By Martha Michael
A big part of the holiday season involves looking backwards to capture the sweet spirit of tradition. We also typically experience the bitter pang of sadness this time of year, when we remember those who left this world before us. While both aspects involve looking back in time, this year we are confronted right now, in the present, with so many loved ones lost recently.
The death of actor Paul Walker last week has brought the focus on grief to Santa Clarita, the site of Walker’s crash, but residents here in the SCV are experiencing enough loss of their own. Since the beginning of November, families are suffering from the deaths of sons, fathers and brothers, many of whom were active members of the community. George Guevara, Roger Presgrove, Nick Longshore, Julio Lemos, Devin Freeman and Tony Lombardi are just a few locals who have left mourning family and friends recently, some of them memorialized here in “The Gazette & Free Classifieds.”
The loss of Roger Presgrove, who was the head of local non-profit Help the Children, was publicized widely, including “The Gazette.” He lost his battle with cancer on Sunday, November 10, which seemed ironic, considering Presgrove had spearheaded medical support in Honduras specifically targeting cancer patients. Help the Children sponsored the “Love and Life Center,” which offered housing to 60+ children undergoing chemotherapy at a hospital next door.
In the following weeks, two young adults whose lives touched many in the SCV would also leave grieving families. An accident in Idaho on November 10 would take the life of Nick Longshore, son of DeAnn and the late Todd Longshore, brother to Courtney, Nate and Ben, and husband to Caroline Longshore. Nick and Caroline were expecting a child. His loss was a huge shock, and yet so similar to the death of another Canyon High School graduate, just five days later. Tony Lombardi, son of Margie and Al, and brother to Angie Lombardi Lynn, was hospitalized following an accident in Scottsdale, Arizona. The family gathered to spend the holiday with Tony, but he passed away on November 25, three days before Thanksgiving.
“Losing Tony is such a tragic loss. He had only been married a year and a half, moved into a new home, was so happy and had his whole life ahead of him,” said Margie Lombardi. “He was such a positive and caring person, and always had a smile on his face. There was never a day he did not call his dad and me at least once a day, and he always said he loved us before he would hang up. There will not be a minute that we will not have him in our thoughts. We were blessed to have him for 32 years.”
Both Tony Lombardi and Nick Longshore were in their 30s and their injuries resulted from accidents on recreational vehicles.
Another local man in his 30s, a sheriff’s deputy who worked as a resource officer at Sierra Vista Junior High and Canyon High School lost his battle with cancer on Thanksgiving Day. Deputy Devin Freeman was surrounded by family, including wife Meghan, his mother and daughters, in his home when he died from metastatic melanoma to the liver. He had originally been diagnosed with ocular melanoma in 2007.
As Christmas season began, the SCV lost more beloved friends. Julio Garcia Lemos passed away on Tuesday, December 3 after years of illness. He moved to Santa Clarita in 1985 from the San Fernando Valley, and was known for giving to this community, partly through his business, The Office of Julio Lemos.
“He provided so many different services,” explained Julio’s son, Jesus. “A lot of times he didn’t even charge people. Money was never the issue, it was always about helping. He may have been reading a letter, typing a letter, immigration filing, lawsuits. He knew how to do just about anything.”
While the business, operated by his children, continue to offer insurance and other services to all members of the community, Julio Lemos met a great need for Spanish speaking residents.
“His main priority was always to give back to the community, especially the Latino community,” said Jesus.
The holidays will be particularly difficult, said Jesus, who is a surviving son, along with two brothers, two sisters and Julio’s 10 grandchildren.
“That was the place to be – with my dad,” said Jesus. “He was always smiling, always happy, always helping others.”
Julio’s first liver transplant was on Thanksgiving of 2010. He awoke from that transplant on December 3 which, ironically, is the day he died in 2013.
The very next day, another friend of “The Gazette” passed away from illness. George Guevara, husband to Cyndie and father to Ryan and GJ, contracted a mysterious virus that required hospitalization last week. A week after being placed on life support in an attempt to let his body fight the virus, George died peacefully on December 4.
Gazette publisher Doug Sutton remembers George, a retired sheriff’s deputy, as a devoted family man. Others remember his involvement in Canyon High football, helping with pre-game lunches and attending games during the years his son Ryan played.
While we are sure there are more famililes who have lost loved ones this season, it is profound to consider so many so close to us lost in such a short time.
Hug your loved ones a little tighter this Christmas.