a leadership role in the order in 1975. After the Cold War ended, she often traveled to Slovakia, Romania, Cuba and Puerto Rico to work with sisters in those countries who had been cut off from the more modern teachings of the Catholic Church.

“She was an effective leader who challenged the community a lot,” Larkin said. “She appreciated more than some sisters do the idea that our ministries are about transformation of systems and society, they are not just direct service.”

In 2015, Lehner moved to Encino, where the order has a residence for older sisters who can no longer live alone. There, Lehner and other aging sisters took on a new ministry: one of prayer.

“After dedicating their lives to social work, they need a rest, but they are very devoted to storming the heavens with prayer,” Sister Patricia McGowan said.

Lehner remained committed to social justice until the end.

“She was an avid reader of the New York Times,” Larkin said. “It gave her inspiration for what needed her prayer.”

The virus seems to have entered the home after another sister and a caregiver spent a significant amount of time in a hospital waiting room, Larkin said. “The caregiver tested positive a couple of days later, so that’s how we think it came in,” she said.

Lehner was one of three sisters who died in the outbreak.

Robert Pinedo

64, Brawley

Robert Pinedo was the type of person to offer candid advice — “wanted or not wanted, but it was always good,” his oldest daughter, Sandy P. Morales, recalled.

Outgoing, well-liked and strong-willed, Pinedo was known around Brawley, Calif., where he lived with his family, as Mr. PGI. It was a nickname that came from the company he founded in 1990, Professional Glass Installers, the only glass repair and installation shop in town.

After retiring from the company in 2018, Pinedo enjoyed spending time coaching youth wrestling. He shared a love of the sport with both his son, Frank Pinedo, and his grandsons.

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1956, Robert Pinedo moved to Calipatria, Calif., as a child. In high school, he excelled in sports, particularly track and field. After graduating and attending Imperial Valley College, he joined the Marine Corps.

Pinedo decided to leave the service after his first daughter was born.

Frank Pinedo and Sandy Morales described their parents' 42-year marriage as a “fairy tale” romance. Before Pinedo opened his glass-repair shop, the couple shared a moment that would define the rest of their relationship.

It was the mid-1980s and, having just bought a house in Los Angeles County, Pinedo was laid off from his job. In a conversation amid this uncertainty, his wife, Francisca, pointed to a nearby tree. If they had to live under the tree, “that’s where we’re going to live,” Morales remembered her mother saying. “As long as we’re together, I have your back and you have my back. And we’ll make the best of it.”

When Francisca became gravely ill with COVID-19 in late June, “I’ve never seen him so scared,” Morales said. Pinedo lived with diabetes and had recovered from a stroke, but seeing his wife in poor health, “it destroyed him, he thought he was going to lose her.”

On July 4, after helping to care for Francisca, Pinedo developed a fever. He was taken to the hospital the next day, first diagnosed with pneumonia and then testing positive for COVID-19. Over 25 days, Pinedo’s health deteriorated while his wife's began to improve. Still, he texted his family. Francisca was “begging him to come home and get better," Morales said. And he was "promising her, I’m doing all I can.”

“Neither wanted the other to know they were sick or getting worse,” she said.

Pinedo was transferred to several hospitals, and after he was intubated in San Diego, Morales persuaded a nurse to let Francisca speak to him by phone. The next day, on July 29, he died. “

To everyone else, it’s just another person, another number on that chart. But to me, to this town, to our mom, our grandkids, we lost our leader,” Morales said. “We lost our guiding light.”

Pinedo is survived by his wife, four siblings, four children and eight grandchildren.

Jack Ohringer

75, North Hollywood

Jack Ohringer had many titles throughout his life — stock broker, property manager, retail manager — but Mr. Personality is the one that stuck.

“He had a twinkle in his eye, he had a bounce in his step, and he had the cutest little ponytail I had ever seen,” Jamie Szabadi said of the first time she met her husband. “And if you worked with him, you pretty much became a friend for life.”

Born in Pittsburgh in 1945, Ohringer earned his nickname during his days at Taylor Allderdice High School as a member of the Gamma Phi fraternity. After attending Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, he followed his passion for the ocean and enlisted in the United States Coast Guard.

In 1966, Ohringer and his best friend moved to Los Angeles, where he eventually met Szabadi in 2003. The two married in 2007 and, with Szabadi's children Kara Lyne and Zack, became a family. It was Ohringer's second marriage.

“I really do believe that he treated my brother and I like his own kids,” said his stepdaughter, Kara Lyne Szabadi. “The moment he was in our lives, it was like he had been there forever.”

Ohringer had an infectious personality. He liked to dance and was said to have appeared on "American Bandstand." He loved to be the life of the party, and his family said he brought joy to them and to his friends.

In their younger days, he and friends came up with a series of dances they'd perform at "every single bar or bat mitzvah" they attended, his wife said. "He just loved it. He loved any kind of silliness like that. And dance was like a really easy way for him to access that.”

In addition to Ohringer’s exuberance, he was a person of "unmatched" generosity and a determined gift-giver, Kara Lyne said. So when he would ask her what kind of present she wanted, she would say "a pony — knowing that he couldn't deliver or shouldn't deliver, at least. It continuously frustrated him. A couple years later, he showed up … with a stuffed animal pony, and he thought it was the funniest thing in the world.”

On May 7, when Ohringer started having unusual difficulty moving following his regular dialysis treatment, his wife knew something was wrong. At the request of his doctor, he was tested for COVID-19. After days of exhaustion and illness, Ohringer was rushed to an emergency room on May 10. He received the notification that he had tested positive for the infection on May 11.

Ohringer remained hospitalized on a ventilator until he went into cardiac arrest and died on May 25, two days after his 75th birthday.

He agreed to donate his blood and organs to assist any efforts to combat the virus.

Ohringer is survived by his wife, Jamie Szabadi; his stepchildren, Kara Lyne and Zack Szabadi; his three siblings, Cecia Hess, Lee Ohringer and David Ohringer; and numerous lifelong friends and relatives.

Mary Palos

105, Claremont

Mary Palos (Family photo)

When Mary Molina Palos cooked tamales at Christmas, everyone was welcome to eat.

“She always had an open-door policy,” Palos’ daughter Corinne Dearborn said. “She never knew how to make food for two or three people — it was always like for an army.”

Born in Coahuila, Mexico, in 1914, Palos died of COVID-19 complications on May 7 at the age of 105. A century before, her own father had died of flu during the Spanish influenza pandemic.

“It’s just so strange,” Dearborn said.

Palos and her family were some of the first Mexicans to settle in the “barrios” of Claremont, now known as the Arbol Verde neighborhood. There, Palos became a meaningful advocate for her small Mexican community.

In the 1940s, Palos organized the Well Baby Clinic in Claremont, which helped Mexican families who couldn’t afford taking their children to the doctor, and the Club de Damas, which handed out toys to children in need before Christmas.

“My mom was always a giver,” said Dearborn. “That’s how she was brought up: to give and to do for others because that’s what brings you satisfaction.”

After her brother’s baseball team needed money to afford new uniforms, Palos organized the town’s first jamaica, or fundraising fiesta, at Sacred Heart Church — a tradition that continues to this day at the parish now called Our Lady of the Assumption.

“She was quite important as a Mexican woman could be during her time in Claremont,” Dearborn added.

Palos followed her love of cooking as a Claremont Unified School District cafeteria manager for over 40 years. There, Dearborn said Palos would add her own sazón to the school-served meals.

“She really loved it,” Dearborn said with a laugh. “She would kind of doctor [the meals] up and try to make it a little more appetizing.”

Along with sharing her meals, Palos “always had a kind smile or word” for Claremont’s students, said Helen Foote, who attended Oakmont Elementary School.

“I am picturing her right now; a strong woman, secure in her own skin,” she wrote in an email shared with The Times.

After retiring, Palos continued cooking and giving back to her community.

She volunteered at the Economy Shop, a local thrift store run by volunteers, for three years, at Claremont Meals on Wheels, delivering food for those in need, for four years, and another 14 years at the Joslyn Senior Center.

“She was just a fun lady,” said Marion Hoyle, 81, who volunteered with Palos at the Economy Shop. “She kept me entertained with all these stories about Claremont.”

Palos was living at the Santa Teresita Manor assisted living facility in Duarte when she began losing her appetite in late April, Dearborn said. Eleven residents at the care facility have died of COVID-19-related illnesses, according to the California Department of Public Health.

“My mom, at 105, was perfectly healthy,” Dearborn said.

Palos’ health complicated and worsened after suffering from a fall from her wheelchair on April 26. She died at Garfield Hospital.

Palos is survived by her three children, Robert, Roger and Corinne, five grandchildren, twelve great grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren. Palos’ husband of 64 years, Bruno, died in 1999.

“It’s really been an honor to know that my mom really tried to make something of herself and still not give up her ethnicity, morals, values and Mexican-ness,” Dearborn said. “[She] kept it throughout. And that’s something I’m really proud of.”

James Robert Waters

84, Sacramento

James Robert Waters with his son Darren in an undated family photo.

Robbie Waters’ daughter didn’t know where to start about her father.

“There are stories and stories and stories,” Deanna Earl said.

James Robert “Robbie” Waters beat polio in middle school — a slight limp was the only evidence of the disease after a weeks-long hospital stay — before going to run track and play football at Sacramento High in the early 1950s.

He served in the Air Force for four years and graduated from Sacramento State before embarking on a 24-year career in the Sacramento Police Department and spending four years as Sacramento County sheriff.

Waters delivered three babies. He started a construction business. He was on the Sacramento City Council for 16 years and was the only Republican for his entire tenure. He ran for mayor of Sacramento in 2000, falling short of runoff by only 2,000 votes.

He saved a doctor’s life with the Heimlich maneuver. He wrote two books and had a library named after him as recognition for his community service. He won awards for his selfless actions. He was a local luminary.

But, above all, Robbie Waters was a family man.

“Everything he did was for the purpose of taking care of his family,” Earl said from her home in Montana. “That was his major drive. To achieve that, he was able to help so many other people through his drive and desire to make Sacramento a better place.”

Waters died of complications from COVID-19 on July 27. He was 84. He and his wife, Judie, had just celebrated their 60th anniversary.

His health declined rapidly later in life. Waters fractured his hip on June 30, underwent successful surgery and was transferred to an assisted nursing facility for rehab. Earl said her father left the hospital having tested negative for COVID-19, but tested positive when he returned to the hospital five days later to treat a hematoma in his hip.

Waters initially didn’t experience any symptoms, but began having trouble breathing eight days later. He died seven days later. Because of the lockdown rules, Waters hadn’t seen any family members since breaking his hip.

“He led a very purposeful life,” Earl said. “Everything he did was done with a purpose. He never quit. He never took no for an answer.”

Waters is survived by his wife, daughter, sons Darren and Dan, two granddaughters, a sister and a brother.

Alberto Reyes, 84, and his son Fernando Reyes Sr., 60, were looking forward to seeing Fernando Jr. graduate from UC Berkeley in May. They had both raised him and saw his graduation as a validation that their sacrifices had been worth it.

But they didn’t make it. Both Alberto and the elder Fernando Reyes died of COVID-19 in April, just two days apart.

“Losing them in April, just before I was set to walk the stage for commencement, was something I really struggle with,” Fernando Reyes Jr. said.

For more than 20 years, his father worked six days a week, taking long shifts at the front desk at the Ritz-Carlton and Omni hotels in San Francisco so that he could provide for his family. He didn’t really have any free time and usually needed to rest on his one day off.

Still, Fernando Jr. felt lucky for the small moments with his dad, whether taking a drive around San Francisco to pick up his pay stub or catching a movie. “I kind of understood why, because he was making sacrifices so I could be comfortable,” Fernando Jr. said.

A retired U.S. Navy officer, Alberto took care of his grandson while his son was working, and together they built a bright-red swing in his backyard in Vallejo. It still stands today. He also taught his grandson how to garden.

Both Alberto and Fernando Sr. had instilled a strong sense of Filipino values in the younger Reyes, especially generosity and the importance of family. Fernando Sr. would spend about a month every year in the Philippines, bringing balikbayan boxes — corrugated boxes with everyday essentials — to friends and family there.

In mid-March, Fernando Sr.’s former wife, a postal worker, got sick with what they believed to be COVID-19. Although they had been divorced since Fernando Jr. was 10, they lived together in Alberto’s home. By April, Alberto and Fernando Sr. became ill, too.

While Alberto was admitted to Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center, Fernando Sr. fought off his illness at home. Alberto died in the hospital April 20; his son died April 22.

Survivors include Alberto’s daughters, Miriam Reyes Valbuena and Maria Angelie Reyes; Fernando Jr.; and Miriam Reyes Valbuena’s children, Jordan and Jasmin Valbuena.

Elsa Claybaugh

84, Clovis

(Courtesy of Shirley Weaver)

For years, Elsa Claybaugh sat in the living room of her Clovis home, carefully operating the brown Viking sewing machine her husband bought her in the early 1970s.

Rarely needing a pattern to guide her, Claybaugh taught herself to fashion leather cushions for chairs, attach suspenders to a ballet dancer’s tights, create costumes for her three children and doll-sized outfits for their Barbies, and sew bedspreads, prom dresses and even the dress she wore at her 25th anniversary celebration.

And, through her 84 years, Claybaugh was the one who connected the threads of her family, said her daughter, Shirley Weaver.

“She just exuded love,” Weaver said.

Born Elsa Maria Hernandez in Chihuahua, Mexico, she was 12 when her family moved to the United States to work on farms in Texas before settling in Central California. Six years after graduating from Clovis High School, she married William Frank Claybaugh, in 1963.

Having lost her hearing during childhood because of an illness, Claybaugh taught herself to read lips. Instead of allowing her lack of hearing to isolate her, Claybaugh was determined to play an important part in the lives of family and friends. She opened a sewing business from her home and later worked as a cosmetologist and a caretaker for the elderly.

Her handmade tamales at Christmas were “the best gift of love she could give,” Weaver said.

After Claybaugh’s memorial in September, held at her Clovis church, Weaver’s friends approached her to learn the recipe for her mother’s signature enchilada sauce. But her mother never passed it down via written recipe, because she never measured. Instead, she would show others how she added oil to the pan, then flour and chili powder.

Friends knew they could stop by her home for a visit without needing to call first.

“She was just a very, very caring person,” Weaver said. “Her home was always open.”

Claybaugh suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease before succumbing July 31 to complications from COVID-19. She is survived by Weaver and a son, Jim Claybaugh; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband and a daughter, Rosie.

Catherine Apothaker

89, Los Angeles

(Family photo)

When she was a student at the University of Michigan, Catherine Apothaker was elected president of the Women’s League. At the time, it was considered a historic victory, according to her daughter, Helena, because the sorority system had been unwelcoming to her as the daughter of Greek immigrants.

“She wanted to go pledge, and no one would accept her,” Helena said. “They said it was because of her heritage.”

Born Catherine Sotir in Detroit in July 1930, she went work after college at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York as a buyer for the young women’s section. She later moved to Philadelphia to work as a buyer for Bonwit Teller, another luxury department store.

In 1962 she married Louis Apothaker, a lawyer, and had two children. She worked as an interior designer, and started a tiles and ceramics shop called Country Floors in Philadelphia. Her husband died in 1976, and she never remarried.

Apothaker moved to Los Angeles in 2006 to be closer to her daughter after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She was living in a senior care facility when she became ill with COVID-19. She died April 19 at the age of 89.

She had been living at Silverado Beverly Place for six years, and was accustomed to regular visits with her daughter. But by mid-March, as a precaution against the virus, families and nonessential caregivers had been barred from the residence.

So for weeks she wasn’t allowed to see her daughter, except through the bars of the gate of the outdoor smoking patio. “She kept asking me why I wasn’t in the building,” Helena said. “I said, ‘It’s not safe. There’s something bad out here. It’s safer for you inside. Little did I know.’”

Helena said she believes her mother caught the virus because Silverado admitted a resident who was infected but was not immediately quarantined.

In mid-April Apothaker became feverish, with a terrible cough, and was diagnosed with COVID-19. Helena said she knew the virus would kill her mother, a longtime smoker, and had her placed on hospice care immediately. This allowed her to visit face-to-face again.

“The only way I could get myself in there was if she was on hospice care, and so I got myself in there,” Helena said. At her bedside with protective gear, she kept vigil with her brother, Jonathan.

She was “a super-amazing, strong, miraculous person,” her daughter said, adding: “She was my best friend. She was my mentor. She was my coach. I loved my mother to the moon and the stars and back again — and I lost all of that in one person.”

“Women are where we are today because of people like my mother,” Helena said. “She was tough as nails and kind as could be. … The last word she spoke was my name, when she looked in my face.”

Carmelita and Federico Calindas

77 and 82, Sacramento

(Family photo)

That Carmelita and Federico Calindas were from the same province in the Philippines gave them an instant connection when they met in San Francisco more than half a century ago.

Both had come to the United States in search of better futures for themselves and their families. They understood each other’s past and present lives.

“It was kind of like a meant-to-be story,” their son Frederic said of their 52-year marriage.

In college in the Philippines, Federico had studied aeronautics. In America, he harvested crops and worked at a flower shop before he was drafted into the Vietnam War. He would end up serving in the U.S. Army for 24 years, as an aircraft mechanic stationed around the nation and the world.

Before settling in Sacramento, he and Carmelita lived in San Francisco, Kansas, Hawaii, Arizona and Germany. Wherever they were, their home became a social hub, particularly comforting to single Filipino soldiers.

Carmelita found jobs on the military bases – in billeting offices, commissaries and post exchanges. She continued to work on bases after Federico retired from the Army. He went on to spend 18 years as an aircraft mechanic for United Airlines.

Carmelita, 77, and Federico, 82, were both long retired when the coronavirus hit. Their six grandchildren had been getting much of their attention. Federico served as the grandchildren’s chauffeur and chaperone, and they were always ready to babysit.

Carmelita loved to sing. Federico loved to joke. If a waitress asked him how he liked his eggs, he’d grin and say, “Cooked,” Frederic said. “Everything was a joke for my dad,” said daughter Carmela Yamamoto of Sacramento. Her parents would bicker, she said, but Federico kept joking, and Carmelita could never stay mad.

The two were the backbone of their Filipino families. They loved to bring everyone on both sides together – which made the pandemic challenging, though they wore masks, distanced and kept their circle small.

For Thanksgiving, Carmelita and Federico joined Carmela and her family at Frederic’s house in Elk Grove. Then on the Saturday after the holiday, as they did every year, various relatives came to their house to help them pick persimmons off their tree. They stayed outside, but Carmelita later admitted to her daughter that they also ate together; she said, “I think I’m going to regret this.”

Though none of them knew it at the time, someone in the picking group had COVID-19, and all of them would end up getting it.

Carmelita and Federico both felt sick that Monday, though they thought they just had colds. Carmelita got much worse as the week progressed. On Dec. 7, Carmela, who visited each day to take care of her parents, arrived to find her mother dead.

Federico had to be hospitalized three days later. On video calls from his hospital room, before he was intubated, he insisted on going over all the arrangements for his wife’s funeral, down to what she would be wearing. The family was waiting until he could be present, but he died Dec. 27. A funeral for one became a funeral for two.

Heartbroken, the couple’s children say they are grateful to be able to lean on the extended family that their parents always kept so close.

In addition to their children and grandchildren, Carmelita is survived by her brothers, Jose Dabi, Benjamin Dabi, Renato Dabi, Danilo Dabi and Juan Dabi Jr., and her sister, Marilou Dabi Abuan; and Federico is survived by his brothers, Arthur and Romeo, and his sister Juliet Calindas Castillo. All live in Northern California.

Rafael “Ray” Vega

86, Sherman Oaks

Rafael Vega with his daughter, Christy.

For decades, Rafael “Ray” Vega made the rounds in the brick-lined dining room of Casa Vega restaurant in Sherman Oaks, dressed sharply in a sweater vest with a name tag fastened to the front.

“Hi, I’m Ray Vega and this is Casa Vega,” he would say. He often hosted Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, George Clooney, Al Pacino and other actors and studio executives, who sipped margaritas, tucked into the restaurant’s signature tufted red leather booths.

Vega, who helped introduce and popularize Mexican food in the San Fernando Valley, died from complications of COVID-19 on Jan. 9 at age 86, according to his daughter, Christina “Christy” Vega. He had been battling dementia and Parkinson’s disease for the past 15 years.

Vega came from a family determined to be in the restaurant business. Born in National City, Calif., on Aug. 27, 1934, Vega’s grandmother and pregnant mother drove from their home in Tijuana to a hospital in the U.S. to have the baby.

Shortly after he was born, Vega’s parents, Maria and Rafael, left Vega in Tijuana with his grandmother and immigrated to Los Angeles, where they opened Cafe Caliente restaurant on Olvera Street. When Vega was 2 they moved him to the family home in Burbank, along with his older sister Frances, who acted as his nanny.

Vega grew up at the restaurant, spending much of his childhood on Olvera Street. He attended a Catholic military school in Orange County and John Burroughs High School in Burbank, where he was on the football team. He moved to the Bay Area to study hospitality at San Francisco State University but after a year moved back to Los Angeles to help his family.

After a successful 18-year run, Rafael and Maria closed Cafe Caliente and opened another Mexican restaurant in Hollywood.

“Mexicans were not that welcome outside of downtown and the business went under in four years,” Christy said.

At 22, Vega got a job selling life insurance to help support the family, but he never gave up on his parents’ dream of running restaurants. He found someone to loan him the money for a few months’ rent at a restaurant space on Ventura Boulevard, two blocks from where Casa Vega now stands.

He opened Casa Vega in 1956 and put both his parents to work. Rafael was the lead bartender, while Maria helped teach the cooks to make her recipes for cheese enchiladas and mole poblano. Frances came to work as a hostess.

The restaurant quickly outgrew its original location, and Vega moved to a larger space at the corner of Ventura Boulevard and Fulton Avenue. He credited a fateful visit from Jane Fonda and Gig Young as the catalyst that turned the restaurant into one of Hollywood royalty’s favorite haunts. Soon, Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon came in, followed by a slew of other celebrities. One of Vega’s favorite stories to tell was about the night Christy was born.

“My dad went back to the restaurant to share the good news with everyone and Marlon Brando was there,” she said. ‘They drank a bottle of 1800 Tequila together.”

In the 1970s and ’80s, Vega spent most nights in the Casa Vega dining room, clearing tables, bringing people more chips and talking to customers. He met his wife, Charleen, in the restaurant’s bar in 1976.

Vega was civic-minded as well. In the late ’60s, he got involved with local politics, serving as the commissioner of the Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services for two years, followed by a seven-year stint as chairman of the L.A. County Housing Authority. Soon, he secured government contracts to run the dining halls at a handful of government bases in California.

In 1978 he was given the opportunity to run the dining hall at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. He left Frances in charge of Casa Vega and moved the family to Las Vegas.

Thus began the start of a decades-long career in the distribution business in Nevada under the name Vega Enterprise. The corporate umbrella included a vending company, a distribution company and a wholesale company that supplied vending machines and products to U.S. Air Force bases, casinos and 7-Elevens.

In the ’80s, he started Vega Bar and Concessions, which sold liquor and bar supplies. Between the late ’70s and the ’90s, Christy said, Vega Enterprise was grossing more than $60 million a year. Vega received many awards during this time, but his most meaningful was his appointment as honorary consul general for Mexico to the state of Nevada in 1996.

But the restaurant business was always calling. In 2000, Vega started to sell off Vega Enterprise piece by piece and moved back to Los Angeles. He returned to Casa Vega, where daughter Christy was already helping to run the business. She took over as president in 2012 but said her dad visited the restaurant every day.

In addition to his wife and daughter Christy, Vega is survived by daughter Kelly Schettler; son Robbie; granddaughters Emilee, Lizzy and Mia; and grandsons Jackson, Rafael Palmer, Ryan Jr. and Cruz.

Read the full obituary

McHarry Watson

56, Mi-Wuk Village

Life was not easy for the Watson children.

As the eldest son, it fell on McHarry Watson to protect his youngest siblings — from their parent’s drinking, from their arguing and fighting, from the constant chaos that often brought police to their front door.

Watson was only 15 when his parents began to drink. When his mother, then his father, walked out entirely, causing their children to become homeless, Watson knew what to do.

Just 19 years old, he used the few thousands of dollars he had managed to save to buy a car and put everyone in a motel. Watson and his four siblings lived in that motel room for several years, always struggling to find work to keep everyone clothed and fed.

“He was our rock, the one everybody got to lean on,” said his sister Fran Watson. “He set a great example of how to be a good father.”

On Dec. 1, Watson died from COVID-19 complications and pneumonia. Much of his family had been infected with the virus, but due to diabetes and other health issues, Watson was not able to push through. He was 56.

By the time Watson died, he and his siblings had reunited with his parents and forgiven them. They had been apart for nearly 20 years.

Until this day, Fran says, it’s not clear what led their mother and father to drink. Their parents, Mary and McHenry Watson, carried their own scars from childhood. They grew up without water and power on the Navajo reservation bordering New Mexico and were forced into boarding schools, where they were beaten for speaking their native language. Their Navajo names, along the way, were also erased.

“At some point, something inside them just broke, and there were a lot of bad days for us, a lot of promises that never came to pass,” Fran said.

Later in life, Watson settled in a tiny, wooded community near Sonora called Mi-Wuk Village. His siblings followed him and set up homes not far from his apartment.

There, Watson lived a full life as a car detailer, a church minister and a Little League coach. He was devoted to his church, where he led youth programs and visited prisoners locked up nearby.

He never married, but was close to his nieces and nephews. He helped raise several of them.

“He loved working with kids, helping kids,” Fran said. “His dream had always been to become a pediatrician.”

When Watson was in the hospital, in sedation, but still capable of hearing, each of his siblings and nieces and nephews had a moment to say goodbye to him through a cell phone speaker.

“He sacrificed his whole life for his family,” Fran said. “I miss him every single day.”

Watson is survived by his parents and his four siblings, Fran Watson, Matilda Kartal, McHarrison Watson and Deborah Miller.

Elizabeth Yamada

90, La Jolla

(Yamada family)

Joseph Yamada and Elizabeth Kikuchi were born two days apart, but they didn’t meet until they were 11, when both were sent with their families to a World War II internment camp in Poston, Ariz.

Then they became mostly inseparable. After the war, they went to San Diego High School together, then UC Berkeley. They got married, raised a family and left their marks on San Diego in landscape architecture and community service.

It almost seemed fitting when both died this month just days apart. He had a long battle with dementia, and she succumbed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

They had each recently turned 90.

“He liked sports and diner food, and she was all about art, culture and refined food,” said Garrett Yamada, a son. “They raised us with a little bit of everything.”

Poston was an unlikely place for fruitful beginnings: It was row after row of tar-papered barracks in the middle of the desert, where sand drifted in through the walls and scorpions crawled up through the floors. Summer temperatures scorched past 110.

Garrett Yamada said his parents came home from the camp determined not to let being imprisoned in their own country sour them.

“They were open to anyone and everything,” he said.

At Berkeley, Joe studied landscape architecture; Liz studied English literature. When they returned to San Diego, she became the first Asian teacher at San Diego High and he worked for Harriett Wimmer, a pioneering landscape architect.

Yamada’s projects included designs for SeaWorld, UC San Diego, the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and the parks along the Embarcadero in downtown San Diego. He favored curving walkways, water features and “the Yamada roll,” gently rounded knolls of lawn or plants.

The Yamadas were married in the early 1950s and eventually settled in La Jolla. Liz Yamada quit teaching to raise the couple’s three children, and when they were grown she worked as an administrator in her husband’s firm and eventually became a partner.

She also wrote poetry and was active as a director on a variety of boards for local government agencies, colleges, museums and foundations. One project, in the early 1990s, was particularly meaningful to her.

While she was at Poston, she corresponded regularly with Clara Breed, a San Diego city librarian who befriended many of the youngsters and sent them books, clothing, pencils and other supplies. Nearing the end of her life, Breed contacted Liz Yamada and said she didn’t know what to do with all the letters she’d saved from the internees.

“I couldn’t get there fast enough,” Yamada told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2006.

The letters told of life in the camp, what the food was like, the weather and the makeshift school. They spoke of resilience and hope amid the injustice and deprivations of being imprisoned.

Liz Yamada donated the letters to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, hoping to preserve an episode in American history she believed should never be forgotten, “so what happened to us doesn’t happen to anybody else ever again,” she told the Union-Tribune.

Yamada died May 20, nine days after her husband.

They are survived by their children Garrett, Kent and Joan Batcheller.

Read the full obituary

John Fanucchi

79, Sanoma

Even at 79, John Fanucchi was the picture of good health.

"He was as strong as an ox," said his wife of 58 years, Sheila. "We have a small ranch, and in the last four months before he died, that man would go out there and split and stack 30 cords of wood."

"He was active," she added. "We played bocce every weekend. He started a bocce league. He was all three of our sons' Little League coach, and he did soccer coaching."

They'd been planning to vacation with another couple in Hawaii but canceled the trip after the state issued shelter-in-place orders in late March. The group settled instead on driving to Illinois and Iowa to visit family.

"We didn't fly because we felt it was too scary, and we'd all end up with COVID," Sheila said. "So we felt the best thing to do was to stay in our motor home. So we had all our meals planned, never ate out, and the only time we stopped was for gas on the way home."

Four days after their return, Fanucchi had a temperature of 101.6 degrees. He went to the hospital and tested positive for the coronavirus. He died two weeks later, on Nov. 21.

Sheila said she is still "reeling" after losing her husband.

"I married him when I was 16," she said. "He was my best friend. We grew up together, we matured together. If he'd been a jerk, this would be a lot easier to deal with."

Fanucchi was born and raised in Lincoln, Calif., the son of Italian immigrants. After earning a business degree from Cal State Sacramento, he became the manager of Sonoma's Pacific Gas & Electric, where he worked for 30 years. He retired early to handle sales for Sheila's diabetic education and supply company, until they sold the firm in 2010.

An active member of his community, Fanucchi was the co-creator of the local bocce league and served as its president for seven years. He also had a monthly poker group. He was a member of the Rotary Club, the Sonoma Valley Golf Club and the Sonoma Pedro Men's Group, among others.

"He was a people person," said Sheila. "He was a very giving man. He always had a smile on his face. He was never angry at anybody."

In addition to his wife, Fanucchi is survived by his sons Joe, Mike and Chris; grandchildren Isabella, Gabriella, Samuel, Gia and Francesca; and a sister, Alba.

Manuel Agredano

83, Lawndale

If there was one life lesson Manuel Agredano wanted his children and grandchildren to learn, it was this: Work hard.

He was a forklift driver in the South Bay whose shifts began at 5 a.m. But Agredano -- a man of routine who was never late -- would pull up at 3:30 a.m. every day and sit in his truck, drinking coffee and listening to the radio until the workday began, said his granddaughter, Joyce Alonso.

“He always said a man had to work and be responsible, and never miss work,” Alonso said.

Agredano died of COVID-19 on Dec. 17 at Memorial Hospital of Gardena. He was 83.

He was born March 3, 1937, in Guadalajara, Mexico, and came to the U.S. as a young man. Agredano and his wife, Bessie, who died in 2006, had seven children. He used to say he “fell in love with her Coca-Cola body” with all the right curves, Alonso said.

He was always generous and considerate, making sure anyone he dined with started eating first, Alonso said.

In his later years, Agredano lived in Lawndale with his youngest daughter, Lisa, and her son, 15-year-old Manny, who was named after him. He loved watching soccer, especially his favorite team, las Chivas de Guadalajara, and he walked a mile every day until he became ill last month.

Agredano retired a few years ago, but he hated to stop working, according to Manny.

“He was really brave, hard-working. He was a workaholic,” Manny said.

Agredano and his daughter Lisa were always close. When she was a child, he would buy her new baby dolls on Fridays. He eventually bought her a big one so she could hold its hand as she slept, just like she always held her father’s.

The father and daughter tested positive for COVID-19 last month. Lisa died on Dec. 12 at the age of 50.

“With my grandpa passing five days days after, it’s just like -- oh, my gosh,” Alonso said. “He was a very strong man. But the passing of his daughter was very, very hard.”

Alonso said that when family members spoke to him on the phone just before he was taken to the hospital with a shortness of breath, his last words were: “We’ll leave it up to God.”

Agredano’s family couldn’t visit him in the hospital. He died three days after being admitted, and, because of the pandemic, the family has not held a memorial service for him or Lisa.

“My grandpa was the best grandpa in the world,” Alonso said. “He was the nicest person ever. He would always give you the last dollar if he had the last dollar, you know? … It’s just hard.”

Sallie Jones

86, San Diego

(Family photo)

It seemed as if Sallie Jones was always playing the piano.

When her granddaughter LaDaena Thomas would leave for school early in the morning, Jones’ fingers would already be flickering over the keys playing a gospel tune. When Thomas would get home, she’d be welcomed by the smell of Jones’ delicious meals and by the sound of her piano as well.

Now, seeing her grandmother’s instrument brings back memories from Thomas’ childhood and reminds her of the unstoppable woman Jones was.

“Sometimes after a rough day, I open it and I just play the songs she used to play for me,” Thomas said. “It makes me feel so much better. It’s almost like every problem that I had just goes away.”

Jones, a longtime San Diego resident, died of COVID-19 complications at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach on March 27. She was 86.

For Thomas, Jones’ grit and determination were sources of inspiration. Today, Thomas serves as the first female mayor of the borough of Penns Grove in New Jersey.

“She used to say to me, ‘I don't know what you're going to be when you grow up but make sure you leave this Earth better than what you found it,” she said. “I lead with that in my heart.”

Living with one leg never stopped Jones from doing whatever she needed to do, Thomas said. Jones’ right leg was amputated at age 18 after being diagnosed with a cancerous tumor. As a child, Thomas never even noticed her grandmother wore a prosthesis.

“She could do everything that anybody else could do,” she said. “She was a very determined woman. She was very resilient.”

Jones worked as a nurse for nearly six years, her granddaughter said, and spent most of her adult life as a stay-at-home mother and homemaker.

Jones also instilled in Thomas a love for God and the church. When Thomas was 3, she pointed up at the sky, where she saw what looked like a church with stained-glass windows and a large cross sitting on top of a cloud. When Jones looked, she said she saw it too.

“We never knew what it meant,” she said. “But it shaped who I was. From a little kid, it made me believe. She said it was God’s way of letting us know he was with me.”

Jones contracted the coronavirus at the Country Villa Belmont Heights Healthcare Center in Long Beach, where she was waiting before she could receive chemotherapy for a cancerous lump in her throat. The center has reported three positive patient cases and nine worker cases. Jones is the only known death.

Jones is survived by her husband, Sam, daughter Ernie, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“I miss her like crazy,” Thomas said.

Don Branker

75, Fresno

Music and events promoter Don Branker never backed away from a challenge. If people said something couldn’t be done, he took it as a personal test.

It was that kind of unflinching determination that pushed him to produce and promote Cal Jam I and Cal Jam II at the Ontario Motor Speedway, two of the largest outdoor music festivals of the 1970s.

One of his toughest challenges, however, was the famed 1974 jump by daredevil Evel Knievel over the Snake River Canyon.

“For the Evel Knievel jump, people said ‘You’ll never get the permits, you’ll never get the TV coverage,’” said Branker’s son Shane. “He got everything. It was one of the biggest events ever back then.”

Though a national spectacle, Knievel came up short on the jump and suffered roughly 40 broken bones.

Branker grew up in Fresno, the son of a cattle rancher, but started promoting and producing concerts as a teen after his family moved to Los Angeles. As a student at Inglewood High School, he was first approached to help promote a then unknown band called The Doors.

Branker used to laugh when recalling how he was later asked to manage a Bay Area band that was described as having a bit of a folk vibe. Branker dismissed the band, saying folk music was dead. That folk band was the Grateful Dead, which continued to perform for nearly 50 years.

For Shane, being the son of a rock and events promoter meant his father was gone for weeks at a time.

“It was probably similar to being the son of a musician,” he said. “He would go from one tour to the next.”

But when Branker was at his home in Tarzana, he spent his free time surfing, riding motorcycles and fishing. Still, he wore the outfit of a true rocker: blond hair reaching down to his shoulders and worn cowboy boots.

“He looked like no other dad I grew up with,” said Shane, who occasionally accompanied his father to his concerts but was too young to understand the magnitude of the performances.

Branker promoted concerts by The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, Carlos Santana, Heart, Earth, Wind and Fire, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Aerosmith, among others.

He was adamant that the people he worked with keep their word. If anyone broke their promise, he was unforgiving and never worked with them again.

“He didn’t sign contracts; it was always a handshake,” said his former business partner Rick Bubenik. “But you didn’t cross him.”

Bubenik recalled a famous fight Branker had with Aerosmith, the headlining band of the 1978 Cal Jam II. The band refused to go on stage because of a mix up with jelly beans that the band requested in their dressing room.

The promoter calmly told the band members that he planned to announce to the more than 350,000 fans in the audience that the performance was cancelled over a jelly bean dispute. As Branker walked to the stage, the band relented and agreed to play.

“Donny was bluffing to a point but he would have done it,” Bubenik said.

He eventually soured on concert promoting and turned his talent to other interests such as the World Skateboard Championships in 1977 in Long Beach and the live concert film of comedian Richard Pryor in 1979, among others. He also briefly hosted a late night television series called In Concert in which he interviewed drummers Keith Moon and Ringo Starr.

Branker continued to promote and manage smaller local events at a water park in Clovis up until about a year ago but was slowed in the past few years by Myasthenia Gravis, a neuromuscular disorder that causes muscles to weaken.

Shane said his father suffered a fall at his Fresno home in late November, and when he was taken to the hospital, he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He died Dec. 3 at the age of 75.

On his Facebook page, Branker described himself as “Just a simple cowboy who got into rock and roll.”

Jeffrey Ghazarian

34, Glendora

(Family photo)

Jeffrey Ghazarian, a 34-year-old Glendora resident and LAFC soccer fan, died on March 19 from COVID-19.

On March 2, he had visited Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, Fl., with friends, according to news reports. Ghazarian, who had a history of asthma as a child and beat testicular cancer in 2016, tested positive for the coronavirus on March 13.

He was admitted to a Pasadena hospital the next day and spent about a week on a ventilator, according to news reports.On social media, an LAFC fan page took a moment to memorialize their devoted member.

“Rest in Peace Jeff. Black and Gold Forever,” wrote the Heart of LAFC twitter page.

Members of the boisterous fan group LAFC 3252 who knew Ghazarian said he had been looking forward to seeing more games. He had season tickets and played an amateur game at Banc of California Stadium in 2019. He was also a Dodgers fan.

“Jeff was one of the most infectious people I have ever met,” wrote a friend, Chad Phillips, on Facebook. “His laugh and positivity changed any group he was in and made life a little better. The world is a little sadder with him gone.”

Harold Budd

84, Pasadena

The minimalist composer and musician Harold Budd, whom collaborator Brian Eno once described as being “a great abstract painter trapped in the body of a musician,” died Dec. 8 of complications from COVID-19. He was 84.

His death was confirmed by his manager, Steve Takaki.

Starting in the 1960s, the Los Angeles native drew from Minimalism, free jazz and beatless ambient music — even if he disliked the latter term — to craft meditative work that moved like a Pacific breeze.

Across a 50-year creative run, Budd worked with artists including the visionary musician and producer Eno, Scottish dream-pop group the Cocteau Twins, XTC’s Andy Partridge, producer and musician Daniel Lanois, British synth-pop innovator John Foxx and French producer-musician Hector Zazou. Earlier this year, Budd’s solo work helped score the HBO drama “I Know This Much Is True.”

Living mostly in Southern California, Budd composed, taught and performed works that from the start rejected the jarring, busy approach to then-contemporary experimental music. Such work of the time “seemed self-congratulatory, and for a small cadre of snobs, and I refused to go on with it,” he told L.A. Record.

His two albums recorded with Eno, 1980’s “Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror” and 1984’s “The Pearl” (which also features Lanois), are considered pinnacles of the ambient movement and helped establish Budd’s reputation, one that was bolstered by a project he made soon thereafter with members of the Cocteau Twins. Called “The Moon and the Melodies,” it was issued in 1986 by the hip independent imprint 4AD and introduced Budd’s name to a new generation of outsiders.

Budd’s approach expanded on works such as “Abandoned Cities” (1984) to include darker, more foreboding tones, but he never veered into the ugly or confrontational.

Born in 1936 in central Los Angeles raised at the edge of the Mojave Desert in Victorville, Budd served in the Army alongside future saxophone skronker Albert Ayler. Both shared an affinity for post-bop experimentation, a connection they discovered while playing together in the military band. Budd’s first instrument was a drum kit, and for a while he made his living playing Los Angeles nightclubs.

Budd’s first released piece, “The Oak of the Golden Dreams,” was recorded in 1970 on an early model Buchla modular synthesizer at the California Institute of the Arts.

His life changed in the mid-1970s with an out-of-the-blue phone call from a fan, Eno, who had heard a recording of one of his pieces. “I owe Eno everything, OK? That’s the end of that,” Budd said with blunt appreciation, of that first conversation with his future collaborator. Eno invited him to London, and Budd didn’t think twice. “I was plucked from the tree, and suddenly I had flowered. I was just waiting. I couldn’t do it on my own. I didn’t know anything.”

He knew his muse, though, and with Eno making his sonic arguments for a more tranquil music with his own series of ambient releases, Budd eased his way into the movement to become one of its standard-bearers. He devoted himself to piano, keyboards and guitar, texturing his recorded work with blurry drone tones until sounds seem to bleed together.

Budd was continually composing, releasing both solo albums and collaborations every few years for the rest of his life. His 1988 album for Eno’s Opal Records, “The White Arcades,” was powered by Budd’s “soft pedal” piano technique, which employed one of the instrument’s foot pedals to “soften” the notes while subtly changing their tones. “The Room,” his 2000 album for Atlantic Records, was a conceptually linked project in which he composed distinct pieces for imaginary spaces such as “The Candied Room” and “The Room of Forgotten Children.”

Budd announced his retirement from music in 2004, but apparently he didn’t consult with his creative spirit. In a review of Budd’s short-lived “farewell performance” with Jon Gibson at REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles, The Times characterized Budd as “a willfully mysterious character, musically and personally. He has gone missing from the local scene for long stretches, making each Budd sighting something special.”

A few years later, though, he returned with “Perhaps” and continued to compose for the rest of his life. Along the way, Budd issued a series of albums with Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie; the most recent, “Another Flower,” was released in early December. According to his manager, Budd had recently finished composing a series of two dozen string quartets.

Mario Aranda Sr.

79, San Francisco

Whenever Mario Aranda Sr. walked into a store or a sandwich shop, whenever there were Latino employees behind the counter, he would wait for the manager to step away.

“How are you doing?” he would ask the workers in Spanish. “Are they treating you OK?”

Aranda’s husband, Greg Hinson, would roll his eyes and think, Oh God, can we just order some food without social upheaval?

After a decades-long career advocating for immigrant rights and bilingual education, Aranda wasn’t about to let retirement distract him from the cause. “It was like breathing for him,” Hinson said. “It was in his DNA to help the underdog.”

Over the summer, the Northern California couple came down with COVID-19. Hinson recovered but Aranda, older at 79, died Aug. 26 at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

My father said it was like having knives tear through his body,” said Aranda's daughter Xan, an L.A. filmmaker. “It was torture.”

Mario Jaime Aranda was born to a Mormon family in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1941. His family — with its religion and Chinese roots — faced discrimination, so his mother raised him to be socially aware.

“She had him reading Dickens and Gandhi when he was a kid,” Xan said. “She wanted to make sure he understood both revolution and peace.”

Aranda immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager and eventually earned a sociology degree from Brigham Young University. In college, he met and married Dana Rosado, and the couple moved to Chicago to start a family that would grow to include four sons and three daughters.

His career included high-profile jobs with the city’s public school system, the state department of education and the private Latino Institute. He also served as president and publisher of the Spanish-language newspaper Exito. President Carter and Chicago Mayor Harold Washington sought his advice.

In the mid-1990s, Aranda underwent a life change, coming out as gay and moving to the Bay Area. He met Hinson and helped raise his husband’s two children from a previous marriage.

“We’d have two people over and he’d cook enough for 30,” Hinson recalled. “He loved to sing and dance.”

Their 20 years together also included kayaking and hiking, and Aranda took to studying Buddhist philosophy.

People around the city of San Rafael — especially the Latino workers — came to know him as the man who always checked on their well-being and urged them to get more education.

“It brought him joy to do that,” Hinson said. “He was just wired to improve people’s lives.”

Jessie Garibaldo

55, Harbor City

Children loved Jessie Garibaldo.

He was a father of five girls who gave his youngest daughter his own first name. He was a favorite uncle. And when he would visit the Compton mobile home park where his parents lived, all the kids in the neighborhood flocked to him.

A longshoreman who worked in San Pedro, Garibaldo loved playing soccer and football with the children in his big, tight-knit family. He would teach them how to skateboard, and he would even show off how to do a handstand while riding, said his niece Joyce Alonso.

“Everybody loved him,” Alonso said. “He was a funny guy.”

Garibaldo was 55 when he died on April 11 of COVID-19. His younger sister, Lisa Agredano, died from the virus last month, five days before her father, Manuel Agredano, died of it, too. Lisa Agredano was 50. Manuel Agredano was 83.

Garibaldo was born on Nov. 14, 1964, just before his twin sister, Jessica.

“He looked just like my mom, just with a beard,” Alonso said. “Before he passed, he came to visit my mom and he had a full head of white hair. He looked just like Santa Claus.

“He said, ‘Jessica, why don’t you have white hair?’”

She said it was because she wasn’t as old. “He was only older by like three minutes.”

Alonso said her family is reeling from its losses to COVID-19.

“Honestly, you know, we’re still in shock,” she said.

Eliseo del Rosario Moya

75, West Covina

(Family photo)

Before Eliseo del Rosario Moya left for the hospital with worsening COVID-19 symptoms on the evening of April 5, he made sure he was presentable.

“He combed his hair and brushed his teeth – even though he could barely breathe,” his son Mark Moya says.

The elder Moya died of complications related to the virus on April 10 at age 75.

A longtime resident of West Covina, Moya was known as a consummate professional and a man of great intelligence and integrity.

He worked for more than 40 years as an X-ray specialist, ultimately becoming head administrator of the radiology department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Before retiring in 2012, he also worked at several other L.A. facilities, including the Medical Center of North Hollywood.

Radiology was something of a detour for the elder Moya, who often went by “Eli.”

He immigrated to the United States from Quezon City, Philippines, when he was 23. His plan was to travel to Chicago to study medicine, but during a stopover in Los Angeles to visit a sister and friends from the Philippines, he changed his mind.

Instead, Moya settled in L.A., going on to study radiology.

Moya’s younger sister Adelina Bautista, a doctor who lives outside Chicago, said he was so smart that he could teach college physics better than his teacher.

Moya was also the leader among his eight siblings while growing up in the Baesa section of Quezon City, recalled Bautista.

“He took care of us and made sure that we were safe,” especially from boys, she added with a laugh.

He was the house chef, treating his family to chicken adobo, Filipino spring rolls and other dishes from his native country.

“He was the quintessential family man,” Mark says. “He told me that as far as he was concerned, he comes last.”

Moya was his wife’s primary caregiver, cooking her meals and taking her to appointments.

Now that responsibility will fall on Mark, who lives in the family home. He also tested positive for COVID-19 but experienced relatively mild symptoms. His mother tested negative.

A couple of months ago, before the country virtually shut down, Mark and his father talked of death.

Moya advised his son that the best way to cope with the death of a loved one is to keep moving forward with your own life.

“'Mark, this is part of the cycle of life,'" Mark remembers his father telling him. “'Don’t dwell on things you can’t control.'"

“As I come to terms with this,” Mark says of his father’s death, “I have him in my head saying that constantly.”

Desanka Mitrovich

95, San Diego

(Family photo)

Thirty years ago, Desanka Mitrovich called her doctor to tell him she wasn’t feeling well. He urged her to call a cab and come to his office immediately, but Mitrovich, ever elegant, ever forceful, dolled herself up and waited for the bus. Only after arriving at the doctor’s office across town did she learn she was having a heart attack.

“Desa was formidable,” said her niece, Milica Mitrovich, “and the doctor still tells that story.”

A fighter to the end, Mitrovich died in San Diego on May 23 due to complications of lymphoma and COVID-19. She was 95.

Born in 1924 in Sveti Stefan, Montenegro (then part of Yugoslavia), Mitrovich was full of fire, grace and wit from the start. As a young woman, she worked as a school teacher in a small mountain village, and later became the mistress of a one-room schoolhouse. She approached her work with a strong sense of duty, and was revered for her firm-but-fair approach to education.

Many of her former students, now adults, still tell stories about how she was a “mean and wonderful” teacher, her niece said, noting that she was just as likely to bring cookies as she was to make them wash behind their ears in the nearby stream.

Mitrovich fought fervently against the Axis’ occupation of Yugoslavia during World War II, and in 1960, moved to San Diego to begin a new chapter of her life. She attended San Diego State University and was the first member of her family to graduate from college. She went on to enjoy a decades-long career at the university’s library, where she worked in the acquisitions department until retirement.

“She was forged in that crucible where women didn’t go off and have their own careers,” her niece said. “The path that she took, being a school teacher and then moving across the world and going to college, required a great deal of backbone.”

Although Mitrovich never married (she said the suitors weren’t up to her standards), she was a loyal friend who made it her “job on the weekends” to call relatives around the world and check in. She was so devoted to her family that when her niece graduated from law school on the East Coast, Mitrovich spent nearly three days on a Greyhound bus to be there.

“If she had to hitchhike or to walk, she would have found a way to do it,” Milica said.

In addition to the friends, relatives and students whose lives she touched, family members said they’d remember her for her poise, charisma, dark sense of humor and beautiful singing voice.

“She was an extraordinary woman,” her niece said. “It was not a conventional life, but it was a life lived as much on her own terms, as much as she possibly could.”

Mitrovich is survived by her sister Beba and four nieces and nephews.

Joseph Fice

82, Los Gatos

(Family photo)

Spirituality was the through line of Joseph Fice’s life.

The son of Sicilian immigrants, including a fiercely Catholic mother, Fice and his brothers grew up attending parochial schools near their home in Maywood. After graduation, Fice enrolled at Loyola University — now Loyola Marymount — where he studied mathematics. But before long, he told his family about another calling: He was going to seminary to become a Jesuit priest.

He went on to teach at a Catholic high school in Phoenix but eventually moved back to California, where he led retreats, including sessions focused on grief for people who had recently lost loved ones — an impressive feat for someone who had long found it very difficult to speak in front of crowds.

In recent years, Fice lived at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, where he and several other priests recently contracted coronavirus. He died of complications of COVID-19 on Dec. 13, three months shy of his 83rd birthday.

During weekly phone conversations, Fice and his older brother, William, 87, spoke for hours about politics, faith, philosophy and family. Their last communication was an email exchange in which Joseph expressed concern about wildfires in Orange County, where William’s daughter lives.

“Buddy,” Joseph wrote, using the family’s nickname for William, “what’s going on?”

Everyone was safe, William wrote back, but tell me more about COVID. He knew that Joseph had recently tested positive.

His little brother, always quick to respond, never wrote back.

These days, William said, his mind runs with memories. He thinks back to when he was 14 and playing with a cousin and Joseph, then 10, followed them around like a puppy.

“Here comes Giuseppe Brown Dog,” the cousin said, using the Italian name for Joseph. The nickname stuck.

When Joseph was 19 and looking for a job, William invited him to the steel mill where he worked. It was then — during a required physical — that Joseph learned he had a mitral valve prolapse, a heart condition that, years later, required him to have surgery replacing the faulty valve with one from a pig. From then on, William said, his brother carried a small, stuffed pig, which he named Pigoletto, with him anywhere he moved.

About 15 years ago, the brothers had a life-changing conversation in which William told Joseph that, although he’d attended Mass faithfully for years, he had never really developed a habit of praying.

“Buddy, you’ve got to learn,” Joseph responded earnestly “At the end of your life, you’re going to meet God. Do you want to go as a stranger or as a friend?”

Ever since, William has sat down for 20 minutes or so every night after dinner to read Scripture and talk to God.

“So, when you asked me about my brother,” William said, choking back tears, “you’re asking me about a person who I believe to be a real saint.”

William has gotten several letters, calls and voicemails in recent weeks, he said, from strangers telling him that his brother was the best spiritual director they’d ever had. One woman even credited him with saving her life.

“This is Giuseppe Brown Dog,” William said, softly. “But little brother, he became a giant.”

Fice is survived by his brothers William, Nicholas and Paul.

John Eric Swing

48, Westminster


In the final ceremony for Search to Involve Pilipino Americans’ Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month webinar series in May, community leader John Eric Swing smiles proudly in his polo shirt emblazoned with the nonprofit’s logo.

“SIPA’s doors are always open,” he said of the organization. “We’re here to be a bridge and be impactful in many ways, and how we make that impactful is in everyone’s collaboration with each other.”

Swing was a leader in Los Angeles’ Historic Filipinotown and had worked with multiple community organizations serving the Filipino American community. He had been the executive director of SIPA, which is dedicated to Filipino American empowerment, for only two months when he died June 28 of complications from COVID-19. He was 48.

Swing was appointed after a yearlong, nationwide search. He was excited to work on the redevelopment of SIPA’s headquarters, which looked to include a small businesses center, community space and a cultural center. The project was years in the making, and Swing had hoped to see it through.

He had been a staff member at SIPA since 2015, and formed close relationships with coworkers. Eddy M. Gana, Jr., who serves as SIPA’s mental health counselor, remembered him for his constant presence and selflessness.

When they were still in the office before the pandemic forced them to work from home, Swing would always be the first to offer to close up for the night.

“If there’s ever anything [you need], you can give me a call, anytime,” Swing once told his colleague.

“So how about 2 or 3 a.m.?” Gana joked. Swing assured him he would answer the call. Every meeting after that, Swing would pretend to hold a phone to his ear and say, “You can still call me anytime. I’m waiting!”

“I never got to give him a call that late,” Gana said.

Before Swing’s term even began, SIPA was forced to move operations online because of the pandemic, but he still found ways to help community members. The organization got a boost when California State Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) obtained funding for delivering food to seniors and underserved families in Historic Filipinotown. The state Senate later honored SIPA and Swing’s leadership with a certificate of recognition as “Unsung Heroes of Southern California.”

The organization also hosted two webinar series, “Wellness Wednesdays” and “Filipino Fridays,” during the month of May. SIPA continued community programming through Zoom meetings during the pandemic, and in early June, Swing told board meeting that he was planning a session on anti-racism in the Filipino community to assist Black people.

On June 16, Swing told the president of the nonprofit’s board of directors that he had tested positive for COVID-19, and would be taking a few weeks off to focus on recovery. But within a week, his condition worsened and he was admitted to Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center.

The son of Filipino immigrants, Swing spent his college years learning more about his Filipino American identity. As an ethnic studies student at UC Riverside, Swing co-founded the Asian American fraternity Psi Chi Omega, and volunteered in community service organizations.

He was proud of his heritage, and loved Filipino pop music, or OPM. “We teased him a bit because he had some favorite songs that were in Tagalog that are older songs our parents would listen to,” said Jessica del Mundo, secretary of SIPA’s board of directors.

After graduating, Swing served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves for six years. He received the National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal and earned a Rifle Expert Marksman badge. He worked as a senior probation corrections officer for the Riverside County Probation Department before pursuing community service and social work full time.

As part of the leadership team that chose him for the role, Del Mundo said she was struck by his commitment to serving all communities and people in need.

“It wasn't so much about helping people with Filipino cultural programming, it was the culture of changing lives, no matter what ethnicity or background,” Del Mundo said.

“John’s story is so much more about a life of service and accepting all people, and helping all people,” Del Mundo said. “He always went above and beyond in providing resources and making an investment in the community.”

Swing is survived by his parents, Ellis and Aurora; his wife, Maria Elena Rodriguez-Swing; children Zachary, Joshua, Chloe and Mackenzie; stepchildren Sasha and Nicco; sister Karen Bromley; and brother PJ Swing.

Pauline Estey

97, Woodland Hills

When she was 25, Pauline Estey took a road trip with a friend, crossing the country from Boston to Los Angeles. The journey changed her life. Loving the warm climate, Estey immediately decided to move to the West Coast, and once she arrived, she thrived.

“She was shy in high school,” her sister, Peggy Pressman, explained. “She was 6 feet tall and blonde. The kids teased her. But once she settled in California, she became a social butterfly. She just had a knack for cultivating lifelong friendships.”

Estey worked at Columbia Pictures in Culver City for more than three decades, performing a variety of tasks, including clerical and accounting. When Estey retired in 1988, Pressman said, they needed to hire three people to replace her because she was so versatile.

One thing Estey couldn’t do was drive a car. L.A. freeways terrified her, and she never applied for a license. But then, she had so many friends, she never had a problem finding a ride around town.

Estey did love to travel by other means though, taking cruises to Europe and China. She also loved gardening. After she moved into the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, she spent hours in the facility’s rose gardens, crafting bouquets for residents. Often she’d use the flowers as centerpieces for the big, joyful lunches she’d organize at the retirement home.

Estey’s friends returned the favor when she was hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus last spring, bringing her papier-mache bouquets. Estey recovered, but died on Aug. 18 from complications brought on by the disease. She was 97.

She is survived by her sister, two nieces and a nephew. Her partner of many years, Louis Nuccio, preceded her in death.

“Pauline was the kind of person that people just adored,” Pressman said. “Twenty-five years after she retired, people she worked with were still going out of their way to visit her. She was sweet and decent. She brought a lot of love into this world.”

Len Fagan

72, Los Angeles

Though hardly as famous as fellow Sunset Strip nightspots the Roxy and the Whisky A Go Go, the ramshackle nightclub Coconut Teaszer, at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards, tapped into a musical movement in the late 1980s and 1990s by booking early appearances by bands including Guns N’ Roses, Green Day, Rage Against the Machine and the Wallflowers.

At the heart of that success was Len Fagan. A former rock drummer turned talent buyer who spent much of his adult life living in Laurel Canyon and working on the Sunset Strip, the behind-the-scenes powerbroker died May 3 in Los Angeles from complications of COVID-19. He was 72.

His death was announced on the Coconut Teaszer’s Facebook page.

“Every city, every scene needs a Len Fagan,” former Atlantic Records A&R executive Tim Sommer wrote in a Facebook post after learning of his death. “People like him keep live, original music alive, and if every city and town had a Len Fagan — that person who has a club and is willing to give anyone a shot, and then provide them a place to grow and find fans — the music scene in this country would be far, far better.”

As the brainchild behind the Coconut Teaszer’s biweekly live series “L.A.'s Best Kept Secrets,” Fagan presided over multi-artist showcases that became can’t-miss events for record-label talent scouts in the pre-YouTube era. In a 1990 column about nightlife hotspots, Times staff writer Bud Scoppa described Fagan as “so highly regarded as a judge of up-and-coming bands that he has received offers from several major labels to become an independent talent scout.”

Sommer called him “the patron saint and godfather of Los Angeles rock music.”

Fagan first broke into the music scene behind a drum kit. After getting his professional start as a member of the “Sgt. Pepper"-inspired band Wichita Fall, he cofounded Los Angeles hard rock band Stepson. For a while in the early 1970s, the quartet was a house band at the Whisky A Go Go and issued an album for ABC-Dunhill Records. Fagan’s drumming served as the propellant.

“He knew three beats, and he did them really well,” Stepson singer Jeff Hawks told The Times. “He was a real backbeat drummer. In the pocket. No fancy stuff. Just a powerhouse.” Added Hawks of the band, “It was right during the glam time, so we were a little strange.”

A longtime friend of the late Arthur Lee of Love, Fagan regularly backed Lee in Love’s various incarnations over the years. At one point, he also toured Asia as drummer for the ‘60s psychedelic pop band the 1910 Fruitgum Company.

The drummer found his calling, though, at a 200-occupancy spot in the heart of the L.A. record business.

“He was happy at the Teaszer because he had full control,” Hawks said. “He could book the bands he wanted, he could make events he wanted. He could have an oldies week or he could find a band that he really liked and give them an opportunity.”

For bands, it was both a coveted slot and a hustle. Writing in the introduction of the book “We’ve Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk,” Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong captured the essence of his band’s first-ever Los Angeles gig, at the Teaszer.

“We were all under 21, so we weren’t allowed inside the club. We waited our turn outside, sandwiched in between a strange lineup of bands that were trying to get signed on a major label. The stage wrangler hauled us in, and we played our 20-minute set on borrowed gear. It was a good set, and people were genuinely into it. But before we got a chance to bask in the glory, we were asked to leave.”

In recent years, Fagan had suffered from poor health. A debilitating stroke affected his ability to communicate, and he spent his final years in a nursing home.

Where there should have been a dining table in Richard Geoffrey Salmon’s home, there was a complex slot car track. He always kept his favorite things front and center.

“He reminded everyone that you didn’t have to be embarrassed about the things that brought you joy,” Salmon’s nephew Aaron Curtiss said. “You didn’t have to outgrow them, you didn’t have to put the things of your childhood behind you, you could adapt them and enjoy them and if it brought you joy, that is what mattered.”

Salmon, who went by Geoff, kept the same enthusiasm even while living with Parkinson’s disease at Lindsay Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation outside Visalia, where he continued to build models with trembling hands.

At the nursing home, he contracted COVID-19, and died on Aug. 16 at 68. Unable to visit due to the pandemic, Salmon's family said their goodbyes through the window.

Salmon was the second of four kids and oldest boy born to Nancy and Richard Salmon in Visalia. They were a musical family, Salmon's brother Jim said, and often gathered around the piano, which their mother played, and sang songs. Jim jokingly called them the Salmon Tabernacle Choir. Later, Salmon brought his baritone voice to a barbershop quartet.

After college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he returned to Visalia to work at his family’s furniture store. Always adept at working with his hands, Salmon built intricate models of trains, remote-controlled cars and ships. When Curtiss and his brother were young, Salmon eagerly shared his passion with the kids. Now Curtiss’ office in Denver is full of model railroad locomotives.

A lifelong bachelor, Salmon was a doting uncle to five nephews, one niece, five great nephews and one great niece. He is also survived by his three siblings, Jennifer Curtiss, Ted Salmon and Jim.

Although the family is scattered across the country from California to New York, they remain tight knit. When Curtiss visited California, his mother arranged for her brother to leave the nursing home. Salmon sat in his wheelchair and talked about the things he recently read. Curtiss talked to him about trains and model railroads.

Along with the physical signs of the disease, Parkinson’s had robbed Salmon of “a certain sharpness, mentally,” Curtiss said, but he continued to see the uncle he knew best when Salmon spoke to Curtiss’ young sons.

“They loved him because they could see that sweetness, that genuine sense that he cared about them and engaged with them,” Curtiss said, “and that’s all any of us look for in life: that somebody hears us and sees us and loves us for who we are. That was my uncle.”

Julius Schachter

84, San Francisco

To his family, Julius Schachter was a generous cheapskate, the kind of father who would carry the family in his beat up Mercury Lynx to feast at one of the fanciest restaurants in San Francisco, Fleur de Lys, where a valet would park it next to a new Jaguar or freshly polished Mercedes.

To the world, he was a scientific innovator known as "Julie," whose pioneering approach to treating the chlamydia-related disease trachoma, a leading cause of blindness around the globe, may lead to its eradication in the next decade.

Schachter died on Dec. 20 from COVID-19 in a hospital in San Francisco. He was 84. He had contracted the disease sometime around Thanksgiving, when he traveled from Germany to California to be with his family for the holidays, said his daughter, Sara Schachter.

He was credited with contributing to a greater understanding of how chlamydia affects the body and can impact newborns’ health, and last year was nominated for a Lasker Award, which recognizes advances in understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of diseases. His novel approach to treating trachoma was key to understanding its resiliency and connection to chlamydia.

He also spearheaded studies on how to better test for the underlying infection and then treat it, leading to even more breakthroughs.

“His outspoken leadership based upon sound data has influenced international policies and has saved hundreds of millions of women from the outcomes of chronic chlamydia infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and prevention of infection of newborns,” read a letter supporting his Lasker Award nomination from Dr. Richard Stephens, a professor emeritus at U.C. Berkeley.

"My father was so incredibly passionate about his work and helping others," Sara Schachter said. "He just loved life."

Born in the Bronx in 1936, Schachter was the first in his family to attend college and received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Columbia University and his doctorate in bacteriology from Berkeley in 1965.

He spent his career at U.C. San Francisco and married Joyce Poynter, a physical therapist, in 1962. Poynter died in 1990 and Schachter remarried in 2018 and began splitting his time between California and Germany to be with his second wife.

Throughout his life Schachter’s boundless energy is what allowed him to bury himself in work, then emerge to host large gatherings at home and abroad, like famous stone crab dinners in Florida, family meals in Germany and weeklong safari trips to South Africa, all paid on his tab.

Schachter is survived by his wife, daughter, sons Marc and Alexander, three grandsons and a brother, Norbert.

Larry T. Baza

76, San Diego

(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

As a high school student, Larry T. Baza found a place where he felt like he finally belonged: the arts community.

San Diego’s theater and visual art communities “opened new worlds for me as a student at San Diego High School,” he said in a 2016 Union-Tribune interview. “My first arts and cultural experiences took place in Balboa Park, where my summer job was working at the concession stand in Balboa Park and at Starlight (Bowl) performances.”

Those formative years laid the foundation for a deep-rooted career in — and passion for — the arts. He served as chair of San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture before being appointed to the California Arts Council in 2016.

A cultural icon in San Diego, Baza died Feb. 20 at UC San Diego Medical Center of complications from COVID-19. He was 76.

“Activist, artist, volunteer, leader, changemaker,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said in a social media tribute. “Larry Baza’s life and work made a difference in San Diego and across California.”

Larry Tito Baza was born Feb. 24, 1944, the eldest son of Tito Cepeda Baza, a Guamanian who served in the U.S. Navy, and Hortencia Celaya Baza, a third-generation Mexican American. He graduated from San Diego High School, where as a senior he began to show an interest in civic matters, influenced by the work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez.

Baza, in a 2011 interview with the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, said of his social justice awakening: “The racism and prejudice endured by Mexicans was no secret. I was very well aware from the time that I was a child that I was different and didn’t fit into mainstream White America. Naturally, I gravitated towards civil rights in high school, but really got more involved with the Chicano movement in my early 20s” while attending San Diego City College.

For more than four decades, Baza used his voice advocating for San Diego’s artistic and cultural community at the local, state and national levels. He served on panels, boards and commissions, including the National Endowment for the Arts, California Association of Local Arts Organizations, Chicano Federation of San Diego County, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, San Diego Community Foundation and Diversionary Theatre.

Professionally, his artistic influence went far beyond the Little Italy gallery he ran with his husband Tom Noel, Noel-Baza Fine Art Gallery. Over the years, he had long-standing affiliations, often in a leadership capacity, with many San Diego arts organizations, including Centro Cultural de la Raza, where he served as executive director from 1990 to 1999. Before that, he was associate director for Sushi Performance and Visual Art and executive director of San Diego County’s Public Arts Advisory Council. He was most recently a trustee at the Museum of Us, formerly the Museum of Man, in Balboa Park.

But his zest for advocacy wasn’t focused solely on the arts. In San Diego and beyond, he was known as a champion for the Latino and LGBTQ communities, fighting for issues of equality and social justice.

In 2010, as the gay community worked to repeal Proposition 8, which barred gay marriage in California, he acknowledged it was a battle that needed to be fought, but it wouldn’t be easy.

“I know how long and hard-fought the battles were to get to the place where Mexican-Americans have gotten,” Baza told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Civil rights doesn’t happen overnight.”

“Larry was gentle, but oh so wise,” said Patricia Frischer of the San Diego Visual Arts Network. “He was politically astute without being a politician. I believe that is why he had the respect of so many people.”

William Virchis, co-founder and producing artistic director of San Ysidro-based Teatro Máscara Mágica and a longtime friend, said: “It’s a sad day. So many of our colleagues are dying. Just a couple months ago, we were just talking about how he was going to help us navigate the California Arts Council grant process. He was always such a helpful person.”

Baza’s unwavering commitment to advocacy went back decades, often marked by history-making milestones.

In the late 1980s, Christine Kehoe recruited him to join a committee with San Diego Pride, eventually becoming co-chair with Vertez Burks in 1992 — a pairing that made history as the first time San Diego Pride was led by two people of color.

“We lost an incredible leader today, Larry Baza,” County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said in a tribute on social media. “He was not only a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ+ community but was also an ardent supporter of the arts, the Latino community and social justice. His work paved the way for a more equitable and accepting world.”

Baza is survived by his husband and two brothers, Ronald and Mark.

Read the full obituary

Pedro Zuniga

52, Turlock

Pedro Zuniga and his wife Norma. (Family photo)

Pedro Zuniga and his wife Norma always threw a party for their oldest son when he visited home in Turlock.

“When I was there, I just wanted it to be like any other normal day, but he and my mom would always just make it a big deal,” Jose Valencia said. “That’s one of my best memories, just him cooking, enjoying life with his family. His family was his No. 1 thing.”

Zuniga, 52, died of COVID-19 on April 13, after being ill for a week.

He worked at the Safeway distribution center in Tracy, where at least 51 workers have tested positive for the virus. Valencia said he was 2 when Zuniga met his mother, Norma. Zuniga was the only father he ever knew, he said.

Valencia described his father as a stern parent but a lenient grandfather. If the grandchildren were acting up and someone tried to scold them, Zuniga would say, “just leave them alone, they’re children.”

He gave them gifts and treated them to dinners, as well as trips to go skiing, to Disneyland and to national parks.

Zuniga and his wife also took in foster kids, until it became too difficult to separate from them. “He would be in so much pain when those kids had to go home, because he got so attached them,” said Alfredo Sanchez, a friend.

Sanchez, 40, said he’d known Zuniga since he was 10, when he and his mother needed a place to live. Zuniga — a co-worker of Sanchez’s mother — took them in. Sanchez said he remembered little moments from that time, like going out with Zuniga to get Mexican bread as a snack every night.

“Throughout the years we always stayed in contact,” Sanchez said. “He was like a father figure to me, because I didn’t have a father growing up. He was the person I would turn to for advice.”

Sanchez said Zuniga was “the nicest person I’d ever met.”

“If you were down, he was the type of person you’d want to talk to, he’d bring you right back up,” he said.

Zuniga attended Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Turlock, and Sanchez said he “always spoke highly of the Lord, about life, about how you need to enjoy it, how you need to forgive.”

“What bums me out is this virus didn’t give me a chance to say goodbye, didn’t give me a chance to spend some more time with him,” Sanchez said. “I feel like the world has lost a great person — or the Lord has gained a great person.”

Zuniga loved to cook — friends and family always wanted him to make tacos for them — and was a huge soccer fan who rooted for the Chivas of Guadalajara.

“Whenever he saw them, he was like a kid,” Valencia said.

Zuniga is survived by his wife Norma, five children — Jose Valencia, Adilene Valencia, Marisol Cervantes, Alicia Zuniga and Pedro Zuniga Jr. — and three grandchildren.

Eric Oshiro and Betty Oshiro

61 and 89, La Mirada and Paramount

Eric Oshiro, left, and his mother, Betty Oshiro (Family photo)

Eric Oshiro was the stoic, soft-spoken type, quietly helping wherever he could, but never asking for much in return. He preferred not to draw attention. “Your typical IT person,” his wife, Lori, said.

But there was a quiet strength beneath that soft-spoken demeanor, a virtue he always hoped to pass along to his two sons, Ryan and Steven.

“A quiet man with quiet leadership,” Lori described.

His mother, meanwhile, had no trouble finding her voice. Betty Oshiro always loved to sing. As an instructional aide at Lincoln Elementary School in Paramount, where she worked for 25 years, Betty, 89, joined a singing group of student mothers called Abe’s Babes. She danced hula and played the ukulele, too, picking them up later in life as an homage to her Hawaiian culture.

“She was always known to have a smile on her face,” Lori said.

But on March 14, Lori and Eric were contacted by the assisted living facility in Cypress where Betty was staying. She wasn’t feeling well. Soon after, she was admitted to the hospital and tested for COVID-19. Eight days later, on March 22, Betty Oshiro, 89, died from complications of the disease.

Her grandsons said their goodbyes through the hospital door, but her son was unable, stricken now himself with symptoms of COVID-19. Over the past year, he’d taken care of his mother whenever she needed him, balancing her care with his search for additional IT work. It was on that final emergency room visit, as Eric and Lori spent hours waiting in the hospital, that Lori believes they both contracted the virus.

Lori got a fever three days after that hospital visit. The fever hit Eric two days after that.

Lori would eventually recover, after three weeks of symptoms. Eric, 61, never did. He was admitted to St. Jude hospital and intubated a week later. Then, on April 8, less than three weeks after his mother died from COVID-19, the disease claimed Eric as well.

Outside of a mild case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Eric had otherwise been healthy. He liked to play golf, and on occasion, he and his sons hit the driving range together.

Mostly, he lived a quiet life in La Mirada, one in contrast to his mother, who preferred singing and dancing and wanted to travel the world. He worked 25 years in IT at Unified Grocers, leaving only when the company merged with another. He enjoyed a glass of wine after work and NPR on the radio. Every now and again, he played the guitar.

“I just keep saying to myself, this shouldn’t have happened,” Lori said. “We’re both 60. We’re not old. It’s horrible, the toll it takes.”

Alan Beal

80, San Jose

Alan Beal graduated cum laude with a degree in mathematics from Santa Clara University in 1961.

“He really was brilliant,” recalled Warren Hein, Beal’s younger brother.

Beal, who lived much of his life in San Jose, died from COVID-19 at a hospital a few miles from his alma mater on Sept. 1. He was 80.

For several years, Beal worked as a road surveyor for Santa Clara County, but the routines of his life were often upended by struggles with mental health. He was married for a few years, Hein said, but the relationship ended in divorce.

There were struggles,” said Hein, who lives in San Jose.

But there were also good times, he said, recalling trips he and his brother took together to Yosemite when they were younger.

For much of his life, Beal lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment in San Jose. Hein and his wife stopped by on Wednesdays to take him to Safeway.

“It was our routine,” Hein said. “We did it every week.”

In recent years, after Beal moved into a nursing home in San Jose, Hein and his wife visited weekly.

After beating colon cancer a few years back, his brother remained relatively healthy, Hein said, until the pandemic.

“He did have more living to do,” Hein said. “But he’s gone and we’re at peace. …We know he has peace.”

Hein keeps his brother’s ashes nearby. Once it’s safe to gather, he said, their surviving siblings – a brother in Northern California and a sister who lives near Palm Springs – plan to hold a small ceremony to honor Beal.

Rosaleigh George

97, Monterey

(Family photo)

Rosaleigh George made sure that everybody would know the important details of her life. She wrote her own obituary.

“Rosaleigh had an extensive career as a licensed cosmetologist,” George’s grandson Damon Holmes said, reading from the passage his grandmother had written in cursive letters, “working first as a beauty operator, then becoming an instructor of cosmetology, teaching in several beauty schools including in San Francisco.”

George also revealed that she was an avid churchgoer and world traveler, voyaging to Europe and Africa.

Try as she might, though, it was impossible to convey every aspect of her life in a narrative spanning 150 words.

Holmes said his grandmother’s hobbies included painting ocean scenes and synchronized swimming performances she would put on as part of a group that also included her daughter, Dolene Joan Holmes.

“It was really something,” Damon said of the choreographed movement in the water.

George was living with her daughter and grandson before she died of complications from COVID-19 at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey on March 30. She was 97.

George hadn’t been feeling well for two days when her family took her to the hospital, where tests on her lungs came back normal. But three days later, George passed out in the bathroom and had to be taken back to the hospital by ambulance. A few days later, the family learned her prospects were bleak.

Relatives weren’t allowed to see her in the isolation ward, so they said their goodbyes over a phone that was placed near George’s ear by a hospital worker. She had been in the hospital for about a week when she died.

“We’re just blessed that she didn’t have to go through any real type of suffering or anything,” Damon said. “We spent a lot of amazing time with her, so that definitely helps.”

Survivors include her daughter, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and many great-great grandchildren. George also left behind the obituary that her grandson believes she wrote sometime in the early 1990s, judging from the portrait of herself that she included.

“That’s just the kind of woman she was,” Damon said, “everything meticulous.”

Brittany Bruner-Ringo

32, Torrance

(Family photo)

After she tested positive for coronavirus in March, nurse Brittany Bruner-Ringo quarantined herself in a Torrance hotel room, but she never stopped taking care of people.

The first employee infected in an outbreak at a dementia care facility in West Los Angeles, Bruner-Ringo called and texted colleagues that subsequently fell ill, encouraging them daily to keep a good attitude and reassuring them that they were all going to be OK.

“Brittany was our cheerleader,” one recalled.

The hopeful messages stopped in early April when a clerk at the hotel’s front desk summoned an ambulance for Bruner-Ringo. She was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where she died in the intensive-care unit 19 days later. She was 32.

Growing up in Oklahoma, Bruner-Ringo saw a nursing career as a kind of birthright. Her mother and grandmother were nurses, and her personality was a natural fit for the field: Upbeat, empathetic and helpful.

“Helping others made our sister happy. She was so compassionate,” her sisters Breanna and Marriana Hurd wrote in an email to The Times.

After getting her degree as a licensed vocational nurse, she worked in Ohio and then a position as a traveling nurse brought her to L.A. She signed on full-time in 2019 with the Silverado Beverly Place, which specializes in treating Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, and worked often with third floor patients with the mildest cases.

She loved sunflowers and coworkers described her as sharing the flower’s warm toughness. At staff meetings, she was known to speak up about residents she felt needed more attention.

“She was just kind-hearted. I don’t think she really thought of it as a job,” Breanna recalled in an interview. “She never complained about her job, even once, as much as we talked.”

Bruner-Ringo was in her near constant contact with family members back in Oklahoma. She and her sisters kept video chats open as they went through their days.

“When we weren’t on the phone, we would spend time texting and sending funny memes/videos in our group chat. Brittany was the funniest person we’ve ever known,” her sisters recalled.

When Silverado allowed a new patient from New York to move into the residence March 19, she called her mother, a veteran nurse in Oklahoma City, for advice.

Kim Bruner-Ringo told The Times her daughter said the man arrived with symptoms of COVID-19, including fever and coughing. The Silverado has denied this and provided medical records indicating he was asymptomatic when Bruner-Ringo initially examined him.

In any case, he was so sick the next day that an ambulance rushed him to Cedars-Sinai where he was diagnosed with COVID-19. In the weeks and months that followed, 89 other residents and staff contracted the disease. Thirteen would die.

Young and healthy, Bruner-Ringo seemed sure to beat the virus. Even after she was placed on a ventilator, she remained in good spirits.

The hospital nurses told her family “she would smile and her eyes were open most of the time. She was able to nod, follow commands,” her mother said.

Her vital signs were so strong that doctors discussed taking her off the ventilator, but the virus ultimately proved too strong.

She was buried May 1 in Oklahoma City. Her grave was covered with baskets of roses, zinnias, carnations, lilies. Her coworkers sent sunflowers.

Read the full obituary

Ricardo Saldana

77, Glendale

Driving along Glendale Avenue with his daughter Jackie, Ricardo Saldana would blast the corridos — popular Mexican folk ballads — of Ramón Ayala, Antonio Aguilar and Los Tigres del Norte from his car speakers.

As time went by, Jackie said, she began to embrace the music and culture of her father, who was born in Guanajuato, Mexico.

“He’d be like ‘Don’t ever be embarrassed of who you are,’” she said.

A longtime Glendale resident, Saldana, 77, died of COVID-19 complications on April 13. He had worked as a construction worker since he immigrated to Southern California in his early 20s.

Jackie visits her father’s grave every other day, playing the music she would “bump” to alongside her father when he was alive — reminiscing about his love for boxing and his Mexican heritage.

“When I play his music, it makes me feel like he’s right there with me,” she said.

Saldana’s favorite hobby was watching boxing and lucha libre, the uniquely Mexican style of wrestling. Whenever Julio César Chávez had a fight, the Saldanas would visit Jackie’s aunt’s house to watch “El León de Culiacán” fight it out in the ring. Gathering around the screen to watch Chávez throw punches brought the family together — and Saldana loved that.

“I saw that everybody together made him happy,” Jackie said.

Saldana loved taking long walks, eating hamburgers at the Troy Drive-in in Glendale and watching classic Pedro Infante movies with his family.

He spent his final days at Glenhaven Healthcare, where he contracted the virus. He had been living there since 2014, after having a stroke. He also faced multiple underlying conditions and had been nonverbal and bedridden since the stroke.

“I used to say, ‘Dad, do it like you’re fighting,’ and he would put his arms up as if he was boxing,” Jackie said about visiting him at the facility. “He would start laughing.”

Saldana is survived by his wife, Celia, children Jackie, Maria and Ricardo Jr., four siblings and four grandchildren.

Saldana’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the living facility, where at least four other residents have died.

“This virus is like a monster; it grabs you and it doesn’t let you go,” Jackie said.

Stan Westmoreland

76, Lemon Grove

Ilene Westmoreland remembers when her father took a year off from work when she was in third grade and devoted his time to helping her in school.

She remembers the trips to the library, where he would take out books to read to her. She remembers having a project for school about “Beauty and the Beast” and how her father stopped at mall after mall during an eight-hour stretch to get her exactly what she needed. Later, he taught her how to drive a car.

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran who fought in the Vietnam War, Stan Westmoreland died Feb. 10 at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego from complications of COVID-19. A Lemon Grove resident, Westmoreland was 76.

Ilene said her father was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. She remembered him as a private, patient and humble man, a dedicated husband to his wife of 41 years, Ivy Sue, and father — and good with numbers.

“He was a very good man,” she said.

“I think after he lost his first son from his first marriage, he understood that time was precious and making memories was important,” Ilene said. “My dad never really cared about anything that was material. He was very wise.”

Stanley Westmoreland was born in San Diego on June 11, 1945, to Louis Westmoreland and Willie Mae Watson, the third of four children and the only boy. About a week after graduating from San Diego High School, Westmoreland joined the Marines and served four years in Vietnam. While there, he was exposed to Agent Orange, which damaged his lungs.

After an honorable discharge as an E-5 sergeant, Westmoreland came back home, attended Mesa College and the University of San Diego, married, started a family and was a warehouse manager at the original FedMart, a chain of discount stores started by Sol Price of Price Club fame.

After a divorce and the tragic loss of his 10-year-old son, Westmoreland met Ivy at work at FedMart subsidiary International Distributing Co. and the two married, had children and lived together in Lemon Grove. He enjoyed taking trips to Cabo San Lucas with his family, buying chocolates for his wife at See’s Candies and attending plays.

Helen Ofield, past president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, and longtime family friend, said "the Stanley Westmorelands of the world are rare and precious.”

“He saw the world as kin, not broken up into ethnic, racial or economic groups,” Ofield said. “He approached all people as equals and expected — and received — the same in return. When people feel they can trust somebody, that there is innate generosity of spirit, there is immediate rapprochement. This accounts for the neighborliness in his corner of the world, the feeling that all’s right with the world when you can walk planet Earth with such as Stan.”

Ivy Westmoreland said her husband embraced diversity and enjoyed attending cultural events, especially plays at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, where they were regulars at the Lyceum.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by a son, Stanley III, and a sister, Lois Lucas.

Rafael Cartagena

66, San Fernando

(Family photo)

Rafael Cartagena loved newspapers so much that he kept hundreds of them stuffed in his locker at work. He would sit at his kitchen table or in the backyard at his home in the San Fernando Valley, clipping out articles that he wanted to keep, sometimes telling family, this is something that will go down in history, this is something to remember.

It was a passion, and a trade: Cartagena, who died from COVID-19 in Los Angeles on May 17 at the age of 66, was a roll tender at California Community News, where he’d walk in the door around 5 a.m., shout hello to his boss, and do a fist pump and a wave.

For more than 25 years, his job was to keep the printing presses running, and he was the best at it.

“He was a high-energy guy,” said his supervisor, press manager Perry Kirkpatrick. “That’s how he was all day.”

When a printing press was running at the Irwindale facility, it was Cartagena’s job to keep loading paper into the enormous machinery so that a printing run can continue uninterrupted.

In went an 800-pound roll of blank paper, carefully guided into place by Cartagena; out came more copies of the Daily Pilot or the New York Post, or the comics sections for the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, ready to be enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of readers across Southern California.

If the paper rolls aren’t prepared correctly, the printing run gets interrupted and the workers have to shut down the process and make fixes. Cartagena’s relentless diligence made such mistakes rare.

“He always had the best percentage of non-breaks in the whole department for years,” Kirkpatrick said.

Cartagena was born Oct. 5, 1953, in El Salvador, where he grew up in the small town of San Pedro Perulapán and drove a bus to support his family. Fleeing the civil war there, he immigrated with his partner, Coralia De Paz, and their daughter to the United States in 1985. He soon found the job printing newspapers in Los Angeles County.

Cartagena was not just a skilled producer of newspapers but an avid reader and collector of them, particularly La Opinion and the New York Post.

“He loved to be informed, he loved to read,” said his daughter, also named Coralia. “People would tell him, ‘You should be like a history teacher, you have so much knowledge, you know so much.’”

He particularly enjoyed articles about his favorite soccer clubs, Real Madrid and the Brazilian national team. He would have his daughter help translate a word in Los Angeles Times stories to make sure he understood them properly.

“We would say, ‘What is it with you and newspapers?’” Coralia Cartagena said. “Maybe because he worked there. I don’t know, I don’t know. He had a passion.”

Cartagena also enjoyed dancing to cumbia and playing poker, as well as helping out family and friends when they were in need, including in his hometown in El Salvador.

“Every year when he went to visit his homeland, he was so kindhearted that he would throw a party for the neighborhood he lived in, and he would pay for everything – the drinks, the barbecue, because he was that kind of person,” said his longtime colleague, lead press operator Gabriel Guzman.

He would also give money to friends who couldn’t afford medication, and took responsibility for caring for his nephews when one of his brothers died, said Coralia Cartagena, whom he pressed to be ambitious in America; he had dropped out of school in El Salvador in order to take care of her.

“When we came here, he would always motivate me, ‘I want you to be somebody in life, I don’t want you to struggle how I struggled,’” she said. “He would always push me and tell me, ‘You have so much potential.’”

He was filled with pride when Coralia graduated from Cal State Northridge, as well as when she had a daughter. He had proclaimed, “I pray to God I don’t leave this world until I meet a child from my daughter,” according to Coralia. (His son had already given him four grandchildren.) He got his wish; Coralia had a girl.

“He enjoyed my baby for a year and a half,” Coralia Cartagena said. “At least he left with meeting his wish.”

Rafael Cartagena is survived by his partner of many years, Coralia De Paz; one brother; a daughter, a son; and five grandchildren.

Tara Fay Mitchell

63, Sacramento

(Nathan F. Sperry)

A trucking company is not the typical environment for romance to bloom. But that’s where Tara Arentz fell in love.

In college, the Sacramento native had trained to become a dental hygienist, but soon after graduating she changed direction and took a job driving trucks for the Snyder Company in Northern California. She met fellow trucker LaMar Mitchell; their wheels crossed in the early 1970s -- the two quickly became a couple.

After several years, they both grew weary of life on the road. Looking for stability and a ‘normal’ routine, the Mitchells got married and settled into a more stationary life in suburban Sacramento.

Mitchell returned to her original vocation, working as a dental assistant, before retraining as a special education teacher — at the same time as raising the couple’s two children, Andrew and Tesa. In recent years Mitchell had been working as an administrator for the Sacramento School district.

Devoted parents, the Mitchells were generous and welcoming. “My friends all loved coming over,” Tesa said, mentioning frequent summer backyard barbeques.

One of Tara’s best friends, Kate Connolly, was particularly close to the Mitchell family and Tara specifically.

“Things weren’t always stable at my house so I spent a lot of time with the Mitchells,” Connolly said. “Tara provided a lot of stability and warmth for me, she was supportive-- always checking up on me -- the Mitchells are incredible people,” Connolly said.

Mitchell’s caring nature extended to the family pets — particularly her beloved dogs; Cooper, Twister and a silky haired terrier, Nicholas.

Outside her family, Mitchell’s passion was her garden. Both Andrew and his mother developed green thumbs and would discuss their backyard pursuits, experimenting with various vegetables and flowers throughout the year.

When Mitchell needed a change of scenery and wanted to see more than backyard foliage, she would drive up the coast and visit some of the largest trees in the world, the redwoods.

Unsurprisingly, given her previous career as a truck driver, Mitchell felt comfortable on the road and the family would set off on regular adventures.

“She loved driving up and down the California coast,” LeMar said. The family would take trips up the coast to see the ancient redwood trees and take in majestic sea views.

During their road trips, the Mitchell’s always made time to stop and grab a drink at local breweries along the coast. “She loved dark beers,” LaMar said, “stouts, porters and dark beers were her favorite.”

Another favorite beverage that kept Mitchell fueled during long road trips was coffee. “Coffee was a lifeblood of our relationship,” laughed Tesa. Mitchell particularly loved an iced mocha and the mother daughter pair would grab caffeinated treats at Philz Coffee, a chain with a location in Sacramento.

After graduating from high school, Tesa moved to Utah where she still lives. Mitchell would send her daughter a photo anytime she visited Philz. “She sent me some Philz coffee beans a couple months ago.” Tesa said.

Despite their physical distance, Tesa and her mother remained close and would chat on a daily basis.

“I called her every day on my way home from work,” Tesa said. Mitchell would ring Tesa on her drives too -- to check in and say hello. It’s those chats from the car Tesa says she will miss most. “I’ll miss the little things -- just knowing that she was always there,” Tesa said.

In early July, Mitchell, her husband and Andrew contracted and tested positive for COVID-19. All three showed symptoms and Mitchell developed a high fever. By mid July she had begun to get better but on July 22 Mitchell was having trouble breathing.

“She asked my dad to call 911,” said Tesa. Mitchell died later that day from complications related to COVID-19.

She is survived by her husband and children.

Karen Johnson

77, Beaumont

A lifetime of helping others continued into its final days, even as Karen Johnson battled the Alzheimer’s disease and dementia that had robbed her of so much else.

The mother of four spent about three years in the Highland Springs Care Center in Beaumont, Calif., before succumbing to complications from COVID-19 on April 19 at age 77.

While there, she often would leave her room only to be found tucking other residents into bed or helping them into their wheelchairs.

“They told me that one night, she got a towel and a washcloth and was washing the feet of people who were lying in bed,” said Dena Garcia, Johnson’s daughter. “Even still, in that state, she was wanting to care for people.”

Johnson had worked for roughly 15 years as a teachers aide in the Fresno Unified School District.

During her final years, she frequently would talk about her need to help children and refer to memories of her time spent with students, Garcia recalled.

“I think that shows just what a caring person she was,” Garcia said. “She always wanted to help people.”

Johnson also had a second job -- at Sunrise Assisted Living. There she worked with memory care residents, helping people suffering from the same sorts of conditions she would later battle.

A typical day would have her at school from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a shift at Sunrise from 3 to 11 p.m.

Johnson grew up on a farm in Bakersfield as the fourth of seven children. She married Fred Frey, a U.S. Marine. After the couple divorced, Johnson raised her four children as a single mom in Romoland, just south of Riverside.

“The best memories are probably from my adult years,” Garcia said. “Not that there were bad memories. It was just a matter of becoming an adult and understanding things more.”

During Johnson’s three years at Highland Springs Care Center, Garcia’s visits always included bringing a “goodie” for her mother, who loved popcorn, peanuts and little individual apple pies.

“She loved her snacks, no matter what it was,” Garcia said. “I could microwave a bag of popcorn and put it in a Ziploc bag and take it to her. She just thought that was the best thing.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the family was unable to hold a traditional celebration of life. Instead, Johnson’s other daughter, Dawn, put together a remembrance card that featured a Bible verse and pictures. They were sent to family and friends.

Johnson final wish was to have her ashes spread in the desert near Twentynine Palms, a place Garcia said she loved.

Gregory Everett

58, Los Angeles

It was May 15, 2020, and Los Angeles native Gregory Everett was excited about one of his favorite annual activities. He was about to share, with a class of UCLA students, the film he was probably most proud of: “41st & Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers” for a course on Black nationalism.

During what were then still the early days of the COVID-19 era, the session was not held in person, but on a Zoom teleconference meeting.

Everett did not seem to mind working remotely to explain, in part, the poverty, violence and desperation that led to the formation of the Black Panther Party, including the 1969 killing of Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, two UCLA students who were party members. Sometimes, he inspired others to make films of their own.

“He had a fire in his belly about doing the thing that occurs to you to do,” said UCLA history professor Mary Corey.

“He understood ambition, and what he instilled in students was that ‘can do’ idea. ‘Don't just think about it and wish you could do it; get your phone and go out and make a movie if you want to.’ He got people to step out from the dreaminess and go from idea to making it real. He taught it by being a model, because he had done it.”

What Everett did not know that day was that it was the last time he would interact with UCLA students about his film.

By January, a relative had contracted the coronavirus and passed it on to the rest of the family. Everett was hospitalized Jan. 8 and died Jan. 24. He had recently turned 58.

Gregory is survived by his wife, Lorean, sons Gregory and Jeffrey, brothers Dante and Derrick, and two sisters, Traci and La Shun. Jeffrey said he remembered his dad telling him his love for filmmaking began with a Super 8mm camera when he was 16.

Everett never made it big, although he did win a best documentary award from the Pan-African Film and Arts Festival for “41st and Central.” Corey said, “He was always scuffling for the next project or whatever, to actually get the permissions that he needed in order to have it shown on TV or shown in theaters,” Corey said. “So it was sort of an underground item.”

Jeffrey said his father was a family man at heart.

“He was always there to talk to you, ask you how your day was,” Jeffrey said. “He made an active effort to be a part of our lives. He showed up to all the parent-teacher conferences and all the baseball games or performances at school. And he would spend time with us at home watching a movie or a TV show.”

Everett also worked as a party producer and promoter, Jeffrey said, and used that work to help others.

“He would have people bring canned goods to his parties to get in, and then he would donate all those canned goods,” Jeffrey said. “He really cared about his community.”

Harold Widom

88, Santa Cruz

The allure, challenge and wonders of mathematics were so central to the life of Harold Widom that the retired professor had a classroom-style chalkboard installed in the study of his Santa Cruz home.

There, even in the last months of his life, he would untangle numbingly complex equations, and keep various to-do lists and reminders.

“In the corner, he’d have his grocery list — things like Imodium, Mandarin oranges,” his daughter Barbara Widom Wilson said. “Then he’d have a note about when he had to rotate the tires on his car, a 1997 Geo Prizm. It said, 'Rotate again at 220,000 miles.’”

On Jan. 21, Widom died at home from complications of COVID-19. He was 88.

An acclaimed mathematician, Widom — pronounced like “wisdom” minus the S — graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan at 16, attended The City College of New York for two years and was among the winners of the prestigious William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, and by 23 had earned his PhD in mathematics from the University of Chicago.

He joined the faculty of Cornell University in 1955, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Ben, a chemist. Thirteen years later, Harold Widom accepted an offer on the West Coast at the newly established UC Santa Cruz, where he helped found the mathematics department. He told friends that one of the biggest draws of California was he could play tennis year-round.

Eventually, he became even more enamored of hiking and exploring the outdoors. He frequently trekked the trails of the Henry Cowell, Big Basin and Nisene Marks parks, and said he often came up with his best mathematical ideas while on the trail. He enjoyed those hikes with his

three children and later grandchildren, and he had a penchant for brightly colored floppy hats and sunglasses.

Late in life, he started an environmental fund through the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, in support of open spaces and parks.

Widom and his second wife, Linda Larkin, traveled the world and had a special fondness for New Zealand and Switzerland. He played the violin, enjoyed the symphony and loved a good glass of wine, or his favorite cocktail, a gin gimlet.

His two daughters and son were highly successful in their own endeavors. Barbara is an endocrinologist in Fort Collins, Colo., Jennifer is dean of engineering at Stanford, and Steven is a software engineer.

Trim and in shape throughout his life, Widom continued to hike until his final months. In August, he passed out due to low blood pressure, fell and sustained a broken hip. He recovered and even resumed driving his beloved stick-shift car.

He fell ill with pneumonia in November and was hospitalized. When he returned home in December, he contracted the coronavirus. Although he was able to return home from the hospital after a week, his weight had dropped from 125 pounds to 105. His health declined rapidly.

Because she’s a doctor, Barbara had been vaccinated and was able to assist with her father’s care in his final weeks.

“It was pretty horrible how low his oxygen was, and how short of breath he was,” she said.

“But I was able to be right next to him without a mask and really help, so that was a wonderful thing. It would have been so different if he were alone at the hospital.”

Widom is survived by his wife, three children, brother and four grandchildren.

Jay Johnstone

74, Granada Hills

Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times

Jay Johnstone, the fun-loving outfielder who was best known for his clubhouse pranks and a dramatic pinch-hit home run that helped the Dodgers win the 1981 World Series, died Sept 26, his daughter, Mary Jayne Sarah Johnstone, confirmed on Facebook. He was 74.

Johnstone, who hit .267 with 102 home runs and 531 RBIs in a 20-year major league career from 1966-85, suffered from dementia and was in a Granada Hills nursing home when he died of complications from COVID-19.

“COVID was the one thing he couldn’t fight,” Johnstone’s daughter told the Associated Press.

Johnstone was born on Nov. 20, 1945, in Manchester, Conn., and his family moved to Southern California when he was a toddler. He attended West Covina Edgewood High and signed with the Angels in 1963.

Johnstone reached the big leagues in 1966, the start of a lengthy career spent with the Angels, Philadelphia Phillies, Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres.

In his first postseason appearance for the Phillies in 1976, Johnstone went seven for nine with three RBIs in a three-game National League Championship Series loss to Cincinnati. But his biggest October hit came for the Dodgers in Game 4 of the 1981 World Series. Trailing 6-3 in the sixth, Johnstone followed Mike Scioscia’s walk with a pinch-hit, two-run homer off Ron Davis to pull the Dodgers to within 6-5.

The Dodgers scored again in the sixth and twice in the seventh to win 8-7, evening the series at two games apiece. The Dodgers won Games 5 and 6 to win the championship.

“It was certainly memorable,” said Fred Claire, the former Dodgers general manager who was the team’s vice president of public relations and marketing in 1981. “But I think the biggest contribution of Jay was just in keeping all the guys around him loose.”

Johnstone’s pranks were legendary. He set teammates’ cleats on fire and nailed them to the floor. He and former Dodgers pitcher Jerry Reuss once replaced the celebrity photos in manager Tommy Lasorda’s office with pictures of himself, Reuss and Don Stanhouse.

“If there was a tax on the amount of fun we had, we couldn’t afford to live,” Reuss, 71, said by phone from Las Vegas. “There are so many different memories … but unfortunately, a lot of them you can’t print.”

Johnstone and Reuss once dressed as groundskeepers and dragged the Dodger Stadium infield in the fifth inning of a game against Pittsburgh on Sept. 2, 1981. The players hustled into the clubhouse to change into their uniforms and returned to the dugout.

Johnstone once gave Lasorda’s uniform to the Phillie Phanatic, the mascot placing it on a blow-up doll “and having a blast with it,” Reuss said.

Claire was heading from the field to the press box as a game was about to start when he saw Johnstone — in full uniform — ordering a hotdog from a concession stand outside the Dodgers clubhouse.

“I screamed at him, ‘Jay, get your butt in the clubhouse!’” Claire said. “I don’t know if that was Babe Ruth-like or Jay Johnstone-like, but it was great.”

Johnson appeared in the hit movie “The Naked Gun” as a member of the Seattle Mariners in a game against the Angels and had a broadcasting career. He wrote a 1985 book called “Temporary Insanity,” with author Rick Talley.

“I’ll be honest,” Reuss said with a laugh, “there was nothing temporary about it.”

In addition to his daughter, Johnstone is survived by his wife of 52 years, Mary Jayne Johnstone, and a son-in-law, Ryan Dudasik.

Douglas Borchert

77, Martinez

To the outside world, Douglas Borchert was a quiet academic who loved title insurance, history and research. But to those who knew him best, Borchert was a fearless explorer with an infinite sense of curiosity. After all, a person doesn’t climb Mt. Kilimanjaro at 65 unless they have some taste for adventure.

“Doug was always challenging himself with something new,” said his brother, Mark. “When he got interested in something, he pursued it pretty passionately.”

Borchert died in Martinez on March 23 from complications of COVID-19. He was 77.

The eldest of three brothers, Borchert was born in Ely, Nev., and raised in Sacramento. He attended as many Sacramento Solons baseball games as his allowance permitted, his brother said, and he went on to receive his bachelor’s in history from UC Davis. After graduating, he surprised everyone in his family by enlisting in the U.S. Army at the height of the Vietnam War.

“Doug decided to join because he felt like the burden of the war was falling on the poorest,” Mark said. “He wanted to do the right thing.”

In Vietnam, Borchert declined an officer commission and instead served as a “Scout Dog” handler who looked for booby traps, ambushes, snipers and hidden caches of food or weapons. He earned the Bronze Service Medal for his valor.

After returning to California, Borchert received his master’s of science in business from UC Berkeley and his law degree from Ventura Law School. He went on to spend 45 years as a title attorney, eventually serving as vice president of the underwriting counsel at Fidelity National Title until his retirement in 2018. He published a number of scholarly articles on real property and title claims, and appeared in court cases as an expert witness.

But Borchert also remained a committed outdoorsman and student of history. He served as a volunteer docent at the John Muir home, an architectural tour guide in San Francisco and an instructor at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, where he lectured on topics like the “Comstock Lode” silver strike of 1859 and the life of Samuel Clemens (otherwise known as Mark Twain).

“He had so much more to him than what his career was able to let him express,” said his cousin, Louise Chiatovich. “He was very erudite, and he was a great storyteller with a great sense of humor.”

Borchert was married twice and helped raise three kids, including his stepson and two adopted daughters. He was with his wife, Virginia Borchert, for the last 19 years, during which time he took sailplane lessons and learned to throw traditional Scottish shot put. His brother said he was probably more committed to the experiences than to any particular urge for mastery.

“It was typical Doug,” Mark said. “He seemed to enjoy setting his mind to something, and he really threw himself into his endeavors.”

Borchert is survived by his wife, Virginia Borchert, stepson Brian Rector, daughters Megan Han and Nikki Borchert, and his younger brother, Mark Borchert.

Carolina Tovar and Letty Ramirez

86 and 54, Rowland Heights

Carolina Tovar, 86, left, and her daughter Letty Ramirez, 54, died from COVID-19 on April 3. (Family photo)

Carolina Tovar and Letty Ramirez were an inseparable mother-and-daughter duo — the twin matriarchs of their family.

They were often standing side by side in the kitchen, sharing traditional recipes that they would serve their children. In the evenings, they watched classic Mexican films, the ones starring Vicente Fernandez. They got their nails done together and talked about everything.

But in March, breathing difficulties brought both women to the emergency room. This time, they would not leave together, hand in hand, as they had done so many times before. On April 3, mother and daughter died from COVID-19, hours apart in separate hospitals.

“It felt like somebody kicked my stomach,” said Alexis Ramirez, Letty Ramirez’s eldest daughter. “It happened so quickly.”

The week before the women were hospitalized, they spent their evenings together as they had always done. Ramirez, 54, had a dry cough, but otherwise felt well enough to go to work as a mortgage broker.

But on March 19, her oxygen levels fell, and her daughter rushed her to St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton. Tovar, 86, who had seemed in good health, fell ill shortly afterward and was admitted to the same hospital. Ramirez was soon put on a ventilator and transferred to Providence St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.

On April 2, when doctors informed the family that Tovar would also need to be put on a ventilator, another one of Tovar’s daughters negotiated her way into her hospital room. She called the family on FaceTime and, together, they decided to respect Tovar’s wishes not to be put on a ventilator.

Through FaceTime, about a dozen of Tovar’s children and grandchildren spent the night with her, their voices enveloping her as she let out her last breath.

She had lived a beautiful life, marrying her husband, who recently died from cancer, when she was 13 in Zacatecas, Mexico, and later immigrating to California.

She had six daughters, two sons and many grandchildren who would take her on trips to Las Vegas and the beaches of Rosarito, Mexico, and host parties year-round.

The family hadn’t had time to recover from the news of Tovar’s death before Alexis got a call from a doctor that evening. Any more time on the ventilator would not help her, he said.

Alexis made the decision to remove her from the machines, and she died within minutes. Letty Ramirez never learned about her mother’s death.

“In the end, Tia Letty, quite literally and figuratively gave her life for her mom,” grandson Art Aguilar said, using the Spanish word for aunt. “How ironic that you could not separate these two women in life and that fate had made it so that they wouldn’t have to be separated after death.”

Read the full obituary

Terese Chiames Caire

57, La Cañada

A photograph of John and Terese Caire with their children John Paul and Maria hangs in the family’s home in La Cañada.

Terese Chiames Caire, the daughter of a school administrator in Fresno, knew early in life what she wanted to do for a living. She wanted to teach, not just because that was a noble profession, but because a school-day schedule would make it easier to have a family and spend time with her own children.

“There were 735 people at our wedding,” said John Caire, who married Terese on Sept. 5, 1992, at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Fresno.

John and Terese settled in Los Angeles, where he was a general contractor and Terese became a teacher in Sherman Oaks. She later took a job in La Cañada-Flintridge, where she taught for nearly 30 years, mostly at Palm Crest Elementary, where she most recently taught third grade.

The Caires raised two children, Maria and John Paul, now 22 and 21, and the family attended services together at St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Church in Pasadena for many years. Terese embraced her Serbian and Greek heritage and competed in Greek dance events.

Though she taught with great energy and spirit, and enjoyed even the nightly task of grading papers and planning the next day’s class, Terese loved nothing more than time with family. The Caires traveled the country and the world together, and they had a tradition of uniting at the dinner table each evening in La Cañada, without the distraction of television or electronic devices, to catch up with each other over meals prepared by Terese.

“I am from a very close-knit family and I have a lot of extended family. That’s what happens when you’re half Greek, half Serbian,” Terese wrote in a short sketch of herself for parents of her students. “We see and talk to each other all the time. I like it that way. It’s the way I grew up and it’s what my kids grew up with.”

In late March, all four members of the Caire family got sick, but none of them had a worse case of COVID-19 than Terese. One night, John Paul lifted his ailing mother over his shoulder and carried her downstairs. John, despite his own poor health, drove his wife to the nearest emergency room.

Over the next month, Terese fought for her life. She’d had no significant underlying conditions other than occasional respiratory problems, but the virus ravaged her body. She seemed to rebound on two occasions, only to decline again. She died on April 29 at the age of 57.

“Terese had students who grew up and had babies, and she knew those kids too,” John Caire said as he and Maria and John Paul remembered Terese at the dining room table where they shared so many good times together. John pointed to a nearby table with all the condolence cards sent by her former students.

Among those many students were the sons of former L.A. Times columnist Chris Erskine, who wrote a tribute to Caire after her death:

“Terese was more Greek than Zorba.

Both my sons had her at Palm Crest, and … she … made them excited to come to school each day, something young boys are not always prone to do.

“Mrs. Caire was different: She would dance on desks (like Zorba); she would light up the campus with her smile.

“Terese Chiames Caire was born to teach. And teach she did.”

Maria, a UCLA student, said the family was grateful for the work of doctors, nurses and the staff at Keck USC Medical Center, where Terese spent her last days.

“They were amazing,” said Maria, who was able to communicate with her mother by calling the hospital and having a nurse place the phone next to her mother’s ear. “We’d call and sing to her. ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ was her favorite song.”

The medical staff also arranged for Terese to follow Sunday services livestreamed from St. Anthony’s in Pasadena.

In addition to her husband and children, Terese is survived by her mother, Anita, and brothers Chris and Paul Chiames. Paul has begun a campaign to establish a National Day of Remembrance for all those who have been lost to and affected by COVID-19, and to “allow for a public expression of empathy, appreciation and recognition that will unite us as Americans and create a spirit of healing for our collective recovery moving forward.”

Mark Scheu

53, Moorpark

Mark Scheu liked to watch things grow. The 53-year-old father and real estate developer saw the world as a fertile field, where there was always opportunity to help something or someone thrive.

Scheu was born in Upland in 1966 to Allyn and Rosemary Scheu, and from an early age developed an interest in farming. His family raised citrus trees, but Mark’s dreams expanded beyond oranges and lemons.

By 2000, Scheu was running a successful commercial real estate company, but he had always dreamed of owning a cattle ranch. So he set out for Idaho hoping to find the ideal plot of land. He found it, along with the perfect life partner — Dianna Baxter.

“I was an agriculture broker,” said Dianna, who would take Scheu’s last name when they married, “so I sold him the land and helped with the herd [of cattle] getting it all lined up. It was clear he didn’t have a lot of experience on a cattle ranch.”

“Early on I got a call from Mark while he was on the ranch,” said Dianna. “He said, ‘Can you come down and take a look at this horse? Something’s wrong,’ so I drove over and he had the bridle upside down.”

Dianna, who had grown up in Idaho, had three children whom Scheu adopted: Ariel, Chase and Skylee. The family moved to Moorpark, and in 2005 Scheu and Dianna had a daughter, Allie May.

While Scheu’s real estate business was still in California, his favorite place was the Idaho ranch, which the family visited frequently. Ranch managers and hired hands looked after the cattle throughout the year, but Scheu was intimately involved with running the ranch and loved to watch it improve.

Scheu brought the same level of diligence and care to his work in California. He developed old buildings in and around Simi Valley and brought them back to life.

Their California home was also a testament to Scheu’s knack for resurrection. The family purchased an empty plot in Moorpark that had been deemed unusable by other developers due to the poor quality of the land. But where others saw a problem, he saw opportunity.

Scheu put in a well and a pond for irrigation and planted avocado trees. Allie May was part of the 4-H youth development program, so she and other members of her group began to keep sheep on the property.

Despite being far from Idaho, their California house had a surprising connection to their ranch. “We were looking at the overall plan and Mark said, ‘Di, come take a look at this, look at the shape of the land parcel.’ I said, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s shaped like Idaho!’” Naturally, the Moorpark home became known as Little Idaho.

On April 10, Good Friday, Scheu was helping Allie May bury a goat that had died on the Little Idaho property. Walking back toward the house, he collapsed, and died soon after. A few days after his death, Dianna got a call from the Ventura County medical examiner, who said Scheu had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The family decided that their beloved father and husband needed to be laid to rest in his favorite place. “My son has a large van,” Dianna said. Together, they drove through the night to the Idaho ranch with Scheu in the van. “It was his last road trip home,” Dianna said.

They buried Scheu in his beloved rugged Idaho landscape amongst sagebrush and big mountains. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but also one of the biggest blessings,” Dianna said.

The family sat around a campfire after his burial and sang songs together, roasted hot dogs (Scheu’s favorite) and reminisced about all the ways he had nurtured them.

“He would look at people, even broken-down people, and see us not as we are, but at our potential, and he helped us reach that,” said Dianna. “You didn’t realize he was doing it, until you looked back — he saw the best in others.”

In addition to Dianna and his four children, Scheu is remembered by three grandchildren, his sister, two brothers and his entire extended family.

Jorge Martinez

53, Los Angeles

Jorge Martinez was a proud salvadoreño.

He’d spend hours on YouTube watching news and TV shows from his native El Salvador.

Last year, he fulfilled his dream of going back home to visit his father in La Unión, a coastal city in El Salvador. It was the first time back since he came to the United States as an 18-year-old. This year, he had planned to take his wife to explore his home country.

The trip never came.

Martinez, a resident of South Los Angeles, died of COVID-19 complications at California Hospital Medical Center on June 7. He was 53.

Martinez spent the last 10 years of his life working as an Uber driver. Twelve years before that, he worked as the assistant manager at an Echo Park McDonald’s where he met the love of his life: Carmelina Ruiz.

“In this country, you’re always working,” said Ruiz, who was born in Nicaragua. “We never let each other fall. We were made for each other.”

When Martinez and Ruiz met, they each had their own children from different partners — they took in each other’s kids as if they were their own.

“He’s the only dad I’ve ever known,” said Klevher, Ruiz’s daughter, who added that she never considered herself his stepdaughter. “He was always there for me. He never failed us as a dad.”

Ruiz said that even if he was starving, Martinez would always wait for her to come home from work before eating dinner. Family came first, she said. Sometimes, Martinez would go to the mall and choose clothes for his wife.

“He always brought flowers home for me,” Ruiz said. “It didn’t matter the date.”

Martinez loved taking short road trips with his family, especially to Las Vegas and San Francisco, Klevher said. Although he didn’t usually gamble, he loved going to Vegas to walk on the Strip and explore.

“He’d always made sure he knew the destination and what was around,” Klevher said. “He always had a plan.”

Martinez loved helping other people — if his friends needed a ride, he’d offer to drive them wherever they needed to go, Ruiz said.

Martinez started feeling sick on April 15, when he started running a fever and lost his appetite and sense of taste. His wife had similar symptoms but ultimately recuperated.

Five days later, Martinez started having trouble breathing and was admitted to the hospital, where he tested positive for COVID-19. He was put on a ventilator on April 29 and spent all of May on the breathing machine.

Martinez is survived by his wife, children Melvin and Katherine, step-children Kevin and Klevher, father Mario, brother Pedro and two grandchildren. The family has raised more than $17,000 on GoFundMe.

“Los tengo que sacar adelante,” Ruiz said. “I have to fight for them so they can become something in life. Now, I have to be both a mother and a father.”

Marcia Burnam

92, Los Angeles

(Family photo)

Four years ago, Marcia Burnam began thinking seriously about her legacy. But she was not concerned with how the world would remember her many charitable efforts or her decades of groundbreaking activism championing numerous causes dear to her heart. Rather, she wanted to make sure that her seven grandchildren knew who she was and could carry on some of her wisdom. She decided to make a video for them.

“The only thing you can keep in life is what you give away,” Burnam said to start the movie. “That’s what I’d like to teach my grandchildren. We all have a responsibility for each other.”

Burnam could not have foreseen that those words and the 20-minute story that followed would play an integral part of a moving memorial service for her that had to be streamed online due to social distancing measures.

She died April 1 of complications from the novel coronavirus at age 92 at her condo in West Los Angeles. Days later, hundreds of admirers from around the globe gathered virtually to pay their respects.

“If there was a woman who proved we can be together while physically apart, Marcia Burnam was that woman,” said Senior Rabbi Ken Chasen of Leo Baeck Temple, who presided over the memorial.

Passionate about justice and interfaith and interracial understanding, Burnam headed the Portraits of American Women panel in the 1960s. She later served as the western regional president and national vice president of the American Jewish Committee. She also served on the national board of overseers of Hebrew Union College, where she mentored students at the School of Jewish Communal Service.

“The relentless shaper and builder of the Jewish people, a student hungry for Jewish learning, a leader committed to Jewish growth and excellence, a visionary driven to unite people despite and sometimes because of their differences,” Rabbi Chasen described her.

Burnam was the daughter of Moses Garbus, whom she said was among the first entertainment lawyers in Hollywood and represented actor Cary Grant. But she took after her mother, Grace Garbus, who at 30 was the president of the National Council of Jewish Women in Los Angeles, working to settle refugees from Germany during World War II. Burnam attended Vassar College, where she said she was mentored by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a friend of the college. She left there for the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.

She returned to West Los Angeles, where she met and married Norman Burman. They had two children, Beth and Bruce, and raised them in their Stone Canyon home. She found her calling by earning a certificate in counseling and working as a social worker in the 1970s. She loved her role with the Portraits of American Women panel because it brought together women of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds.

In 1983, the Burnams took in an Ethiopian 14-year-old named Tewodros “Teddy” Gedebou, who wanted to come to the U.S. to be a doctor. With Burnam’s help, he studied at Stanford and UC San Francisco and later returned to Ethiopia, where he became a renowned surgeon and started the Marcia Burnam Surgicenter.

“The one constant in my ever-changing life was Marcia’s purest love,” Gedebou said in the video.

Burnam loved being a grandmother, too, and in her later days she realized she had much to give her grandchildren.

“I’m so proud of my grandmother,” said grandson Michael Burnam-Fink in the video. “She is the greatest person I know. She is my inspiration. She is my rock. She is actually the standard against which I measure everything that I do.”

Lola Mae Roach Larson

95, Carlsbad

(Courtesy of Larson family)

Lola Mae Roach Larson and her older sister Barbara both were born on the Fourth of July.

"For many years they believed they were so special the entire nation celebrated their birthday," Larson’s son Eric wrote.

Larson, 95, who died Dec. 21 from health conditions exacerbated by COVID-19, had lived the California dream.

The niece of early film and television giant Hal Roach, she tagged along with her father to the famous Culver City studio where he was a cinematographer, location scout and casting director. There she met screen legends Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Will Rogers and was cast in several “Our Gang” comedies.

In the 1930s, she spent time on her grandparents' avocado farm in Encinitas, Calif., and would reminisce about the time when "most roads were dirt and every kid in town could be found on Saturday at the La Paloma theater watching the double feature."

Another of her haunts was Catalina Island, then a favorite of the Hollywood set. There in 1941, when just 16, she met Eric Larson, who was vacationing with college buddies.

Two years later, the summer after graduating from Dorsey High School, she married Eric, beginning a 62-year union that ended only with his death in 2005.

After World War II, the couple settled on her grandparents' ranch. Two of her great-granddaughters are now the sixth generation to live in the nearly 100-year-old family homestead.

With three sons and a daughter, Larson was active in the PTA, Scouts, YMCA, 4-H, Galloping Gourmets and the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, and collected a few ribbons for cooking and decoration at the San Diego County Fair. As a Red Cross water safety instructor she taught hundreds of children and adults how to swim.

"Lola was always quick with a joke and enjoyed a wide circle of friends in the Encinitas area, many dating back to her childhood," her son said.

Water skiing and camping were family pastimes, with favorite destinations including Lake Tahoe, the Colorado River and Estero Bay in Mexico.

In retirement, Larson and her husband indulged their wanderlust. They visited more than 60 countries, traveled by motor home to all 48 continental U.S. states and spent winter months in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, chasing marlin and dorado.

Her last residence was Las Villas de Carlsbad, where she received compassionate care for several years.

She is survived by three sons, Eric, Jon and Doran, all three married to a Jennifer; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Scott Blanks

34, Whittier

Scott Blanks, 34, of Whittier died from COVID-19 on March 27. (Family photo)

Scott Blanks seemed to be able to tackle anything in life with good humor.

More often than not, he put his worries on the back burner and focused instead on the good things in life, dancing many nights away with a seemingly endless circle of friends.

Blanks, a 34-year-old dental assistant from Whittier, died on March 27 from COVID-19.

Blanks had asthma as a child, but didn’t exhibit symptoms or require treatment as an adult, according to his family.

“We were shocked and kind of feeling numb, because it didn’t feel real,” said Karen Blanks, Scott Blanks’ sister-in-law. “We couldn’t even go see him or be with him.”

Jessie Funes-Macdonald recalled the times she and Blanks had gone dancing at West Hollywood clubs as Pasadena City College students. At PCC, Blanks was involved in academic fraternities, leadership groups and LGBTQ clubs. He studied accounting, worked at Starbucks for several years and later decided to study to become a dental assistant. Throughout the stages of his life, he had an ability to not only keep in touch with dozens of people, but to make each of them feel special, friends said.

On social media, those friends shared memories and old photographs with a goofy, always smiling Blanks.

One friend, Vincent Estrada, credited Blanks with lifting him up in dark times and seeing him through life changes, from being jobless and struggling with his identity as a gay man to starting a new career as a sheriff’s deputy and getting married.

“It was very difficult for me to accept myself, and he made me feel proud about myself,” Estrada said. “He lent me his strength, his humor and his sincerity. I don’t think I would have been able to get here without his inspiration.”

Read the full obituary

Donald Lackowski

86, Redondo Beach

(Family photo)

When Donald Lackowski retired from the Navy in 1994, he traveled widely but always returned to his home in San Diego.

“He never wanted to leave San Diego because he didn’t understand how he could ever live without a Navy base nearby,” his daughter, Elizabeth Seyferth, said.

Lackowski, 86, died at Torrance Memorial Medical Center from COVID-19 on April 2. He had been living in an assisted living facility in Redondo Beach.

Seyferth, an operating room nurse at Torrance Memorial, was with him as he died and sat with afterward, holding his hands and praying for nearly an hour.

“I am beyond blessed,” Seyferth said. “All I can say is thank God that I had that [time] with him.”

Lackowski was a Navy captain, serving as an engineer for more than 35 years. He was stationed at Pearl Harbor, where he got married, and was sent to Vietnam in 1962.

He registered four patents, including one for a weapon stabilizer for Navy ships, according to Seyferth.

In the 1970s, Lackowski was stationed in San Diego, where he settled for the next chapter of his life.

He and Seyferth’s mother divorced, and he met his life partner, Kay Hathaway, while on a Sierra Club trip.

When he retired in 1994, Lackowski became one of the original docents on the Midway, which is docked in San Diego.

He was also a volunteer ranger at Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park several summers, kayaking from island to island to check on residents.

Lackowski will be buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii with full military honors once crowd restrictions are lifted. He is survived by his children, three grandchildren and partner.

Read the full obituary

Claudine Pearson Luppi

92, Sherman Oaks

(Courtesy of Mary Basich)

If you look closely at just the right time, you can glimpse Claudine Pearson Luppi riding a camel through an Egyptian desert in the 1954 motion picture “Valley of the Kings.” Luppi was an extra in that largely forgotten film, her only reward a lunch with its leading man, Robert Taylor.

It’s unfortunate that Hollywood didn’t keep in touch after that, because Luppi went on to lead a life so adventurous it seemed made for the big screen.

As the young wife of a U.S. diplomat, she watched history being made in Egypt, Pakistan and India, making her own contribution when she helped organize a reception in New Delhi for Jacqueline Kennedy during the first lady's 1962 goodwill trip to India. Kennedy's trip came amid intense geopolitical tension yet won over a nation and turned her into a global icon.

Luppi's memories of that night, “A Dinner for the First Lady,” are on file at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

During the Indo-Pakistani war nine years later, Luppi had a different role, helping evacuate U.S. citizens from Karachi to Tehran, where she took charge of their care and published a daily newsletter to keep them informed.

She and her diplomat husband divorced when she was 49, after which she headed back to the Middle East on her own to teach elementary school in Saudi Arabia.

“She was my glamour girl. Claudine lived quite a life,” said Glory Ellen Pearson Peel. Asked to describe her cousin in just one word, Peel choose "gutsy."

“Either that,” she added “or you could call her a self-made woman.”

She was undoubtedly both.

Luppi, who spent the final years of her life in a nursing home in Sherman Oaks after suffering a stroke, died Aug. 4 due to complications of COVID-19. She was 92.

Friends and relatives prefer to focus on her remarkable life, not her death.

The eldest of eight children born into poverty in Lewiston, Idaho, Claudine Pearson was caring for her siblings by the time she was 5.

“My mom came from nothing,” daughter Mary Basich said. “She came from being a barefoot little kid in rural Idaho to really self-styling her own kind of glamorous world-traveler role.”

She had stints as a journalist in Idaho and Las Vegas, was a mother to four children, attended Brigham Young University and American University, taught grade school and high school on two continents, co-authored a cookbook and lived in more than half a dozen states and four countries.

“We called her the Energizer Bunny,” her daughter said. “Because she just kept going.”

Luppi got her first real job as a reporter at the tiny Lewiston Morning Tribune after graduating high school in 1946. A year later, she left for BYU, where she met Hobart Luppi. The two shared a desire to travel and see the world, and after marrying in 1950, they set out to do just that when Hobart became a diplomat with the U.S. Foreign Service.

Later, as the wife of a consul general, Claudine Luppi was a visible face of the American government during their postings.

“She was extremely involved in the local American community,” said Basich, who was born during her parents’ time in India. “She was really kind of a striking leader.”

Peel, asked if there was anything her cousin couldn’t do, paused, then chuckled.

“Not really,” she finally answered. “She was quite the girl.”

Leland “Hobo” Goodsell might have just been another homeless man on the streets of Goleta, but he had gained something of a reputation over the 14 years he’d lived there. His dog, Dreamer, might have had something to do with it. Or it could have been the 946 citations he received for living on the streets. But no matter what, he was easily able to charm passersby into becoming friends.

He was helpful with his mechanical skills, repairing bicycles and wheelchairs for other homeless people. “He created and repaired anything with chewing gum and string,” said his friend Deborah Barnes, an outreach worker who ran an advocacy group for the homeless. “Always helpful and always paid a person back. He expected that of his cronies too.”

Although his outreach friends provided for him on occasion, he always checked in on them, too. His nearly daily calls started with, “Hey sis, this is your Hobo, and has anyone told you ‘I love you’ today?” he would ask Barnes. “Well, there you go. I just did.”

Hobo was dropped off at an orphanage with his two sisters in Missoula, Montana when he was 3. He was only 11 when he jumped a train and headed West. The other train hoppers all called him the “littlest hobo.” The name stuck, and he would correct anyone who called him by his birth name. “Don’t call me Leland! I’m a hobo and I’m proud of it,” he would say indignantly.

A Labrador and Australian Ridgeback mix, his dog Dreamer was the only family Hobo had left, and it was a miracle the two had lived so long. They had endured attacks by unwelcoming neighbors and street gangs and survived a serious accident with a gas tanker truck split Hobo’s head and broke his leg. Hobo was never the same after that.

Alcohol brought out a different side and often interfered in his relationships. “He would go through phases where you’re the best person ever in his life, and then he hates you, and then he goes to the next one,” said his friend Gabriela Ferreira, a lawyer in Goleta.

After the accident, Ferreira’s colleague helped Hobo win a lawsuit, but he never stayed sober long enough to go to court, so they settled the case. Barnes attempted to get him into housing for years, but he was resistant, especially with places that wouldn’t allow dogs. “It was the most awful situation,” Ferreira said. “He had money, but he couldn’t have housing.”

Hobo eventually bought an old 1987 Ford truck to sleep in during the rainy season, and to keep safe from late-night attackers. Goleta sheriff’s deputies overlooked city rules on moving vehicles every 36 hours so he could keep it parked, and ignored the fact he didn’t have a license.

The last time Barnes or Ferreira saw Hobo was in March, before the state went on lock down. When he got sick, it was difficult for them to help. He refused to go to a hospital for fear of leaving Dreamer behind.

He was already delirious by the time he went into the hospital. After five days in ICU, the doctors didn’t understand what he was trying to communicate. Over the phone, Barnes told them, “Do me a favor, walk in there, and tell him ‘Dreamer is fine. Dreamer is doing really well.’”

He died April 4, an hour after they told him. He was 66, and the first COVID-19 death in south Santa Barbara County.

His ashes were returned to Montana, where his sister still lives, while Dreamer still lives in Goleta with Tino. When Dreamer’s time comes, his ashes will be reunited with his master in Hobo’s hometown.

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Theodore Granstedt

60, Santa Clara County

Theodore Granstedt IV, who died from COVID-19 on March 23, loved long motorcycle rides across the country. (Family photo)

When Theodore Granstedt IV was in his 20s, he was in a motorcycle accident so severe that it almost took his life.

Doctors told his family there was no longer any detectable brain activity, and asked if they could start harvesting organs. Then, miraculously, his brain activity started up again. Granstedt recovered.

He went on to stop abusing drugs and alcohol — something he struggled with in his adolescence — and would stay sober for more than 30 years. He became a sponsor through Alcoholics Anonymous, helping hundreds of other recovering addicts.

Ed Granstedt, 59, said that story that best encapsulates his brother, known as Teddy, who died from COVID-19 in San Jose on March 23. He was 60.

“Even though he was rough around the edges,” Granstedt said, “There was a lot of heart, compassion and caring to help those like him deal with their demons.”

Theodore Granstedt was a Northern California native who continued to love long motorcycle rides across the country. He was a diehard San Francisco 49ers fan.

A husband to wife Brenda Shepard; a brother; an uncle and a loyal friend. His loved ones describe him as generous, fearless and bold.

Granstedt started feeling ill three weeks before his death, his brother said.

When he eventually did make it to O’Connor Hospital, he was only there for a night before he died.

Ed got a text from his brother at 12:19 a.m. on March 23, when Theodore had only hours to live. It simply said, “Thank you.”

Dr. Ernesto Victor Sotto Santos was excited when he was called to work as a nurse in a COVID quarantine unit at the Pomona Sheraton Fairplex Hotel in March. He was being compensated generously with hazard pay, and for the first time, money wasn’t a concern.

He bought a brand-new BMW X5 right before he started working there. “I remember him being really happy when he bought it, but also feeling really guilty for splurging on himself,” his youngest daughter, Andrea, said. “We just kept telling him, ‘You deserve it, you work so hard for this.’”

The promise of being financially stable encouraged Sotto Santo to continue his work in the COVID hotel. He’d tell his children, “Sorry we can’t hang out today, but I’m getting paid $1,700!”

Eventually, however, COVID-19 would take his life.

Sotto Santos loved his family more than anything. Before his experience at the Pomona hotel, the single father had worked hard at his job as a registered nurse at Kaiser Permanente to provide for his three children and their grandmother, who lived together in San Dimas.

Born in the province of Pampanga in the Philippines, Sotto Santos was the eldest of four siblings. His mother, Elizabeth, described him as mischievous and playful as a child. She would call him “Jonjon,” later shortened to “Jon.”

Despite his carefree personality, he was serious about his studies. Sotto Santos moved to Manila to study nursing at the University of Santo Tomas College of Nursing, then obtained an M.D. degree at the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in 1998.

Afterwards, Sotto Santos and his wife, Ruth, whom he had married while in nursing school, moved to the United States with their children, Ernest and Eliz. In America, the couple decided to pursue careers in nursing even though Sotto Santos had passed the U.S. medical license exams.

Their youngest daughter, Andrea, was born in 2002. The couple eventually separated in 2008, and Sotto Santos became a single parent to his three children. His parents emigrated from the Philippines to help take care of them while he worked.

“I saw firsthand how devoted, loving and selfless he was,” Elizabeth wrote.

Andrea, who is 10 years younger than her siblings, was only 6 when her parents divorced. “I’ve just been raised by my dad my entire life, and I took it for granted,” she said. “My dad made it seem like we had everything.”

Every year, he enjoyed watching the Miss Universe pageant, and even went to go see the competition live in Las Vegas one year. He loved the Beatles, and his favorite song was “I Will.”

In May, Sotto Santos began to feel sick, and he drove himself to the hospital on May 29. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and later tested positive for COVID-19. He was able to FaceTime with his children one last time before he was sedated and put on a ventilator. Even then, his condition worsened and he had to undergo dialysis.

Sotto Santos died on June 8, at age 47. He had underlying conditions known to cause more severe cases of COVID-19, including diabetes and hypertension.

Elizabeth, who went to visit family in the Philippines in December, has been unable to return to the U.S. because of the pandemic. Ernest, 27, Eliz, 26, and Andrea live together.

Sotto Santos is also survived by his brothers, Eric and Elizer, and sister Elaine.

Donald Kennedy

88, Redwood City

(Chuck Painter / Stanford News)

Donald Kennedy, a former president of Stanford University who also led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and served as editor-in-chief of the journal Science, has died at a care facility in Redwood City from complications of COVID-19. He was 88.

Kennedy, who suffered a serious stroke in 2015, died Tuesday at Gordon Manor, a residential care home where he had lived for two years, Stanford said in a statement. Nursing and assisted living facilities have become hot spots for outbreaks of the coronavirus disease.

Kennedy, a neurobiologist who was known for his humor, dedication to students and bold leadership, spent the bulk of his career in science and education at Stanford University.

Born in New York City and educated at Harvard, he taught at Syracuse before arriving at “the Farm” in 1960 as an assistant professor. Kennedy climbed the ranks to become chair of the school’s biology department.

Kennedy took a break from Stanford to serve as commissioner of the FDA under President Carter from 1977 to 1979.

Kennedy returned to Stanford and became president in 1980. During his 12-year tenure, he presided over a $1.1-billion fundraising campaign, the largest attempted by a university at the time. He emphasized teaching over research and oversaw a refashioning of the school’s “Western culture” curriculum to incorporate the achievements of women and minorities. He invited students to join him on daily runs around “the Dish,” a radio antenna and landmark on campus.

Kennedy withstood several controversies, including the university’s continued ownership of land leased by a farming operation that used migrant labor, investments in companies that did business with South Africa, and his relationship to the Hoover Institution. During his tenure the university also weathered the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which caused $160 million in damage to the campus.

In 1991, Kennedy announced his resignation amid allegations that Stanford had misspent millions of dollars in federal research grants, including billing for the depreciation of a 72-foot yacht, floral arrangements for the president’s residence and upkeep of a mausoleum where Stanford’s founding family was buried. The university refunded the government for many of the charges and was largely cleared of wrongdoing.

From 2000 to 2008, Kennedy served as editor-in-chief of the journal Science.

Kennedy is survived by his wife, Robin Kennedy; children Page Kennedy Rochon, Julia Kennedy Tussing, Cameron Kennedy and Jamie Hamill; and nine grandchildren.

Lawrence Wilkes

80, Anaheim