There have been some deaths recently that deserve special mention.
Jaynie O’Neil, a longtime employee of the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, recently passed away. O’Neil, who worked with many businesses in town for years, used to call my office and with her raspy voice would tell me, “Honey, you have got to get that Weller story on your cover.” Or whatever the big news was. She used to tell me my job in regards to salespeople was to “praise them and pay them.” She was one of the first people to call me when the paper first started and kept in touch with me on a regular basis. She praised what we did because she loved the newspaper business. Often she would call us and tell us exactly what to do in order to get an account. We still haven’t cracked a couple of them that used to buy from her on a regular basis, but I sure appreciated the lecture and the energy to try and help us. I never met Jaynie, but she was a big part of this community and helped the Mirror in many ways. I will miss hearing from her.
My friend Bill Vlahakis died from brain cancer in September. He was not known in Santa Monica, however I knew him for 25+ years and valued his friendship. His disease showed me how our medical system treats people without health care coverage as second-rate citizens. He was unable to seek out special treatments, some of which have proven quite effective. He was unable to pay for special visualization programs that are not covered under state med policies, and he was unable to take advantage of acupuncture that may have been helpful. He had a type of cancer that is very powerful and usually ends in death within a year or two. He passed away comfortably, quietly and at home with his mother. His artwork still adorns our offices.
Judy Swartz is a partner, a friend and the Vice President of Sales here at the Mirror. Her father Ralph Swartz was 85, and after a heart transplant nearly 10 years ago finally succumbed to, basically, old age. He lived a full life and raised two beautiful daughters. Judy was very close to her father and had been instrumental in his care during his last several months. He was very supportive of her work at the Mirror, reminding us to make sure to run ads in the paper with Judy’s name and was always looking out for her sales effort. He was one of our “team” members and his care and concern is much appreciated. Judy has suffered a very hard loss but is holding up well. She has returned to work, though at a slower pace. Our heart and goodwill go out to her.
Finally, a dear friend from childhood lost her daughter to a terrible auto accident a couple of weeks ago. Karen Bass and I grew up together at Louis Pasteur Junior High School, where we cemented a relationship that continues to this day. We were simpatico in terms of politics, health food and general friendship. That was 40 years ago. Today, Karen is the highly respected California State Assembly Majority Leader. Her career began in health care as a registered nurse, later as a Physician Assistant and then as the director of the Community Coalition. She then chose to run for an assembly seat and was immediately put into a leadership position.
Now, imagine this person as a mother. Imagine her wonderful, warm, intelligent, socially responsible and very beautiful daughter Emilia. I remember when she was born. I went to visit Karen, who lived in the Valley at that time, and got to see her little baby. Oh my, what a thrill. In time Emilia grew up, went to New Roads in Santa Monica and was studying at Loyola Marymount when her tragic accident ensued. She and her new husband, Michael, struck a post on the San Diego Freeway at the La Tijera exit and did not survive. The funeral was at Loyola Marymount and several hundred people attended, all brokenhearted that this young, magnanimous couple didn’t have more time on earth.
For me, it was the most difficult of all the recent deaths that have touched my life because it was out of order. Burying your child is unnatural. The pain Karen must have felt – and continues to feel – is unbearable. A bishop spoke and told the story of why good people often die while others survive. He said they were ready, while the others had more work to do. Seemed simple, but it made it all just a little easier to take.
I learned when my mother passed away to always tell the ones I love, “I love you.” We never know when our time will come and this is for me the most appropriate farewell.
My love goes to those departed souls and my deepest sentiments go to those that survive them.