Obituaries

Obituaries

WOMAN DIES IN FIERY EL CAJON CRASH

Updated Feb. 24 with information on fundraising effort to help toddler critically injured in crash

By Miriam Raftery

February 8, 2024 (El Cajon) – A woman who died January 28 in a fiery El Cajon crash has been identified as Katalina “Katy” Frausto Aguilar, 43, of El Cajon. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her widow and their children.

A separate GoFundMe fundraiser has been launched to pay medical bills of Akeel, a 17-monthh-old toddler who suffered serious head and neck injuries in the crash. Akeel was asleep in his father's SUV parked at a stoplight when Aguilar lost control of her vehicle while driving the wrong direction on I-8. View article with latest updates on Akeel's condition.


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PASSAGES: ERNEST EWIN, FORMER LA MESA COUNCILMAN AND CIVIC LEADER

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Councilman Ernie Ewin  at the La Mesa railway depot, during kickoff of the city's 2012  Centennial.

January 3, 2024 (La Mesa) -- Former La Mesa City Councilman Ernest “Ernie” Ewin died December 28, 2023 at age 76 in Utah from complications of vascular dementia.  Ewin served 18 years on the City Council, previously serving on the city’s planning commission, and held many other civic leadership positions, contributing to East County communities in the fields of education, healthcare, and more.

Ewin represents the City on the Metropolitan Transit Board (MTS), where he has chaired the audit committee. He chaired the Metro Waste Water Joint Powers Authority and served as Executive Director of the Grossmont College Foundation’ board of directors and as donor relations specialist for the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges. In addition, he was Chairman of the Prop G Grossmont Healthcare District's Independent Oversight Committee and served on the board of the East County Visitors’ Bureau.

 He was also  a founding member of the San Diego Trolley Board of Directors, past member of the County of San Diego Finance Review Panel, past Chairman of the San Diego County Organization Assessment Panel, and past Chairman of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca District's Prop R Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee. He also chaired a volunteer finance committee for the city’s 2012 Centennial celebration.


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PASSAGES: ROB DEASON, RETIRED TEACHER

By Miriam Raftery

January 3, 2024  (Jamul)—Rob Deason, a retired teacher in the San Diego Unified School District and husband of Deerhorn Valley Antler publisher Kim Hamilton, died last night after a long illness and several months in home hospice care.

Originally from  Los Angeles, Deason studied liberal arts at California Western University.  A talented woodworker, he also studied woodworking and electronics at San Diego Sate University California. He married Hamilton in 1987.

His articles and photos on backcountry life appeared in the Deerhorn Valley Antler.


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PASSAGES: LOCAL LEADERS AND LUMINARIES LOST IN 2023

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 31, 2023 (San Diego’s East County) – As the year draws to a close, we honor the memories and legacies of local leaders and luminaries who passed away in 2023—gone but never forgotten.

This year's list of leaders lost includes several prominent elected officials, leaders in business and philanthropy, a tribal chairwoman, a Holocaust survivor, an SDSU professor, a BMX champion athlete, a sports team owner, a well-known community volunteer, an author and radio host, a former fire chief, and a popular musician.

Below are highlights of their remarkable accomplishments, listed in chronological order of their passing,  with links to full obituaries.


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PASSAGES: HOWARD WAYNE, FORMER SAN DIEGO ASSEMBLYMEMBER

 
November 16, 2023 (San Diego) -- The Honorable Howard Wayne (former Assemblyman, AD-78) died Thursday, Nov. 2 on his 75th birthday at Scripps Green Hospital after lapsing into a coma, his wife Mary Lundberg announced Saturday.
 
Wayne served in the state Assembly for three terms, from 1996 to 2002, and thereafter returned to his job as an assistant state attorney general focusing on consumer fraud. After retirement, he continued in public service and was a member of the San Diego County Grand Jury when he took ill.
 
A “celebration of life” for the late former Assemblyman Howard Wayne (D-San Diego) has been scheduled for 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, at Elijah’s Restaurant, 7061 Clairemont Mesa, according to his wife Mary Lundberg.

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PADRES OWNER AND COMMUNITY PHILANTHROPIST PETER SEIDLER DIES

By Miriam Raftery

November 14, 2023 (San Diego) – San Diego Padres chairman and owner Pete Seidler, beloved by fans for investing in star players and bringing the team to the National League Championship playoffs last year, died today at age 63.

Asked by a reporter last year about the Padres’ 2023 payroll, Seidler replied with a smile, ”I kind of like spending money. You can’t take it with you." 

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the family’s plan is for the Padres to remain in Seidler’s family for generations.

Padres CEO Erik Greupner stated in a press release that the Padres are mourning the loss of their “beloved” chairman, whom he recalled as a “kind and generous man” devoted to his family as well as for having a “heartfelt compassion for others, especially those less fortunate.  His impact on the city of San Diego and the baseball world will be felt for generations. His generous spirit is now firmly embedded in the fabric of the Padres.”


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PASSAGES: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF SANDRA BURR, CO-FOUNDER OF EDCO AND COMMUNITY PHILANTHROPIST

By Jessyka Heredia

Photo, left:  The late Ed and Sandy Burr

October 27, 2023 (La Mesa)— San Diego’s East County has lost one of its most beloved philanthropists and local business owners, Sandy Burr. Burr passed away at Sharp Grossmont Hospital on October 11, 2023, at 84. Sandra Burr and her late husband, Edward “Ed” Gene Burr, founded EDCO, creating a legacy of giving back and engaging with East County that shaped the way EDCO is viewed today as a company for the customers they serve.


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PASSAGES: EL CAJON’S LONG SERVING MAYOR MARK LEWIS (1948-2023), WHO LED EFFORTS TO REVITALIZE HEART OF THE CITY

 

By Miriam Raftery

October 19, 2023 (El Cajon) – Mark Lewis, who served El Cajon as mayor and city councilman for 25 years overseeing major changes the community, has died of complications from a stroke suffered last year.  His family members were with him  at a hospice center, where he passed away on October 12, 2023 at age 75.

“He loved El Cajon and everyone in it,” his wife, Sarah Christine “Chris” Lewis, told East County Magazine.

He led the city through a recession and a centennial, leading efforts to revitalize downtown, bring "fun" to city residents and create a cleaner, greener community for future generations.

The affable mayor, known for his sense of humor and commitment to a clean environment,  also served as the County of San Diego’s waste management coordinator, chaired SANDAG’s public safety board, was foreman of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Grand Jury, served on the Draft Board and on the Indian Gaming Commission.

A complex, larger-than-life figure, Lewis also wrote poetry and authored a book of Haiku dedicated to mankind "in the hope that those who read it,will act in some way,as to improve the existence of man." In his younger days,he enjoyed  stints as a stand-up comedian.

But he was most proud of leading efforts to revitalize downtown El Cajon and implement green programs that cleaned up the city’s air pollution.


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PASSAGES: JOHN MENDOZA, (1944-2023) RETIRED GROCERY WORKER AND HUSBAND OF COUNCILMEMBER JENNIFER MENDOZA

East County News Service
 
September 12, 2023 (Lemon Grove) – John Mendoza, a retired grocery worker, active community volunteer and husband of Lemon Grove Councilmember Jennifer Mendoza, died of a heart attack on September 3.
 
Councilmember Mendoza made the announcement “with a heavy heart” on Facebook, recalling him as “an amazing husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, friend, Lion, Christian.”

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BODY FOUND IN LAKESIDE RIVERBED IDENTIFIED AS MARSHA “SWEETS” WOODS

 

By Shiloh Ireland

 

August 4, 2023 (Lakeside) — A body found in a makeshift encampment near El Capitan in Lakeside has been identified as Marsha Woods, 48, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office told  East County Magazine.

Her body was found in a riverbed area near Mapleview Street and state Route 67 in Lakeside about 8:30 a.m. on August 3, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

This reporter visited the encampment on August 19,  where a camp resident named Christian (who did not provide his last name) said he was in a relationship with Woods.  He said he found Woods unresponsive, became scared and called the Sheriff’s department.  She was deceased when first responders arrived.


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PASSAGES: MARK BAKER, FORMER LAKSEIDE FIRE CHIEF (1953-2023)

 

East County News Service

August 5, 2023 (Lakeside) – Lakeside Fire Protection District Director and former Fire Chief Mark Thomas Baker died July 10 after complications following a medical procedure for a heart issue.

“He was dedicated to his work to ensure the success of the Lakeside Fire District and the safety of the residents he served,” says a statement from the district on Facebook, which voiced “great sadness” at his passing.

The California Fire Chiefs Association issued a statement recalling Chief Baker as not only “a dedicated professional, but he was also a kind-hearted individual with a great sense of humor. He brought joy to those around him and always had a smile on his face.  He will be greatly missed by all those in the fire service that not only knew him, but also looked to him as a leader and mentor."


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PADRE DAM VICE PRESIDENT AUGUST “AUGIE” CAIRES PASSES AWAY

August 4, 2023 – Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s Board Vice President and former General Manager August A. Caires passed away on August 2.

Board President Bill Pommering shares, “Augie served this District and his community with outstanding distinction for nearly 30 years. He was a good friend and colleague to many of us. He will be missed greatly.”

Caires led the District as General Manager from 1993 to 2006 and served on Padre Dam’s Board of Directors from 2007 to 2023. He served as Board President in 2009 and 2017 and Vice President in 2008, 2011, 2015-2016 and 2023. Caires served on the East County Advanced Water Purification Program’s Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors from 2019 to 2023. He was also a Veteran of the United States Army.


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PASSAGES: DANNY “DAN” JEITLER, 1949-2023

June 28, 2023 (Lemon Grove)-- Danny Jeitler, a beloved Army veteran hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, passed away on June 1, 2023 in Lemon Grove, leaving behind cherished memories and a deep sense of loss among all who knew him. His life was marked by bravery, dedication, and a passion for his hobbies that brought joy to his heart.

Born in 1949, Danny embarked on a life journey that led him to serve his country with honor as a dedicated member of the United States Army. His military service exemplified his unwavering commitment, bravery, and love for his country.


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CELEBRATION OF LIFE FOR FORMER LEMON GROVE COUNCILMAN TOM CLABBY ON JUNE 17

By Miriam Raftery

June 12, 2023 (Lemon Grove) – A celebration of life service for former Lemon Grove City Councilman Tom Clabby will be held on Saturday, June 17 from 1-4 p.m.at the H. Lee House in Treganza Heritage Park, 3200 Main Street in Lemon Grove.

Clabby passed away on January 22 in the company of family and friends. He served on the Lemon Grove City Council for 14 years from 1994 to 2008, after previously serving on the city’s planning commission. He was also the city’s appointed representative to Metropolitan Transit System, providing leadership at the agency.


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BMX CHAMPION KILLED IN JUMP AT X-GAMES TRACK IN RAMONA

By Miriam Raftery

June 7, 2023 (Ramona) -- The rider who died yesterday afternoon in a crash while performing jumps at the Slayground Motocross Park in Ramona as been identified as Patrick Michael Casey of Riverside, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office. 

A  BMX champion who turned pro at age16,  Casey is remembered as "an incredible BMX rider, multiple X games, Simple Session medalist, and an all-around fantastic human," Simple Session posted on Facebook. "We are heartbroken about the news and sending lots of love and prayers to his wife, Chase, his son Reid, and his daughter Taytum. This crushing news will send shockwaves through the BMX and action sports world today."


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PASSAGES: MEMORIAL SERVICE JULY 15 FOR WORDSMITH CHARLES HARRINGTON ELSTER

May 31, 2023 (San Diego) – A memorial service has been scheduled for renowned author and radio host Charles Harrington Elster, who died March 1, 2023 of cancer at his home in Kensington. The memorial will be held on Saturday, July 15 at 2 p.m. at the Kensington Community Church, 4773 Marlborough Drive, San Diego.

Best known as the original co-host of  “A Way With Words” on KPBS from 1998 to 2004, Elster was a passionate logophile, or lover of words. The show’s founding cohost, Richard Lederer, remembers Elster as “a real communicator with a great voice.”

Elster also authored a dozen books on pronunciation, vocabulary and style, starting with There is No Zoo in Zoology and Is There a Cow in Moscow?” He penned high school vocabulary-building novels Tooth and Nail: A Novel Approach to the SAT and Test of Time: A Novel Approach to the SAT and ACT.  His last book, How to Tell Fate from Destiny and Other Skillful Word Distinctions, came out in 2018.


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PASSAGES: FORMER LA MESA COUNCILMAN GUY MCWHIRTER, 1955-2023

East  County News Service

May 28, 2023 (La Mesa) – Former La Mesa City Councilman Guy McWhirter died May 26, 2023 after a long battle with cancer.  A strong voice for La Mesa’s business community, who helped develop the village merchants’ association, McWhirter was also a long-time insurance agent and a Bishop in the Church of  Latter Day Saints for La Mesa's second ward in the 1990s.

A memorial service will be held on  Friday,  June 2 at 3 p.m. at the LDS church at 5555 Aztec Drive in La Mesa.

McWhirter was elected to the La Mesa City Council in November 2014 and served through 2018, after previously serving on the city’s planning commission.  In a 2018 interview with East County Magazine, he said serving on the Council had been “one of the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had,” adding that he enjoyed “working with people who want to make a difference.”

On the Council, he supported programs to boost business in the downtown village, from a farmer’s market to Oktoberfest. He supported efforts to help the homeless and approve the city’s landmark climate action plan.

 In a 2014 ECM interview, McWhirter provided his definition of leadership. “Be an example by being the hardest worker and have the ability of encouraging others by giving them a vision of what we are trying to accomplish.  Always listen and be willing to accept new ideas.”


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PASSAGES: FORMER BARONA TRIBAL CHAIR JOSEPHINE BEATRICE ROMERO

By Miriam Raftery

April 2, 2023 (Lakeside) – Born in an era when Native American children were sent off to Indian schools and career opportunities were limited due to prejudice, Josephine "Sister" Beatrice Romero overcame those obstacles to become a Tribal Chair and leader who helped usher in Indian gaming in California and establish a museum to teach tribal history and cultural heritage to future generations.

 On March 26, 2023, she passed away at age 94, but her enduring legacy lives on.


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PASSAGES: SDSU PROFESSOR DIES OF LEGIONNAIRE’S DISEASE

By Miriam Raftery

March 7, 2023 (San Diego) – Michael J. Buono, a professor at San Diego State University, has died of Legionnaire’s disease, SDSU confirmed today. He was a faculty member in the School of Exercise and Nutritional Science and had been with SDSU for four decades.


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CELEBRATION OF LIFE MARCH 3 FOR DAVID STEELE, COMMUNITY LEADER

February 28, 2023 (Rancho San Diego) – David “Dave” Steele has passed away of suddenly of congestive heart failure. Named small businessman of the year by the San Diego East County Chamber in 2022, Steele owned Pure Solar Power and was known as the “East County Solar Guy.”  He was also an elected member of the Valley De Oro Community Planning Group and an active member of the La Mesa Business Networking International group.

A celebration of life will be held on Friday, March 3 at 2 p.m. at Skyline Church, 11330 Campo Rd. in Rancho San Diego.


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HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR ROSE SCHINDLER, A FREQUENT SAN DIEGO SPEAKER, DEAD AT 93

By Chris Jennewein, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

File photo, Rose Schindler, courtesy of Times of San Diego

February 21, 2023 (San Diego) -- Holocaust survivor Rose Schindler, who lived in San Diego for decades and spoke frequently to students about the tragic era, has died at 93 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Just three weeks before her death, she spoke to students at the new UC San Diego Glickman Hillel Center about her ordeal in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in Poland.

Schindler was just 14 when she and her family arrived at the camp from Czechoslovakia. She told the guards she was 18, and along with her older sisters was directed to a line, put to work, and survived World War II.


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PASSAGES: DANE TERRY, COFOUNDER OF CADILLAC WRECKERS BAND

By Miriam Raftery

February 17, 2023 (San Diego’s East County) – Dane Terry, 67, co-founder of the Cadillac Wreckers jazz and blues band, lost his life February 13 of injuries sustained when an SUV ran a red light in San Carlos and struck the motorcycle Terry was riding.  He was known as “Mr. Chromatonic” and was widely known and respected among San Diego’s music community.

A resident of El Cajon, Terry moved to San Diego County in 1987 from Los Angeles. His musical interest began early in life, when his parents gave him a harmonica before he started school. Later, he sang in church and played with several blues bands before founding a harmonica trio and later, the Cadillac Wreckers band, in which Terry played harmonica as well as serving as vocalist.

The band has performed jazz, blues and dance music at popular venues across the county including House of Blues, Humphrey’s Backstage Live!, and the Gator by the Bay festival. They also performed at many East County venues including street festivals, Spring Harp Fest in La Mesa, Hooley’s Irish Pub and Girll, Main Tap Tavern, and Wynola Pizza and Bistro. He was also amember of a bluegrass band headed by Chris Clarke.


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PASSAGES: FORMER LEMON GROVE COUNCILMAN TOM CLABBY

East County News Service

February 8, 2023 (Lemon Grove) – Former Lemon Grove City Councilman Thomas "Tom" Clabby passed away on January 22 in the company of family and friends. He served on the Lemon Grove City Council for 14 years from 1994 to 2008, after previously serving on the city’s planning commission. He was the city’s appointed representative to Metropolitan Transit System, providing leadership at the agency.


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PASSAGES: REMEMBERING LIVES LOST IN 2022


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PASSAGES: CHUCK MUSE, 89, FORMER HELIX WATER BOARD PRESIDENT

East County News Service

November 16, 2022 (La Mesa) – Charles William “Chuck” Muse, long-serving member and past president of the Helix Water District, died November 10.

 

"We at Helix Water District are saddened by the news of Chuck Muse’s passing," said Kathleen Coates Hedberg, current president of Helix Water District’s board of directors. "He served on the Helix Board from 2004-2016 and represented the communities of Lemon Grove and La Mesa. He was active in the community on many boards. We are grateful for his service and he will be missed."


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PASSAGES: VIVIAN YUBETA-JACKSON, PROFESSOR OF FORENSIC SCIENCES AND NCIS CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATOR

October 14, 2022 (El Cajon) – Vivian "Viv" Yubeta-Jackson passed away on September 24, 2022.  The East County native was bset known as a professor of forensic sciences at National University and as a Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) crime scene investigator, as well as a beloved wife, mother and grandmother.

Born in El Cajon, CA, on January 2, 1956, Vivian Yubeta graduated in 1974, married her El Cajon Valley High School sweetheart, Kerry Jackson (1956-2007) and attended college while raising two sons.


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OBITUARIES: SDSU PRESIDENT EMERITA SALLY ROUSH, 1947-2022

Roush returned in 2017 to lead the university as interim president after more than 30 years as a senior administrator.

By Jeff Ristine, SDSU News Center

October 12, 2022 (San Diego) - Sally Roush, who helped to fashion a sweeping expansion of San Diego State University now underway in Mission Valley during a year as interim president, has died.


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WHO WAS THOMAS MORENO? THE NAME, A PHOTO, AND THE STORY BEHIND THE BODY FOUND IN A LAKESIDE POND

By Shiloh Ireland

October 5, 2022 (Lakeside) -- On  August 1, 2022, Thomas “Bogi” Moreno's body was found in the pond at Willow Road and Moreno Road, Lakeside. He was 50 years old. This investigative reporter has followed up with conversations with his sister, Rosa Moreno of  Los Angeles, and with a San Diego County Sheriff’s homicide investigator, to learn more about the victim’s life and the circumstances surrounding his death.


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PASSAGES: JAMES PEASLEY, VP OF PADRE DAM MUNICIPAL WATER DISTRICT

By Mike Allen

August 5, 2022 (Santee) -- James Peasley, who served on the board of the Padre Dam Municipal Water District for 12 years starting in 2010 and was its current vice president, died Aug. 2, the Santee-based water district announced.


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PASSAGES: BETTY MCMILLEN, LAKESIDE HISTORICAL SOCIETY PAST PRESIDENT

By Miriam Raftery

June 13, 2022 (Lakeside) – Betty Jean McMillen, 82, passed away in her sleep at her Lakeside home on May 29, 2022. McMillen served five terms as President of the Lakeside Historical Society and has long been a key voice for the organization, still co-chairing publicity and social media for the LHS at the time of her death, along with Billy Ortiz.

"In many ways, Betty was the heart of LHS and she will be missed every day," co-president Gary E. Mitrovich  wrote in the LHS newsletter. "Betty's impact on Lakeside is immeeasurable and exemplary. She was well-known and well-liked by the Lakeside community. She leaves us a tremendous legacy that will not be forgotten," he added.


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