East County News Service
December 9, 2018 (San Diego’s East County) - They were prominent in business, government, nonprofit, educationand community activism – beloved local leaders who passed away in 2018, though their legacies live on. Click each name for a full obituary.
Charles “Chuck” Hansen: A civic leader who tirelessly promoted East County and led many charitable causes, Chuck Hanson founded and chaired the San Diego East Visitors Bureau, served as an ambassador for the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce, and worked as Vice President of community relations for Viejas,overseeing the tribe’s charitable giving to countless organizations including an annual toy drive to benefit underprivileged children across our region. Chamber president Eric Lund recalled Hansen as a community icon whose “years of knowledge and experience has helped tomake San Diego East County a better place to live, work and play.”
Ernesto Martin Barrera: A Columbian immigrant who became a U.S. citizen, Ernesto Barrera became a teacher and served as Chair of San Diego State University’sSpanish Department for 15 years. Also an author, he organized literary symposiums that attracted the leading novelists and scholars of modern Spanish and Latin American Literature from around the world. He loved to teach, and never missed a day of work in his 30-year career.
Dr. Michael Long: Raised in orphanages and foster care homes, Dr. Michael Long became founder and president of the San Diego Neurological Society, with his practice in La Mesa. A Navy veteran, he held many leadership positions including president of Grossmont Healthcare District’s Board of Directors, Chief of Staff at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, and treasurer of the San Diego County Medical Society. He was honored with the hospital’s Medical Staff Distinguished Service Award in 2000 and the Grossmont Foundation Heart of Gold in 2017.
Sergeant Don Parker: Sergeant Don Parker saved many lives as head of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue operations for many years. Under his leadership, the all-volunteer search and rescue team had a 98 percent success rate finding missing children andadults at risk. He worked for the Sheriff’s department for 25 years, including working on patrol, in the jails and courts, as a training deputy, on the S.W.A.T. team, and for his last eight years, heading up Search and Rescue. “Everybody in the world is here for a purpose,” he once observed, adding that Search and Rescue meant being able to “make a positive difference.”
Marion Kathryn Barrera: Born in Brooklyn on the eve of World War II, Marion Barrera earned a master’s degree in linguistics at San Diego State University. She taught at numerous local schools and was one of the first instructors of Spanish at the newly built Cuyamaca College from 1978 to 1982, where she single-handedly developed the lab for Spanish instruction that students still use today. Also a devoted wife and mother, she passed away just 25 days after husband, SDSU professor Ernesto Martin Barrera. Their son, E.A. Barrera, reflects, “together, my parents led a life that began on the campus of UCLA and took them to Cartagena, Los Angeles, San Diego - and a lifetime of romance, family and meaningful purpose.”
Greg Eichelberger: As editor of the East County Californian and East County Herald newspapers, Greg Eichelberger covered many East County news stories and sporting events. He also freelanced for other publications and co-hosted “The Movie Guys in San Diego” show on KOGO radio. His final post was with the Blackfoot Morning News in Idaho, where he served as assistant editor. "It's been an interesting life," he said in an obituary that he wrote himself, adding, "Many sad moments, but also many wonderful and unique experiences.”
Dorothy “Dotty” Nottingham: First president and co-founder of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, Dorothy“Dotty” Nottingham was a mainstay in the community for over half a century. Born in 1923, she raised her three children in Lemon Grove schools. She and her husband were keys to founding Lemon Grove’s first park and were instrumental in other community causes. Current Lemon Grove Historical Society president Helen Ofield recalls, “Dolly and Lee were synonymous with the can-do spirit that pervaded Lemon Grove and the nation in the post World War II period. They were members of everything.”
Gladys Palast: Co-founder of the La Mesa Democratic Club along with her late husband, Gil, Gladys Palast was the first woman to enlist in the Coast Guard during World War II. Later she became a teacher and a passionate union activist in Service Employees International Union and the San Diego Teachers Union. She was a cofounder of Activist San Diego and KNSJ Radio, which established a fund in her memory to help young activists keep on marching far into the future. Her legacy has also been carried on by her daughter, Geri Palast, who became U.S. Secretary of Labor and her son, Greg Palast, is an internationally famed investigative reporter.
Robert Gardner: A video producer honored with 28 Emmy Awards, El Cajon resident Robert Gardner founded Gardner productions and also worked at KFMB-TV, the CBS affiliate, for 17 years. In a career that spanned 60 years, Gardner directed and produced award-winning television programs and commercials, documentary films, corporate communications, and multi-media productions. He won many local, national and international awards for his works, also serving as President of the Board ofGovernors for the Television Academy and as a trustee of the National Academy of Television Arts and Science. George Lewis, former NBC Today Show correspondent,recalled Gardner mentoring younger generations of creative people and serving as a long-time leader in the San Diego chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. "Emmy is shedding a tear today as are all of us who knew and loved Bob," he said upon Gardner’s passing.
Joyce Dunn: Joyce Elizabeth Dunn taught kindergarten for many years in La Mesa and Lemon Grove schools. Born on a farm in Pennsylvania, she obtained her teaching credential and master’s degree from San Diego State University. She was also active in the San Carlos Methodist Church, where she taught Sunday school and played the piano. She loved music and also played clarinet, flute and organ. In later years, she moved to Texas to be near her daughter. Her son, Greg Dunn, a columnist for East County Magazine, writes of his mother, “She had the kindest heart and we will miss her.”
Carter Yarborough: Beloved track and field coach at Valhalla High School for two decades, Carter Yarborough led the Norsemen to 10 league championships and consecutive CIF championship wins. He mentored many young athletes to attain achievements in their own college careers. A graduate of Monte Vista High School, where he was a track star, he won NCAA titles in the 10k during his own college career at Cal State Los Angeles, where he earned a degree in sports medicine. He later served in the U.S. Army and for 20 years worked at Sycuan Casino. Upon hearing of his sudden death in a motorcycle collision, Valhalla tweeted, “Valhalla lost a great coach and even better man.”
Elizabeth Yeatts: Elizabeth Yeatts resided in La Mesa for 36 years, where she was best known as the owner of Elizabeth’s Attic antique shop. In addition to being a successful business owner and expert, she also had a passion for music and taught ballroom dancing for many years. Born in Connecticut, she married a Naval officer and lived in several states, also starting a girl scout troop in Rhode Island for mentally challenged girls. The couple raised two daughters of their own, Nancy and Diana. Upon retirement, she moved to Lakeville, Massachusetts to be near family.
Paul Jacob: Paul Ernest Jacob was a Jamul community leader, retired Naval aviator and husband of Supervisor Dianne Jacob who worked tirelessly to improve fire safety for his community. He provided his ranch for use as an emergency shelter and fire operations hub during wildfires, also donating land from the Jacob ranch for use as a fire station. He was also a founding member of the Jamul Dulzura Community Planning Group and was devoted to the East County YMCA. He helped organize “The Branding,” a fundraising gala held at the Jacob ranch for 14 years, raising over $1.5 million for local Y programs.Born in Pittsburgh, he earned his Wings of Gold as a Navy Pilot before settling in San Diego. Also a pilot for TWA airlines for 26 years, he never missed a day of work. He raised black Angus cattle on his ranch, where future farmers from El Capitan High School came to learn their trade. Deerhorn Valley Antler editor Kim Hamilton says, ““While his physical presence is sorely missed, his legacy is all around us, every day.”
Richard Henry Alcorn: Richard Henry Alcorn served on the Jacumba Sponsor group, the community’s advisory planning board, helping to make land use decisions impacting his community. A local business, he was also a hiking leader with the Jacumba Hikers and Walkers. Richard Curran, a co-leader in the hiking group, recalls, “Richard was a force in the Mountain Empire Community.”
Robert Battenfield: Robert Power “Bob” Battenfield was a prominent advertising and communications expert who became a powerhouse in local nonprofits as their voice in the community. Battenfield gained leadership experience at Hoover High School as president of the class of 1956, also serving as sports editor, newsletter editor and columnist. At San Diego State University, he became news editor of the Daily Aztec, later obtaining his masters in journalism from Northwestern University. He served in the Air Force and worked at Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical as PR director, telling the world about the success of soft landing gear on the Apollo 1 spacecraft. He became marketing director for Foodmaker Inc. which ran Jack-in-the-Box restaurants and in 1979, founded Bob Battenfield & Associates in La Mesa, where his clients included Drew Ford and the Grossmont Healthcare District. He also volunteered for many nonprofits locally, including serving as President of La Mesa Kiwanis Club and Baja Presbyterian Missions.