Category Archives: Obituaries

Joe Brown, President of Channel Cities Jazz Club, passes

It is with deepest regret and great sorrow that on Friday, August 28, Joe Brown, President of Channel Cities Jazz Club, passed away due to complications from surgery. Joe, an active member of CCJC for many years was in charge of their newsletter and served as President of the club for two years. He was a strong, tireless and decisive leader with a big heart who quietly donated resources that were essential in helping to keep doors open through the years. Our hearts go out to Gloria Brown, his wife of 27 years, who serves on the board as secretary. Joe will be missed terribly by all who knew and loved him.

Sunflowers for Izzy

The Ventura Breeze mourns the loss of one of our family. “Izzy” was the daughter of Ana Baker and stepdaughter of Jaimie Baker both part of our wonderful staff. The following was written by her parents.

It is with the greatest sorrow that we announce the passing of Isabella Mercedes Kress, our beloved daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend to so many. She is survived by her loving family: her parents Ana, Don, and Jamie; her siblings, Diego, Devin, Jack and Scarlett; grandmothers Carmen and Lucille; as well as many aunts and uncles and an extended family of her dear friends. She was known and loved by so many people from so many different walks of life including sports, music, dance, education, hospitality and her beloved culinary arts. Izzy loved life and lived it to the fullest in her short 22 years here on Earth. She was a truly special person― bright, passionate, fierce, funny, loving, and giving. She was all that a parent, sibling, or friend could ever ask for and more.

She left an indelible mark on the world through her love, loyalty, selflessness, intelligence, honesty, toughness, and incredible work ethic. She strived and succeeded in being among the best at everything she attempted. In grade school she distinguished herself early on as a star student, her talent shining through to high school where she was included in the Ventura High School Wall of Fame― a recognition given to only two or three students per year.

She loved to sing and perform at an early age and in high school she found a home in Company, the Ventura School District’s student show choir, ultimately becoming a prominent leader of the ensemble. She also distinguished herself as a member of the Track and Field team. Through her hard-work, loyalty and supportiveness of her teammates, she inspired coaches and teammates alike. Accordingly, she was voted captain of the track and field team during her senior year season.

Leaving home at the age of 18, she began her new life as an adult and absolutely thrived. She attended Cerritos Community College where she was recruited for the track and field throwing team. There, she mastered the shot put, hammer throw, and javelin and was a member of the 2017 CCCAA State Champion Falcon team. At the same time, she began to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a chef and teacher. She enrolled in the Culinary Arts Department, training in classical French cuisine. She graduated in 2019, earning her Associate in Arts Degree with Honors, along with a culinary certificate in professional cooking as well as professional baking and pastry.

Through tremendous hard work and determination, she maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA, along with earning numerous academic and athletic awards. Transferring to California State University Long Beach as an English major, she continued her academic excellence, again maintaining a 4.0 GPA. She even went on to publish two books of poetry during her busy days of studying. As always, she impressed her instructors― so much so that she was recommended for and hired as an instructor for the Bellflower School District as a teacher of culinary arts in an after-school program. Combining her deep love of cooking and teaching, she spent her first year with one class, and was about to begin teaching two classes for her second year. Her path almost certainly would have led her back to the Cerritos College of Culinary Arts as a full-time instructor, her “dream job”.

Throughout high school and college she also worked, sometimes holding down two part-time jobs in addition to being a full-time student. Like everything else, she took great pride in her work. Quoting one of her many choir solos, she loved to say, “I give good service but I’m not servile.”

She loved all kinds of music and dance, especially salsa dancing. She loved sunflowers and Sinatra, eating, running and traveling. She loved boba and pizza, but could just as easily cook a multi-course Thanksgiving feast for 20. She loved tiny food, and tiny animals. She loved baking and trying and perfecting new recipes. She loved creating cookies and beautiful cakes and cupcakes for friends. She loved the world and the world loved her back. More than anything, she loved the people in her life; her mentors, co-workers, classmates, students, friends and family, each with a huge heart full of caring, empathy, and generosity.

Although she has been taken from this Earthly confine, her spirit now knows no boundaries. She is a child of the universe and will live on in our hearts, forever inspiring us, making us smile and lifting us to higher, better places. Her family takes comfort in the outpouring of love towards her.

In lieu of flowers and to continue her legacy of giving and teaching and to promote academic and creative excellence, a memorial scholarship in Izzy’s name is currently being established in Izzy’s name and in conjunction with Ventura High School. Please contact Heidi House at heidi.house@venturausd.org.

Memorial services were held on Saturday, September 5 for Izzy at Ventura Harbor Cove Beach, located at the end of Spinnaker Drive. Attendees received a sunflower to place in the water and accompany her as she departs to her final rest at sea.

Ventura loses another contributor to the arts

Ben Bunji Namba moved to Ventura in 1994.

Ben Bunji Namba, founder and benefactor of the NAMBA Performing Arts Space, passed away on February 26, 2020 at his Ventura residence with his wife Julia Campbell Namba by his side.

Born April 6, 1930 in Manchuria, China, Ben lived and was educated in Japan, earning his university degree there. Ben later moved to the United States in 1960. Based in Los Angeles, Ben was the owner and operator of BHN Inc. for over 40 years, specializing in importing spices from abroad for the Tampico Spice Company.

In 1994 Ben moved from La Canada Flintridge to Ventura. Ben enjoyed gardening and loved the outdoors, most especially the ocean.

Being a lover of art, music and dance Ben was involved with the Ventura Music Festival for many years. He was the primary benefactor of the NAMBA Performing Arts Space in downtown Ventura, a non-profit founded in 2014 dedicated to fostering dance, music, theater, film, performances, and community arts education. The Arts Space stands as Ben’s legacy and a gift for the greater Ventura community.

Ben Namba is survived by his wife Julia Campbell Namba, his step-children Sanford Campbell, Laura Campbell, and Leslie Atia; his step-grandchildren Geffen Camp, Leah Atia, and Gian Atia. He was preceded in death by his first wife the late Helen Head Namba.

Memorial donations to honor Ben may be made in his name to the Alzheimer’s Association of Ventura County, the NAMBA Performing Arts Space or the Ventura Music Festival.

Ken Winter

Ken Winter
November 4, 1926 to February 17, 2020

His shirt is his epitaph!

Thank you to the Ventura Y for their embracing of “The Whistler”to keep him healthy so long,

Thank you to all our friends who took time to visit,

Friends at The Winery for a wonderful time,

Victoria Care for all their care and love,

Carewise Hospice for their understanding

Jane and Camille

 

Marta Nelson (1922 – 2019)

Marta Nelson, one of Ojai’s most beloved artists, passed away peacefully at age 96. Marta was a painter, a printmaker and a sculptor in papier mâché. She was a traditionalist who knew when to bend the rules, an optimist who felt compelled to paint something beautiful, a citizen of the world who strongly believed that artists have a mission: to use the arts as a vehicle for peace.

She dedicated her life to community, establishing art programs that continue to this day. Among her legacy, is the co-founding of the prestigious Ojai Studio Artist (OSA) Tour. Established in 1984, OSA is a highly respected group of artists that open their studios annually the second weekend in October, with mini tours throughout the year.

Marta was originally from the Los Angeles area, settling in Bakersfield, before she and Hank retired to Ojai in 1981. Her formal education includes studying illustration at the Chouinard Art Institute. Marta shared in her 2006 Focus on the Masters Oral History, “I chose illustration so I could earn a living.” She worked as a newspaper illustrator at a time when a woman was credited under their husband’s name. She added, “That always bothered me – being listed as Mrs. Henry Nelson. It was as though a woman had no identity of their own.”

While in Bakersfield, Marta taught art classes at Bakersfield Community College and Spanish to elementary school students. Her love for teaching continued throughout her life with her most recent students among her fellow residents at The Gables of Ojai retirement community.

In Marta’s early days, she worked in the animation department for Screen Gems Colombia Pictures painting backgrounds and mixing color for the animators.

As a college student, Marta majored in Spanish, an experience that opened her eyes to the beauty of culture throughout the world. She became a folk dancer in the 1950s – Spanish dancing being among her favorite – and traveled to festivals throughout the state. She took up belly dancing at age 40 to address her arthritis. Her love for travel and cultural experiences became an inspiration for many paintings and prints. She described herself as a perennial student, always experimenting and eager to learn something new.

To learn more about Marta visit: www.OjaiStudioArtists.org

Ferguson Case Orr Paterson mourns passing of partner

England attended Oxnard High School.

Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP (FCOP), recently announced the passing of long-time partner, Theodore J. England, who joined the firm in 2001.

Outside of his work, England was committed to volunteering, serving as a board member at Interface Children Family Services, the Salvation Army and St. John’s Healthcare Foundation. Together with his wife Annette, he also managed his 38.5-acre ranch in Santa Paula, growing approximately two dozen different crops from apples to walnuts.

England attended Oxnard High School before earning his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1963 and continuing his education at the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. Admitted to the California Bar in 1967, he was a frequent lecturer on real property law for the California Continuing Education of the Bar program.

“Ted’s dedication to his colleagues, clients, family and friends was truly special. He was generous with his time and experience, sharing wise judgment on matters both legal and personal,” said FCOP Managing Partner Michael Velthoen. “As an attorney, Ted’s scope of expertise on the practice of law was unmatched. We will miss Ted greatly.”

100 and going strong

Relatives came from various states and as far away as Taiwan to honor her.

Mary Jane Mitchell was born on October 11, 1918 in Oxnard and is turning 100.  She was raised in Somis and graduated from Oxnard High School.  Her father was the manufacturer of the Ventura Bean Planter used by farmers in Ventura County, across California and in other agricultural states.  At Ventura College she met Jack Tobias and they were married in 1939.

While Jack was farming in Saticoy, Jane was a stay at home mom raising their three children, Carole (deceased), Bob and Steve.  Together she and Jack were active in Saticoy Community Church and Saticoy Lions and traveled extensively.  Jack passed away in 1988 so Jane got even more active in Ventura Missionary Church, taking missions trips well into her 70s.  Jane in still living in the family home on their ranch in East Ventura.  A family celebration was held for her on October 6th at the ranch home of her son Steve and daughter-in-law Roxann. .

Sad passing of local icon, Helen Yunker

Always a lady of class and distinction.

Helen had a simple philosophy: “In helping and sharing with others, you multiply your own blessings many times.” Her blessings were multiplied over and over again.

One of Ventura’s premier philanthropists, arts supporters and political activists, Helen died at age 97 peacefully on July 28.

Born in Chicago in 1921, Helen came to California in 1948 at the age of 27. After 10 years in direct sales, Helen fulfilled her dream of living at the seashore when she moved to Ventura’s Pierpont Bay area in 1958. A realtor since 1971, she ultimately founded Helen Yunker Realty which still bears her name.

Her almost 60 years in Ventura is a virtual history of ongoing community engagement. She has been recognized over the years for her many contributions, by numerous service organizations in the areas of educational, medical, civic, youth, theater, arts, property rights and senior concerns. Ventura would not be the same without her enormous contributions.

Love of music played a major role in Helen’s life. She sang in the Our Lady of Assumption church choir until the very end. She has entertained solo and with singing groups throughout her life at hospitals, jails, churches, ballets, etc. Her cameo appearances in the Nutcracker, by just walking on stage brought the house down.

Because her highlights and accomplishments would fill an entire page, we’ve listed just a few of them:

She sat on the Board of Ventura County Ballet Company (VCBC) and on the Ventura College Foundation Board.

1966: She co-produced “The First 100 Years in Ventura”, a centennial magazine celebrating and documenting the city’s founding in 1866.

1968: The Ventura County Board of Supervisors awarded her for leadership, as President of the Pierpont Bay Association, for leading the adoption of the Pierpont Improvement District.

1970: Helen led the first grandfathering program in Ventura, for the Pierpont area. Adopted by the City in 1977.

2003: The Ventura County Board of Realtors awarded Helen a special Inspiration Award for her dedicated efforts to protect Individual property rights.

2007: The Girl Scouts named Helen “Woman of Distinction”.

2008: The Ventura County American Red Cross awarded Helen the Clara Barton Award for her work dating back to the 60’s when, she played an active part in support services for our troops.

2008: The National Assn. of Community Colleges awarded Helen the “Benefactor of the Year Award” in Washington, D.C for raising $600,000 to equip the new math/science building at Ventura Community College.

In 2010 The City of Ventura awarded Helen the Mayor’s Arts Patron Award.

The Rubicon Theater’s performance hall displays her name in recognition of her donations and support of the theater. As is the Ventura College auditorium.

On her 95th birthday, a celebration was held for her at the Museum of Ventura County. At the celebration, the Helen Yunker Lobby was dedicated to her.

At the celebration she stated, “An institution of this importance and magnitude needs financial giving from the entire community that it serves. I hope you will step up and join me and know you are helping to preserve our past and ensure the future of our museum.”

When her portrait was painted by Johanna Spinks as part of The Face of Ventura portrait series in the Ventura Breeze Helen stated, “Having grown up in Chicago, Ventura, with its 25,000 population in 1958, its climate, location and overall ambiance, was a true panacea and fertile ground for my life’s goals. Today, after 54 years of service, my greatest blessing is the thanks and recognition I receive, also fully aware of my intense struggles, as well as accomplishments. Where else, but in Ventura, can one be embraced like a family member, and be gifted a feeling of belonging?”

She appeared before the City Council over 100 times to “discuss” the problems with the slope erosion on city property next to her home, and always began by introducing herself. Eventually, the city paid to have the slope repaired.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on August 10 at Our Lady of the Assumption Church followed by interment at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park.

She’ll be missed.

Well-known restaurant owner dies

A nice memorial has been set-up outside the site of the restaurant.

Chingchai “Chang” Liampetchakul, former owner of Tipps Thai Cuisine has passed on at age 60.

Chang’s life has taken a turn for the worse the last several years.

In Feb., 2017 Chang Liampetchakul suffered a stroke while at the restaurant. He was cooking up some ribs for Super Bowl, when some friends came to pick him up. When they arrived he crawled to the front door to unlock it. Tipps was one of Ventura County’s first Thai restaurants when it opened at 512 E. Main St.

After his stroke Tipps restaurant closed its doors after serving Thai food to Ventura locals and visitors since 1983. The lovable Chang was a kind and generous person, often providing trays of food to families in need and always ready with a great yarn.

In April, 2017 a fire erupted in the two story portion of the building on Main St. which housed Tipps on the ground floor and the Odd Fellows on the top floor.

Ventura Fire and Ventura Police investigated and found evidence that pointed to Liampetchakul as having started the fire. On May 10, 2017, Liampetchakul was arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with the fire. A motive was never determined. His case was still pending.

Funeral services will take place at 1 p.m. Aug. 18 at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Vera (Castanon) Hirrel

Vera loved to share stories about her granddaughters and great-grandsons with everyone she met.

Vera (Castanon) Hirrel, 62, passed away peacefully in her home in Oxnard, California on July 3, 2018 with loving family by her side. Born on September 30, 1955 in Riverdale, California to the late Nellie Castanon and Nick Castanon, Vera spent most of her adult life living in Ventura County. Vera was known for her generosity, vibrant personality, contagious laugh,and devoted love for her family. She had a close-knit group of friends and loved to spend time with them, especially at Santa Barbara Polo Club on Sundays. Vera was an amazing cook and she could often be found in the kitchen preparing the favorite dishes of her kids and grandkids. She was enamored by her granddaughters and great-grandsons and loved to share stories about them to everyone she met.

Vera is survived by her daughter, Michelle (Shells Petals Florist) Liotta(Tanino); son, Philip Hirrel (Laura); granddaughters,Haley French (Jordan) and Cassidy Hirrel-Hill; great-grandchildren, Colton French and Connor French; sister, Margaret Rodriguez, brothers, Nick Castanon, Jerry Castanon, Frank Castanon, Lawrence Castanon, and Abel Castanon.

A beautiful celebration of her life was held Sunday, July 15th at the Ventura Beach Club.