Obituaries

Obituaries

PASSAGES: MARY VICK GENSER, ACCOMPLISHED ARTIST AND LONG-TIME LA MESA RESIDENT, 1930-2022

May 9, 2022 (La Mesa) – Mary Genser, 91, passed away on April 20, 2022, following a long battle with dementia and COVID-19.  She was an accomplished artist, long-time La Mesa resident, and mother of East County Magazine editor Miriam Raftery as well as David Genser of Poway.

She was born Mary Evelyn Vick on August 9, 1930 to Thomas Monroe Vick and Artie Ola Snider Vick in Weatherford, Texas. Raised on her family’s farm during  the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl along with her sister, Winnie Ruth Vick, she learned the values of hard work and integrity. 

“Life was hard, but life was good,” she once wrote of her early years.


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PASSAGES: JOHN BERTIS KENDRICK (1942-2022), A MAN OF MANY TALENTS

By Jamie Kendrick

March 15, 2022 (Lakeside) – Lakeside resident John Bertis “Bert” Kendrick passed away Thursday, February 17, 2022 while in the hospital at the age of 79. He formerly lived in Pine Valley, where he worked at his father’s store and helped open Pine Valley Park.  Later he served in the military and became known locally as a carpenter, equestrian, athlete and talented musician.  


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PASSAGES: COMEDIAN, MUSICIAN AND RADIO HOST RUSS T NAILZ (RUSS STOLNACK)

By Miriam Raftery

Photo via Russ T Nailz on Facebook

 

March 10, 2022 (San Diego)  He often said he’d been making people laugh since June 1957, when he was born. Yesterday, the laughter stopped when Russ Stolnack, Jr., aka Russ T Nailz, died at age 64. The long-time East County resident was a multiple Emmy award-winning entertainer best known as a comedian, radio hostmusician and celebrity auctioneer for charities.

 

On his Facebook page, he celebrated “making a living doing what I love.”

 

He also died doing what he loved, while filming "On The Air."  His  long-time TV and radio cohost, Robert “Sully” Sullivan, said Stolnack “was signing a song with the house band when he had a heart attack, and – just like that – he was gone.”


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PASSAGES: DAN RUSSELL, RETIRED FIREFIGHTER, ADOPT-A-HIGHWAY VOLUNTEER AND SUMMER CAMP INSTRUCTOR

By Miriam Raftery

February 28, 2022 (Sn Diego’s East County) – Dan Russell was a hero in more ways than one.  He worked as a firefighter for 27 years with the San Diego Fire Department. But for the past 15 years, he’s become best know for his tireless efforts to clean up trash along local freeway and other volunteer work in rural East County. But on Saturday, February 26, Russell died in his sleep at age 79.


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PASSAGES: MORRIS CASUTO, 79, DEFENDER OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE

By Donald H. Harrison, San Diego Jewish World, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

February 13, 2022 (San Diego) - Morris Casuto, the Anti-Defamation League regional director who defended San Diego County’s Jewish community against antisemites while forging good relations with other ethnic and religious groups within the county, died from leukemia Friday night, February 11, at the UCSD Jacobs Medical Center.  Graveside funeral services for Casuto, 79, will be conducted at 2 p.m., Tuesday, at El Camino Memorial Park.


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JUNIOR SEAU'S BROTHER KILLED IN HEAD-ON CRASH WITH HELIX WATER DUMP TRUCK

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Savaii Seau and his wife, Megan, on their wedding day, courtesy of the Seau family

Updated 8:30 with information on Seau's wife, Megan, the passenger in his vehicle.

February 2, 2022 (Lakeside) –  Savaii Seau, the brother of former Chargers' linebaker Junior Seau, has died of injuries sustained when the 2005 Audi A6 he was driving crossed the center line on Los Coches Road in Lakeside yesterday and struck a Helix Water District dump truck head on.

His wife, Megan, was a passenger in Seau's vehicle and remains hospitalized in stable condition, a family member told ECM.


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PASSAGES: HAROLD BROWN, ECTLC LEADER AND HOMELESS ADVOCATE, 1957-2022

By Miriam Raftery and  Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Photo via El Cajon Citizens of the Year

February 1, 2022 (El Cajon) – Pastor Harold Brown overcame homelessness and other hardships to become a community leader dedicated to helping others. As founder and CEO of the East County Transitional Living Center (ECTLC) in El Cajon, he championed programs that have helped thousands of people escape homelessness and find hope instead of despair. Brown was also senior pastor of Christian Fellowship  of El Cajon.

Following a long battle with lung cancer, he was hospitalized last week with pneumonia and passed away yesterday morning.

Community leaders voiced sorrow as well as praise for Rev. Brown’s remarkable achievements.

Audio: 


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PASSAGES: JEFF MARCUS, MAGICIAN, CLOWN AND HYPNOTIST

 

By Karen Pearlman

January 8, 2022 (Alpine) -- Jeff Marcus, an Alpine resident, was one of thousands who died from COVID-19 related issues in 2021.

An entertainer for more than four decades, Marcus's career as a magician, clown and hypnotist was stalled starting in the spring of 2020 when he was unable to perform in front crowds during the pandemic.


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PASSAGES: DIANA PICO, NURSE AND NATIVE AMERICAN HEALER

By Karen Pearlman

December 31, 2021 (Alpine) -- Trained as a nurse, Diana Pico was a healer, teacher and strong believer in spirituality.

The wife of former Viejas Tribal Chairman Anthony Pico, Diana Pico started her career in the medical field and was an oncology nurse, but she later moved into a more comfortable place to help others through alternative and native healing practices.

Pico was a survivor who beat breast cancer and liver cancer, but she died on June 3, of complications from brain cancer. Pico was 65.


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PASSAGES: RON BRADY, CONSTRUCTION LEADER AND PHILANTHROPIST

By Karen Pearlman

December 31, 2021 (La Mesa) -- Ron Brady was the founder of a high profile construction company, but it was the practice of philanthropy over the course of many decades that helped him develop some of his closest community ties.

A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Brady took over his father's business, the lath and plastering contracting firm E.F. Brady that started in 1946, and turned it into a successful construction business known as the Brady Companies. The Brady companies were instrumental in developing much of San Diego County, Los Angeles County and parts of Northern California. The companies specialize in drywall, plaster and lath that are geared toward major commercial projects.

Over the course of his lifetime, he and his wife, Mary Alice, gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars to different organizations, from Sharp Grossmont Hospital to the East County YMCA to the Boys and Girls Clubs of East County.


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MEDICAL CREW AND PILOTS KILLED IN EAST COUNTY PLANE CRASH IDENTIFIED

Photo, left: Learjet crash victims Tina Ward, Julian Bugaj, Laurie Gentz and Douglas Grande, clockwise from bottom. Photo via Oceanside Firefighters Association 3736 Facebook

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Dec. 30, 2021 (El Cajon) -- Two flight nurses and two pilots have been identified as those lost in the Learjet 35A plane crash that occurred Dec. 27 in the Bostonia neighborhood of El Cajon.  

The plane was owned by Aeromedevac Air Ambulance. Tina Ward, Julian Bugaj, Laurie Gentz, and Douglas Grande, the Aeromedevac flight crew N88OZ, all perished in the crash.


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PASSAGES: REMEMBERING LIVES LOST IN 2021

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 31, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – Lost but never forgotten, these are the prominent East County individuals who passed away in 2021, as well as two who died amid the pandemic in 2020 but were not memorialized until this year, when media was notified.

They came from all walks of life: journalists, educators, teachers, a priest, a tribal healer, a firefighter, a police officer, athletes, a musician, business leaders, students, philanthropists, an air ambulance crew, a veteran who survived the Pearl Harbor attack, and many more. Each left their own indelible mark on our region.

Click the name/title to view the full obituary for each of these local luminaries.


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PASSAGES: MIKE HANCOCK, RADIO REPORTER

By Miriam Raftery

November 27, 2021 (San Diego) – Mike Hancock, 59, traffic reporter for several local radio stations and former news director at KNSJ radio, was found dead in his San Diego residence by a friend on November 14 after an illness. His voice has also been heard on the East County Magazine Radio Show, where he was instrumental in mentoring interns and reporting on locations in East County.


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CELEBRATION OF LIFE NOV. 7 FOR UPS DRIVER KILLED IN PLANE CRASH

East County News Service

October 29, 2021 (Santee) – A celebration of life for Steve Krueger, the UPS driver killed by a plane that crashed in Santee on October 11, will be held at Santee Town Center Community Park on Sunday, November 7.  The service will be held from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. fields 1 and 2.  The Santee Town Center Community Park is located at 550 Park Center Community Park, Santee.

“We are heartbroken by the loss of our driver Steve Krueger, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends," the company's statement read. "Those who knew Steve said he took pride in his work, and his positive attitude and joyful laugh made the hardest days a little lighter."

Krueger had worked for UPS for 30 years and was just months away from retirement. He had recently purchased a retirement home in Mammoth, NBC 7 reported.


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PASSAGES: OVER 150 TRUCKERS PAY FINAL RESPECTS TO DON FAIN, EAST COUNTY TRUCKING LEGEND WHO DIED OF COVID-19

East County News Service

 

October 26, 2021 (San Diego) -- Approximately 50 family members, friends and admirers of East County trucking legend Donald “Don” Fain stood atop the Santo Road bridge over State Route 52 on Saturday morning to watch a convoy of over 150 trucks pay their respects to the recently departed Fain, owner of Don Fain Trucking in Lakeside. Fain, 77, died on September 9, according to the East County Mortuary.


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PASSAGES: BILLIE FAYE OWENS, JOURNALIST IN EAST COUNTY AND SAN DIEGO REGION

East County News Service

October 18, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) -- Billie Faye Owens, 63, a journalist in San Diego from the mid-1980s until 1996, died at Rochester General Hospital in New York on Oct. 15 from complications from congestive heart failure.

She was taken to United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, NY, with health issues on July 26 and remained hospitalized for 81 days. At no time did she test positive for COVID-19.

She was born in 1958 in Charlotte, N.C., to Barbara Jean Carter and Billie Eugene McSwain. Her mother moved her when she was 5 to San Diego where she would eventually attend San Diego State University, earning a B.A. in Journalism.

She went to work for the Daily Californian in El Cajon, Calif. in 1989, where she met her second husband, Howard Owens, then a wire and copy editor at the Daily Californian, and currently publisher of The Batavian in Batavia, NY. They were married on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene College in 1993.


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UMPIRES AND FRIENDS INVITED TO HONOR MIKE HART’S MEMORY NOV. 9 AT LA MESA NATIONAL LITTLE LEAGUE FIELD

By Miriam Raftery

October 17, 2021 (La Mesa) – A memorial service for long-time local umpire and newsman Michael “Mike” Jon Hart  will be held on November 9 at 11 a.m. at the La Mesa National Little League Field.  Hart spent years as an umpire behind the plate at the field where he also played baseball in his youth.  A 1970 graduate of Grossmont High, where he also coached, Hart spent decades umpiring local youth and college sports, became President of the San Diego County Umpires Association, and was inducted into the San Diego Sports Officials Hall of Fame.

“It would really mean a lot to our family, and a true honor to Mike, if we saw a lot of umpires in the audience,” says Carlynne Albee, sister of Hart’s wife, Michelle Harvey. Umpires are invited to dress in uniform as a tribute.

Hart, also known locally as the long-time publisher of the Julian News , died September 14 after battling brain and lung cancer.


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PASSAGES: REX COLE, GOLF PRO AT LOCAL COURSES

East County News Service

October 5, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – Rex A. Cole Sr., a PGA golf professional and instructor at several local golf courses, passed away on August 25. 


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PASSAGES: JULIAN NEWS PUBLISHER MICHAEL HART LOSES BATTLE TO CANCER

By Miriam Raftery

September 22, 2021 (Julian) – Michael Jon Hart, long-time publisher of the Julian News and past president of the San Diego County Umpires Association, died September 14 after battling brain and lung cancer. His wife, Michelle Harvey, confirmed Hart’s passing on her Facebook page.

“Mike and I have so many friends,” Harvey posted. “I am glad that we spent our lives working to help others.”

The newspaper has been for sale for months; Hart’s death leaves the future of Julian’s newspaper in limbo.  A newspaper listing in July asked $300,000 for the publication, which was described as “highly profitable” despite pandemic lockdowns.

Hart and Harvey acquired the independent weekly newspaper on July 4, 2004; the paper has been the voice of Julian, CA since 1984. It’s been a labor of love for Hart, who covered major news stories ranging from the 2007 Witch Creek Fire that ravaged the region to controversies involved the county’s acquisition of Julian’s formerly all-volunteer fire department. Hart sometimes took heat for his coverage but took pride in covering all sides of community issues, according to Harvey.


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PASSAGES: VERN MARSTON, "MR. POWAY"

Source:  Poway Chamber of Commerce

September 2, 2021 (Poway) - The Poway Chamber today announced the passing of long-time Chamber member and former Chamber President, Vernard “Vern” Marston. Vern, a 49-year resident of Poway, died with his family at his side on August 24, 2021. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, community banker, retired USAF Lt. Colonel, and dedicated member of the Poway Chamber of Commerce. Vern was often referred to as "Mr. Poway".


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ECM PADRES REPORT: DODGERS SWEEP PADRES 4-0

By Liz Alper
 
Photo:  Trent Grisham's home run-saving catch was the only highlight of tonight.  Via @padres on Twitter 
 
August 26, 2021 (San Diego) - Last night, the Padres and Dodgers played 16 innings and guess what?  The Padres still lost.  So tonight’s game was just for fun to see if they could salvage a game.  A great pitching matchup awaited in Max Scherzer for L.A. against Yu Darvish.

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GROSSMONT HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT KILLED IN FLETCHER HILLS CRASH, PASSENGERS SERIOUSLY INJURED

 

TEEN DRIVER HAD HISTORY OF STREET RACING

 

Update September, 12, 2021:  Passenger Jiovanni Solorio Roman, who was in a coma after the crash, has died, 10 News reports.

 

Update August 23, 2021:  The student killed in a high-speed crash has been identified by his father as Gady Cruz, NBC 7 reports.  One of the passengers, Jiovanni Solorio Roman, is in a coma, according to his mother. Identities of the other two injured passengers have not been disclosed. According to the Medical Examiner, Cruz was 16 years old and was not wearing a seatbelt when the vehicle crashed and overturned. CBS 8 reports that Cruz  previously posted videos on social media of himself racing at speeds over 100 miles per hour on local freeways.

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

August 21, 2021 (El Cajon) – A black 2018 Honda Civic crashed into a traffic light pole at the intersection of Fletcher Parkway and Navajo Road in Fletcher Hills around 2:11 a.m. The driver, a senior at Grossmont High School, died and three passengers were seriously injured, including two 11th grade Grossmont students.

 

In a press release, the Grossmont Union High School District stated, “Our district is working closely with the El Cajon Police Department as their investigation of the incident continues. Due to privacy,our district is unable to release further information regarding the students’ names or health conditions. We will release more information as we are able to do so. As our school community begins to deal with this tragedy, our district will be providing additional grief support on campus at GrossmontHigh School and will also make it available to students throughout our close-knit GUHSD community.”


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ECM PADRES REPORT: ROX ROB PADS WITH WALK OFF HOMER

By Liz Alper
 
Photo:  Jake Cronenworth via @padres on Twitter 
 
August 16, 2021 (Denver) - The Padres avoided a sweep yesterday, but in general, they want to leave that awful series in Phoenix.  Today, they looked ahead to Colorado.  Ryan Weathers started tonight’s game one against Antonio Senzatela for Colorado.

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PASSAGES: 'NEVER FORGET': DAN WALTERS OF PADRES, SDPD, SANTANA HIGH SCHOOL MOURNED AT A DELAYED FUNERAL

By Ken and Chris Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo:  San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit speaks at the funeral for Dan Walters, a police officer and former San Diego Padres catcher. Image from Facebook

August 11, 2021 (San Diego) - It was important to Dan Walters not to be forgotten.

More than a year after his death, hundreds of police officers and friends assured that wouldn’t happen at a funeral postponed by COVID-19.

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BRIANA GOMEZ, MULTI-CULTURAL JOURNALIST FOR ECM, DIES IN ROLLOVER CRASH

By Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine

August 3, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) –East County Magazine’s staff is shocked and saddened to learn that our beloved multicultural journalist Briana Paul Gomez, 31, died in a rollover vehicle crash Sunday morning, August 1, 2021.

“We are all devastated at this tragic loss of a young reporter passionate about diversity issues,” said Miriam Raftery, Editor of East County Magazine. “Briana always strived to tell all sides of the issues she covered and had a promising future as a journalist. She was generous, compassionate, and a cherished friend as well as a talented writer. Our hearts are with her family, especially her young daughter.”


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PASSAGES: STU HEDLEY DIES AT 99 OF COVID-19; PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR STAYED ALERT, NEVER LOST FAITH

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo:  Pearl Harbor survivor Stu Hedley joked in 2019 that he was turning 89 the next month before telling people to transpose the number to 98. Photo by Chris Stone

August 5, 2021 (San Diego) - Stu Hedley credited a lesson his dad taught him for saving his life at Pearl Harbor in 1941. 

“You know how kids are always leaning back in the chair, even though we tell them not to?” he told a Casa de Oro Library audience in 2011. “Well, I used to do that as a young boy, even though my dad was constantly getting on me about it.”

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CELEBRATION OF LIFE FOR FATHER JOE CARROLL: AUGUST 10 AT SAN DIEGO CONVENTION CENTER

East County News Service

Update: For those who missed the celebration of life, you can view it, along with a memorial wall, here:

August 5, 2021 (San Diego) – The community is invited to celebrate Father Joe Carroll’s decades of service and compassion for neighbors in need. The celebration of life will take place August 10 at 10:30 a.m. at San Diego Convention Center, 111 West Harbor Drive, San Diego in Hall H. 

RSVP: To reserve a free ticket for this event, click here.


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PASSAGES: FUND ESTABLISHED TO HELP FAMILY OF ANTHONY CANO, YOUNG LAKESIDE FIREFIGHTER AND FATHER WHO DIED

By Miriam Raftery

Memorial service and fund to help family of Anthony Cano announced



July 29, 2021 (Lakeside) – Anthony Cano, 27, dreamed of being a firefighter from an early age.  For the past five years, he was living his dream as a firefighter and paramedic with the Lakeside Fire Protection District, while enjoying family time with his two children, ages 7 and 2.  But on July 8, he passed away unexpectedly at his home in Temecula of undisclosed causes.


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PASSAGES: FATHER JOE CARROLL, PRIEST WHO CHAMPIONED HELP FOR HOMELESS, 1940-2021

 

“Father Joe Carroll stands distinguished in our county and in our nation.” – Bishop Robert W. McElroy

Famed priest once served at Our Lady of Grace Catholic church in El Cajon

 

Update: For those who missed the celebration of life, you can view it, along with a memorial wall, here:

 

By Miriam Raftery

July 11, 2021 (San Diego) – Father Joe Carroll, the Catholic priest famed for his leadership to help the homeless, died this morning at his home in the East Village at age 80. The President of Emeritus of Father Joe’s Villages leaves behind a profound legacy of compassion and decades of accomplishments to help people in need.

Carroll’s pioneering vision of a comprehensive “one-stop-shop” for homeless services led to the founding of Father Joe’s Villages, the largest and most comprehensive homeless services provider in San Diego County.


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PASSAGES: GREG BARR, FORMER GROSSMONT-CUYAMACA SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEE

By Miriam Raftery
 
June 26, 2021 (El Cajon) – Former Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College school board trustee Greg Barr, an El Cajon resident, has passed away after a heart-related illness.  
His wife, Marlene Jansky Barr, announced on Facebook, “With deep sadness, I need to let our friends know that my dear husband, Greg Barr, experienced a cardiac event and passed away unexpectedly while on vacation in Eugene, Oregon, on June 19, 2021. Greg was hospitalized briefly in Eugene and received excellent and very compassionate medical care throughout his hospitalization. He was at peace, free of pain, and surrounded by family at the time of his passing.”
 
Barr was first elected to the GCCCD board in December 2006 and served until his retirement in November 2018.  He previously taught American and world history at Fallbrook Union High School from 1985 to 2006, as well as metal working and world cultures.

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