The 40 lives lost in the North Bay fires spanned generations and geographic divides. They included teenage siblings and couples who spent decades together. They were parents and grandparents, military veterans and caretakers. They were refugees from foreign revolutions, professionals who’d found their calling and retirees who’d made their mark. Several were spouses whose loved ones survived. Nearly all died in the initial firestorm that erupted Oct. 8. Their contributions to our community will not be forgotten. Here, we chronicle the lives they lived.
Click on the names below to read the full story.
The Press Democrat remembers:
In Sonoma County:
Mark West Springs Area
Michel Azarian, 41
Surrounded by mountains in his hometown of Zahlé, Lebanon, Michel Azarian grew up hiking and exploring nature. When offered a position as an engineer at Santa Rosa’s Keysight Technologies in 2014, he jumped at the chance to savor the beauty and trails the region had to offer.
Carmen Caldentey Berriz was 18 when she left her native Cuba in 1959, shortly after Fidel Castro and his guerrillas took control of the island and entered Havana. It was in Havana where she at the age of 12 first met Armando Berriz, a 13-year-old boy she’d one day marry after settling in Miami. “They kept in love, in touch and fervently dedicated to each other,” said Meissner, of Agoura Hills just outside of Los Angeles. “Even Fidel could not stop them.”
Mike Grabow was the kind of guy who could make a good friend within minutes of meeting the person, according to his family. “He would just give you the shirt off of his back,” said his sister, Lindsay Osier. “He went beyond and beyond for people to make them feel good in their lives.”
Art and Suiko Grant were avid gardeners, transforming their 3½-acre property in the hills off Reibli Road into a “veritable Garden of Eden,” with every type of fruit tree imaginable, recalls their daughter, Trina Grant. Grant met his future wife in Honolulu, where she was working for a Japanese company. He had been dating her roommate but when he caught site of Suiko at a party, he decided she was “The One.”
LeRoy and Donna Halbur left rural Iowa nearly five decades ago, but their Midwestern roots and values remained strong amid a life dedicated to community service, guided by their Catholic faith. “They weren’t complicated,” said Tim Halbur, of Los Angeles, the oldest of the Halburs’ two sons. “They were salt-of-the-earth people who just got things done. And they were warm, loving, very tolerant, and very understanding people.”
Wildlife biologist Monte Kirven, who scaled cliffs to reach the nests of peregrine falcons on the brink of extinction and helped revive the threatened population, told his children his lifelong passion for falcons began in Tennessee when he was 15 and working in a taxidermy shop.
Veronica “Roni” McCombs was the kind of woman who would drop everything to help her family. A sharp, independent and creative soul, she loved the arts and in her early years owned a shop specializing in custom clothing and design pieces.