The year comes to an official end shortly (undoubtedly to cheers). Here's a look back at some Long Beach residents who passed away in 2020.

Fran Blowitz

Fran Blowitz, who with her husband John owned and operated the Gazette Newspapers from 1981 to 2004, died in November.

After purchasing the paper, Fran and John developed Gazette Newspapers into a two-paper, 66,000 combined-circulation business employing 20 people.

Fran and John were co-publishers, with Fran handling the business end of the operation. She worked tirelessly to keep the business in the black. John said many times that he might be the public face of the Grunion, but that Fran was the brains behind the operation.

During that time, Fran came up with something she called Valentine's Date Night, which grew to a fundraiser for the heart programs at Long Beach's three major hospitals raising around $40,000 each event.

When the paper was sold in 2004, Fran made sure the agreement included keeping the core of the Gazette staff in place.

Tom Clark

Tom Clark, who was the longest serving elected public official in the city of Long Beach, died in May.

He served 30 years on the City Council, seven as mayor, then 16 years on the Long Beach Community College Board of Trustees.  

Born in San Diego in 1933, he attended local schools, graduating from Wilson High School during World War II. After the war, he had a career as an optometrist while he was also a public official.

A graduate of Long Beach City College and UC Berkley, he was elected to the LBCC Hall of Champions for track and field.

Jeff Kellogg, who served with Clark on both the City Council and LBCC board, said Clark was a successful election campaigner because he would go door-to-door, meeting people and handing out thousands of legendary Clark candy bars. “He was the last of the true nonpartisan public officials,” Kellogg said.

Layla Ali-Ahmad

Layla Ali-Ahmad, the founder of Beach City Food Tours, lost her six-year battle with breast cancer on March 19.

In September 2016, Layla launched Beach City Food Tours in Long Beach. The three-hour interactive experience allowed patrons to experience some of the highlights of downtown dining. Food was an integral aspect of Layla’s life. She enjoyed watching her grandmother cook Lebanese meals during her childhood and consciously worked to expand her palate in college.

Slater Baron

Slater Barron, known as the “Lint Lady,” passed away in May. Besides being mother to four children and married to a Marine officer, which kept the family on the move, she created her own identity as an artist.

Her Lint Lady title came when she became fascinated with dryer lint while doing loads of laundry for her teenage children. Finding beauty in this byproduct, she began to experiment with the material. Friends collected their lint and sent it to her, helping her amass an array of textures and colors.

Besides lint, Barron did performance art, painted, published a book, and created collages. Her art is in the Smithsonian White House Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Long Beach Museum of art and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.

Marion Beckman

When Marion Beckman died in the middle of September, it signaled an end to a simpler, friendlier way of life on Naples' canals. She was 91.

After moving to Naples in 1955, her home in a cul de sac on Naples was a frequent stop for children and adults. Many of the other Naples kids used the Beckman home as a base for swimming in the canal. There were fewer boats and docks then.

Marion and Don Beckman were married for 63 years before Don died in 2013.

Frank Willis Butler

Frank Willis Butler, president and Chief Executive Officer of Catalina Yachts, died in November. He was 92 years old.

Butler founded Catalina Yachts in 1969 in Hollywood. The company has grown to become the largest builder of fiberglass production sailboats in the United States.

He’s also credited with helping take the Congressional Cup to the top level of the world by his donation of the Catalina 37s, which were specifically built for match racing.

Butler not only donated the boats in 1989, he designed and built the fleet of 11 Catalina 37s specifically for the event. The Long Beach Yacht Club awarded him the Crimson Blazer in recognition of his contributions to Congressional Cup. The Long Beach stop in the California Dreamin' Series is also named the Butler Cup in his honor.

Long Beach Port Pilot credited the growth of sailing to Butler, noting that he introduced hundreds of thousands of people to sailing.

Roger Corbin

Roger Corbin, 84, owner of the 49ers Tavern from 1968 to 1996, died in May.

After attending CSULB and servicing in the Marines, he purchased the 49ers Tavern in 1968. He also worked as an LA County juvenile probation officer, retiring in 2002.

An avid golfer and pool player, he created the chili served at the bar and won numerous chili cook-offs with his recipe.

Larry Curtis

Larry Curtis, Long Beach’s “Music Man” who conducted the city’s popular Municipal Band for summer concerts for 27 years and was Long Beach State University’s conductor of bands for 25 years, died Saturday, June 13. He was 82.

As Long Beach Municipal Band conductor, Curtis led the band for nearly 700 concerts.

"I don't know if the summer band audience realized that some of Southern California's finest professional musicians played in our Muni Band, and they did it because of Larry Curtis," said Jim Ruggirello, longtime Grunion Gazette music critic.

Curtis and his wife Linda were avid boaters, sailing to Hawaii twice and making innumerable weekend trips to Catalina Island with his boat, appropriately named “Bandwagon.”

Kurt Holmes

Kurt Holmes, who tripled the size of both the Wilson band and orchestra during his tenure as a music teacher, passed away in December. He also helped grow the Wilson girls' junior varsity golf team in 2009 and took over the entire program last year.

"He adored his family and he cared about students like they were his family," his brother Keith said. Athletic director Jeff Evans said, "He would go out of his way to help kids. If they didn't have lunch, he always had snacks in his classroom for them."

John Knight

John Franklin Knight died in September.

Knight joined the Long Beach Yacht Club in 1960 — before the clubhouse was built — and held life member status. He and his wife Joan were the first couple to have a wedding reception at the club.

John designed and built two shopping centers, one on Naples Island and one in the San Fernando Valley.

He founded the Naples Island Business Association, was a Founders Club Member of the Long Beach Grand Prix Association and a charter member of the Aquarium of the Pacific. 

Flora Loeb

Flora Loeb, 89, died in June.

Flora and her husband Jerry were constants in the Long Beach performing arts scene, attending performances at Long Beach Symphony, International City Theatre, Long Beach Playhouse, Musical Theatre West, Long Beach Opera, The Carpenter Center Cabaret and the CSULB Theatre Department. She also volunteered for multiple nonprofits over the decades, including the Fine Arts Affiliates, the Japanese Garden at CSULB and the Long Beach Blues Festivals put on by KLON radio.

Jean Longaberger

Jean Longaberger lived in Long Beach for 74 years — and for the majority of that time she volunteered at the Veterans Administration Hospital and the Long Beach chapter of the YLI, a Catholic charity.

Longaberger died July.

After the Vietnam War, Jean and her husband George volunteered at the VA Hospital, helping feed veterans who had become paraplegic or quadriplegic. They continued to do that for more than 25 years. George died in 2012.

Charles Merrill

In the business world he was “CF” Merrill — for Charles Frank. But when he took off his coat and tie, he was the sailor most folks knew as Chas. Older friends called him Chasbox, a nickname he gained during his youth Sabot sailing days.

He died in July.

Chas was an active traveling businessman but seemed to be able to plan his weekends for sailboat racing at the yacht club, where he was the second of five family members to be ABCY staff commodores.

Chas was especially proud of ABYC and the club's important involvement hosting a sailing venue as part of the 1984 L.A. Olympic Games. With the proceeds of the Olympic regatta, Chas and many others helped establish the United States Sailing Center in Long Beach (he was on the board and a former president). 

Gary Scott Miltimore

Gary Scott Miltimore, one of yachting’s most beloved characters, died peacefully from complications of stage 4 melanoma on June 2.

A native Californian, he developed a love for the sea, exemplified by his participation in numerous yacht races as well as his 55-year career painting detailed graphics any of Southern California’s sail and power boats as well as commercial operations including Catalina Express, Catalina Flyer, Air Catalina, Catalina Seaplanes, Catalina Adventure Tours and Kilroy Industries.

Miltimore chalked up thousands of blue water miles including six TransPacs, two Transatlantic races, the Newport to Bermuda Classic, Florida's Southern Ocean Racing Conference, Hawaii's Clipper Cup, Mazatlán, Cabo San Lucas and the China Sea Race from Hong Kong to Manila, among others.

His paintings include his impressions of classic yachts such as Puritan and Goodwill that were often seen anchored off Avalon’s Casino in the 1950s. For five years, his painting served as the poster for Newport Ocean Sailing Association’s Newport to Ensenada race.

Andy Osman

Andy Osman, Poly High School’s own beloved “Mr. Music Man,” died after a fight with cancer in September, just shy of his 60th birthday.

Osman spent 36 years leading Poly’s music program, transforming it into one of the premiere high school music programs in the United States.

The Poly Music Department has been selected six times by the Grammy Foundation as a Signature School and twice as a Signature “Gold” School, recognizing it as one of the top high school programs in the nation.

Joe Picarelli

Joe Picarelli, who immigrated to the United States from Italy without knowing any English, and became one of the city's most well-known restaurateurs, died in March.

The family started in the restaurant business when Picarelli’s parents bought a deli, Cirivello’s on Anaheim Street., eventually operating six Cirivello’s. In 1984, Picarelli opened the location at PCH and Loynes, which he operated until his death.

Joe Picarelli’s major way to relax was on “Saluti Amici,” his 34-foot boat he kept in the Shoreline Marina.

“He loved going to Catalina Island,” his brother Frank Picarelli said. “Boating was his antidote to stress. He was at peace on his boat.”

Michael James Schwartz

Michael James Schwartz, 47, the owner of Effie & Co. Salon in Belmont Shore, unexpectedly passed away on July 12, 2020.

He worked at Effie & Co. for 11 years, Michael bought the salon. The business quickly grew, and in his words, “I’ve been able to make the shop my own — remodel, renew, all the while keeping the high standards Effie held me to when I was her employee.”

Michael grew an international following because of his extraordinary talent as a precision hair stylist and had a special gift for coloring.


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