As a new year begins, we look back on 2019 and some of the people who are no longer with us.
Barbara Alpert the namesake, along with her husband, Ray, of Long Beach’s Alpert Jewish Community Center, passed away in November at the age of 88.
She and her husband were champions of education and cultural programs for the Jewish community. In 1998, they were honored by California Conference for Equality and Justice as Humanitarians of the Year.
Her daughter, Nancy, said that, “More than anything, mom used to love walking into the center and seeing the children pulling their rolling backpacks and looking so happy.”
Ray and Barbara were married for 61 years at the time of his death in 2014.
John Dever, who served as Long Beach City Manager starting in 1977 during a tumultuous time in the city’s history, where he earned the nickname “Dever the Clever,” passed away in March. He was 95.
Economic times were tough when he started and the situation was compounded by the approval of Proposition 13 in 1978, which cut taxes.
During his tenure, he helped create a long-range strategic plan. He also cut city services, increased fees and changed and consolidated management positions.
International City Management Association once called Dever “The most respected city manager in the United States.”
Jean Egan, an education innovator who founded BLAST in 2000, which develops after school programs for children, died in June at age 56.
Since its beginning, BLAST (Better Learning for All Students Today) has grown to provide more than 500 mentors to help children succeed in school and graduate.
Egan moved to Long Beach after graduating from Harvard with a law degree.
She left BLAST in 2016 to become executive director of CaLL (Career-Linked Learning) a nonprofit that engages business partners to support students.
Bob Fronke, who served as city auditor from 1976 to 1992 and fought for independence of the auditor’s office, died in April at the age 92.
During his tenure, he ruffled the feathers of city managers and department heads who didn’t like someone looking over their shoulders and making recommendations.
In 1979, he helped fight off a change in the city charter to prohibit operation audits of city departments unless specifically requested by the City Council.
Current City Auditor Laura Doud said, “In this contentious dispute, Fronke prevailed… He demonstrated that operational audits … produced cost savings from efficiencies and improved effectiveness.”
During his tenure, the city’s financial and accounting system was overhauled and a new Financial Management Information system was installed to replace the city’s old ledger system.
After retiring from Long Beach in 1992, he taught at Pepperdine University.
Laura Killingsworth, considered the grande dame of Long Beach musical theater, died in June at the age of 95,
Killingsworth starred in more than 50 musicals and plays during four decades of performances, ending in the late 1990s. She was almost as well known for her volunteer work in support of local art and culture as she was a performer.
Killingsworth served as president of the Long Beach Symphony Association, the Long Beach Civic Light Opera Association, the Public Corporation for the Arts and many other groups. She and her husband, Ed, a world-renowned architect, also supported hundreds of youngsters through children’s theater. In 1978, she was selected as the Rick Rackers’ Woman of the Year.
Cardinal William J. Levada
Cardinal William J. Levada, who was born in Long Beach and became the highest-ranking America prelate at the Vatican, died in September at the age 83.
A graduate of St. Anthony High School, he attended St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo and was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1961. Levada served in a variety of posts in California before become Archbishop of San Francisco in 1995.
He was appointed prefect of the congregation for their doctrine of the faith by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. He was elevated to Cardinal in 2006 and retired in 2012.
George and Roudoulla Loizides
George and Roudoulla (Roudo) Loizides, owners of George’s Greek Cafes, died within days of each other in October.
George passed on Oct. 15 at the age of 83.
He was born on the island of Cyprus and moved to Africa. He married Rodou in 1964 and the couple eventually settled in Long Beach in the 1980s
In addition to their flagship on Pine Avenue, the family also has restaurants in Belmont Shore and Lakewood.
Roudoulla, also known as Mama Rodou and Dora, died just six days after husband.
Although George was considered the public face, Rodou created the recipes for many of the legendary dishes such as spanakopites, pastitsios and more.
“My mother was only 5-foot, 2-(inches), but she was such a force when it came to the kitchen and cooking dishes for customers… The kitchen and the food had to be spotless. I think the staff feared her more than the Health Department.”
Bill Lorbeer, an important fixture in the Belmont Shore business scene, died from cancer in April at the age of 59.
He grew up in the Shore and loved the waterfront life of swimming, diving and boating.
Bill joined his father, Bud, as owners of several properties on Second Street. He became involved in the local business politics, serving as chair of both the Belmont Shore Business Association and the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Advisory Commission. He was obsessed with doing the right thing for the Shore, his wife Carmen said.
Laura Mathews lived a life of service, from helping entertain and care for other children in the Depression to the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II as the only woman electrician. She worked for decades as a Long Beach Police Department volunteer in many roles over 36 years of helping. She died in March at the age of 96.
While in the service, she met her husband Gene and they came to Long Beach in 1970.
Mathews volunteered with the Long Beach Senior Center, the Veterans Administration Medical Center and became involved with the Long Beach City College television broadcasting community, where she participated in more than 150 programs in jobs ranging from camera operator to on-air talent.
Dr. Harry Orem
Dr. Harry Orem, M.D. the founding medical director for Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital, died late in 2018.
He was a practicing physician for more than 68 years and directly involved in hospital leadership for more than 20 years.
Orem promoted a family-centered care approach for children that transformed pediatric care nationwide. It was that model that prompted him to help create a children’s hospital in Long Beach. The hospital opened in 1970.
Pamela Seager, credited with leading the Rancho Los Alamitos historic site to state and national prominence, died in September.
She came to Long Beach in 1985 to help create a foundation to support Rancho Los Alamitos.
In her 33-year association with the rancho, Seager guided creation of a master plan that protected the historic home against earthquakes, restored gardens, used geothermal heating and more.
According to Jerry Miller, Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation board chair in 2018, “Pamela Seager provided the strength and vision to help create the Rancho Los Alamitos we have today. Her impact on the historic site and on the region will be felt for generations to come.”
Carolyn Watts, a former police officer from Lansing, Michigan, moved to Long Beach more than 28 years ago and immediately began building a career connecting people to make Long Beach a better place to live. She died in May at 56.
Watts served as a board and commission member to many organizations, including the Long Beach Housing Development Company, the Citizen Police Complaint Commission, the Long Beach Civil Service Commission and Leadership Long Beach.
Watts also created, with Sunny Nash, a study of a group of community women from the civil rights generation, which resulted in a book, “Breaking Through Lighting the Way,” about 12 African American women who made a difference in the history of Long Beach and Southern California.
Charlie, the World’s Oldest Sea Otter
Charlie the sea otter, cited in the 2018 Guinness Book of Records as the oldest male in captivity, died at the age of 22 in April at the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Experts decided that the orphan did not have the skills necessary to survive in the wild. He was one of the first animals brought to the aquarium in 1998.
Other notables who died in 2019 include Bill Barnes, Isabelle Lounsberry, LaJuana Rudy, John Murphy, Alan Dunn, Jim Lincoln and IIee Kaplan. Go to TheGrunion.com under the obituaries category to learn more.