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. Men more than women are likely to die from COVID-19, and the elderly fare the worst. More than 4,000 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.
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 signing 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 Dewy Fundamental School. He also played in a small band, Debbie Wolfe & Halfmoon Highway.
Jason Timmons met Abraham nearly three years ago --- the two stuck 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 contracting 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 wife, son Terry, sisters Sue and Paula and a brother, Mike.
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.
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 loaned 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.”
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.”
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 Kaiser Hospital in Hayward when he stopped 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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
When Elishia and Bobby Breed were walking home from summer school one day, their mother surprised the two by pulling up in her car and asking, “How would you guys like to go to Magic Mountain?”
Patti Breed-Rabitoy had left work early to be with her children.
“That was the kind of person she was,” Elishia Breed said with a laugh. “She was really trying to spend quality time with us.”
Breed-Rabitoy, who had lived in Reseda since 1982, died of COVID-19 complications on May 10. She was 69.
A lifelong Southern California resident, Breed-Rabitoy worked 36 years as a human resources manager at UCLA’s administrative information system department. When her health declined, her children encouraged her to retire.
“It literally took 3 people to fill her position when she retired,” Breed said. “Everybody relied on Patti.”
Breed-Rabitoy made some of her best friends at work. She, Mabel Lai and Dolores Cook would occasionally eat at the now-closed Norm’s in Westwood and chat for hours. After they all retired, the trio continued to meet a few times a year. Cook died in 2010.
“I miss those times,” Lai said. “Now that Patti is gone, I’m all by myself.”
Lai, who is from Hong Kong, said the two became friends after Breed-Rabitoy offered to help with her writing because English isn’t Lai’s first language.
“She had a heart for everyone,” Lai said.
Breed-Rabitoy loved nature and spent years as a troop mom for both the Boy and Girl Scouts. She and her husband Dan loved taking road trips to Oregon and Las Vegas. They also loved The Eagles.
“If she was a part of something, you just knew it was going to be fun and joyous and just full of love,” Breed said. “And that’s what we’re missing right now.”
Breed-Rabitoy suffered from various ailments, including renal disease. She first experienced coronavirus-related symptoms on April 27 when she came down with a high fever after her thrice-a-week dialysis treatment. She was immediately hospitalized and tested positive for COVID-19 the following day at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. She was then transferred to UCLA Medical Center, where her family decided to take her off a ventilator on Mother’s Day.
“We knew she was so sick and so fragile, but every time she went into the hospital, she would always come home,” Breed said. “And this time, she didn't.”
Breed-Rabitoy is survived by her husband Dan Rabitoy, children Bobby Breed, Elishia Breed and Keith Rabitoy, along with 11 grandchildren and five siblings.
“Nothing mattered more to Patti than showing love,” Elishia said Dan told her after her mother’s death. “I feel like I was married to and living with a real life angel for 32 years.”
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.”
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 firetrucks 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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.”
The Echaluce’s home boasted four bedrooms. Anna 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,” Ana 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,” Anna 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. His friends have since recovered.
While 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 Ana spoke to him.
“He looked miserable over Facetime,” Ana said. “It was hard to see.”
When it was clear Echaluce was nearing the end, the doctors asked Ana 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. Ana 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 Ana 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, Ana 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,” Ana 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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,” Gibbs said.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Rosa Luna had a servant’s heart ---she loved her job and her family and would do whatever she could to 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 State 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.
When John Paul Marcos was a child, he would accompany his father while dropping off his mom for her night shifts at the hospital. She never complained, and usually had a smile on her face, he recalled.
“She was always one to offer help,” said John. “Others’ happiness was always her priority”
Celia Marcos, 61, worked as a nurse for decades, a career that had been her dream, according to her older son, Donald Jay Marcos.
For 16 years, she was a nurse at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. Marcos’ colleagues and family believe she caught COVID-19 at work while treating a sick patient.
When she began to struggle to breathe, she was admitted to the hospital herself and died there on April 17.
At a vigil for Marcos held outside the hospital this month, colleagues described her calming presence and clear head in stressful situations. Marcos was gracious and kind, and accepted you as you were, they said
“We’ve lost a really good one,” said one nurse at the vigil.
Marcos immigrated to the U.S. in 2001 but still provided support to her family in the Philippines, John said.
Her death has caused ripples of grief back home, her family members said.
“A lot of our family relied on her, especially the ones in the Philippines,” said John. “She supported everybody.”
Marcos’ niece, Andrea Gian Lardizabal, said her family loved Celia for being sweet and loving.
“My aunt is truly a hero. She selflessly risked her life while taking good care of a COVID-19 patient,” Lardizabal said in an email. “She fought, but lost.”
Before the pandemic, Marcos and her two sons had planned a trip to the Philippines for April.
Marcos loved to eat and travel, and good food was her weakness, said her son Donald Jay Marcos. But she spent most of her vacation time visiting her family in the Philippines, he said.
She always thought about which presents to take for them, any way to make them happy.Read the full obituary
On March 3, Wilson Maa stood at the top of Machu Picchu with his wife, Toyling. He was checking off his bucket list, albeit with some alterations.
He had hoped to take his daughters, Nancy and Julie, too, but when the opportunity arose for his wife and him to go with some of their friends, it was too good to pass up.
“I said, ‘you know, we’re not getting any younger. So if we want to be able to go to Machu Picchu and walk in our own power, this might be one of our last chances,’” Toyling said. “Granted, we were the slowest, but we still made it.”
Maa wasn’t one to give up his chances — he’d asked Toyling to marry him three times before she said yes. After the kids left them with an empty nest, they took advantage of their free time and had traveled to Egypt, Hawaii, Thailand and Beijing. He would buy a new camera for every trip, to make sure it had the latest features.
The couple was looking forward to relaxing on a cruise after climbing Machu Picchu, and seeing other sights in South America before flying home from Buenos Aires.
But what was supposed to be a two-week vacation aboard the Coral Princess cruise ship turned into a nightmare.
As the coronavirus spread across the world, countries began closing their borders. The ship was denied entry to Brazil and Argentina until finally being allowed to dock in Miami a month after its departure. By this time, the coronavirus had infected at least a dozen passengers, including Maa and Toyling.
Maa was one of the more severe cases, and had to be intubated on the ship. He faced a four-hour delay to get an ambulance, and died just after midnight in the hospital on April 5. He was 71.
Maa, his older sister and younger brother were born and raised in San Francisco by Chinese immigrants. He graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in engineering technology and served in the National Guard during the Vietnam War.
With his engineering background, he could fix just about anything, and Maa and Toyling met while she was living with her uncle and his wife, who happened to be his Maa’s sister. Maa would come around the house frequently to fix their appliances.
“He would just show up with a little toolbox, and he'd fix it, and then he'd walk right back out the door like ‘OK bye, see you later,’” Toyling said.
Once she’d found a job and was ready to move out three months later, Maa showed up at their doorstep one last time, and they ended up striking a conversation that lasted all night. That was the first time he proposed. Two proposals later, Toyling finally said “yes.” At the time of his death, they’d been married 42 years.
Maa is also survived by his daughters Nancy Chien and Julie Maa; grandchildren Trevor, Alison, Sebastian and Isabela; and a sister, Lucille Yee.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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
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.
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.”
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.
Murillo’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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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 Hawaiian 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 Milly one more time before she died,” 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.”
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.”
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.
Her masterful brushstrokes brought to life many of Disney’s most vibrant characters, but those who knew her best will remember Ann Sullivan for the vibrancy she brought to life in general.
Before her animation work on Disney classics like “Peter Pan,” “Lion King” and “Little Mermaid” was cherished far and wide, Sullivan preferred to paint the California coastline. She loved the beach and sun nearly as much as the art it inspired. As a young mother living in Manhattan Beach, she often pushed her children to a nearby beach in a wheelbarrow, painting afternoons away, soaking in what sun she could.
As she grew older, spending her final years at the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s skilled-nursing facility, Sullivan would still ask staff to wheel her outside to a bird sanctuary, just to sit in the sun.
Sullivan died from complications of COVID-19 on April 13, a few days after her 91st birthday. She was the third of six housed at the Woodland Hills facility who have died from the novel coronavirus.
Her family celebrated her final birthday on Facetime, saying their goodbyes as they recalled the remarkable life that had brought her there.
Sullivan grew up in North Dakota, at the onset of the Great Depression. As a child, her family was too poor to buy patterns to make their own clothing, so she designed her own, honing a creativity that later bloomed into her life’s passion.
After two years of studying art at North Dakota State University, she rode west on a whim with her sister and brother-in-law to California, where she enrolled at what is now the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. All along, she dreamed of working for Disney.
That dream came true soon enough, as Sullivan got her first job mixing paints, remarking to her children that Disney was “the most prestigious company to work for in the world.” Before long, she was helping bring classic Disney characters to life, beginning with Tinkerbell from “Peter Pan.”
But Sullivan gave up the job to care for her children, raising two daughters, Shannon and Liz, and two sons, Joe and Tom, mostly in La Mirada. She still found time to paint and share that passion with others. When she could, she held art classes for neighborhood kids and encouraged them to follow their own passions.
“She was a free spirit,” her daughter Shannon Jay recalls. “She didn’t dictate how you did this or how you did that. She wanted you to be creative on your own.”
Sullivan returned to work at Hanna-Barbera in 1973, shortly after she and her husband, Kevin Sullivan, divorced. Soon enough, she would return to Disney, continuing animation work on films such as “Oliver & Company,” “Hercules” and “Lilo and Stitch.” When Disney switched to a mostly computerized product, Sullivan taught herself how to translate her art digitally.
Bob Beitcher, president of the MPTF, described her as “a remarkably gifted and resilient woman who chased her dream of life in California and work at Walt Disney and succeeded with grace and resiliency.”
“My mom was one-of-a-kind,” her daughter Shannon said. “She just had that ability to be true to herself. She was just amazing that way. I’m proud to say she was my mom.”
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
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.
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.”
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.
The Rev. Lawrence Wilkes, who went from selling cemetery spots at Crystal Cathedral to becoming the face of “The Hour of Power” broadcasts across the nation, died of complications from COVID-19.
Wilkes, 80, became the interim pastor of the internationally famous Orange County megachurch in 2012 and the host of the religious television show after the church entered bankruptcy. He was remembered by friends and family as a gregarious man, quick with a joke and a knack for speaking to old and young alike.
“He was a big jokester. He would like to say puns. But I think looking back now, that one of the reasons he did that was to get people’s attention so he could start to have a conversation with them,” said his daughter Christine Dey.
She recalled birthday parties she would have as a teen where she would watch her friends fall into long, deep discussions with her father. “He loved to draw somebody in, even a stranger,” she said.
Dey believes that his approach dates back to how her father found religion. Growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, Wilkes was uninterested in religion as a boy. A Gideon’s Bible he received in grade school sat unread for many years, until Wilkes was 20 and kept waking up with an urge to “read the book.”
He struggled with Scripture at first, but was eventually drawn in, and then found a pastor who made stories about Jesus come to life, Dey said. That led him to go to the seminary, where he met his wife, Nancy. The Anaheim couple would have celebrated their 50th anniversary in July.
After working in the cemetery sales division and manning the lobby entry table, Wilkes worked his way up to becoming the evening pastor at Crystal Cathedral, and then dean of the Robert Schuller School for Preaching.
Wilkes became ill last month, and was hospitalized on March 25. He was placed on a ventilator, and died on March 31, three days after a test confirmed he had COVID-19, Dey said. One of Dey’s best friends has a 3-year-old daughter who was shaken by the news, asking, “He can’t hold me anymore?”
“That’s what his personality was like,” Dey said.
In addition to his daughter and his wife, Wilkes is survived by a granddaughter.
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.
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
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.
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.
Gary Young was a people person. He started conversations with just about everybody he came across — cashiers at the grocery stores, servers at the local breakfast joint.
He had an arsenal of favorite jokes he liked to deploy in these moments. He would introduce himself, shake his new acquaintance’s hand and say, “You better go wash your hands.”
“Why?” the other person would reply.
“Because I just got diagnosed with A-G-E,” Young would say, spelling out the letters.
“He was talking about how old he was,” Young’s daughter Stacey Silva explained, laughing at the memory.
Young’s family believes that his handshaking may have been how he contracted the coronavirus.
“It makes me sad,” Silva said. “But it almost makes me happy at the same time, because my dad was such a loving, friendly, bighearted guy.”
Young died of complications from COVID-19 in an isolation ward at St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy on March 17. He was 66.
Young was in the ICU for 12 days. Because of the infectious nature of the virus, his family was unable to be at his bedside when he died.
The last time Silva saw her dad awake, he signed “I love you” to his family through a set of glass doors.
Young was a retired cabinet maker who worked at Lowe’s Home Improvement during his final years. He was a diabetic and recovered from throat cancer in 2004.
Young lived with Silva in Gilroy. His wife, Melody Young, died of cancer in May 2019. They were married for 47 years.
He is survived by his two children, Silva and Dwayne Young, and six grandchildren.
“Once this all settles down, we’ll have a big memorial,” Silva said. “He had so many friends.”
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.
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.