Obituaries

Obituaries

​PASSAGES: RHONDA BURT, 57, HIKING LEADER

By Miriam Raftery
 
February 20, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Rhonda Burt, 57, died doing what she loved most – hiking.  On Saturday, Feb. 15, the hiking leader was on the trail with the Jacumba Hikers group through rugged terrain in the Anza-Borrego desert when she suffered a fatal heart attack.
 
She had stopped to rest several times. Another hiker looked back, saw her lying on the ground and rushed to assist her. 911 was called, A Sheriff’s helicopter and ambulance responded, but efforts to resuscitate her failed. Burt, a resident of Imperial, was pronounced dead at the scene, on McCain Valley Road in Boulevard.

LA MESA MAILMAN KILLED BY HIT AND RUN DRIVER ON DEHESA RD.; JULIAN MAN CHARGED

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo via Featheringill Mortuary
 
February 1, 2020 (La Mesa) – La Mesa resident Kevin Charles Wilson 56, was struck by a Mitsubishi Mirage while riding his bicycle Jan. 20 on Dehesa Rd. near Singing Hills Golf Course in rural East County.  He was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, where he was pronounced dead of his injuries.

PASSAGES: CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER CARROL WAYMON, 1925-2020

By Miriam Raftery

Memorial service has been moved to Bethel Baptist Church on Jan. 24. See details below.

Photo: Carrol Waymon PhD, watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama during a celebration at the Malcolm X Library in San DIego in January, 2009.

January 12, 2020 (San Diego)--San Diego’s most prominent civil rights leader, Carrol Waymon PhD, passed away in early January at age 94.  As executive director of San Diego’s first human rights agency, the Citizens Interracial Committee, he was a tireless fighter for justice who broke down many barriers for people of color.

Born May 15, 1925, Waymon was the grandson of a slave and son of a Methodist minister.  He was one of seven children, including his sister, the late jazz musician Nina Simone. While working on the Los Angeles Human Relations Agency in 1964, he was asked by San Diego's City Council  to come to San Diego and help address racial issues. He moved here and never left,  leading the Citizens Interracial Committee and devoting his life to attaining equal rights for all.

ECM interviewed Waymon in January 2009, during a local viewing of the inuauguration of Barack Obama, our nation’s first African-American president.  For Waymon, who once served as San Diego’s delegate to the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr., Obama’s election was a major milestone hailed by Waymon.  “It is incredible to me. I couldn’t imagine at that time in 1968 that we’d have a black president 40 years later,” he said.

PASSAGES: “HAWK WATCH” WILDLIFE RESEARCHER JOHN DAVID BITTNER DIES AFTER FALL IN SAN PASQUAL VALLEY

By Miriam Raftery

January 11, 2020 (Ramona) – John David "Dave" Bittner, 75, of Julian was known to many for the “Hawk Watch” programs he led for decades at the Wildlife Research Institute in Ramona that he founded, and later at the Begent Ranch.  On Thursday, Bittner died of a 50-foot fall suffered while rappelling down to replace batteries and memory cards in a camera near a Golden Eagle nest in the Bandy Canyon area in the San Pasqual Valley.

“We will miss him dearly and are so thankful for his work and dedication to saving wildlife and their special habitat,” the Wildlife Research Institute posting on its Facebook page.  The institute, of which Bittner served as director, pledged to continue hosting Hawk Watch and planned an impromptu memorial service this morning at the Begent Ranch.

Bittner and his wife,Leigh, had a passion for protecting wildlife and purchased 3,000 acres that they donated to the county to buy the Ramona Grasslands preserve and sell property to the Nature Conservancy as a wildlife preserve. That is home to many raptors, including bald eagles.

PASSAGES: LOCAL LEADERS LOST IN 2019

By Miriam Raftery 
December 29, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) –  These local leaders who passed on in 2019 left their indelible marks on our communities, gone but never forgotten.
 
GEORGE BAILEY  -- Shortly after celebrating his 100th birthday, former La Mesa Mayor and San Diego County Supervisor died at his home on March 11th of congestive heart failure.  He served on the San Diego Association of Regional Governments (SANDAG), chaired the California Councils of Government and was director of the National Association of Regional Councils.. The George Bailey Detention Center was named in his honor, due to his support for winning voter approval to fund  construction.  He was also instrumental in preserving the cross atop Mt. Helix and improving traffic in our region. He is remembered as a leader who left behind an indelible stamp on East County and the San Diego region, drawing respect from colleagues on both sides of the political aisle. 
 
JIM BELL -- Jim Bell, ecological designer and internationally recognized expert on sustainable development who twice ran for mayor of San Diego, was a graduate of El Capitan High School in Lakeside. His vision was vast:  to transform the San Diego/Tijuana Regional economy” from one that relied almost entirely on imported water and energy into an economy that would be prosperous and 100% renewable--energy, water and food self-sufficient--creating a model for others to emulate around the world. He died at age 77 of complications from a stroke. 
 

PASSAGES: FRANK READ, 108, EARLY LA MESA PHARMACIST

By Miriam Raftery

 

December 26, 2019 (La Mesa) – Frank Read, former owner of Read Pharmacy and pharmacist at Grossmont Hospital, passed away today at his home in La Mesa’s Windsor Hill neighborhood.  He was 108—older than the city of La Mesa.  Back in 2012, when the city celebrated its centennial, Read provided an exclusive interview to East County Magazine, reflecting back on his carefree childhood days of riding a bike to the bay, swimming at local watering holes and watching helium dirigibles. He shared many memories of early La Mesa, also recalling hardships in World War I, Prohibition and the Great Depression as well as his pharmacy career and travels later in life.

 

Below is our original article, reprinted in full:

PASSAGES: POTRERO RESIDENT JACQUELINE “JACKIE” HICKS, 92

December 11. 2019 (Potrero) -- Jacqueline "Jackie" Eleanor Hicks, age 92, who was born in San Francisco, passed away peacefully at home on November 21, 2019.  Her smile and loving ways will be missed by all who new her, especially her husband of 74 years, Earl Hicks along with her 5 surviving children; Stephanie, Valerie, Jennifer, Paul and Jessica - preceding her in death where her 3 boys; Thomas, James, and Timothy.  She is also survived by; 16 grandchildren, 29 great grandchildren, 2 great-great grandchildren, and 2 Godchildren.  Jackie, as most people called her, made friends everywhere, especially in San Diego's back country.  When moving to Potrero, with her husband and children over 40 years ago, she immediately became a parishioner of St. Adelaide of the Burgundy Catholic Church in Campo.  Throughout the year's she gave of her time and talents to many activities and events while raising her large family.

Services will be held at St. Adelaide's Catholic Church, located at 1347 Dewey Place, Campo, CA 91906, on Saturday, December 21, 2019. The Rosary will take place at 1:00 p.m. and Mass 1:30 p.m.  A reception will immediately follow.  Cards of condolence my be sent to Earl Hicks, PO Box 107, Potrero, CA 91963. In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations be made, in here name, to St. Adelaide Catholic Church or St. Labre Indian School, Ashland, MT 59004-1001 or online at http://www.stlabre.org

PASSAGES: BORREGO SPRINGS PHILANTHROPIST BILL WRIGHT

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Borrego wildflowers, CC by SA

October 6, 2019 (Borrego Springs) -- Since moving to Borrego Springs from Santa Barbara in 1980, Bill Wright has been a “champion of all things good in Borrego Springs,” according to the Borrego Sun.  The newspaper announced that Wright passed away on October 1 at age 88.

PASSAGES: JIM BELL, ECOLOGICAL DESIGNER 1941-2019

Graduate of El Capitan High in Lakeside became global advocate for sustainable design

By Miriam Raftery

 

September 6, 2019 (San Diego) - Jim Bell, ecological designer and internationally recognized expert on sustainable development who twice ran for mayor of San Diego, passed away in hospice at his home on July 31 at age 77 from complications of a stroke.

PASSAGES: WESTERN REENACTOR EPIPHANY “EPIE” LOPEZ 1948-2019

By Miriam Raftery

September 1, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) – Epiphany “Epie” Lopez of Potrero, best known for his portrayal of bandito Cruz Lopez in the Gaskill Brothers Gunfighters, passed away on August 22, 2019 at age 71.

 

Born January 8, 1948, he was related to the Machados, one of the first families in Old Town, San Diego, though not to Cruz Lopez.  “My family has been in San Diego since 1769,” he once stated. 

PASSAGES: WADIE P. DEDDEH, SENATOR AND STATESMAN 1920-2019

By Miriam Raftery 

Photo: SDSU Library

August 30, 2019 (San Diego) – Wadie P. Deddeh, former state Senator from San Diego and the first Iraqi-American elected to public office in the United States, passed away on August 27, just days before his 99th birthday.  Hailed as a statesman and an American success story by leaders on both sides of the political aisle, Deddeh;s legacy includes authoring the 1972 bill that established the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) and inspiring generations of immigrants to attain the American dream.

MEMORIAL SERVICE AUG. 7 IN LAKESIDE FOR KIERAN SHAFRITZ DE ZOYSA, 11, KILLED BY TERRORISTS IN SRI LANKA BOMBING

Update: View 10 News coverage of the celebration of life for Kieran: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtuTIWafbX0

By Miriam Raftery

Photo via Facebook

 

August 4, 2019 (Lakeside) – A memorial service for friends and family of Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa will be held on Wednesday, August 7 at 6 p.m. at Oakoasis Park in Lakeside, where a bench will be dedicated as Kieran’s View. The 11-year-old boy who dreamed of being a neurologist in hopes of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s was killed during the Easter Sunday terrorist bombing on April 21 in Sri Lanka.

PASSAGES: GEORGE MITROVICH, CITY CLUB PRESIDENT AND CIVIC POWERHOUSE

East County News Service

Photo via LinkedIn

August 4, 2019 (San Diego) – A powerhouse on the local political and civic scene, City Club founder and president George Mitrovich died July 24 at age 83. A graduate of Helix High School in La Mesa, where he played baseball and basketball, he maintained a lifelong love of sports and the principals of democracy, fostering civil dialogue and discussion.

PASSAGES: HOWARD COOK, FORMER JACUMBA COMMUNITY LEADER (1930-2019)

East County News Service

July 11, 2019 (Jacumba Hot Springs) - The East County backcountry lost one of its biggest cheerleaders on June 29, when Howard W. Cook passed away peacefully after a short illness. He gave selflessly to the community, serving as Chair and later Secretary for the Jacumba Sponsor Group and as Board Member of the Jacumba-Boulevard Revitalization Committee. 

PASSAGES: DENNIS RUTH, MOUNTAIN MAN OF JACUMBA, IN KO PAH

Memorial gathering June 8 at 2 p.m. at Desert View Tower

East County News Service

May 31, 2019 (Jacumba) -- Local icon "Mountain Man" Dennis Ruth passed away May 23rd after a battle with cancer.  He spent his early years in Santee, and the rest of his life in the high desert community of In Ko Pah, near Jacumba. 
 
His stone cabin became a hidden local treasure which took him 30 years to build and where he lived without electricity with his dogs and mule named Big John. 
 

PASSAGES: TOM HYDE, VIEJAS TRIBAL ELDER AND LAST ORIGINAL RESERVATION MEMBER, 1927-2019

 

March 20, 2019 (Viejas Reservation) -- Tom Hyde, revered tribal elder, passed from this earth and his beloved Viejas community, March 14, 2019, at 92 years of age.  He is survived by a large family of 200, both blood and chosen.  Born Thomas James Hyde to Prudencia and Valentine Hyde, of El Capitan Village, he’s the last of the original Viejas Reservation members, and last to have personally witnessed destruction of El Capitan Village, at age five. Thus, he began life as a bridge between the past and future of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians.

PASSAGES: FORMER LA MESA MAYOR AND COUNTY SUPERVISOR GEORGE BAILEY: 1919-2019

 

 

Services set for April 27

By Miriam Raftery

 

March 17, 2019 (La Mesa) — Shortly after celebrating his 100th birthday, former La Mesa Mayor and San Diego County Supervisor died at his home on March 11th of congestive heart failure. He is remembered as a leader who left behind an indelible stamp on East County and the San Diego region, drawing respect from colleagues on both sides of the political aisle.

 

“Sad news about a big loss,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob posted on Facebook.  “But George Bailey’s decades of public service in East County and beyond will continue to inspire many of us.”

COMMUNITY MOURNS RABBI LEONARD ROSENTHAL

 

 

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

February 17, 2019 (San Diego) - A parade of rabbinical colleagues and family members mourning Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal, praised him, which they acknowledged he would have hated, and told jokes about him, which they said he would have loved.  The rabbi’s funeral service was attended by hundreds of congregants and friends Friday afternoon in the congregation he had served for over 30 years, Tifereth Israel Synagogue.

TWO KILLED IN NEW YEAR’S EVE CRASH IN JAMUL

By Miriam Raftery

January 3, 2019 (Jamul) – Two young people were killed in a collision with a sport utility vehicle (SUV) that occurred around 11:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, December 31st Campo Road (Highway 94) near Lyons Valley Road in Jamul, one mile north of the Jamul Casino.

Yannis Alekos Floros, 21, was driving east on the highway approaching the intersection when he lost control and spun sideways into oncoming traffic. The passenger side of the vehicle collided with the front end of a westbound SUV.  Floros was transported to a trauma center where despite aggressive resuscitation efforts, he was pronounced dead a short time later, on January 1, 2019, the County Medical Examiner’s office reports.

Tabia Watson, 20, was found unresponsive in the passenger seat of Floros’ vehicle; despite life saving measures, she died at the scene.

FLU AND MENINGITIS KILLS CONSERVATIVE WRITER/COMMENTATOR BRE PAYTON IN SAN DIEGO

 

East County News Service

January 1, 2019 (San Diego) – Bre Payton, 26, a conservative writer for the Federalist magazine and frequent guest commentator on Fox News and other networks, died Friday in San Diego from H1N! (swine) flu and meningitis. Her friend, Morgan Murtaugh, was staying over the holidays at Payton’s San Diego apartment and found her unconscious on Friday, December 27th, shortly after Payton was diagnosed with the flu, the New York Times reports.

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: LEADERS WE LOST IN 2018

 

 

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 onClick each name for a full obituary.

PASSAGES: ROBERT BATTENFIELD, LA MESA ADVERTISING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS PROFESSIONAL

 

By Miriam Raftery

November 20, 2018 (La Mesa) – A prominent advertising and communications expert for many years who later became a powerhouse in local nonprofits as their voice in the community, Robert Power “Bob” Battenfield died September 30th at his home of myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasms (MDS/MPNs), a leukemia-like illness. 

A memorial service will be held Saturday, November 24 at 11 a.m. at the Fletcher Hills Presbyterian Church.

PASSAGES: RICHARD HENRY ALCORN, JACUMBA HIKING LEADER AND PLANNING GROUP MEMBER

 

 

East County News Service

November 15, 2018 (Jacumba Hot Springs)  A celebration of life and spaghetti dinner will be held on November 16th from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Jacumba Spa for friends and family to honor the memory of Richard Henry Alcorn.  

PASSAGES: PAUL JACOB, SUPERVISOR JACOB'S HUSBAND, A COMMUNITY LEADER WHO IMPROVED FIRE SAFETY IN JAMUL (1937-2018)

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Paul Jacob at YMCA Branding held at his ranch

September 30, 2018 (Jamul) – Paul Ernest Jacob, 80, a Jamul community leader, retired Naval aviator and husband of Supervisor Dianne Jacob, died September 23rd of Parkinson’s disease. Dedicated to improving fire safety for his community, he provided his ranch for use as an emergency shelter and fire operations hub during wildfires.

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.

Deerhorn Valley Antler editor  Kim Hamilton says Paul Jacob was “beloved” by their neighbors, adding, “He and his wife, Dianne, were the backbone of the community we know and call home today.”

PASSAGES: ELIZABETH YEATTS, LONG-TIME LA MESA RESIDENT AND OWNER OF ELIZABETH’S ATTIC ANTIQUE SHOP

 

East County News Service

July 2, 2018 (La Mesa) -- Elizabeth Yeatts, 92, of Lakeville, Massachusetts, formerly of La Mesa, CA died on June 26, 2018 at home, surrounded by family and friends. Born in New London Connecticut, she graduated from the Williams School in 1943. Married to a Navy officer, Elizabeth lived in many different places including Rhode Island, Vermont, Florida, Hawaii and California during her husband’s Naval career and raised two daughters.

PASSAGES: MEMORIAL MILE TONIGHT TO COMMEMORATE VALHALLA COACH CARTER YARBOROUGH

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

June 29, 2018 (Rancho San Diego) –Carter Yarborough, 48, a Valhalla High School cross country and track coach, was killed Sunday morning when his motorcycle struck a Sheriff’s vehicle that had pulled into his lane after a left turn on South Coast highway in Encinitas, Patch.com reports.

A memorial Mile in his memory will be held tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Valhalla.  Team members, alumni, and friends are invited to participate in the walk of remembrance.

PASSAGES: JOYCE DUNNE, RETIRED TEACHER (JULY 12, 1932-MAY 4, 2018)

 
 
By Greg Dunne

 

May 12, 2018 (San Diego’s East County) – Joyce Elizabeth Dunne, who taught school for many years in La Mesa and Lemon Grove schools, passed away on FridayMay 4th in Waco, Texas with her daughter Shannon at her side.  Beloved by all who knew her, she will live in our hearts forever.  She is survived by her brother: Donnie, four children: Greg, Grant, Guy and Shannon, and her six Grandchildren.

 

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