Citizen Staff Writer
REMEMBERING THOSE WHO DIED IN 2007
More than 1,000 people died in Tucson this year, according to Tucson police statistics.
Ages ranged from newborn to 100, occupations ranged from banker to Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and contributions to society ranged from public art to cancer support groups.
With too many people to mention, the Tucson Citizen chose one person from each month’s deaths to profile and honor.
Adelita Camacho-Bedoy was only 4 but she already had decided on a career goal.
“She always said she wanted to be a rock star or celebrity,” said her grandmother, Rosa Camacho-Bedoy. “She was the type of child that loved being the center of attention.”
From her friends to her teachers to her family, especially her big brother, Carlos, Adelita had the power to touch many hearts in a short time.
Her grandmother said everyone loved the feisty little girl who liked to dress up, speak up and dazzle.
“We called her our princess,” Camacho-Bedoy said. Others agreed on the child’s superstar status. She was even chosen as the centerpiece for the children’s altar for this year’s Procession of the Little Angels, a miniature version of the adults’ All Souls’ Procession in November.
An image of her dressed as a “corpse fairy,” in the manner of Tim Burton’s animated movie “Corpse Bride,” for her Halloween costume in 2006 was the main image at the procession.
Three months after she dressed as the corpse fairy, Adelita was dead. Her baby sitter accidentally ran her over while backing out of a driveway.
When Michael Herman, 62, was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2002, he didn’t raise his arms in surrender.
Instead, he founded the Southern Arizona Head and Neck Cancer Support Group to give other cancer patients a place to turn.
Then he co-founded the Laura Ray/Mike Herman Southern Arizona Head and Neck Cancer Foundation to help raise public awareness.
Helping others was natural for Herman, who spent his career in the hospitality industry. Until his retirement in 2006, he served as banquet captain at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort and was once named employee of the year.
But if anyone had talked to Herman about it, he wouldn’t have boasted.
“He was an extremely modest person,” said Mindy Herman, who met Michael 34 years ago and was married to him for 24 years. “He cared more about helping other people than helping himself.”
The Chicago native also was big on family, friends and food.
The couple’s annual Christmas party included some 60 guests, and they also had a bash for last year’s Super Bowl, which featured his favorite team, the Chicago Bears.
Even when his tongue cancer progressed to the point where he could no longer eat, he made sure no one went hungry.
“He didn’t care that he couldn’t eat what he made you,” Mindy Herman said. “He got such joy out of cooking for people, watching people eat.”
Herman also received joy and strength from running the support group.
“He was such an inspiration to me, and very inspirational to all these people,” Mindy said of the 70-member group. “I am far better person from having been with him.”
Victoria Vancza Folsom
Victoria Vancza Folsom started her life on a New Jersey dairy farm, struggling to learn English.
The daughter of Romanian immigrants died 89 years later speaking seven languages. A graduate of New York University with a law degree, she was regarded as an expert in international treaties and law and a pioneer for women in the legal profession.
Oh, yes, she also played a mean round of golf.
“It wasn’t just enough to learn to play well,” said her stepdaughter Georgia Vancza. “She had to be an expert. She had that drive to be excellent at whatever she did.”
Vancza Folsom held local and state golf championship titles for several years. She expected others to be as serious as she was at excelling.
As serious as she was, the striking beauty had a wry sense of humor and could charm just about anyone, her stepdaughter said.
Victoria met her husband, Victor Vanzca, at the law firm where they worked. A law library at the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade in Tucson is named for them.
Patricia A. Bubb
Being a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader in the 1970s may have been the most public claim to fame for Patricia Bubb, 52, but her family said that wasn’t her only one.
“You name it, she could do it,” said Bubb’s mom, Nancy Renaud. “She could do a little bit of everything.”
The eldest of four children, Bubb was born in Melrose, Texas, and lived in Ohio, Dallas and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, after her marriage to Alan Bubb in 1993. Then they moved to Tucson.
She was a community activist, loved nature and was skilled in drawing, writing and cooking.
Bubb founded Tucson’s Duffy Estates Neighborhood Association and made some major changes, such as adding speed bumps, to make the neighborhood safer.
Although she had no children, Bubb had plenty of affection for her two nieces and other youngsters, her husband, Alan, said.
“She would never let a birthday or holiday go by without getting presents for our friends’ young children,” Bubb said. “She’d see to it they got something under the tree from her. That’s where her heart was during the holidays.”
The 52-year-old Bubb died in April of a heart attack. While it is slowly recovering, her family still lives with the shock. Her dog, Pepper, seems to be lost without her.
“For a long time he would look at the door, waiting for her to walk in,” Alan said. “But the dog’s getting better, and so am I.”
At age 90, Anthony Lombardo was still going strong, laughing with his large, loving family, sharing his World War II adventures at local elementary schools and even mowing his own lawn.
One would expect nothing less from an Army veteran who received the Purple Heart and four Bronze Stars during World War II.
“He never knew what he got them for,” said his wife of 58 years, Lucille Lombardo, commenting on his modesty. “He was a real sweetheart.”
She said the tank driver, commander and gunner probably would have had a military career if he hadn’t been injured in one of the many battles and four invasions in which he participated.
A shell hit the side of his tank north of Rome shortly after its liberation June 4, 1944.
“His whole left side was full of shrapnel,” she said. But in Lombardo fashion, Anthony kept going.
The couple met through family. Anthony’s mother was on the same ship out of Italy as Lucille’s grandmother, and their marriage thrived despite the 13-year age difference.
“A lot of people said the marriage would never last because I was so young,” Lucille Lombardo said. “We would have been married 59 years on Sept. 1.”
The two Connecticut natives moved to Tucson in 1958 after falling in love with the city during a visit.
They trekked west in an old car, with a trailer full of goods they didn’t sell back East.
“We camped out all the way over,” Lucille Lombardo said. “We didn’t have a lot of money for hotels.”
Once in Tucson, Lombardo worked at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and later spoke at area schools about WWII.
“He had a really good personality,” his wife added. “Everybody loved him.”
Frank Allen Sr.
Frank Allen Sr., 62, was doing one of the things he did best – helping when needed – when he died in a car crash June 2.
Allen was called to an early-morning emergency at his GW Plastics job when another vehicle slammed into his car.
Allen died in a hospital. The other driver was later found to be drunk, and the Pima County Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case.
“My father’s death was needless,” daughter Sherry Allen said.
Nephew Raymond Allen said Allen was more than just an uncle to him. He was a wonderful friend, he said, a free spirit with an easy-going nature who will be missed.
His daughter pointed out her father’s big heart and love of children. Every year he donated $2,000 to the Tucson Fire Department’s Toys for Tots to buy bicycles for kids.
He gave to a number of charities, pitched in to buy Thanksgiving meals for needy families and took schoolkids to the store once a year to buy shoes.
“He was a great man,” his daughter said. “He loved everyone. My father was not a saint, but he worked hard at the end of his life to be like one.”
Deborah Anne Sprecker
The generous, determined and go-getting Debbie Sprecker, 63, kept working after she retired from the U.S. Air Force, even though she had nothing more to prove.
Her 30 years in the military took her to Germany, Turkey and other places. She became a chief master sergeant in the 1980s.
“That rank makes up only 1 percent of the enlisted rank, and for a female to make it back then, that was really quite an accomplishment,” said her brother Tim Sprecker, three years her junior.
Chief Master Sgt. Sprecker also was an avid bowler, holding the title of U.S. Air Force Women’s Bowling Champion.
In 2003, Sprecker ended up as residents’ advocate, as well as a resident herself, in Mountain View Retirement Village where she earned the 2007 Volunteer of the Year Award.
“Management was very grateful,” her brother said.
Sprecker was loyal to her family and traveled to support her niece during horse competitions.
Although Sprecker was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 27, the disease progressed slowly and she kept going.
When MS took away her bowling, she turned to golf. When it took away her golf, she remained a fan. When it made it hard for her to travel for her niece, she bought a motor home for easier mobility.
“That just shows you the kind of person she was,” her brother said.
Angela Knoche and Timothy Hahn
Hikers Angela Knoche and Timothy Hahn were swept to their deaths Aug. 4 when a flash flood ravaged Seven Falls in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.
Knoche, 19, and Hahn, 25, both had jobs that dealt with saving the lives of others.
Knoche, an avid swimmer, worked as a civilian lifeguard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and had been a member of the Palo Verde High Magnet School swim team until she graduated last year.
Hahn was an Air Force staff sergeant assigned to the 563rd Maintenance Squadron, part of the 563rd Rescue Group, a combat rescue unit.
Knoche’s brother Jeffrey Knoche said Hahn tried to save his sister by reaching out to grab her hand while she was flailing in the Bear Canyon flood but ended up getting carried away with her instead.
In addition to dedicating their lives to helping others, both were well-loved.
Knoche was described as a jovial woman with a luminous smile.
“She (was) energetic and always very positive about things,” her brother said. She loved music and taught herself to play guitar and mandolin.
Knoche would have been a sophomore at Pima Community College this fall and was majoring in public relations after switching from sports medicine.
Hahn enlisted in the Air Force in October 2001, and transferred to D-M in April 2004. He left behind a wife and 4-year-old daughter.
Wing commander Col. Kent Laughbaum said both were respected members of the Davis-Monthan team. “More than (our) co-workers, they were our friends, and both will be deeply missed.”
Paul Edwards, 53, may have died, but his legacy of public art lives on in Tucson.
You can find “Sand Trout,” which he created with Chris Tanz, along Tanque Verde Road near the Rose Hill Wash. “Sun Circle” was developed with Tanz and artist Susan Holman on the Rillito River Park pathway just east of North La Cholla Boulevard, and “Many Color Mountain” by the three artists was installed at Ajo Way and Mission Road.
“Sand Trout” is adorned with children’s handprints.
“He had a lot of fun with kids,” said his first wife, JoAnn Sheperd, who was married to him for 14 years. She said kids were invited to put handprints in the “Sand Trout” sculpture, and they tried to get their baby daughter to do the same.
“She balled up her fist,” Sheperd said, “so her fist print is in there.”
Tanz appreciated working with Edwards on public art because he embraced a variety of ideas and materials.
“He was open to getting out in the field, with his sleeves rolled up,” she said. During their creation of “Sun Circle,” they went to the site with six huge refrigerator boxes with holes cut out to see how a sunset would filter through.
Edwards, who knew he wanted to be an architect by age 8, was an avid hiker who would take off for a week with just his backpack.
“He was a very talented man,” Sheperd said. “He could rewire a house, build a house, do plumbing, draw, design.”
Edwards’ second wife, architect Joyce Kelly, said the key to his success was his method.
“He came up with a concept first, then worked out all the details,” Kelly said. “That set him apart from the other architects.”
Frank “Pancho” Laos Gonzales
Frank Gonzales, 67, charmed just about everyone he met. He also whipped up a pretty mean burrito.
In the restaurant business for 41 years, Gonzales ran several restaurants bearing the “Pancho” name.
He steered to automobile sales in 1994, revving up business at Royal Buick, 4333 E. Speedway Blvd., until his retirement in 2007.
Even more than for his cuisine and his sales, Gonzales was known for his big heart.
He was a life member of the Tucson Conquistadores by 1988, after joining in 1971. Conquistador Bill MacMorran said Gonzales engaged members in friendly, yet “ferocious” pancake duels on the mornings before the last round of golf at the PGA tournament the group hosted for decades.
Cooking was always in his bones, and Gonzales said he missed the business but not the hassle of restaurant regulations.
He was quoted in a Tucson Citizen article saying he no longer had to worry “about who burned the beans or why the refrigerator didn’t work. ”
Gonzales had said he was happy selling cars. With his ready wit and easygoing nature, Gonzales seemed like a man who would be happy doing just about anything.
Financial maven Ken Herman, 83, worked his way from bank messenger to senior executive vice president and the nickname of the “$60 million man” for his ability to make prudent and safe deals. His rise to financial fame, however, did not come without hard work and a couple of close brushes with death.
The first was on Christmas Eve in 1953. Herman was branch manager of Southern Arizona Bank when two robbers bound him with adhesive tape and held him at gunpoint.
“He remained calm and survived with his usual aplomb,” said friend Chuck Pettis. Herman even stayed to finish his work for the day.
His second brush with death was on the way to a fishing trip with three others in March 1969. Their small plane crashed in subzero weather, killing the pilot and trapping Herman, who had a broken back and femur, beneath a seat for four hours while the other two went for help.
“His intelligence, integrity and honesty earned him a respected reputation in the national banking world,” Pettis said. Herman also was on a number of community boards.
Herman’s father was William Henry Herman, manager of Tucson’s first radio station in 1930, and his grandfather was Frank Schmidt, the developer of Colossal Cave.
Ralph Valdez Castillo
Ralph Valdez Castillo, 19, was on the brink of starting his career when his life was cut short Dec. 20.
Valdez Castillo was riding his motorcycle west on Drexel Road when he collided with a sedan that was making a left turn onto Columbus Boulevard. No citations were issued.
Friends said Valdez Castillo had just joined the military and was home on leave when he was killed.
“This is a tragedy,” said high school teacher Stacy Haines. “Ralph had so much promise.”
Haines taught the teen journalism at Desert View High School, 4101 E. Valencia Road, where Valdez Castillo graduated last spring.
Haines said Valdez Castillo was an excellent athlete who won all-southern Arizona volleyball honors last year.
Valdez Castillo was noted in many news articles about high school volleyball,
Nicknamed “Titi” by his large, extended family, those close to Valdez Castillo said he was a good kid who loved life and laughter and will never be forgotten.