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 8,000 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.
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.”
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.”
After Dulce Amor Aguilo died, her mother was going through her belongings when she found a notebook filled with recipes. Reading the instructions for traditional Filipino dishes reminded Dalisay Aguilo of how much Dulce loved the kitchen — and, by extension, the people she fed.
When Dulce Aguilo was alive, Dalisay would sometimes pass by her room and catch her watching cooking videos on YouTube for hours, sometimes deep into the night.
Born in the Philippines, Dulce Amor Aguilo died of COVID-19 complications April 19 at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose. She was 55.
For the last 10 years, Aguilo worked as a caregiver for seniors, specifically those who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
She last worked at San Jose’s Belmont Village, where she became close friends with some of her coworkers. Dalisay said Aguilo would join her friends and take trips to casinos.
“She really liked to win,” Dalisay said with a laugh. “Sometimes $4,000, $2,000 a night. She enjoyed it.”
Dalisay said Aguilo was a loving and jolly person who would always remember everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries.
Aguilo’s death means not only no more touching notes on milestone dates, but also that Dalisay and her husband, Silvester, who live in a retirement community, won’t have anyone to bring them groceries and take them to doctor’s appointments.
“When I think of her, I still cry,” Dalisay said. “She would drive for us. Now, nobody will drive for us anymore.”
Dalisay said that when Aguilo would see elderly people from their retirement community walking to nearby stores or pharmacies, she would pull over and offer them a ride.
“She loved us,” Dalisay said. “She was always very thoughtful.”
Aguilo started having shortness of breath and a fever on April 6. Dalisay said she was unsure how Aguilo acquired the virus, but she presented symptoms a couple of days after her last dialysis treatment, which she received three times a week for the past four years.
She was admitted to the hospital April 6 and never came back.
“We never saw her again until she became ashes,” Dalisay said.
Aguilo is survived by her parents, Dalisay and Silvester, and her sister Pamela.
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.”
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
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.”
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.
Jose Valero was an entrepreneurial child. Growing up in the small town of Jungapeo, Mexico, he discovered creative ways to make extra cash. Valero would set up shop outside the town’s famous spa, San Jose Purua, and sell pumpkin seeds, guavas and fresh herbs to tourists.
Valero spent his youth in Mexico. By the time he was 19, he had moved to East Los Angeles. He was working in a food truck near the famous 7th Street Produce Market when he met Pedro Astorga.
“He was selling mariscos and seafood,” said Astoga, the president of Listo Produce, a wholesale company with a stall in the 7th Street market. “He would come around the market and offer us ceviche or shrimp cocktail.”
Astorga recognized Valero’s determination and drive: “I said, ‘Would you want to work for me?’ He didn’t believe me! But ... that’s how we started working together.”
Valero loved the work and learning new skills. “He was so smart,” said Astorga. “He could just pick things up so quickly.”
Astorga was particularly impressed by how well Valero connected with others. “People would come to the market and look for him," he said. "They loved talking with him.”
Customers had a nickname for Valero. “They would call him ‘The Goose,’ or ‘Ganso,’” after soccer player Paulo Henrique Ganso, Astorga said, because of Valero's deep love of the sport.
Valero spent his weekends playing soccer with friends or rehearsing and performing music with his band, Pancho Villa. Valero’s specialty was a bass drum called la tambora. But his typical weekend activities changed 10 years ago, once Valero met Maria Isabel. The couple married and had two children, Ullisa, now 7, and Nicole, who was born just 8 months ago. They also raised Jose Luis, a 14-year-old boy Valero adopted from another family member who could not raise him.
As his family grew, Valero’s priorities changed. He went from kicking soccer balls to watching ballet rehearsals. “He would always go and watch Ullisa’s dance rehearsals,” said Astorga. “He would bring fruit from the stand for the other kids —oranges, berries, even dragonfruit. He loved going to watch her. He was so proud of his little girl.”
Occasionally, friends would poke fun at Valero for taking such an interest in ballet and dance. “But he would say, ‘I don’t care,’” Astorga said. “He loved being there for her.”
When the weather grew hot, Valero would often inflate a wading pool and splash around with his three children, or the family would pack a picnic and head to the beach.
“He was the most amazing father,” said wife Maria Isabel.
Because Valero was in the food industry, he and Astorga continued to work, even as the rest of Los Angeles Country closed down. But Valero was vigilant about safety precautions. “He was so so careful about wearing a mask,” said Astorga, “and made sure everyone was using hand sanitizer all the time. He would look out for me and make sure everyone had masks on.”
So it was surprising when Valero began to feel sick in early June. “We thought he had a virus,” said his wife, “but not coronavirus.” Valero died from coronavirus-related complications June 14 at age 35.
“On the Friday before he died, while he was in the hospital, he sold 320 tomatoes from the hospital bed, with the oxygen mask on,” said Astorga. “I said, ‘Man! What are you doing? Take care of your health. Don’t worry about work; just get better. But he was so dedicated to the business.’”
But that was why Astorga, and Valero’s loyal clients, loved him. He saw everyone as part of an extended family. The customers whom he sold the tomatoes to have donated $1,000 to a GoFundMe page Astorga put together for the Valero family.
Valero “loved people so much," said his wife. “That’s where he was happiest, with his friends, and with us.”
Valero is survived by his wife and his three children.
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.”
At 5 feet 11 and just 150 pounds, Vidal Garay looked like he was all muscle when he was young.
“To me, he was like a superhero,” said Richard Garay, Vidal’s second son. He remembered his father telling him and his brothers never to be scared of chasing their dreams.
“You guys are American citizens,” Richard recalls him saying. “You guys can get your education and ... do whatever you want to do.”
Born in the town of El Nayar in Mexico’s Nayarit state, Vidal grew up poor on a ranch. He began working at age 5 or 6, collecting water from the river, grabbing satchels of corn and grinding it to make tortillas for dinner.
Vidal immigrated to the United States when he was 14. He worked the fields, climbed power poles to fix cables, and finally arrived at QueensCare Health Centers in East Los Angeles as a security officer.
Richard remembered his father leaving in the morning before the sun was up. But he said Vidal rarely spoke about how hard he worked.
After the family had dinner together, Vidal would take a shower and grab his favorite Spanish language newspaper, La Opinión. On his days off, Vidal would kick his feet up, sitting on the porch with coffee and cigarette, and spend hours poring over the newspaper.
For English reading, he loved nonfiction, such as David Bellavia’s “House to House,” about the Iraq war, and Marcus Luttrell’s “Lone Survivor,” about Navy SEALs in Afghanistan.
Vidal was known as a “cool dad,” Richard said. He was lively, savoring Spanish corridos, and largely left the teenagers alone. But he would sometimes come in and offer, “Do you guys want to hear a joke?”
“My dad was strict, don’t get me wrong,” said Richard. “But he never judged us. He never got mad when we did something bad. He just guided us.”
“We were always able to communicate anything and everything to my dad,” Richard said. Vidal always told him and his brothers that he wanted to be their best friend first and their dad second.
In his free time, fishing was Vidal’s favorite hobby. The family spent a lot of time fishing at the Redondo Beach Pier. Vidal was also a good cook. Besides fish, he was known for his pork riblets in red salsa.
A romantic, Vidal was vocal about emotions, writing letters to Norma, his wife of 34 years, and was never ashamed of hugging or kissing her in front of their children.
On May 29, Richard felt mild symptoms of COVID-19, with a headache and a runny nose. He self-quarantined for four days at home and got a positive test result on June 4. On the same day, Vidal also tested positive, after losing his sense of smell and taste.
The two spent days quarantining in the same room and briefly spoke about dying together. “If you go, then I’ll go,” Richard said his father told him.
Richard had mild asthma but hadn’t used an inhaler for more than 12 years. Vidal suffered from sideroblastic anemia, a very rare form characterized by fatigue, shortness of breath and feelings of weakness.
On the eighth day, Richard woke up gasping for air. It felt, he said, as if “somebody pulled a bag over your head.”
Richard was taken to the hospital. “The last words I told my father was, ‘Dad, I don’t think I’m going to make it.’ And that was the last time my dad saw me.”
Richard recovered. Vidal died June 20 at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. He was 60.
Richard said 28 extended family members, including him and his father, have tested positive for COVID-19, most recovering at home, but they don’t know how they contracted the virus.
Vidal is survived by his wife, Norma; sons Juan, Richard and Benjamin; multiple siblings (his son isn’t sure how many), and three grandchildren. Another granddaughter is expected to be born soon.
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
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.
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.
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.”
Jorge Martinez was a proud salvadoreño.
He’d spend hours on YouTube watching news and TV shows from his native El Salvador.
Last year, he fulfilled his dream of going back home to visit his father in La Unión, a coastal city in El Salvador. It was the first time back since he came to the United States as an 18-year-old. This year, he had planned to take his wife to explore his home country.
The trip never came.
Martinez, a resident of South Los Angeles, died of COVID-19 complications at California Hospital Medical Center on June 7. He was 53.
Martinez spent the last 10 years of his life working as an Uber driver. Twelve years before that, he worked as the assistant manager at an Echo Park McDonald’s where he met the love of his life: Carmelina Ruiz.
“In this country, you’re always working,” said Ruiz, who was born in Nicaragua. “We never let each other fall. We were made for each other.”
When Martinez and Ruiz met, they each had their own children from different partners — they took in each other’s kids as if they were their own.
“He’s the only dad I’ve ever known,” said Klevher, Ruiz’s daughter, who added that she never considered herself his stepdaughter. “He was always there for me. He never failed us as a dad.”
Ruiz said that even if he was starving, Martinez would always wait for her to come home from work before eating dinner. Family came first, she said. Sometimes, Martinez would go to the mall and choose clothes for his wife.
“He always brought flowers home for me,” Ruiz said. “It didn’t matter the date.”
Martinez loved taking short road trips with his family, especially to Las Vegas and San Francisco, Klevher said. Although he didn’t usually gamble, he loved going to Vegas to walk on the Strip and explore.
“He’d always made sure he knew the destination and what was around,” Klevher said. “He always had a plan.”
Martinez loved helping other people — if his friends needed a ride, he’d offer to drive them wherever they needed to go, Ruiz said.
Martinez started feeling sick on April 15, when he started running a fever and lost his appetite and sense of taste. His wife had similar symptoms but ultimately recuperated.
Five days later, Martinez started having trouble breathing and was admitted to the hospital, where he tested positive for COVID-19. He was put on a ventilator on April 29 and spent all of May on the breathing machine.
Martinez is survived by his wife, children Melvin and Katherine, step-children Kevin and Klevher, father Mario, brother Pedro and two grandchildren. The family has raised more than $17,000 on GoFundMe.
“Los tengo que sacar adelante,” Ruiz said. “I have to fight for them so they can become something in life. Now, I have to be both a mother and a father.”
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.”
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.”
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.
Carlos Oropeza Canez was 22 years into a 30 year prison sentence when COVID-19 began to spread through his correctional facility.
By June 2020, more than 900 people at Avenal State Prison were infected with the deadly virus. Canez phoned his sister-in-law, Sandra, to tell her he’d been written up for refusing an assignment in the prison’s kitchen. It was, he told her, where many people were getting sick.
“Then he called back and said, ‘I prayed last night, and I told God that if it’s meant for me, then it’s meant for me,” Sandra said. “And he went to work in the kitchen.”
On June 20, Canez became the first inmate at Avenal to die from complications of COVID-19. He was 60.
Canez was born in Bakersfield in 1959, the youngest of 11 children. His father died when he was just an infant, and for many years, his family lived below the poverty line. Canez was full of charm and charisma; a bright and curious child who would grow into a smooth-talking Cassanova with confidence and style. He loved baseball, Soul Train and disco dancing, and in 1977, he was voted “Best Dressed” senior at Arvin High School.
“He had such a beautiful smile, and he was good looking,” said Sandra, who married into the family when Carlos was in fourth grade. “He was a kind guy, and he could talk to anybody. My husband used to call him ‘silver-tongue.’”
But life in his Lamont neighborhood outside Bakersfield was full of temptation. While working as a janitor, Canez got involved with the local drug scene and began using heroin. It was an addiction that would plague him for much of his life, even as he fell in love, got married and became a father.
In 1998, Canez made a decision that would change his life and the lives of others. High on drugs, he got behind the wheel of a car and got into an accident that killed two people: Ruben Pinon, a passenger in his car, and Virginia Adams, a passenger in another. Canez was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to back-to-back 15-year sentences.
“He made some bad choices,” said his son, Xavier.
It took Canez a long time to process what had happened. For years, he was full of anger and frustration, and the family didn’t have the resources to pursue an appeal.
More than a decade into his sentence, Canez apologized to the victims’ families, his sister-in-law said.
While in prison, Canez reconnected with Angie Jimenez, a childhood flame who visited him regularly, and they married in 2011. He checked in with his children weekly, and in the year before his death, he made it a point to reconnect with many of his siblings.
He also began studying psychology and mentoring younger inmates in need of guidance.
“He said, ‘I take them aside, I talk to them,’ ” Sandra recalled, noting that Canez had plans to become a counselor upon his release.
Last year, Canez graduated from the Avenal education program. It was one of the proudest moments of his life, Sandra said.
Today, Canez’s family doesn’t sugar-coat what happened, but they also recognize the demons he battled, the goodness he had within him and the lessons his life provided.
“His decisions in his life have given me the ability to have an open heart and open mind, and to see people for who they are versus what they’ve done,” said his son, Carlos Jr.
Xavier said he thought about his father when he taught his own son to play baseball. Sandra said she’ll never forget how her brother-in-law used to fill the house with music and dance. Jimenez said she will miss her best friend whose smile could “light up a dim room.”
But it was Carlos Jr. who seemed most openly moved by his father’s story.
“A strength I took from him was never judging anyone,” he said. “Love people for who they are, and forgive people.”
Carlos Canez is survived by his wife Angie; children Xavier, Carlos Jr., Samantha, Emanuel and Adriana; grandchildren Gabrielle, Xander and Grace and siblings Connie, Jane and Raymond.
Bill Kling could often be found tinkering with computer parts in his home office. He liked to take laptops and old desktop monitors apart, fiddle with them and make improvements. In his hometown of Camarillo, Kling was known as the go-to person when someone had a computer malfunction. But he always refused payment.
Computer connection for Kling was ultimately about human connection.
“He would just say, ‘Take me out to dinner!’ when he’d helped out a neighbor or friend,” said Sandy Kling, his ex-wife. “He never did it for the money and he loved going out for meals with friends.”
Kling and Sandy met as teenagers at Camarillo High School. “We were both 19 when we got married,” said Sandy. The couple divorced in 2017 but remained close friends.
In mid-March, he began to feel sick. While he rested at home, their children, Rachel, Ben and Jake, would drop off medicine, drinks and food for him.
“He started to feel better,” said Sandy, but by April 8 Kling’s condition had worsened. He died the following day from complications related to COVID-19. He was 51.
The family held a small service to honor his life on May 1 at Camarillo’s Conejo Mountain Cemetery.
“I went through our text messages and the last thing he sent me was a picture of his beer at Cronies, his favorite sports bar in Camarillo,” said Ben. “He would show up by himself, and everyone there knew him.”
Kling could often be found at Cronies catching a game (he loved all sports) or chatting with his friends from work.
After graduating from high school, Kling began working on the assembly line at 3M, an electronic manufacturing plant, assembling data storage back-up cartridges. He later worked in analytics and quality control at Imation Corp and ZPower.
“He didn’t go to college, but he was so smart,” said Sandy. “Bill could pick up on things really quickly and had a photographic memory.” Kling was a master at Trivial Pursuit, and could remember minute details from history and current affairs.
“He loved Marvel comics and all the lore behind them,” said Jake. “We would go see the Avengers movies the day they came out, and he would explain all the secret information from the comics; it was awesome.”
Jake last saw his dad the week before he died. The two went to In-N-Out, drove to a nearby parking lot and munched on fries. “It’s something we always did,” said Jake. “We just had a normal conversation about a few Netflix shows he had been watching. It’s a really good memory of mine now, I’m going to cherish it forever.”
For Sandy, the kids have been a saving grace in the midst of so much sadness, “It’s so hard to be isolated and unable to grieve with people,” she said. “But they all worked together on the memorial service.”
Rachel wanted to make sure her father’s memory was properly commemorated. So, like her father with his beloved computer pieces, she began to tinker and fiddle in a creative way.
“He was cremated,” said Rachel, “and I knew we needed some sort of urn. I wanted to make something personal just for him, so we got wood and made a box and I painted it.”
Rachel, Ben and Jake covered the lid with their handprints. On the sides, Rachel painted images of her dad’s favorite things; the Cronies’ logo, the Avengers’ sign, the LA Dodgers emblem. And, of course, one side was devoted to Kling's expertise: a desktop computer, mouse and hard drive.
Kling is survived by his children; his father and stepmother, Dick and Shirley Kling; and siblings Mike Kling and Teresa Jolliff.
In Patsy Merrill Nelson’s home in San Carlos, every dinner was an occasion. She would don her signature pearl necklace and do her makeup before greeting her guests with a candlelight feast. Hors d’oeuvres would be served on a silver platter, and could be enjoyed on the patio or in the garden.
An experienced mother of six, she knew just how to put her grandchildren to bed in order to leave the rest of the evening for the adults to enjoy a drink or two.
“Everything she did looked very effortless,” said her daughter-in-law, Mona Sherif Nelson. “But every aspect of the things she did was memorable.”
Nelson’s elegance and grace made the San Francisco native a natural at being a diplomat’s wife. Her late husband, Clifford Nelson, worked in the Foreign Service and they spent decades overseas, in Greece, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Tunisia, Egypt and London. All the while, Nelson kept busy hosting social gatherings, taking care of the children and finding work during longer stays abroad.
She extended her hostess work after Clifford’s retirement as the social director of Kohl Mansion, a historic home and events venue in Burlingame. Christmas at the mansion was extravagant, with a tree that reached from floor to ceiling, “as big as the one in the White House,” Mona said.
In her travels around the world, Nelson was especially interested in food culture. “She was fascinated by the different kinds of flavors and spices of the places she’d been,” Mona said. One of the dishes Nelson had learned to make was couscous, a staple Moroccan food.
Out of all the places she’d lived in, the Middle East was her favorite. Two of her sons, Chris and Michael, were born in Eritrea and Tunisia, respectively.
After settling back in the Bay Area, the couple enjoyed going to Carmel for a weekend getaway, or the Top of the Mark penthouse level bar at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins in San Francisco. For something more casual, they enjoyed Far East Cafe on Grant Avenue.
After Clifford died in 1992, Nelson divided her time between a house in Lake Tahoe and the Bay Area, as well as visiting her children all over the world. She spent the last few years of her life in Sterling Court, a senior living facility in San Mateo.
Nelson died on May 14 at Sterling Court of complications from COVID-19. She was 94. She tested positive after an employee at the living center contracted the virus.
She is survived by her children Lee, Chris, Geoffrey, Michael, Jennifer and Juliet Kelley; 17 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Well into his 80s, Ralph Duprey could be found biking around his Long Beach neighborhood. Snaking through the streets he had called home for over 70 years on two wheels was calming. It was Duprey's time to collect his thoughts and relax at the end of a long day.
But biking hadn’t always been a peaceful practice for Duprey. As a teenager, he would bike down the Steep Shell Hill in Long Beach.
“I remember him telling me that his bike didn’t have very good brakes,” said Duprey’s son, Mark, “he would get to the top of the hill and it had a pretty good grade.”
“Yes!” chimed in Mark’s sister Karen, “He talked about sticking his foot out and rubbing it against the front tire to slow the bike down. Even at that age, he realized that it wasn’t the brightest idea.”
Duprey’s life began far from the hills and sunny shores of Long Beach. He was born in Canada in 1922 to Thomas and Amada Duprey, the sixth of seven children. Early in his life, his parents decided to head west and landed in California, a place Duprey would come to love.
The family settled in Long Beach and lived in a small three-bedroom house. Duprey ended his days just a few blocks from that house — at St. Mary’s Hospital, Long Beach where he died on April 18 from complications related to Covid-19. He was 98.
Duprey celebrated his birthday just three weeks before his death. While his children were unable to be in the same room due to coronavirus restrictions, they improvised and found a creative way to share their love.
The three children, Mark, Karen and Arlene stood outside his assisted living facility in front of a big window that faces the street. Karen brought along a chalkboard.
“We were writing messages and wearing crazy hats,” said Mark, “we looked like idiots but dad got a big kick out of it, he was laughing and smiling.”
The separation instigated by coronavirus was particularly difficult for the family, who loved spending time together with their father. “Mark and I would split the time” said Karen, “between us we were usually there six nights a week.”
They would bring their dad his favorite food ... chocolate. “We would take him chocolate malts, or Hershey bars.” said Mark, “but he just really loved any chocolate, and I mean, he loved chocolate.”
Nurses at Duprey’s assisted living facility encouraged the children to bring their father healthier treats, for fear of the almost 100 year old man developing diabetes. But, he was fit and trim until the end.
Duprey’s confidence in his own physical ability was built on years of working in plumbing and construction, skills he began to develop during WWII. After graduating from Long Beach Polytechnic in 1941, Duprey joined the Coast Guard and served as a motor machinist mate during the war.
Upon returning home, he became a union plumber, working on new builds in and around Long Beach. He was also comfortable with most parts of construction work and put his skills to good use around the family home.
“He was fixing things like the furnace under the house well into his 80s,” said Karen, “we practically had to drag him out of there!”
“He just never moved like an old man” said Karen, “No, he was spry and graceful” added Arlene.
Duprey’s physical grace was also apparent when he danced. “We would have parties at the house,” said Karen, “there was usually dancing, and mom and dad would also go out on dates to go dancing.”
Duprey met his wife, Mary Lee Smith after WWII and the couple married in 1948 and the couple were together until her death in 1987 at the age of 60. “It was a pretty tough time for about a year,” said Mark, “but dad came out on the other side.”
The children knew Duprey was beginning to heal when he got back on his bike. “I remember him riding along Newport Ave. he actually rode the bike half the length of the block backwards,” said Mark, “he wanted to prove to himself that he could still do it — and he was satisfied.”
Ralph Duprey is survived by his three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
John Breier lived for three decades with multiple sclerosis, underwent four brain surgeries and often referred to himself as the “Bionic Man” because of the implant he received to treat symptoms of the disease.
By all measurements, his wife Mona Jacobson Breier said, “he was a fighter.”
Breier died of complications from COVID-19 at the age of 64 on April 6. He lived at a care home run by the Motion Picture and Film Fund in Woodland Hills, a facility hard hit by the virus.
Breier never worked in the entertainment industry, but he was eligible to live at the home because Mona, now retired and living in Sherman Oaks, is a former actress, studio crew member and casting director.
He grew up in Los Angeles, but was born in Montreal to Jewish parents who were Holocaust survivors. The family moved from Canada to the U.S. when he was 5.
For much of his career he worked as a salesman at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. but after his MS diagnosis in the early 1990s, he retired from that job and later worked at a Home Depot.
He and Mona got married in 1999 after meeting on a dating website, she said. It was the second marriage for both and each already had two children.
Mona recalled that Breier’s personal ad said he was 6’4” and only interested in a woman who was 5’4” or above.
“I’m 5’3”, so I responded by saying, ‘If you’re willing to give half an inch either way, then we should meet,’” Mona said, laughing.
Breier agreed to meet and the two had their first date at a Starbucks. They celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary March 21.
Mona said she admired the way her husband adjusted to the loss of mobility and tremors caused by M.S., even though the transition was tough.
He’d been an avid athlete as a young man, playing basketball, skiing and coaching youth sports.
“His mind was so clear — it was frustrating for him,” Mona said of her husband’s decreasing physical ability.
Still, he still loved to watch his favorite teams play on TV – the Lakers and Rams, along with the New York Giants.
Mona worked at Universal Studios and often invited her husband to movie screenings. Crew members at Universal took a liking to him, nicknaming him “Big John” because of his height, she said.
Breier wasn’t always the best at expressing his emotions to those he loved, but Mona saw him as a man with a warm, if guarded, heart.
“When he really loved somebody, he’d keep it inside, but if you gave him time, he would express it,” she says.
After he moved into the home, Mona would bring movies during her visits so the two could watch them together and she often treated him to Chinese takeout, their favorite meal.
Breier was a big fan of “American Idol” too. He and Mona would call each other to talk about who did well in each episode.
“I still want to call him the way I used to,” Mona says. “It’s so unreal to me that he’s gone.”
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.
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.
Betty Gentry could be incredibly stubborn.
In the 1950s, her husband, Jim, asked her to drive his car periodically to keep the battery alive while he was deployed overseas. She did so dutifully, but when Jim returned to find the battery dead, he was hopping mad. Betty stood her ground and swore right then and there that she wouldn’t drive again—and she never did.
“We had to take her everywhere she wanted to go for the rest of her life,” recalled her son, Kevin Gentry.
Strong-willed, adventurous, confident and caring, Gentry died May 13 due to complications of COVID-19. She was 94.
Gentry came from a long line of independent women. Raised by a single mother in Grand Rapids, Mich., she joined the Navy’s WAVE program straight out of high school. While stationed in Great Lakes, Ill. Gentry cared for maternity patients and for the war’s wounded.
It was there that she met fellow Navy Corpsman Chesley James “Jim” Gentry, whom she married in 1948.
Their relationship was full of “loving, good natured bickering and endless teasing,” her daughter, Bonne Bandolas, said, recalling with fondness a never-ending argument about which spices belong in marinara sauce.
“This was an ongoing difference of opinion that went on for as long as anyone can remember, and no spaghetti sauce was complete without it.”
After the birth of their sons, Kevin and Ross, the couple was transferred to Yokohama, Japan. Gentry took to the move right away.
“She loved everything about living there,” said her son-in-law, Joseph “Banjo” Bandolas. “The food, the tailored clothes, the affordability, she just drank it all in.”
While in Japan, Gentry visited an orphanage with a friend. She spotted Bonne, who was then just an infant, and it was love at first sight. A few years after Bonne’s adoption, the family was deployed again, this time to Chula Vista near San Diego, which remained their home base from then on. They adopted another child, Chris, in 1967.
“She brought her children up to be caring individuals and always extended a hand whenever she could,” her son-in-law said, adding that Gentry instilled in her children a deep love of sports (the Dodgers in particular) and “tortured them with her great love of Hollywood musicals.”
For all of her fun and foibles, Gentry was also a great friend and nurturer. She never forgot a birthday—loved ones could always count on a card with a $5 bill tucked inside—and she made sure the family was never without the comfort of a canine companion. She adored tulips, read the newspaper from cover-to-cover and was ever willing to lend a hand in her community.
“That’s what I remember most about my mom: her warmth, caring, always taking the time to help someone,” Bonne Bandolas said. “I’m so grateful I could be her daughter.”
Gentry is survived by her children, Kevin, Ross, Bonne and Chris, grandchildren James Gentry and Lauren Petticolas and six great-grandchildren.
After she tested positive for coronavirus in March, nurse Brittany Bruner-Ringo quarantined herself in a Torrance hotel room, but she never stopped taking care of people.
The first employee infected in an outbreak at a dementia care facility in West Los Angeles, Bruner-Ringo called and texted colleagues that subsequently fell ill, encouraging them daily to keep a good attitude and reassuring them that they were all going to be OK.
“Brittany was our cheerleader,” one recalled.
The hopeful messages stopped in early April when a clerk at the hotel’s front desk summoned an ambulance for Bruner-Ringo. She was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where she died in the intensive-care unit 19 days later. She was 32.
Growing up in Oklahoma, Bruner-Ringo saw a nursing career as a kind of birthright. Her mother and grandmother were nurses, and her personality was a natural fit for the field: Upbeat, empathetic and helpful.
“Helping others made our sister happy. She was so compassionate,” her sisters Breanna and Marriana Hurd wrote in an email to The Times.
After getting her degree as a licensed vocational nurse, she worked in Ohio and then a position as a traveling nurse brought her to L.A. She signed on full-time in 2019 with the Silverado Beverly Place, which specializes in treating Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, and worked often with third floor patients with the mildest cases.
She loved sunflowers and coworkers described her as sharing the flower’s warm toughness. At staff meetings, she was known to speak up about residents she felt needed more attention.
“She was just kind-hearted. I don’t think she really thought of it as a job,” Breanna recalled in an interview. “She never complained about her job, even once, as much as we talked.”
Bruner-Ringo was in her near constant contact with family members back in Oklahoma. She and her sisters kept video chats open as they went through their days.
“When we weren’t on the phone, we would spend time texting and sending funny memes/videos in our group chat. Brittany was the funniest person we’ve ever known,” her sisters recalled.
When Silverado allowed a new patient from New York to move into the residence March 19, she called her mother, a veteran nurse in Oklahoma City, for advice.
Kim Bruner-Ringo told The Times her daughter said the man arrived with symptoms of COVID-19, including fever and coughing. The Silverado has denied this and provided medical records indicating he was asymptomatic when Bruner-Ringo initially examined him.
In any case, he was so sick the next day that an ambulance rushed him to Cedars-Sinai where he was diagnosed with COVID-19. In the weeks and months that followed, 89 other residents and staff contracted the disease. Thirteen would die.
Young and healthy, Bruner-Ringo seemed sure to beat the virus. Even after she was placed on a ventilator, she remained in good spirits.
The hospital nurses told her family “she would smile and her eyes were open most of the time. She was able to nod, follow commands,” her mother said.
Her vital signs were so strong that doctors discussed taking her off the ventilator, but the virus ultimately proved too strong.
She was buried May 1 in Oklahoma City. Her grave was covered with baskets of roses, zinnias, carnations, lilies. Her coworkers sent sunflowers.Read the full obituary
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.
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.
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.”
As a child, Angel Rivera was scared of the dark. She’d shake her younger brother Ramon awake so he could “keep guard” of the bathroom while she used it. He’d stand next to the door half-asleep waiting for her sister to finish before they returned to their shared bunk bed.
“He’d fight it every night, but he’d always cave in,” Angel said. “He was always protective of us. Family was always the thing that drove him.”
Ramon Arthur Rivera Jr. died on April 18 of COVID-19 complications at his Palmdale home. He was 56.
His family always called Rivera by his nickname Sluggo, after the character in the iconic Nancy comic strip. As a kid, like the cartoon, Ramon was chubby, had a round head and very little hair, his sister said.
Rivera was always a funny guy. He’d come off as tough, but “he had a heart that was so soft,” his sister said.
“He had a racy sense of humor. Let’s just put it that way, ” she said with a laugh. “He turned everything into a joke. Everything.”
He worked as a roofer until 10 years ago when he suffered a workplace accident that forced him to retire, his sister said. Since then, he spent his time building military vehicle models and hanging out at Fox Airfield in Antelope Valley to watch planes take off and land. He also loved Slipknot, the heavy metal band.
“He was always messing around with tools and seeing what he could do,” she said. “If someone brought him a table, he would totally refurbish it. He was really good with that.”
Rivera, his wife Jeanette and brother Fred started suffering from headaches in early April, but Rivera’s symptoms only worsened.
The week before he died, he had shortness of breath and was running a fever, Angel said. He went to the emergency room, but decided to return home after witnessing another patient die.
Rivera then asked Angel, whose breathing is regularly aided by an oxygen tank, for a tank to use himself.
“When Sluggo called me that night, he told me and my daughter Athena, ‘Thank you for everything you’ve done for me,’” Angel said. “He also called his son Ray and told him to be strong without him. He knew he was dying.”
Three days later, he died at home. An autopsy revealed he was positive for COVID-19. His condition may have been complicated by his diabetes and a heart condition. The whole family was tested soon after and Rivera’s wife and brother both tested positive for the coronavirus. They have since recovered. Angel and her daughter Athena tested negative.
“You’re so used to losing your parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles, but when it comes to losing your siblings, it’s something totally, totally different,” Angel said.
Rivera is survived by his wife Jeanette, son Ramon Arthur, III, siblings Fred, Angel and Alex, and his grandson Ramon Arthur, IV.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Juan Martinez loved San Francisco. During a trip last year, he explored the city, went to the beach and attended his first Giants game with his 10-year-old daughter Ericka. When he got back, he was smiling from ear to ear.
“I know that day was special for both of them,” his son Erick said. “When my dad came back, he was really, really happy.”
Born in Puebla, Mexico, Juan Martinez died of COVID-19 complications at Dameron Hospital in Stockton on June 7. He was 36.
Martinez met his wife Maria Reyna Flores while working at The Elephant Bar in Stockton a dozen years ago. At the time, she was a single mother and was suffering from depression. Martinez would take both Flores and Erick on dates and was never shy to show his love to her.
“If he wanted to give me a kiss, and my kids were there, he would still give it to me,” Flores said in Spanish. “I felt proud to have a husband who loved me so much.”
Martinez always encouraged Erick and his three younger daughters to excel in school and would exude his pride at Erick’s scholarship events and graduation.
“He was always on me, he was always tough,” Erick said. “But it always came with my love.”
Erick added that when he came out as gay at 16, both of his parents were accepting, even if his dad was raised with a “machista” attitude, common among Mexican men.
“It was just easy. Like nothing,” Erick said. “I knew I was going to be loved. After I came out, he was always still there for me. He was old-fashioned but he respected me and who I am as a person.”
Martinez also loved cooking and going out to eat with his family. He had the dream of starting his own restaurant alongside his wife. Erick, who has an associate’s degree in retail management and merchandising, wanted them to start with a food truck and grow from there.
“He’d tell me ‘One day, we’re going to do it,’” Flores said. “Now, I want to follow my husband’s dreams.”
Martinez died after a week on life support and a ventilator. He began feeling sick May 31 after a 10-hour shift at work. He had body aches earlier that day and started having trouble breathing that night. He had no underlying health conditions, his wife said.
Martinez, Flores and their four children all tested positive. Only Flores showed symptoms and has since recovered.
He wanted his kids to become somebody in life and that they feel proud of who they were,” she said. “My children depend on me and I need to fight and be strong, because that’s what my husband would have done.”
Martinez is survived by his wife, son, daughters Ericka, Alondra and Brianna and by his father, Pedro.
“I’m going to need to find work, but as long as God gives me strength and health, I’m going to keep fighting,” Flores said.Read the full obituary
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
Mark Scheu liked to watch things grow. The 53-year-old father and real estate developer saw the world as a fertile field, where there was always opportunity to help something or someone thrive.
Scheu was born in Upland in 1966 to Allyn and Rosemary Scheu, and from an early age developed an interest in farming. His family raised citrus trees, but Mark’s dreams expanded beyond oranges and lemons.
By 2000, Scheu was running a successful commercial real estate company, but he had always dreamed of owning a cattle ranch. So he set out for Idaho hoping to find the ideal plot of land. He found it, along with the perfect life partner — Dianna Baxter.
“I was an agriculture broker,” said Dianna, who would take Scheu’s last name when they married, “so I sold him the land and helped with the herd [of cattle] getting it all lined up. It was clear he didn’t have a lot of experience on a cattle ranch.”
“Early on I got a call from Mark while he was on the ranch,” said Dianna. “He said, ‘Can you come down and take a look at this horse? Something’s wrong,’ so I drove over and he had the bridle upside down.”
Dianna, who had grown up in Idaho, had three children whom Scheu adopted: Ariel, Chase and Skylee. The family moved to Moorpark, and in 2005 Scheu and Dianna had a daughter, Allie May.
While Scheu’s real estate business was still in California, his favorite place was the Idaho ranch, which the family visited frequently. Ranch managers and hired hands looked after the cattle throughout the year, but Scheu was intimately involved with running the ranch and loved to watch it improve.
Scheu brought the same level of diligence and care to his work in California. He developed old buildings in and around Simi Valley and brought them back to life.
Their California home was also a testament to Scheu’s knack for resurrection. The family purchased an empty plot in Moorpark that had been deemed unusable by other developers due to the poor quality of the land. But where others saw a problem, he saw opportunity.
Scheu put in a well and a pond for irrigation and planted avocado trees. Allie May was part of the 4-H youth development program, so she and other members of her group began to keep sheep on the property.
Despite being far from Idaho, their California house had a surprising connection to their ranch. “We were looking at the overall plan and Mark said, ‘Di, come take a look at this, look at the shape of the land parcel.’ I said, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s shaped like Idaho!’” Naturally, the Moorpark home became known as Little Idaho.
On April 10, Good Friday, Scheu was helping Allie May bury a goat that had died on the Little Idaho property. Walking back toward the house, he collapsed, and died soon after. A few days after his death, Dianna got a call from the Ventura County medical examiner, who said Scheu had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The family decided that their beloved father and husband needed to be laid to rest in his favorite place. “My son has a large van,” Dianna said. Together, they drove through the night to the Idaho ranch with Scheu in the van. “It was his last road trip home,” Dianna said.
They buried Scheu in his beloved rugged Idaho landscape amongst sagebrush and big mountains. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but also one of the biggest blessings,” Dianna said.
The family sat around a campfire after his burial and sang songs together, roasted hot dogs (Scheu’s favorite) and reminisced about all the ways he had nurtured them.
“He would look at people, even broken-down people, and see us not as we are, but at our potential, and he helped us reach that,” said Dianna. “You didn’t realize he was doing it, until you looked back — he saw the best in others.”
In addition to Dianna and his four children, Scheu is remembered by three grandchildren, his sister, two brothers and his entire extended family.
Randy Giang Ta was just 24 when he and his siblings Albert and Susie fled Vietnam in 1979 on a fishing boat during a storm, managing to survive even after drinking from a puddle of water filled with bugs and debris on the boat.
They arrived in a refugee camp called Air Raya in Indonesia, where they had a choice to make. They could continue their journey to Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the United States. The U.S. was the hardest country for someone seeking sponsorship as a refugee, a process that could take years. But the Tas eventually settled in the U.S. after a 10-month wait.
Randy Ta arrived with a single suitcase and $40 in his pocket. From then on, he resolved to work hard to make sure the long journey would be worth it for generations to come. “Your granddad was an incredible man,” his son Brian wrote in a letter that he intends to give his future children. “He’s the reason why we’re in the United States.”
The family settled in San Jose, and Ta worked odd jobs while attending community college. He eventually received a technician certificate and began a career as an electrical technician for 3M, and later worked at Doppler, which manufactures medical ultrasound machines.
“He grew up really frugally and had to do a lot of things in the U.S. on his own,” said his youngest daughter, Vanessa. “He had a lot of self-drive to learn things on his own.”
It was there at a little trail behind the Doppler building in San Jose that Ta began running. Each day during lunch, he would take off his overshirt, put on a pair of running shoes, and run for five or six minutes. At first, he would become dizzy or lightheaded, even after a short run. But he persevered and, when he was in his 60s, ran a half-marathon with Brian.
“I remember thinking it was so funny because my brother was more tired than my dad,” Vanessa said.
After his employer relocated to New Jersey, he quit working a regular job and helped fix electronics around the neighborhood in Eastside San Jose.
San Jose has one of the largest Vietnamese populations outside Vietnam, and Ta always craved one thing -- pho. Any time the family went on a trip, Ta would insist they try the local pho “just to affirm that San Jose pho was better than anywhere else in the world,” Vanessa said, laughing.
Ta tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-March, a week before shelter-in-place rules were ordered in Santa Clara County. He was intubated for 39 days in the ICU and put in a medically induced coma at Regional Medical Center in San Jose before he died on April 23. He was 66.
Ta is survived by his wife, Xiaoling Luo; children Karen, Brian and Vanessa; and siblings Susie Ta and Tom Hsieh. He was preceded in death by his elder brother, Albert Ta.
The sound of “paypee!” echoed through the streets of Eureka for decades. Winfred Grissom or Winnie, as he was known to family and friends, would walk through the northern California city’s historic downtown making his rounds, delivering the local Times Standard Paper.
Sometimes he would yell out the headlines, but usually, “paypee,” (his word for paper), would suffice. Everyone in Eureka knew it meant Winnie was on his way.
“He was the old town, downtown paperman,” said longtime friend Leroy Richmond Zerlang.
While Grissom was a dedicated paperman, he wasn’t actually able to read, at least not until much later in his life. Born in Arkansas in 1929, Grissom was seen as “slow,” and teachers lost patience with him easily, deeming him incapable of learning to read or write.
During adolescence, Grissom, his twin brother Wilson and their mother headed west to Eureka. They landed in a yellow house with a white picket fence, where Grissom lived into his late 80s.
Despite his setbacks in school, Grissom, who also had a speech impediment and stutter, was determined to make his way in the world. When a job delivering the local paper opened up, he applied and was accepted.
Grissom loved the social aspect of the work and he enjoyed the purpose and direction a job gave him. He would walk for miles around Eureka and delivered the Times Standard for 45 years.
“I remember first hearing his voice echoing through the alleyways of downtown Eureka, delivering the paper,” said Dalene Zerlang, Leroy’s wife. She developed a particularly special relationship with Grissom, bringing him into the family. His twin brother moved to Redding, CA, So Grissom became a regular fixture at Zerlang gatherings.
By 1994 Grissom was ready for a change in routine-- the paper route had begun to get a bit tiring, so the Zerlangs hired him as a docent at the museum they run, the Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum.
But part of the new job required basic arithmetic, adding up the money visitors donated. So, in his late 60s, under Dalene’s tutelage Grissom began to learn math. He was also inspired to start reading and began taking lessons at Eureka Adult School.
“He is proof that you can keep learning well into your 80’s” said Dalene.
Grissom worked as a docent at the museum for over 26 years. “People would come in all the time and say, ‘Winnie! We remember you from the paper route!’” said Leroy, “everybody loved Winnie.”
As he neared his 90th birthday, Grissom and his caregivers decided it was best that he move out of the yellow house and into the nearby Alder Bay assisted living home. “He liked it there,” said Dalene, “he had friends and loved showing us his room at Alder Bay, he felt comfortable.”
Grissom’s work as a docent stopped but Dalene would still go pick him up and take him over to the museum to walk around and say hi to his friends.
While the calls of “paypee!” no longer echo through the streets of Eureka, and Grissom isn’t at the door of the Maritime museum warmly welcoming guests, his love can still be felt. “He was an icon and a legend in Eureka,” said Lerory.
“He was honorable and honest,” Dalene added, “I really miss him.”
Grissom died June 1 from complications related to COVID-19, the day after his 91st birthday. He was the fourth person to die who contracted the virus at Alder Bay. Grissom is survived by his many nephews, nieces and cousins. .
George Shark Chou Chin was a true family man. Born in Pyinmana, Burma, in 1940, he was the fifth-eldest son of 16 children born to successful businessman Chin Lin Ngoon and his wife, Chow Toy King. Family members said he was his mother’s favorite.
At the age of 18, Chin married his sweetheart, Nelly Wong, whom he met studying abroad in Taiwan. They had four children in Burma (now Myanmar), and the family immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1970s, settling in San Francisco.
“He sacrificed a lot to bring us all to this country,” said his youngest daughter, Grace. “We had to sell everything we owned.”
While living in the Bay Area, Chin worked as a warehouse clerk at the General Motors plant in Sparks, Nev., during the week. When he made it back home on the weekends, he would spend time with his family and occasionally take Grace to the movies.
“The weekly commute between Nevada and San Francisco was difficult for him because he would only be able to spend one or two days with us before returning,” Grace said.
Chin was a huge soccer fan. “One of my fondest memories was going to watch the FIFA World Cup in 1994 with my dad and my brother, Richard,” said his oldest son, Simon.
On many Saturdays, he would get tea and pastries at ABC Bakery in San Francisco with family and friends, many of them also immigrants from Burma, where they would talk and catch up.
After 15 years at General Motors, Chin retired early, at the age of 56. He loved traveling, eating sweets and spending time with friends and family. He traveled to over 15 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy and China. He would always joke around and tease people. But he would also go above and beyond to help people, Simon remembered.
In the late '90s, Chin and his wife moved to Davis to stay closer to their newborn grandson. Later, they moved in with Grace to help her raise her three children and teach them Chinese while she started her own business.
Chin contracted COVID-19 while at Stollwood Convalescent Hospital in Woodland and died at Woodland Memorial Hospital on April 22. He was 80. He was tested for the coronavirus after a housekeeper had tested positive on March 30. His first test came back negative, but he tested positive a week later.
Chin is survived by his wife of 61 years, Nelly; son Simon; daughters Catherine Cheah and Grace Osborne; and seven grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his son Richard.
Mario Leos Lomeli was proud to be both Mexican and American. But he spoke most often about his life as a carpenter.
His family had asked him to write a biography of his life, which he was happy to do on his typewriter. In it, there was a phrase he wrote often: “I’m really proud to be a carpenter, I'm really proud to work with my hands.”
He worked mostly with wood, said his daughter, Lydia Leos, a retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles Police Department. He often built cabinets or carved rosary beads and gave them away.
“His hands meant so much to him because that’s what made him a carpenter,” she said.
Lomeli, 93, died April 14 after becoming ill about a week earlier, Leos said. He ended up at a hospital, where he tested positive for COVID-19 after living at a nursing home in Torrance for more than a year.
Lomeli learned woodworking at an early age in Aguascalientes, Mexico, where he was born. When he was 14, he met Rafaela Hernandez, who was two years younger. Later, they met up in Juarez, and married when he was 20, Leos said.
They moved to Texas, where he suffered an accident and lost his left pinky finger, Lydia said. But he continued to work with his hands, hardly phased by the loss of his finger.
Hernandez and Lomeli packed up and headed west with $42 in their pockets and three young children in tow. They were headed to San Francisco but ran out of money and ended up in Los Angeles in 1952, where they raised their nine children and spent summers working in the fields picking fruit and vegetables in the San Joaquin Valley.
He became a naturalized citizen in L.A., but before then he took night classes and studied history and English, and his book of choice was a dictionary because he was determined to embrace the country as his, Leos said. He instilled in his children the love of learning, and his descendants have gone on to become engineers, lawyers and educators.
He often wore a smile and had a sense of humor that never faded, Leos said. When his children were young and asked about what happened to his missing finger, he’d reply, “Well you just bit it off! What did you do with it?” In a recent video, one family member asked him how old he was, to which he replied, “202!” and laughed.
As he got older, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s and needed a wheelchair, Leos said. In 2017, she moved her parents into her San Pedro home. But caring for both became difficult when Lomeli became sick in 2018, so she moved him into the Royalwood Care Center in Torrance.
She visited every day with her mother, up until February. The nursing home was already limiting visitors, Leos said, and her parents shared one last brief embrace and kiss before they were forced to separate.
He is survived by his wife Hernandez, and their nine children: Juanita Leos-Fullerton, Mario Leos Jr., Amelia Leos-Cepeida, Aurora Leos, Maria Luz Leos-Pacheco, Lydia Leos, Elizabeth Leos-Kasper, Jaime Leos, Javier Leos. He also is survived by 18 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren.
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.”
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.
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.
It had been five years since the Kim family had all lived under the same roof in their Koreatown apartment. But the coronavirus brought them all home.
First the grandmother, Soon Sun, came home in mid-April after checking out of Olympia Convalescent Hospital. The family worried, particularly her daughter Eun-Ju, about the rapid spread of the virus in assisted living facilities.
Then the father, Timothy, closed up his acupuncture practice and started delivering sermons from home for his weekend job as a pastor at L.A. Nasung Church in La Crescenta. Eun-Ju, meanwhile, took care of the household while her children, 22-year-old Hannah Haein and 17-year-old Joseph, finished the school year at home, their classes now online.
Despite the nagging fear sweeping the state, the family was enjoying its time together.
But the homecoming was short-lived. After contact with sick patients through the nursing home and Timothy’s acupuncture practice, both Soon Sun and Timothy tested positive for COVID-19 in April. Eun-Ju also came down with serious symptoms. The rest of the family tested positive later that month, including Hannah and Joseph.
One after another, Soon Sun, Timothy and Eun-Ju were all admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital by the end of the month, leaving Hannah and Joseph alone in the apartment.
Hannah felt that the women in her mom’s family were particularly strong, since many had lived to be more than 100. “We have a lot of grit and passion,” Hannah said. “My grandmother was alive and well, up until this virus.”
But when Soon Sun died just one week later at 85, Hannah took to Instagram to give her friends a warning: “This virus is not a joke.”
Hannah and Joseph grew up with their grandmother, who immigrated from Seoul to live with the family in the small town of Randle, Washington. Soon Sun would always make “old school” Korean dishes like galbijjim and yakgwa for the family. Soon Sun and the kids would bring a ladder from their house to a local park to pick nuts from a huge gingko tree to add to their meals, Hannah remembered.
Then, Timothy died May 21. He was 68. “He was my favorite person,” Hannah said of her father. He had been born just as the Korean War was ending, and always had stories to tell. Hannah knew she’d miss him deeply.
Hannah and Joseph said their father's sense of humor was so powerful that it could turn a sour conversation around. “We would be so mad one second, and the next second we’d be laughing,” Hannah recalled. “That’s what he did for our family.”
While the family sometimes struggled financially, their father always found work so that Eun-Ju could focus on taking care of the children and her mother. At one point, he worked as a real estate agent, and once as a businessman for a solar panel company. When they first moved to Los Angeles, he worked for World Vision, a nonprofit that provides humanitarian aid for children.
The family tried to keep news of their father's death from their mother, as she battled the virus in the ICU. But she could tell something was wrong. After all, the couple had been married more than 20 years.
“I’ve already lost my dad, and I promised my dad I would take care of my mom,” Hannah said. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Eun-Ju is now virus-free, but her lungs were damaged so severely she’ll need a double-lung transplant. She is currently receiving treatment at USC Keck Hospital while Hannah and Joseph are taking care of family finances and the home.Read the full obituary
Florentina Lopez came from Mexico to the United States when she was young and spent most of her life in the San Fernando Valley.
A few blocks from her home was a man named Jose Herrera. While she worked as a seamstress for companies such as Frederick’s of Hollywood, he worked on upgrading vans, particularly the GMC models of the 1970s.
The two would meet at the food trucks and talk. Eventually they started dating. The couple didn’t make a lot of money back in the day, but there began a rich relationship that lasted nearly five decades.
Florentina didn’t know how to drive until she was in her 50s and usually relied on buses. But that didn’t stop her from making weekend trips to the thrift stores. Griselda Nava, Lopez’s oldest daughter, remembered it was “like a little treat for the weekend.”
After Griselda was born, Florentina had difficulty getting pregnant again. In her 40s, she adopted a relative’s 2-month-old girl. Two months later, she unexpectedly got pregnant and suddenly had two infants on her hands. She felt overwhelmed and at times embarrassed.
But Griselda, who was pregnant with her own second child at the time, tried to lift her mom’s spirits, “No, mom. It’s just a blessing from God because you opened your heart to a new baby that wasn’t yours.”
After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Florentina and Jose moved to Colorado. A year later, she found a job in a slaughterhouse, where she met a woman named Betty, who would become a close friend. After work, they would have a cigarette and smoke behind their husbands’ backs, quipping, “Oh, we are like little girls. We are doing something bad because we shouldn't be smoking.”
Florentina worked hard looking out for her family. “Having a clean house was her hobby,” Griselda said.
In 2012, Florentina suffered a stroke and her daughter took her and Jose back to California, where Florentina moved into the Parkwest Rehabilitation Center in Reseda. The stroke had taken away her ability to speak and she remained nonverbal the rest of her life.
If she was hungry, Florentina would touch her stomach to notify the nurses. When she was tired and sleepy, she would pat the nurses with her hand and motion that she wanted to go to bed. Hand gestures were her form of communication.
A couple of nurses fondly called Florentina “Florecer,” Spanish for "to bloom."
In Florentina's last days, families were not allowed to visit. “The last time that I took some food for her was on Mother’s Day,” Griselda said. “Her condition worsened very, very fast.”
On May 15, Griselda said a nurse supervisor told her that her mother seemed fine. But three days later, Griselda said she got a call that her mother had been taken to the hospital. At the hospital, an emergency room doctor told her that her mother had COVID-19 and had suffered a heart attack.
On May 19, Florentina died at the hospital. She was 66.
Besides the stroke, Florentina had diabetes, but seemed and looked healthy, her daughter said.
“The only problem with my mom was that she did not speak. That’s why she couldn’t say at the beginning, ‘Oh, I’m feeling weak. I’m feeling sick.’”
Griselda has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Parkwest, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus. According to the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, 65 residents and staff members have tested positive and 11 have died. The facilities owner has declined comment.
Florentina is survived by her husband, children Griselda, Jose, Claudia and Pedro, 10 siblings and 11 grandchildren.
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
After 12 years in prison, Leonard “Lenny” Auerbach was just three months away from being released to a halfway house when COVID-19 began to spread in California in late March.
Auerbach was being held at the federal correctional institution at Terminal Island as it experienced the worst prison outbreak in the federal system. The first case was confirmed in early April, and within three weeks, 700 out of 1,000 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19.
“It was a blatant mismanagement of all the warnings they had,” said Auerbach's son Ben.
His family was worried. Auerbach already had a slew of underlying health problems — heart issues, shortness of breath, diabetes — and news of the coronavirus ravaging state prisons was circulating. In line with the U.S attorney general’s recommendation, they tried to get him compassionately released to a facility or a hospital — anywhere out of the prison, “which was basically a tinderbox for COVID,” Ben said.
“We were just watching the number go up every day on the bureau prison’s website,” Ben recalled.
After days of frustration and unanswered calls, Ben finally received a call back, but it was not from the unit manager as he was expecting.
“I knew when I heard the chaplain’s voice, we had bad news,” he said.
On April 30, the chaplain informed Ben that his father had died earlier that day, six days after he had tested positive for COVID-19. Auerbach was 73.
Auerbach was born in New York but grew up mostly in Chicago. A prodigal mind, he was young for his class and then skipped a grade, allowing him to finish high school at 16 and graduate from the University of Wisconsin in Madison at 20. By 26, he had received a doctorate in operations management from UC Berkeley on a full scholarship, Ben said.
Unsure of what he wanted to do next, he moved to Hawaii. He sold puka shell necklaces on the beach and became an avid surfer. After a year, he moved back to the East Bay and became a professor at UC Berkeley and St. Mary’s College, but would spend the winter quarters in Hawaii, surfing all day and teaching classes at night. While teaching at Berkeley, he met his wife, Carol, and they soon had their twin sons, Alex and Ben. As his sons grew, Auerbach wanted to provide a better financial life for his family, so he transitioned from academia to finance, becoming a successful mortgage executive.
In 2003, Auerbach began a relationship with an underage girl in Costa Rica. When the girl’s family alerted local authorities, who then contacted U.S. authorities, Auerbach became a fugitive and fled to Cuba. When he was finally captured, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confiscated his laptop, finding three nude photos of the girl. He was convicted in 2008 for production of child pornography and received a 15-year sentence. It was later reduced to 12 1/2 years for good behavior.
While Ben knows his father’s faults, he chooses to remember the positive. Growing up, once Auerbach transitioned to finance, he would work from 6 a.m. till 3 p.m., and then rush home to coach his sons’ sports practices. Ben remembers him as a hard worker and a down-to-earth guy.
“He was a big role model for me,” Ben said. “And a really good dad.”
A couple years after the arrest, Ben, just like his father did in his 20s, moved to Maui to start his own business, and embark on a path of self-development and healing. Ben wishes that his father, who was molested as a young boy, had done the same type of healing work.
Most of all, Ben will remember his father for his mana — meaning spirit or energy in Hawaiian.
“He could connect with people from all walks of life,” Ben recalled. “On this deep soul level.”
In addition to his wife and sons, Auerbach is survived by a brother, Mark. A celebration of life will be planned once restrictions on public gatherings are lifted.
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
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.
A second-generation American, Cornelia “Connie” Talbott grew up understanding the value of self-sufficiency.
Talbott had taken after the other women in her family. Her grandmother, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, owned and operated a grocery store in Aberdeen, Wash., and, before her younger brother was born, Talbott and her two older sisters were the ones tending to the house.
Strong will was a family trait that flowed through the generations and ultimately to Talbott's daughter, Sarah, who said her mother set an example as a curious, capable and caring person.
“There was never that sort of focus on ‘You have to have a man do it for you’ or, you know, ‘You're a woman, so you can't do those things.’ She had that kind of spirit,” Sarah said.
“We were always very self-sufficient. She wanted to make sure that I knew how a car operated and how to change a tire.”
Talbott often demonstrated this through her ability to tinker with cars, specifically the family’s Datsun 240Z. Talbott maintained the car on her own for nearly 20 years.
“She was the one that did, you know, the basic maintenance on it,” Sarah said. Talbott would change the oil, replace the spark plugs and take care of flat tires.
Sarah recalled the time they were dropping off a friend from school on a rainy, dark, winter day and got a flat tire.
“I'd never changed a tire before, but we changed that tire.”
Besides her steadfast nature, Talbott never balked at taking care of anyone — or anything —in need. In addition to hosting her nieces and nephews during summers, Talbott had an affection for her furry family, at one point taking in 30 stray cats.
Sarah and her mother, who lived in Brawley, both began exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms on May 12, and after visiting the emergency room in nearby El Centro, Talbott was admitted.
According to Sarah, Talbott's pulmonologist “seemed really hopeful that she was gonna pull through, because that's how she was. She was tenacious like that.”
But on May 24, days after receiving convalescent plasma therapy, Talbott died. She was 75.
Talbott is survived by her daughter Sarah, son Adam, sisters Paula and Sandra, brother Steve, stepbrother Gary and stepsister Patricia. She was proceeded in death by her husband, Clay.
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.”
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.
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
At St. Paul University in the Philippines, Maria Teresa Banson was known as "Mama Teng," the go-to person for students or coworkers who were looking for advice.
In her Human Behavioral Organization class, she motivated her students to “go out of your comfort zone and explore the world in a different perspective,” wrote Ria Uy-Salazar, a former student of Maria's, on a GoFundMe page. “Teachers teach, but a great teacher leaves a positive impact to one’s journey in life after school.”
Banson taught computer science, among other courses, at St. Paul in Iloilo City for more than 20 years before moving to Southern California in 2005. Once here, she worked as a secretary for an immigration law firm and later as a clerk at the Hubert H. Humphrey Comprehensive Health Center.
Banson had hypertension and borderline diabetes, and had had a stroke 20 years ago, which made her more susceptible to the coronavirus. She died of complications from COVID-19 on June 27. She was 62.
Banson, whose four adult children also immigrated to the U.S., lived in an apartment with her husband, Rolando Banson, in Huntington Park. On her days off, she would go to the malls with her best friend, Mary Therese Valdevieso, who had been a co-teacher at St. Paul’s when they were both in the Philippines. In recent years, the two also traveled extensively, sometimes visiting former students in different parts of the United States.
A member of the Household of Faith, a Catholic charismatic group, Banson was deeply religious. Every Sunday, she would attend Mass at either St. Columban Catholic Church near downtown Los Angeles or St. Basil’s Catholic Church in Koreatown, her daughter Aileen said.
Banson had a good memory and often sent cards on her friends’ birthdays, according to Aileen. With limited money, she was generous, especially with food, and always brought extra food for her colleagues and friends.
Valdevieso wrote on the GoFundMe page: “Teng was a caring and thoughtful person. She would show up in my doorsteps with fruits or just anything she could think of.”
“She remembers everything,” Aileen said.
During struggling times, Banson made sure her children were fed, Aileen added.
“We were not brought up [on]...sodas and juices, but every time she would remember to give extra sweets like chocolates to us,” Aileen said. She remembered getting the sweets in school lunch boxes, with notes saying “good luck today” or “I love you.”
Aileen inherited the knack of helping others from her mom. But when, fresh out of college, she lent 10,000 pesos to a friend and didn’t get it back, she remembered her mother telling her: “You have to look out for yourself. You only give extra to other people if you know we have something for yourselves.”
“That’s my mantra in life now [that] she’s away,” Aileen said.
Maria is survived by her husband; two brothers, Danilo Baltazar and Mario Baltazar; her four children, Aileen Banson, Kim Roland Banson, Jule Bryan Banson and Ken Philip Banson; and one grandchild.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When Robert Brewster and his family met Princess Grace of Monaco during a trip overseas, it was an unforgettable occasion. His kids still look at the photograph with fondness—despite the fact that it was missing one big thing.
“Dad is not in the picture we took with her,” said Brewster’s daughter, Susan, “because he took the picture!”
That’s the way Bob Brewster was: selfless, easygoing and kind. He died in Torrance on April 13 from complications of COVID-19. He was 88.
Brewster grew up in Toluca Lake in the 1930s. His father was an executive at Universal Studios and his mother hosted fancy dinner parties, his daughter said. Roy Disney, Walt’s nephew, was his neighbor, but Brewster was never drawn to bright lights or fame. After graduating from Harvard School for Boys, he joined the Naval Reserve and studied engineering at UCLA. He met his wife, Patricia, in 1956 and they were married a year later.
“He was intelligent and clever, and he loved math,” Patricia said. “I was a math teacher so we had that in common.”
The couple bought their first home in Rancho Palos Verdes in 1959, right around the time Brewster started working as an engineer at Hughes Aircraft Company. He spent nearly 40 years at the company working on top-secret projects, which suited him since he didn’t like talking about himself much, his daughter said. His four kids always looked forward to their father’s return from work.
“He would come in the door and say, ‘Hi family!’ and we would run to see him,” Susan recalled. “He gave us horsey rides on his back and serenaded us with piano music at bedtime. He could fix anything, and he built some things we needed.”
But Brewster’s buzzing intellect remained busy whether he was on the clock or not. He loved technology magazines, puzzles, puns and wordplay. He came up with so many one-liners that his family started a list of “Bobisms,” like the gentle joke he made about the Parkinson’s disease he developed later in life: “I can’t shake it.”
He also cared deeply about music. He had a huge record collection (mostly showtunes, classical and comedy albums) and he sang in the choir at Rolling Hills Methodist Church and Rolling Hills Covenant Church. Later in life, he and Pat took 15 trips to “elder hostels” in the U.S. and abroad, where they explored different cities and learned about topics like old radio comedians and the history of glass blowing.
The couple, who first met at a UCLA dance all those years ago, continued ballroom dancing, line dancing and square dancing together until Parkinson’s took his balance.
“That was part of his kindness,” Patricia recalled. “If you asked him to do something, he would try his best to do it.”
Brewster is survived by his wife, Patricia; children Susan, Sharon, Karen and David; and seven grandchildren.
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.
In the early 1970s, Karen Hemm went to the fair with some friends. A ride operator wouldn’t one friend with cerebral palsy and who used a wheelchair on the Ferris wheel, but Hemm was insistent, and soon they were high in the air, grinning gleefully at the fairground below.
Such are stories about Hemm, who was a lifelong advocate for people with disabilities, a foster parent to several children with disabilities and a beloved mother.
A friend to many, Hemm died on May 17 from complications of COVID-19. She was 69.
Hemm’s life was one of great challenges and even greater optimism. Born in Delaware, she spent most of her teen years in Dayton, Ohio, where she became a volunteer at the Stillwater Center, a home for physically and mentally challenged adults and children. It was there that she developed her passion for helping people with disabilities.
“She just had a way about her of wanting to include people,” said her sister, Susan McClellan. “She wanted everyone to be happy and have fun.”
After leaving Dayton, Hemm moved around the country for several years. At a youth center in Florida, she met Linn Canning, who became her dearest friend.
“I didn’t know anybody, and Karen came up and gave me a big hug,” Canning recalled. “That hug made such a difference in my life.”
Hemm eventually landed in California, where she worked with students with disabilities at UC Berkeley and later settled in Eureka. She was a fixture in the disability rights movement, serving as an aide to movement leaders Hale Zukas and Judy Heumann. She fought for legislation and policies that remain in place today, including wheelchair ramps and accessible bathrooms.
“She was a role model for all of us to follow,” her sister said.
A single mother, Hemm adopted her son, Patrick Kuhn, and raised him herself. She later married Harlow Hemm, who died in 2018.
“She said she chose me because she saw a gleam in my eye,” said Patrick, who has cerebral palsy. “That made her decide that all the other opinions about me didn’t matter.”
Hemm also struggled with health issues of her own, including spinal stenosis and pulmonary fibrosis, for which she relied on a wheelchair later in life.
But she took the challenges in stride, and was a light-hearted and cheerful presence at Seaview Rehabilitation in Eureka and at Ramona Rehabilitation in Hemet, where she lived and served on resident councils. She loved crafts, painting, coloring and bingo—and she never stopped encouraging others to join in.
“She was always so happy and smiley,” her sister said. “I called her Sunshine.”
Hemm is survived by her son, sisters Cindy Damo and Susan, brother Jim Kuhn and grandchildren Joshua and Katie.
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.
Miljenko “Mike” Gotovac knew a thing or two about Los Angeles. As a bartender at West Hollywood’s iconic restaurant Dan Tana’s for more than 50 years, he was the one constant amid an ever-changing sea of actors, rock stars, barflies and dreamers.
Until his hospitalization on March 16, he remained one of the oldest working bartenders in L.A. He died due to complications of COVID-19 on May 14 at the age of 76.
“Mike was a piece of iron in this city,” said Craig Susser, owner of Craig’s restaurant and Gotovac’s longtime friend. “No matter what happened in your life or what happened in the world, Monday through Friday, he was there.”
Gotovac was born in the village of Lećevica, Croatia, in 1943. As a young man, he joined a wave of Croatians who traveled to Germany to escape the poor economy of what was then Yugoslavia. He landed in L.A. in 1967, where he quickly became part of the city’s tight-knit Croatian community. He became the bartender and resident curmudgeon at Dan Tana’s a year later, but despite his position at the center of the star-studded restaurant, his sons said he couldn’t tell a movie star from a customer off the street.
“He liked old cowboy westerns and he enjoyed sports, so what did he care if you’re an actor or actress in the highest grossing movie of the year?” said his son Domagoj. “That was one of the reasons a lot of these famous people really liked him, because it was really the only time they got treated normal.”
So many customers relied on Gotovac’s steadfast presence that toward the end of his career, he showed up as much for them as he did for himself, his sons said. It wasn’t uncommon for him to bring some of the bar’s customers home for the holidays because they had nowhere else to go.
“There were a lot of lonely people in L.A., and he did have a soft spot,” his son Matija said.
When Gotovac wasn’t at Dan Tana’s, he was the consummate family man. He was a parishioner at St. Anthony Croatian Catholic Church, an avid soccer player and longtime president of San Pedro Croat Soccer Club. His idea of a good time was dinner and dancing with his wife, or doting on his granddaughters, Emelia, Iva and Beatrix, who became his greatest joy.
“He took care of people like nobody else,” said Christian Kneedler, manager of Dan Tana’s. “He really was one of a kind.”Read the full obituary
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.
In the final ceremony for Search to Involve Pilipino Americans’ Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month webinar series in May, community leader John Eric Swing smiles proudly in his polo shirt emblazoned with the nonprofit’s logo.
“SIPA’s doors are always open,” he said of the organization. “We’re here to be a bridge and be impactful in many ways, and how we make that impactful is in everyone’s collaboration with each other.”
Swing was a leader in Los Angeles’ Historic Filipinotown and had worked with multiple community organizations serving the Filipino American community. He had been the executive director of SIPA, which is dedicated to Filipino American empowerment, for only two months when he died June 28 of complications from COVID-19. He was 48.
Swing was appointed after a yearlong, nationwide search. He was excited to work on the redevelopment of SIPA’s headquarters, which looked to include a small businesses center, community space and a cultural center. The project was years in the making, and Swing had hoped to see it through.
He had been a staff member at SIPA since 2015, and formed close relationships with coworkers. Eddy M. Gana, Jr., who serves as SIPA’s mental health counselor, remembered him for his constant presence and selflessness.
When they were still in the office before the pandemic forced them to work from home, Swing would always be the first to offer to close up for the night.
“If there’s ever anything [you need], you can give me a call, anytime,” Swing once told his colleague.
“So how about 2 or 3 a.m.?” Gana joked. Swing assured him he would answer the call. Every meeting after that, Swing would pretend to hold a phone to his ear and say, “You can still call me anytime. I’m waiting!”
“I never got to give him a call that late,” Gana said.
Before Swing’s term even began, SIPA was forced to move operations online because of the pandemic, but he still found ways to help community members. The organization got a boost when California State Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) obtained funding for delivering food to seniors and underserved families in Historic Filipinotown. The state Senate later honored SIPA and Swing’s leadership with a certificate of recognition as “Unsung Heroes of Southern California.”
The organization also hosted two webinar series, “Wellness Wednesdays” and “Filipino Fridays,” during the month of May. SIPA continued community programming through Zoom meetings during the pandemic, and in early June, Swing told board meeting that he was planning a session on anti-racism in the Filipino community to assist Black people.
On June 16, Swing told the president of the nonprofit’s board of directors that he had tested positive for COVID-19, and would be taking a few weeks off to focus on recovery. But within a week, his condition worsened and he was admitted to Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center.
The son of Filipino immigrants, Swing spent his college years learning more about his Filipino American identity. As an ethnic studies student at UC Riverside, Swing co-founded the Asian American fraternity Psi Chi Omega, and volunteered in community service organizations.
He was proud of his heritage, and loved Filipino pop music, or OPM. “We teased him a bit because he had some favorite songs that were in Tagalog that are older songs our parents would listen to,” said Jessica del Mundo, secretary of SIPA’s board of directors.
After graduating, Swing served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves for six years. He received the National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal and earned a Rifle Expert Marksman badge. He worked as a senior probation corrections officer for the Riverside County Probation Department before pursuing community service and social work full time.
As part of the leadership team that chose him for the role, Del Mundo said she was struck by his commitment to serving all communities and people in need.
“It wasn't so much about helping people with Filipino cultural programming, it was the culture of changing lives, no matter what ethnicity or background,” Del Mundo said.
“John’s story is so much more about a life of service and accepting all people, and helping all people,” Del Mundo said. “He always went above and beyond in providing resources and making an investment in the community.”
Swing is survived by his parents, Ellis and Aurora; his wife, Maria Elena Rodriguez-Swing; children Zachary, Joshua, Chloe and Mackenzie; stepchildren Sasha and Nicco; sister Karen Bromley; and brother PJ Swing.
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
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.”
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.
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
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.”
Antonia “Toni” Sisemore lived to care for elderly patients as a certified nursing assistant, a devotion that likely cost the 72-year-old her life.
Sisemore worked for several decades at Stollwood Convalescent Hospital, part of the St. John’s Retirement Village in Woodland. She had retired from her job but returned three years ago “because she was lonely and said she’d rather work than stay home,” her brother Felipe Sanchez said.
Sanchez said his sister likely contracted the coronavirus from a patient in early April. After a four-week battle against COVID-19, she died April 30 at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento.
“She liked taking care of old people; she took pride and a real interest in taking care of them,” Sanchez said. “She was just that way. She and my younger sister took care of my father in his last days, before he died in 1973.”
Family members were concerned about Sisemore at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, but she insisted on continuing to work. By early May, 32 residents and 34 staff members at Stollwood had tested positive for the virus, with 14 dying from COVID-19.
“Even though we told her not to, she’s really stubborn,” Sisemore’s daughter, Ruth Edwards, told CBS 13 in Sacramento. “She’s going to do what she’s going to do.”
Sisemore was born April 6, 1948, in McAllen, Tex., and moved with her family at a young age to Solano County, where she attended school and farmed before graduating from Vacaville High School. She lived in Esparto, outside Sacramento.
As a young mother, Sisemore suffered a debilitating back injury in an automobile accident. She recovered after months of physical therapy and remained relatively healthy until undergoing knee-replacement surgery two years ago.
Sanchez said Sisemore began experiencing headaches and body aches in early April. She took a coronavirus test and went into self-isolation for two weeks, avoiding contact with family members while her daughters and nieces brought food to her door. Her condition worsened in mid-April.
“At one point, she was so weak, she couldn’t do anything,” Sanchez said. “We called an ambulance, and they took her to the hospital.”
Sisemore was hospitalized for two to three weeks and placed on a ventilator. Her two daughters were allowed to don protective gear and visit before she died.
Sisemore is survived by her brothers Felipe and Gabriel Sanchez, sisters San Juana Contreras and Mary Lara, daughters Noemie Adela Sanchez and Ruth Edwards, five grandchildren and one great-grandson.
A post on the St. John’s Facebook page described Sisemore as “one of our most talented and dedicated CNA’s” and praised her for her tireless work ethic, dedication and compassion toward those more vulnerable than herself.
“Her selfless sacrifices and unwavering commitment to our residents astounded and inspired all of us here at St. John’s,” the post read. “She loved and treated the entire St. John’s staff as if we were her family.
“Her humility, generosity and warmth never failed to put a bright smile on all of our faces. Her exuberance, dedication, bravery and devout faith had a profound impact on our campus. She was our hero.”
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.
Ronald Burdette Culp was known for singing gospel songs in his deep bass, his ability to recreate a cow’s moo and a rooster’s crow, and his version of comedian Foster Brooks’ portrayal of a drunk man, though Culp had never been intoxicated a day in his life, his family said.
He was also known for being extraordinarily frugal, his family said.
Over the years, Culp collected spare change — including any coins from the laundromat at the Green Acres RV Park he ran for decades with his wife, Sheryl Culp — in coffee cans he kept well hidden. When he retired at the age of 83 he gathered his dozens of cans and drove them to a bank.
It took three trips to wheel the coins in with a hand truck. He’d saved more than $7,000, according to his family.
“The clerks were just fit to be tied because they had to count all those coins,” said his daughter Cindy Culp.
Ronald, 84, died of COVID-19 in Redding on April 3. He’s survived by six children — Ronnie “Curly” Culp, Bruce Culp, Nancy Culp, Cindy Culp, Lori Neighbor and Jonathan Culp — 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Ronald was born in San Fernando in 1935 and moved to Yreka with his family in 1953. The Culps funded their move by successfully investing with a donkey-riding wildcat oil driller whom Ronald’s father met at a trading post, said Bruce. In Yreka, the family bought a 160-acre dairy farm where Ronald helped milk cows and work the ranch.
He attended Yreka High School, where he met his first wife, Maxine. The two had three children together.
After high school, he worked as a stucco contractor with his father, as a concrete truck driver and at lumber yards. He eventually became the manager and part-owner of the Yreka Lumber Company.
“He could do anything. He could fix anything,” Cindy said. “He just was a jack of all trades when it came to anything that had to do with construction and building.”
After his first marriage ended in the 1970s, Ronald met Schroeder. They were married for 42 years, until her death in 2016.
Schroeder and Ronald Culp had a strong marriage, and her death hit him hard, said Nancy. She said her father once told her that when he and Schroeder left the RV Park in separate cars he “would purposefully pull up beside her at a stoplight just so [he] could look at her, because she was so beautiful.”
With his children, Culp was a gruff man; he wasn’t one to offer a lot of praise (at least not directly) and his grandchildren called him “grump-pa.” But it was a “mask,” said his son Bruce.
“Deep down inside he was just a big marshmallow,” Bruce said. Ronald would take his kids fishing, skiing or on trips to Mexico in their motorhome.
Nancy said her father was “tender hearted” and deeply religious. “I think the most important thing for him was that we knew that Jesus and that we lived our life for Jesus,” said his daughter Nancy.
That was clear in one of his last conversations with his family.
His children and grandchildren weren’t allowed to visit him in the hospital as he battled COVID-19, but he was able to speak with them on the phone two days before he died. His grandson Matt told Culp how sorry the family was that they couldn’t be there with him.
“And he said, ‘But I'm not alone, Matt,’” Cindy said. “He said ‘Jesus is right here with me.’”
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.”
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.
Last summer Gerald Shiroma boarded a plane at LAX, and headed to the Big Island of Hawaii. Such a trip would have been impossible five years earlier when Shiroma was homeless, addicted to meth and deeply in debt to his family.
Born in Los Angeles to Japanese American parents, Shiroma got clean, and saved enough money to repay various family members and bought a ticket to Hawaii. The trip was a homecoming for Shiroma and a chance to celebrate his aunt Mildred’s 100th birthday.
“He always said he wanted to see Aunt Millie one more time before she passes,” said his cousin Eric Sunada, who travelled with him to Hawaii.
On April 8th, less than a year after his trip to his ancestral home, Shiroma died from complications of COVID-19. He was 59.
Shiroma spent most of his adult years living with his parents in West Covina, his cousin said. When they died a decade ago, they left him their house. Within a few years, Shiroma lost the house and his connection to his extended family.
In 2015, Sunada, along with another cousin, introduced Shiroma to the Union Rescue Mission on LA’s Skid Row.
“I remember distinctly when Shiroma first came to the mission,” said Michael McIntire, director of the shelter’s ministry, “He shared his story with me, about how his parents had left him their home and the guilt he felt at squandering everything they had left him.”
Shiroma entered the addiction recovery program and worked with McIntire and the shelter’s director, the Rev. Andy Bales, to overcome his addiction and sense of guilt.
“The photo of him in cap and gown on the day he graduated from the recovery program is right outside my door,” said Bales. “He was able to put the past behind him and move forward with a healthy self-esteem. He learned to not let his past beat him down.”
One of Shiroma’s most powerful moments of recovery occurred during the 12-step program.
“He came to me and said, ‘I don’t know how to make amends to my parents who have died,’” said McIntire, “I suggested he write an apology letter to his parents.” That letter was a turning point in Shiroma’s life.
“He wrote that letter of apology, and began to heal, inside,” Bales said.
After Shiroma completed the recovery program, the mission hired him as a custodian. He also worked as a driver, shuttling residents around Los Angeles and collecting food donations.
He lived at Union Rescue Mission until his death and managed to save more than $30,000, which will be donated to the mission in his memory.
Sunada credits Union Rescue Mission entirely in Shiroma’s recovery.
“Life was hard on him,” he said. “But through the mission, he matured and was at peace with himself.”
On his way back from Hawaii, Shiroma picked up souvenirs and macadamia nuts as a gift for McIntire, along with a renewed sense of pride and confidence.
“He was a new man when he came back from that trip,” said McIntire, “He was happier and more connected than ever before.”
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.”
Lynn Naibert’s life forever changed the day of his freshman orientation at the University of Iowa. It was 1954, and the young, intellectually minded student was prepared for a rigorous course of academic study. What he wasn’t prepared for was what happened next: He spotted a young blonde woman in high heels leaving a building, and he learned her name, Penelope Prentiss. Six months later, the two married.
“They were the best couple,” said his daughter, Pamela Reeb. “She was like Hollywood to him.”
Lynn and Penelope were together for 60 years until her death in 2015, and their love story is one of many achievements in a life well-lived. A beloved teacher, father, mentor and friend, Naibert died on April 20 due to complications of COVID-19. He was 83.
After their wedding, Lynn and Penelope (or Penny, as she was known) lived for five years in Quonset huts designated for married couples on the school’s campus. Naibert’s daughters, Pamela and Beverly, were both born during that period.
“They were freezing in the wintertime and so hot in the summer,” Reeb recalled, “but my mom and dad had the best time there.”
In 1959, the young family moved to San Diego, where Naibert taught English and history at Lincoln High School. He became an advocate for the school’s Latino students, who later honored him for his tireless commitment to securing scholarships and admissions to colleges and universities.
In the late 1960s, Naibert became associate dean of student affairs and financial aid at UC-San Diego, but he soon returned to his passion for teaching at city schools and working in district counseling. He retired in 1996.
Naibert read deeply and vastly on all kinds of subjects. He subscribed to the New York Times Book Review, and he loved going to the corner market on Sundays to purchase the Los Angeles Times, his daughter said. He had a particular passion for books about the Middle East, and he enjoyed bocce, golf and growing roses.
He was also a spiritual person. In 1980, Naibert visited St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown San Diego after losing a friendly handball bet to the dean of its cathedral — and he loved it so much that he never left. He found kinship in Alcoholics Anonymous, where he was a mentor and sponsor and, for a time, a meeting leader at Donovan State Prison. He also cherished his time volunteering at the San Diego Czech House, a gathering place for people of Czech and Slovak heritage.
“He was just a really thoughtful person,” Reeb said. “He was very cerebral, he had a really great sense of humor, and he was really sweet.”
Later in life, Naibert was moved by the Buddhist teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Ever curious about the world, he visited Buddhist temples and relayed his learnings to his family. His daughter said he will live on through his favorite meditative mantra: “Breathe in, breathe out.”
Naibert is survived by his children, Beverly, Pamela, Paul and Jay, as well as his seven grandchildren.
The first time someone met Bishop Anthony Pigee Sr., they might notice his “ever-glowing” smile or his laugh “like a lion in the jungle.” Maybe he’d pay for their meal or fill up their gas tank. But if they asked him what he did for a living, said his son and successor Elder Anthony Pigee Jr., all he’d say was that he was “in the business of changing lives.”
Bishop Pigee was a powerful preacher who traveled around the United States and the world to preach, but who also went out of his way to care for his community and the Life of Faith Community Center, the nondemoninational church he founded in Long Beach 15 years ago.
“If you needed it, he had it. If you didn’t need it, he’d give it. He just wanted to be a blessing,” said his wife, LaVicia Pigee.
Pigee was so well known in the community that when LaVicia called a friend to tell him of her husband’s passing, the friend already knew: Someone at the corner convenience store Pigee frequented had heard it and shared it with the group that hung out outside.
It may have been Pigee’s care for those around him that led to his contracting the coronavirus in late March. With stay-at-home orders about to go into effect, Pigee was driving around town stocking up on staples. “He was the epitome of a provider,” said Anthony Jr.
On March 28, with Pigee’s breathing becoming more and more labored, LaVicia drove him to Kaiser in West LA. He tested positive for COVID-19, and doctors told him that the breathing problems he’d had for three months weren’t from allergies after all. They were from pneumonia. Eleven days later, on April 8, Pigee died. He was 49.
His family and friends remember a man who, when he wasn’t preaching from the pulpit, was constantly cracking jokes. He had a deep, joyful belly laugh and a beaming smile that could turn a bad day to a good one in a moment, said longtime friend Bishop Sherman Gordon of Family of Faith Christian Center in Long Beach.
Pigee loved to embarrass LaVicia with compliments. Once when they were out to dinner, he explained to the waiter that the couple was on a date, then suddenly burst into a song about how beautiful she was, made up on the spot.
Pigee had a few different catchphrases that he’d return to from time to time. These days, one stands out:
“The best time you have is the time you have.”
In addition to his wife and son Anthony Jr., Pigee is survived by another son, Darius; daughters Sandrika, Adrina, Camran, Laniya and Lanicia; daughter-in-law Tineisha Pigee and sons-in-law Albert Parish and Anthony Arzu.
An earlier version of this obituary contained errors. It described the Life of Faith Community Center as affiliated with the Church of God in Christ; it is nondenominational. It also said Pigee had founded the church in South Los Angeles a decade ago; it was founded in Long Beach 15 years ago.
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.
Tessie Henry loved going to church, listening to the blues and being with her family — and of those, church might have come first.
After retiring from her job as a postal worker, she worked as a hostess at Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco for over 20 years. She especially looked forward to Mother’s Day, when she would gather at Cornerstone with family members from across the Bay Area.
“The ironic part about it is me and my sister and brother are Catholic,” like their dad, daughter Natalie Berry said. “But one of the things we would do is go to the Baptist Church on Mother’s Day. That’s the only reason why the pastor and his wife knew who we were.”
Henry, the daughter of civil rights historian Inez C. Jackson, who now has a library named after her in San Jose, was born in Dallas but spent her childhood in San Jose.
On March 27, Henry died of COVID-19 at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center, at the age of 83.
“The virus robbed us,” Berry said.
Henry loved the blues, and she and her children would attend the Monterey International Blues Festival every year. She loved B.B. King, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Etta James, but her favorite artist was her husband, Napoleon "Nap" Henry. A guitar player for the Fats Gaines Orchestra, he caught Tessie's eye while playing at a club in San Jose. “I believe my mother was a groupie,” Berry said with a laugh. After they married, the couple moved to San Francisco, and both worked for the United States Postal Service.
After Nap died of a heart attack in 1998, Henry relied on her sisters, Mary Knights and Agnes Bailey, for comfort and support. After they both died, Henry’s eldest daughter, Debra Holloway, moved in.
“Everybody said God first, family second,” Berry said. “[My mom] has five siblings and four had passed away before her. She nursed every single one of them until their last breath.”
As a hostess at Cornerstone, Henry comforted mourners at funerals, handing out tissues and hugs. Her children missed that comfort at the small funeral they held for her in Colma.
“She was the glue that held the family together,” Berry said. “Once you outlive everybody, you turn to the ones who are there.”
Henry is survived by her younger brother, Cass Jackson; her children, Debra Holloway, Natalie Berry and Robert Henry; nine grandchildren; and five great grandchildren.
In his flamboyant Tommy Bahama shirt, leather jacket, Hugo Boss jeans and shiny dress shoes, Dave Browner was hard to miss.
The ensemble, paired with a thick New York accent, his husky 6-foot-2 frame, endless pipe smoking and a bombastic personality, made him a bit intimidating.
A lifelong athlete, Browner started each morning the same way: jumping jacks, sprints, squat lifts, pushups and crunches. The routine, including the precise number of reps, seconds and rest intervals, was plastered onto the refrigerator, and followed meticulously.
All day long, he would lift dumbbells, or simply use large rocks found throughout the neighborhood, strengthening his biceps. Until his mid-70s, he could bench press more than 200 pounds. He called it “old man’s strength,” his daughter Alexandre said.
When his health began to decline, his strength served him well. He survived multiple heart attacks and open heart surgeries, bouncing back to full health every time. So when he got sick with COVID-19 in early April, the family assumed he would pull through, like he always did.
“My sister didn’t even register that it could be a problem,” Alexandre said. “When he wasn’t turning around, she was shocked.”
Browner had a stroke in 2016, and in 2018, after various other health complications, moved into Sunray Healthcare Center home in Los Angeles. Alexandre, who was living in Mammoth Lakes, would drive down to check in on him several times a week. But in early March, she got a call from the home that visitors would be prohibited due to the pandemic. She was not able to see her father in person again.
On April 11, Browner was rushed to Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center with a high fever, dehydration and pneumonia. He was soon confirmed positive for COVID-19. After weeks in the hospital with severely restricted breathing, Browner died April 21. The night before, the doctors alerted Alexandre that he was declining, and so she prepared to leave her home in Mammoth to be with him. But, before she was even able to get on the road, he died. He was 78.
Browner grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island, and graduated from Syracuse University. He went on to get his law degree at Johns Hopkins, but ultimately decided not to practice and to instead join his family’s textile business.
After a family dispute, the business dissolved, and Browner made his way to Los Angeles, landing in Playa del Rey, where he worked in fashion and soon met his wife, Cheri.
At their wedding–true to form–he wore a Brown velvet jacket, a matching velvet bowtie and a ruffled pink shirt.
“Wherever he was,” Alexandre said. “You knew he was there.”
Later, they moved to Mammoth where Browner opened a ski shop. But after a seven year drought that battered the local economy, they moved back to Los Angeles, where he remained for life.
Browner also served in the U.S. Army, although he liked to pretend he didn’t. Growing up, Alexandre said he never discussed his time in Vietnam.
It wasn’t until Alexandre was with her father in Costa Rica eight years ago that she finally got to hear about his time in the Army. Browner, after many beers, began telling war stories to a stranger at the bar.
“I overheard him tell someone about ‘one day in the jungle,’ and I ran over to listen,” Alexandre recalled. “Otherwise, I have no idea about his time there.”
As a father, Browner was involved in everything, Alexandre said, laughing. When she went to college, he insisted on going with her. She showed up the first day of class with him, holding hands.
“I had to say: ‘This is my dad. He’s going to sit in today,” she remembered. “It was not normal!”
Though perhaps overly so, Browner’s deep love and care for his family was unmistakable. When Alexandre enlisted in the Army herself, Browner wrote her a letter every day, sometimes two.
“He always said mail time was the worst if you didn’t get a letter,” Alexandre said. “He never missed a day.”
Browner is survived by his sister, four children and three grandchildren.
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.”
Melinda Wernick felt comfortable on the ice. A born and bred Minnesotan, she learned to skate on frozen ponds in the Minneapolis suburbs. Wernick, who went by Nina, was naturally athletic and enjoyed diving, tennis, swimming and cheerleading, but skating swept her away. She would glide on the ice for hours, practicing pirouettes, jumps and arabesques.
Wernick didn’t skate professionally, or for admiration -- she skated to feel free.
“She marched to the beat of her own drum,” said her daughter, Laura Wernick. “She was funky, so cool, and a true free spirit.”
In 1962, Wernick met her future husband, Bob, during her freshman year at the University of Minnesota.
“I thought she was very pretty,” said Bob, who asked her out on a first date to that weekend’s football game, leaving out a small detail. “I said, I’ll pick you up at five in the morning!’” He had been planning to take her to the away game against Wisconsin, a four and half hour drive.
Wernick said she would not leave the state on a first date. Instead, they went to the movies. The couple were married in 1963 and raised two daughters just outside of Minneapolis.
Wernick became a full time mom and was unafraid to get messy with her children: “Growing we made forts, played sports together and made mud pies -- she loved to play,” said Laura.
Occasionally, her playfulness and eccentricities were overwhelming. Carrie, Wernicks younger daughter, recalled a middle school memory.
“I was taking the bus home and saw my mom waiting for me at the bus stop, she was wearing a tube top, shorts and homemade inline skates with neon wheels.” At the time Carrie was mortified, but in retrospect, she viewed it as a perfect example of her mother’s fearlessness.
After both daughters left home, Wernick and Bob headed west. As a child, Wernick spent family vacations with her parents in Palm Springs — living in California had been a lifelong dream. Although she left the cold Minnisota winters behind, Wernick made sure to bring her ice skates to the desert.
“Nina went to the local ice skating rink in Palm Springs all the time,” said Bob. Wernick was also president of the Desert Blades Skating Club, and competed in skating competitions.
Wernick skated well into her sixties and founded an ice skating group specifically for seniors. “She loved skating because it combined several of her passions,” Carrie said, “music, sport and dance.”
Eventually, skating became too difficult, but it didn’t stop Wenick from visiting the rink. “She went to volunteer and help at the rink seven days a week,” said Bob. “She loved it there.”
Much of Wernick’s athletic activities slowed down three years ago when she was diagnosed with lung cancer and some neurological disorders that made walking challenging. The family hired a caregiver, Belinda Cortez, who became part of the family.
“Mom loved Belinda so much,” Laura said, “she became the center of my mom’s world.” And anyone who was part of Wernick’s world, naturally needed to learn to skate.
“One day we went to visit the ice skating rink,” Belinda said, “and she told me to invite my family, so we all went -- she helped us get our skates on.”
Wernick delightedly watched Belinda and her family skate—she always revelled in seeing others succeed.
Friendship was important to Wernick, “her address book was thick,” Bob said.“She made friends easily and kept in touch with people, even if she didn’t see them for years.”
“She called me every Sunday, just to say hello and I love you,” said Laura.
In March when the lockdown first began, Laura and her eight-year-old son, Sasha, decided to go stay with her parents in Palm Springs.
While Wernick and her family took precautions against COVID-19, she contracted the virus in May and it was too much for her already weakened immune system. Wernick died on June 29th at the age of 78.
The last few weeks of Wernick’s life were spent with her family. In the evenings, when the desert heat wore off, Sasha would take his grandmother out for strolls in her wheelchair. “They chatted about snakes, and birds,” said Laura, “and mom told Sasha about her childhood,” the four wheels gliding beneath her.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Gloria Martinez wanted to look good. It didn’t matter where she was going.
Even if she was just heading to a doctor’s appointment with her daughter Emilia, she’d sport a colorful blouse or dress, and accessorize with a watch, rings and earrings. Oh, and she’d never forget her red lipstick.
Her favorite pattern? Cheetah print.
“She had a drawer full of it,” her daughter said, laughing.
After a long, full life, Martinez, a Visalia resident, died of COVID-19 complications on April 17 at Kaweah Delta Medical Center. She was 91.
Before moving to Visalia, she had lived in Montebello for 40 years and for a dozen of those years worked in the cafeteria at Ford Boulevard Elementary in East L.A..
“Every morning, no matter how early, she’d always say, ‘Good morning!’ in a happy voice,” Emilia said. “She really never let anything bother her.”
Martinez was blunt yet loving, her daughter said. She’d tell you things as she saw them and didn’t hold back — but it all came from a place of love.
“She never said what she didn't mean,” Emilia said. “And she always did what she said she was going to do.”
She also opened the doors to her home to anyone who needed it. After Emilia’s divorce, her mother welcomed her and her three youngest children home. If someone was in need of a place to sleep, Martinez offered her home.
“We always had someone living with us,” Emilia said. “Always.”
Martinez was a devout Jehovah’s Witness and would make it clear to all of her guests that “this is a Christian home.” She loved making tamales and her delectable chile verde, her daughter said.
Her favorite pastime was shopping at the “goody goodies,” the term she used when referring to thrift stores. She’d roam around and check out the clothing.
Martinez tested positive for COVID-19 on April 15, yet showed no symptoms until two days later when her oxygen levels started to drop. The family believes she acquired the virus at Redwoods Springs Healthcare Center where 124 residents have tested positive and 29 have died. She had been receiving physical therapy at the facility after a serious fall a month earlier.
She is survived by her husband Raymond, children Emilia, Freddie and Daniel, 14 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and a great great grandchild.
“She was the icon of the family,” Emilia said.
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.”
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.
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.
On April 13, Gaspár Gómez got a call from his brother, Marcos. The pair were day laborers who often found work one short-term job at a time, and Marcos’ employer needed another worker. But Gaspár turned it down, saying he felt sick.
Gaspár's family says he was the type to downplay illness, to work through it. If he felt sick enough to turn down work, it meant something was really wrong.
A few days later, Gómez tested positive for COVID-19, then was hospitalized with respiratory problems. On May 3, after almost three weeks on a ventilator, he died. He was 51.
Gómez was born in Santo Domingo de Atani, a small town in the Sierra Juarez mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico.
As a teenager he immigrated to the United States, along with his sweetheart, María. He didn’t have papers, so he found work as a day laborer on construction projects, the same work he would do for more than three decades. The couple moved to Van Nuys and had four children.
When the children were still young, Gómez and his wife divorced. The children went with their mother. His daughter Lucy called the divorce his “downfall.”
Gómez's long battle with substance abuse that his family says resulted in multiple stints in prison and at least three deportations led Lucy, the last of his children who still spoke to him, to cut off contact.
“If you don’t want to change, I can’t change you," Lucy recalled telling him.
Then, one day, while waiting in line at the supermarket, he met Elba Regalado. Gómez was abundantly friendly and quickly struck up a conversation — it was in his nature, Regalado said. She was getting ready to pay and Gómez wouldn't stop chatting. They became friends and, eventually, a couple.
With Regalado’s help, his family said, he began to turn a corner.
Gómez stopped drinking and began attending Mass with Regalado. His brother Marcelo says it was faith that helped both him and Gaspár recover. Regalado and Gómez moved in together with her teenage daughter in Pacoima. Lucy started talking to him again. She got to dance with him one more time at Regalado's daughter's quinceñeara a few years ago. He even began communicating with his other children again.
Regalado and Gómez never married. She wanted to take it slow, to make sure it was a good match, especially after things were so difficult early on. In the months before he died, she says she had been warming up to it, jokingly asking him when they were going to get married.
His answer was always the same: “If you want to, let’s go tomorrow.”
In addition to his partner, brother and daughter Lucy, Gómez is survived by daughters María, Stacie, Janette and Sara and son Cristián.
To the outside world, Douglas Borchert was a quiet academic who loved title insurance, history and research. But to those who knew him best, Borchert was a fearless explorer with an infinite sense of curiosity. After all, a person doesn’t climb Mt. Kilimanjaro at 65 unless they have some taste for adventure.
“Doug was always challenging himself with something new,” said his brother, Mark. “When he got interested in something, he pursued it pretty passionately.”
Borchert died in Martinez on March 23 from complications of COVID-19. He was 77.
The eldest of three brothers, Borchert was born in Ely, Nev., and raised in Sacramento. He attended as many Sacramento Solons baseball games as his allowance permitted, his brother said, and he went on to receive his bachelor’s in history from U.C. Davis. After graduating, he surprised everyone in his family by enlisting in the U.S. Army at the height of the Vietnam War.
“Doug decided to join because he felt like the burden of the war was falling on the poorest,” Mark said. “He wanted to do the right thing.”
In Vietnam, Borchert declined an officer commission and instead served as a “Scout Dog” handler who looked for booby traps, ambushes, snipers and hidden caches of food or weapons. He earned the Bronze Service Medal for his valor.
After returning to California, Borchert received his master’s of science in business from U.C. Berkeley and his law degree from Ventura Law School. He went on to spend 45 years as a title attorney, eventually serving as vice president of the underwriting counsel at Fidelity National Title until his retirement in 2018. He published a number of scholarly articles on real property and title claims, and appeared in court cases as an expert witness.
But Borchert also remained a committed outdoorsman and student of history. He served as a volunteer docent at the John Muir home, an architectural tour guide in San Francisco and an instructor at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, where he lectured on topics like the “Comstock Lode” silver strike of 1859 and the life of Samuel Clemens (otherwise known as Mark Twain).
“He had so much more to him than what his career was able to let him express,” said his cousin, Louise Chiatovich. “He was very erudite, and he was a great storyteller with a great sense of humor.”
Borchert was married twice and helped raise three kids, including his stepson and two adopted daughters. He was with his wife, Virginia Borchert, for the last 19 years, during which time he took sailplane lessons and learned to throw traditional Scottish shot put. His brother said he was probably more committed to the experiences than to any particular urge for mastery.
“It was typical Doug,” Mark said. “He seemed to enjoy setting his mind to something, and he really threw himself into his endeavors.”
Borchert is survived by his wife, Virginia Borchert, stepson Brian Rector, daughters Megan Han and Nikki Borchert, and his younger brother, Mark Borchert.
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.”
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.
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.”
Artemio Ramos met his wife Sylvia on the dance floor. The two would dance to música norteña at the weekly bailes that drew other young Mexican Americans on weekends.
“It took awhile for me to date him because I really didn’t like him,” Sylvia said, laughing. “I just loved to dance, but then after a while, he was the only one asking me.”
Now, Sylvia reminisces about Ramos’ moves, his hardworking nature and the love he had for his grandchildren.
Ramos died April 4 of COVID-19 complications at Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City. He was 77. He had been in a wheelchair since 2014, when he became a quadriplegic after falling from a tree.
Long before then, Ramos and Sylvia settled in Reseda in the mid-1960s, where Ramos worked in construction for 30 years.
“He never missed a day,” Sylvia said.
Along with his daily work, he was known for being the handyman in his neighborhood. If the drain was clogged or the toilet needed plumbing, Ramos was the first person people called.
From the age of 12, he helped his family pick crops in the South, before he decided to move to Los Angeles at 19. As an adult, he worked full-time but took English language classes in the evenings, before earning a GED and diploma in 1985, the same year his son Andrew graduated from high school, Sylvia said.
“You can never have enough education,” his daughter Sandra said her father would say.
Ramos rarely shared his emotions, like many Mexican dads, Sandra said. He loved going to casinos with his wife and watching soccer, especially his favorite team, las Chivas de Guadalajara. Sandra described him as a “big provider.”
Ramos’ quiet nature shifted once Sandra and Andrew started having their own children.
“The grandkids brought out a whole different Artemio,” Sandra said, adding that she would set her youngest son, who lives with special needs, on his lap and he would sing him Mexican lullabies. “You would never see my dad doing that.”
Sandra said Ramos became a father figure for her children, and they’ve emulated his special work ethic as they’ve grown up.
“I can see where they’re like my dad,” she said. “Everything has to be perfect, otherwise they don’t accept it.”
Ramos contracted the coronavirus at the Windsor Terrace Healthcare Center, where at least eight patients have died. He had been recovering from pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus since late February.
He started running a fever March 24 and was put on antibiotics the next day. A week later he started having trouble breathing and was transferred to the hospital where he tested positive for COVID-19. He died four days later.
Ramos is survived by his wife, son and daughter, and six grandchildren.
“Grandpa was like their superhero,” Sandra said. “That’s the best guardian angel they can have.”
In early April, Evelia Rubio had a special request for her daughter. Reche Canyon Regional Rehabilitation Center in Colton, where Rubio lived, was short on personal protective equipment for its staff, and Rubio wanted to help.
She asked her daughter, Laura Garcia, to take two hundred dollars out of her bank account to pay someone to make cloth masks for the staff.
“She was loving and caring. She always wanted to help somebody,” Garcia said.
But just a week later, Rubio herself began to feel sick. Even over their daily video chats, Garcia said her mother seemed sleepy and out of breath. On April 15, Rubio tested positive for COVID-19 -- part of a cluster of 45 cases at Reche Canyon Rehab -- and was hospitalized.
Doctors treated her for a week, and her breathing began to stabilize. But then her blood began clotting -- hospital staff found clots in the dialysis machine and in the port they had installed to monitor her blood pressure. On April 22, Rubio died of COVID-19 complications. She was 54.
“She had made peace here on earth,” said Garcia. “The only reason she was pushing was pretty much for my kids and me.”
Rubio loved to spend time with family. Before moving to Reche Canyon Rehab she lived with her older sister, and the two would plot massive meals for family gatherings. She rarely measured out ingredients and preferred to eyeball the ratios for tamales, potato salad and arroz con leche -- everything with “a touch of love,” said Garcia.
Her care extended especially to her dog, Louie, a slightly sassy Shih Tzu that Garcia said was like her mother’s second child.
Rubio had a huge shoe collection as well, and especially prized her Doc Martens, Birkenstocks and Jordans. In the 90s, she bought a brand new white Ford Thunderbird. She grabbed her nephew Pierre Fero -- Garcia called her “the cool aunt” -- and took off down the highway to show him how fast it could go.
Rubio moved to Reche Canyon Rehab after a severe kidney failure. Garcia said Rubio was expecting to be released soon and was just waiting for a surgical procedure that would make dialysis easier. She had to go through dialysis up to three times a week, and there were moments the stress on her body could be overwhelming.
But most days, you’d find Rubio in her natural state, making new friends, laughing and smiling.
Rubio is survived by her daughter, grandchildren Zariah, her mother Sarisa, and six siblings.
It was always easy to spot Deborah Elizabeth Gallagher -- she liked to stand out, starting with her car.
“She drove an orange Volkswagen bug with flames on the sides,” said Gallagher’s son, Charles. “She bought it from a high-schooler who was a neighbor.”
Gallagher didn’t mind the flames, on the contrary, the car matched her personality — fiery, fun and vivacious.
“She loved wearing red,” said Charles. “She didn’t want to be seen in anything that wasn’t showy.”
Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1923, Gallagher was one of seven children. Raised Catholic, she and her sisters attended Notre Dame Academy. With her jet-black hair and bright blue eyes, Gallagher was voted the “Irish Colleen” of Toledo by the local newspaper -- an award given to the girl who looked “most Irish” in honor of St. Patrick’s day.
In 1944, she married Harold F. Gallagher, an engineer and Naval officer, and they started a family. Because of Harold’s career, the Gallaghers moved often, but their home base eventually became Idaho Falls, Idaho, where they lived for 45 years. It was there that she picked up the flaming VW bug, and several unlikely friends.
“My mom had really close relationships with older people and was connected to them. We called them her, ‘little old lady friends,’” said Charles.
Gallagher enjoyed the company of the older residents. She liked to help them with their grocery shopping or just take them around town.
“She really believed older people were worthwhile and found them to be so much fun, plus, they needed help, and she had time,” Charles said.
Gallagher would often enlist the support of her seven children too.
“She always had us helping, bringing meals over to the elderly or shoveling their walks and mowing lawns,” Charles said.
Despite her affinity for octogenarians, Gallagher felt youthful. “She was very young at heart -- she never thought she was old,” said Charles.
Six years ago, when Gallagher was 90, she relocated to Sacramento, where two of her sons, Pat and Charles, live. “She always wanted to come back to California,” said Charles, “she hated the cold.”
She moved into an assisted living center in Sacramento and quickly got to work befriending the other residents. But Gallagher refused to see herself as a senior. Accustomed to being the one taking care of others, Gallagher was resistant to being on the receiving end of caregiving.
“She told my brother and I, ‘I don’t need anyone to take care of me,’” said Charles. “So, at the assisted living home we said, ‘Mom, these people are not taking care of you, they are your friends.’”
And Gallagher made it her mission to befriend everyone. “She was a get-up-and-go gal,” he added. “She thought she was 30 years younger than she actually was.” Her vim led to quite a few accidents. “There were a few falls in the last couple years where she broke her wrist, neck and hip. She was like Evel Knievel.”
Pat said when he visited his mother, he’d often bring along Werther’s butterscotch candies, her favorite. “I would open them for her, that was part of our afternoons together. We would walk around the building together too, to keep her muscles strong.”
But in early March, Gallagher contracted COVID-19.
“I got special permission to go in before she died,” said Pat. “Having me in the room was good for her, knowing she wasn’t alone.”
Before she died, Gallagher had made several trips to the hospital, and the last time Charles saw his mother, she was being helped into an ambulance. Despite the difficult situation, he knew it was one last opportunity for her to have a ride in an attention-grabbing vehicle.
“I told the people driving the ambulance to put the lights on and the siren. I said, ‘My mom likes to be the center of attention. Give her a drive she will remember.”
Deborah Elizabeth Gallagher died from complications related to COVID-19 on April 22 at age 96. She is survived by her seven children, nine grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
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.
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.
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.”
When Raul Alaniz learned that his teenage daughter, Rebecca, wanted a tattoo, he hated the idea. As a single father he had always been one for strict curfews, limited socializing and an emphasis on schoolwork.
Imagine Rebecca’s surprise, then, when the two of them wound up at a tattoo parlor together. She got a rose, he got skulls. Anything for his daughter.
“He was a really personable guy,” said Rebecca, now 33, “but I think he also made sure that people knew there was a time for seriousness and a time for fun.”
Alaniz died in El Centro on June 10 from complications of COVID-19. He was 53.
Born in Mexicali in Baja California, Alaniz grew up in Holtville, outside El Centro. Always studious, he excelled in math and maintained a 4.0 GPA at Holtville High School, his daughter said. When he graduated in 1985, he was the class salutatorian. Rebecca was born just a year later.
“He was very serious and strict for most of my childhood,” she recalled, noting that her father once greeted her high school boyfriend with a baseball bat, “but he was just making sure that I was taken care of.”
Through the years, Alaniz put his math skills to work as an accountant and bookkeeper. He was particularly good with charts and graphs, and he prided himself on his system for managing personal finances. He volunteered at Rebecca’s school functions and was a familiar figure on the sidelines of band competitions and athletic events. He met his partner, Ana Barraza, online, and was with her for the last 15 years.
“From day one, he was the perfect, one-in-a-million man,” Barraza said. “He would tell me he loved me 10, 20 times per day. He had a big heart, he was a little grouchy, but he was a kind person.”
When Alaniz wasn’t focused on fatherhood or finances, he loved going to concerts (tribute bands in particular), watching Law & Order reruns and spending time with his beloved pets. He had so many dogs—some fosters, some permanent—that neighbors regularly complained, but he didn’t care. He adored them all.
And though he was married and divorced several times in his life, Alaniz remained loyal to his families, past and present. He doted on his five step-kids and 11 grandchildren, and loved nothing more than to spend an afternoon with them at Disneyland or the San Diego County Fair.
“He wouldn’t treat anyone differently,” Rebecca said. “If you were part of his tribe, you were part of his tribe.”
At the time of his death, she added, her father had four more tattoos.
Raul Alaniz is survived by his mother, Francisca Alaniz; daughter Rebecca; his partner Ana; sister Rosa; 11 grandchildren and five step-children.
Erica McAdoo always wanted to serve her community. She began her career in the Coast Guard, but after several years at sea, McAdoo returned to land and joined the Los Angeles Police Department.
She was a custody services officer for several years, working with inmates. At the start of this year, she was promoted and began a new role as a senior detention officer, overseeing other officers. But not long after her promotion, McAdoo felt ill and was admitted to a hospital. She remained in intensive care for 98 days and died from complications related to COVID-19 on July 3, the first LAPD officer known to have died from coronavirus.
“She had everything going for her,” said Keith Royston, McAdoo’s uncle. “She was 39 years old, and this virus took everything.”
“Erica was so smart,” said another uncle, Lamont Royston. “She was one of the smartest people in our family.”
McAdoo was born in Oklahoma in 1981. Four years later, her mother, Donna Royston, moved Erica and her elder sister Danielle to Los Angeles.
“Erica and her mother were best friends,” Keith said. While McAdoo loved her work, she had another passion in life: food — specifically Oklahoma style barbecue. In 2016, McAdoo along with her mother founded Reddz Foodz, a barbecue catering service.
Donna had grown up cooking Oklahoma barbeque and taught her daughter how to prepare perfect ribs, cornbread and greens.
“She was a great cook,” Lamont said. “Their dream was to open a food truck.”
McAdoo had created a Yelp page for Reddz Foodz and written about her love of cooking and delight in sharing delicious food with others.
“I have a passion for making people happy and feel good from the inside, out,” McAdoo wrote. “My reward is seeing people dance a little when they eat.”
Cooking was also part of McAdoo’s heritage and an homage to her grandmother Ruth, who died last year. McAdoo wrote on the Yelp page: “We are here to continue to build her [Ruth’s] legacy with love for our family, passion for cooking and commitment to our goals.”
Donna and Erica devoted time to supporting their community in Carson.
“They would make food bags for the homeless people,” Lamont said. “Their friends would come over and they would all go out together to pass out food, just out of the kindness of their hearts.”
The two also loved to travel together and would take cruises. Cancun was a favorite destination. McAdoo had a close-knit circle of friends within the LAPD who enjoyed spending time together. Within the Custody Services department, McAdoo was seen as a leader. In a statement posted on Instagram, her co-workers wrote: “Our hearts grieve as we mourn the loss of our sister, Erica McAdoo. Our condolences are extended to her mother and family. We hope they take comfort in knowing she was loved, respected and admired.”
The post also praised McAdoo’s drive to improve the department: “If one of the ultimate goals in life is to make a difference in the lives of others, Erica accomplished that. Our division and its personnel are better because of her time and commitment.”
Among those issuing statements of condolence were Gov. Gavin Newsom and his wife, Jennifer, and Beatrice Girmala, assistant chief director of support services at the LAPD, who wrote about McAdoo: “She left us a hero.”
In honor of McAdoo, flags at the state capitol building were flown at half-staff. Donna posted about her daughter on Facebook writing: “I can't begin to tell you all what the loss of my daughter and friend has done to me, my heart will forever be broken and changed.”
She also called for people to take COVID-19 seriously.
“Please wear a mask, people, if not to protect yourself then for all the others folks you love or care about — it's that simple.”
McAdoo is survived by her mother, sister, uncles and extended family.
Before Eliseo del Rosario Moya left for the hospital with worsening COVID-19 symptoms on the evening of April 5, he made sure he was presentable.
“He combed his hair and brushed his teeth – even though he could barely breathe,” his son Mark Moya says.
The elder Moya died of complications related to the virus on April 10 at age 75.
A longtime resident of West Covina, Moya was known as a consummate professional and a man of great intelligence and integrity.
He worked for more than 40 years as an X-ray specialist, ultimately becoming head administrator of the radiology department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Before retiring in 2012, he also worked at several other L.A. facilities, including the Medical Center of North Hollywood.
Radiology was something of a detour for the elder Moya, who often went by “Eli.”
He immigrated to the United States from Quezon City, Philippines, when he was 23. His plan was to travel to Chicago to study medicine, but during a stopover in Los Angeles to visit a sister and friends from the Philippines, he changed his mind.
Instead, Moya settled in L.A., going on to study radiology.
Moya’s younger sister Adelina Bautista, a doctor who lives outside Chicago, said he was so smart that he could teach college physics better than his teacher.
Moya was also the leader among his eight siblings while growing up in the Baesa section of Quezon City, recalled Bautista.
“He took care of us and made sure that we were safe,” especially from boys, she added with a laugh.
He was the house chef, treating his family to chicken adobo, Filipino spring rolls and other dishes from his native country.
“He was the quintessential family man,” Mark says. “He told me that as far as he was concerned, he comes last.”
Moya was his wife’s primary caregiver, cooking her meals and taking her to appointments.
Now that responsibility will fall on Mark, who lives in the family home. He also tested positive for COVID-19 but experienced relatively mild symptoms. His mother tested negative.
A couple of months ago, before the country virtually shut down, Mark and his father talked of death.
Moya advised his son that the best way to cope with the death of a loved one is to keep moving forward with your own life.
“'Mark, this is part of the cycle of life,'" Mark remembers his father telling him. “'Don’t dwell on things you can’t control.'"
“As I come to terms with this,” Mark says of his father’s death, “I have him in my head saying that constantly.”
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.
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.
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.”
Jack Ohringer had many titles throughout his life — stock broker, property manager, retail manager — but Mr. Personality is the one that stuck.
“He had a twinkle in his eye, he had a bounce in his step, and he had the cutest little ponytail I had ever seen,” Jamie Szabadi said of the first time she met her husband. “And if you worked with him, you pretty much became a friend for life.”
Born in Pittsburgh in 1945, Ohringer earned his nickname during his days at Taylor Allderdice High School as a member of the Gamma Phi fraternity. After attending Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, he followed his passion for the ocean and enlisted in the United States Coast Guard.
In 1966, Ohringer and his best friend moved to Los Angeles, where he eventually met Szabadi in 2003. The two married in 2007 and, with Szabadi's children Kara Lyne and Zack, became a family. It was Ohringer's second marriage.
“I really do believe that he treated my brother and I like his own kids,” said his stepdaughter, Kara Lyne Szabadi. “The moment he was in our lives, it was like he had been there forever.”
Ohringer had an infectious personality. He liked to dance and was said to have appeared on "American Bandstand." He loved to be the life of the party, and his family said he brought joy to them and to his friends.
In their younger days, he and friends came up with a series of dances they'd perform at "every single bar or bat mitzvah" they attended, his wife said. "He just loved it. He loved any kind of silliness like that. And dance was like a really easy way for him to access that.”
In addition to Ohringer’s exuberance, he was a person of "unmatched" generosity and a determined gift-giver, Kara Lyne said. So when he would ask her what kind of present she wanted, she would say "a pony — knowing that he couldn't deliver or shouldn't deliver, at least. It continuously frustrated him. A couple years later, he showed up … with a stuffed animal pony, and he thought it was the funniest thing in the world.”
On May 7, when Ohringer started having unusual difficulty moving following his regular dialysis treatment, his wife knew something was wrong. At the request of his doctor, he was tested for COVID-19. After days of exhaustion and illness, Ohringer was rushed to an emergency room on May 10. He received the notification that he had tested positive for the infection on May 11.
Ohringer remained hospitalized on a ventilator until he went into cardiac arrest and died on May 25, two days after his 75th birthday.
He agreed to donate his blood and organs to assist any efforts to combat the virus.
Ohringer is survived by his wife, Jamie Szabadi; his stepchildren, Kara Lyne and Zack Szabadi; his three siblings, Cecia Hess, Lee Ohringer and David Ohringer; and numerous lifelong friends and relatives.
Later in life, Joseph Alexander, a Marine veteran and Congressional Gold Medal recipient, became a documentarian of sorts.
He liked to record things: He taped television programs and kept a scrapbook of news and magazine articles. The content varied, but mostly dealt with the military, or anything historical. When family or friends would come to his home in Hayward, he’d share an item or two from his collection.
“We called him the librarian,” his daughter Kay said. “He’d have recordings about people you’d never even heard of.”
And like a true librarian, he would let people check out shows or articles based on their interests.
“But he would want them back,” Kay said, laughing. “And he’d remind you if you forgot!”
Alexander had other nicknames, too. When General Motors, where he worked as an assembler for nearly 30 years, shuttered its Fremont assembly line in 1982, they offered him a job at their Kansas City plant. Alexander agreed to the transfer, but his wife, Elmarie, vetoed the idea, so they stayed put.
With Alexander’s willingness to leave their Bay Area life and relocate to Missouri, his family teasingly began to call him “K.C.” Mostly, though, people just called him Joe.
Six months ago, when his health began to decline amid a history of congestive heart failure, he moved into an acute nursing facility in Hayward.
Kay and her sisters would typically visit him three or four times a week. But when the lockdown began, they couldn’t visit him any longer and suddenly were unable to reach him by phone.
“We called and called, with no answer,” Kay said, “I have no idea what his health was like for those few weeks.”
In early April, Alexander was rushed to St. Rose Hospital in Hayward when he had difficulty breathing, Kay said. Two days later, on April 7, when one of his daughters called to check in on him, she was told by the hospital staff that he had died earlier that day. His positive COVID-19 test result came back the next day. He was 95.
Alexander grew up in New Orleans. At 19, he joined the Marine Corps, one of the first African Americans to do so. “A real trailblazer,” Kay said.
Alexander, like many African American soldiers at that time, did not get the recognition or veteran benefits that his white counterparts received once World War II ended. When he returned to Louisiana, he would go into restaurants–in his Marines uniform–and was still refused service, he told Kay.
Along with 6 million other African Americans seeking to escape the racial oppression in the South, Alexander decided to move west to California. Settling in Oakland, he began working at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, and soon met his wife. He remained an East Bay resident for the rest of his life.
Though 70 years late, Alexander did finally receive recognition for his service when, on Aug. 2, 2019, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for helping end segregation in the U.S. military by joining the Marines’ first African American unit.
“I’m glad he was able to get that before he died,” Kay said.
Alexander didn’t achieve all of his goals, though. He told his family he would make it to 100. He died just five years shy.
“That’s just his spirit,” Kay said. “And if it weren’t for this virus, who knows?”
The family held a small funeral service for relatives in Hayward. They paid their respects in the church–6 feet from the casket–and watched from afar as it was lowered into the grave.
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.”
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.”
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.
Rosary Castro-Olega loved Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Before Bryant’s last game, she bought an $800 nosebleed seat to watch No. 24 shoot hoops at Staples Center one last time. Her house was filled with Lakers merchandise and Bryant jerseys, her daughter said.
When Bryant died in a helicopter crash earlier this year, Castro-Olega was devastated.
Castro-Olega’s daughter Tiffany takes solace in thinking that now her mother gets to see her favorite player.
“She probably gets to watch him now all the time that she wants,” Tiffany said.
A longtime Los Angeles resident, Castro-Olega died on March 29 of COVID-19 complications at Panorama City Medical Center. She was 63.
Castro-Olega worked for 37 years as a registered nurse at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center before retiring. She continued to work as a traveling nurse at short-staffed hospitals in Los Angeles County after that.
“She was more than a nurse. She was more than a mom,” Tiffany said. “She was always taking care of everyone before herself.”
Castro-Olega and her twin sister, Rosalie, both dedicated their lives to nursing. Rosalie lives in Washington state but visits L.A. as a traveling nurse. She said she occasionally worked at the same hospitals as her sister, and on occasion, co-workers and patients mistakenly call her by her sister's name, a painful reminder of her sibling's death.
“I cry every day,” Rosalie said. “When I’m driving, I think about her.”
And although it hurts to hear people confuse their names, she’s also reminded of the memories the twins shared. The two attended grade school together in Los Angeles, where they were often separated for being too talkative. They graduated from Franklin High School in 1974.
“Sometimes we would get mischievous,” Rosalie said with a chuckle. “One time, she got in trouble and they taped her mouth.”
The twins had a favorite pastime: disco dancing. Even after 12-hour shifts at the hospital, they would find the energy to dance.
Castro-Olega graduated from the University of San Francisco with a bachelor's degree in nursing. She always did her job with a smile on her face, her daughter said. And, Tiffany added, her mother was open-minded.
Castro-Olega was in the middle of watching a Lakers game when her daughter Tiffany shared that her friend was actually her girlfriend.
“She was very accepting,” she said. Her mom loved the woman Tiffany married, she added. "I was very grateful to have a supportive mom.”
Castro-Olega fell ill during the last weeks of March and started having trouble breathing. It was unknown whether she became infected with the coronavirus at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, where she last worked. Her condition may have been complicated by a family history of heart trouble, Rosalie said.
Castro-Olega is survived by her three daughters, Tiffany, Tatiana and Trisha; her husband, Mario; and her five siblings, Jessie, Joe, Conchita, Rosalie and Pa.
It seemed as if Sallie Jones was always playing the piano.
When her granddaughter LaDaena Thomas would leave for school early in the morning, Jones’ fingers would already be flickering over the keys playing a gospel tune. When Thomas would get home, she’d be welcomed by the smell of Jones’ delicious meals and by the sound of her piano as well.
Now, seeing her grandmother’s instrument brings back memories from Thomas’ childhood and reminds her of the unstoppable woman Jones was.
“Sometimes after a rough day, I open it and I just play the songs she used to play for me,” Thomas said. “It makes me feel so much better. It’s almost like every problem that I had just goes away.”
Jones, a longtime San Diego resident, died of COVID-19 complications at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach on March 27. She was 86.
For Thomas, Jones’ grit and determination were sources of inspiration. Today, Thomas serves as the first female mayor of the borough of Penns Grove in New Jersey.
“She used to say to me, ‘I don't know what you're going to be when you grow up but make sure you leave this Earth better than what you found it,” she said. “I lead with that in my heart.”
Living with one leg never stopped Jones from doing whatever she needed to do, Thomas said. Jones’ right leg was amputated at age 18 after being diagnosed with a cancerous tumor. As a child, Thomas never even noticed her grandmother wore a prosthesis.
“She could do everything that anybody else could do,” she said. “She was a very determined woman. She was very resilient.”
Jones worked as a nurse for nearly six years, her granddaughter said, and spent most of her adult life as a stay-at-home mother and homemaker.
Jones also instilled in Thomas a love for God and the church. When Thomas was 3, she pointed up at the sky, where she saw what looked like a church with stained-glass windows and a large cross sitting on top of a cloud. When Jones looked, she said she saw it too.
“We never knew what it meant,” she said. “But it shaped who I was. From a little kid, it made me believe. She said it was God’s way of letting us know he was with me.”
Jones contracted the coronavirus at the Country Villa Belmont Heights Healthcare Center in Long Beach, where she was waiting before she could receive chemotherapy for a cancerous lump in her throat. The center has reported three positive patient cases and nine worker cases. Jones is the only known death.
Jones is survived by her husband, Sam, daughter Ernie, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“I miss her like crazy,” Thomas said.
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
Liliana Monteza was waiting at a bus stop in Van Nuys the first time she saw her future husband, Manuel Villanueva. They traded glances, then he walked up to her and asked for the time. She looked up. He was already wearing a watch.
At first, she wasn’t impressed, but she didn’t know when the bus was coming, so they started talking. They soon discovered that they were both from Peru — she was from the capital, Lima, he was from Chimbote, on the northwest coast — and with their respective families back in their home country, it was good to talk with someone who understood. They married soon after and had two twin daughters, Amy and Annie.
Villanueva tested positive for COVID-19 on April 11. He was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator. At first, he appeared to recover and was taken off the ventilator after a few weeks. He called his family to tell them he’d be home soon and to “take care of each other." But almost immediately, he developed pneumonia, then had a heart attack.
On May 8, after a monthlong battle with COVID-19, Villanueva died at 67.
Villanueva, who lived in Reseda, was a hard worker who woke up at 5 a.m. every day and “never took any days off,” his daughters said. He worked as a handyman in his native Peru, and then in an auto shop once he moved to the United States before taking a job as a maintenance worker at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana.
“Everyone knew who he was because he was always smiling,” said Kristin Charness, El Caballero’s chief financial officer.
But Villanueva’s chief joy was in his family. He was a romantic who picked his wife up from work every day and would sing to her in the car on the way home in a deep, beautiful voice — his favorites were Los Angeles Negros, Leo Dan, and Los Pasteles Verdes from his hometown of Chimbote. He brought her flowers whenever he could.
He was incandescently proud of his twin daughters and kept a photo of them on his phone background to show people. Amy and Annie were students at UC Riverside. They graduated in June, a month too late for him to see. But while he lived, he would talk about them to anyone he met. “Son mis ojos,” he would say. They are my eyes.
Villanueva is survived by his wife and daughters.
Thirty years ago, Desanka Mitrovich called her doctor to tell him she wasn’t feeling well. He urged her to call a cab and come to his office immediately, but Mitrovich, ever elegant, ever forceful, dolled herself up and waited for the bus. Only after arriving at the doctor’s office across town did she learn she was having a heart attack.
“Desa was formidable,” said her niece, Milica Mitrovich, “and the doctor still tells that story.”
A fighter to the end, Mitrovich died in San Diego on May 23 due to complications of lymphoma and COVID-19. She was 95.
Born in 1924 in Sveti Stefan, Montenegro (then part of Yugoslavia), Mitrovich was full of fire, grace and wit from the start. As a young woman, she worked as a school teacher in a small mountain village, and later became the mistress of a one-room schoolhouse. She approached her work with a strong sense of duty, and was revered for her firm-but-fair approach to education.
Many of her former students, now adults, still tell stories about how she was a “mean and wonderful” teacher, her niece said, noting that she was just as likely to bring cookies as she was to make them wash behind their ears in the nearby stream.
Mitrovich fought fervently against the Axis’ occupation of Yugoslavia during World War II, and in 1960, moved to San Diego to begin a new chapter of her life. She attended San Diego State University and was the first member of her family to graduate from college. She went on to enjoy a decades-long career at the university’s library, where she worked in the acquisitions department until retirement.
“She was forged in that crucible where women didn’t go off and have their own careers,” her niece said. “The path that she took, being a school teacher and then moving across the world and going to college, required a great deal of backbone.”
Although Mitrovich never married (she said the suitors weren’t up to her standards), she was a loyal friend who made it her “job on the weekends” to call relatives around the world and check in. She was so devoted to her family that when her niece graduated from law school on the East Coast, Mitrovich spent nearly three days on a Greyhound bus to be there.
“If she had to hitchhike or to walk, she would have found a way to do it,” Milica said.
In addition to the friends, relatives and students whose lives she touched, family members said they’d remember her for her poise, charisma, dark sense of humor and beautiful singing voice.
“She was an extraordinary woman,” her niece said. “It was not a conventional life, but it was a life lived as much on her own terms, as much as she possibly could.”
Mitrovich is survived by her sister Beba and four nieces and nephews.
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.
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.
Jacinto Abarca knew the way to his daughter Karina’s heart: Offer her fruit with Tajín, a chili-lime seasoning.
Even after working long nights cleaning the corridors of the South Coast Plaza mall in Costa Mesa, he would try to spend time with his family and bring a smile to his daughters’ faces.
“Every time he'd get his paycheck, he'd go to the grocery store and he'd surprise me with fruit,” Karina said. “He loved making us happy.”
Abarca, who was born in Puebla, Mexico, died on June 10 of coronavirus-related complications. He was 59.
Abarca, who lived in Garden Grove, was a humble, hardworking man who loved cooking carne asada for his children on his few days off, his daughter Odalis said. He enjoyed listening to his favorite singer, Joan Sebastian, and watching soccer, especially the Mexican national team.
“He loved when we would give him feedback about his food,” she said. “He would smile and wait for us to finish and he'd just start eating whatever was left over.”
Abarca was accepting and supportive of his daughter Sabrina, who came out as gay at age 14 and, a few years ago, began her transition as a transgender woman. As a child, she was sexually abused by an uncle, an experience she later shared with her father. When she told him, Sabrina said he fell to the floor.
When she first came out, Sabrina said her father told her, “I love you so much. I accept you for who you are. If you’re happy, I’m happy.”
She began transitioning at age 21 and, although it was difficult for Abarca, she said, he became used to seeing Sabrina show up at family parties in dresses, makeup and wigs.
Karina recounted: “He would always tell her that she looked beautiful.”
Abarca was admitted to a Santa Ana hospital on May 20 and placed on a ventilator four days later. His family believes he was infected at work, where they say at least two other people tested positive for COVID-19.
Abarca’s three children and wife also tested positive for the infection, but they've since recovered. The family has raised more than $10,000 via GoFundMe to help with his burial and to support the family.
“He would call me his chaparrita [little one],” Odalis said. “He would hug me and say, ‘I don’t care how old you are, you’ll always be my little girl.’
“When your parents are alive," she added, "you just take so many things for granted.”
Abarca is survived by his wife, Martha; children Karina, Odalis, Sabrina and Josue; and a grandchild.