Obituaries

The Departed: A Final Farewell to Notable Arizonans We Lost in 2022

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From health complications to the heat, accidents, police shootings, and even lethal injections, the cause of deaths we chronicled at Phoenix New Times in 2022 were as varied, tragic, and memorable as the people who passed.

A judge and mother, a beloved bar owner, a neighborhood activist, artists, an advocate for the unhoused, a Holocaust survivor, immigrants, and so many more. Their stories weaved together help make the fabric of the Valley that's so special. Our list is by no means comprehensive. But it does highlight the impact that even a single person can have in Phoenix.

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Rosa Mroz
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Rosa Mroz
February 5, 2022

Rosa Mroz, the first Asian-American woman to serve as a Maricopa County Superior Court judge, was struck by a vehicle as she crossed an intersection in Arcadia on February 2. She died three days later at the age of 56.

Mroz left behind her husband, Rob Mroz, two adoring children, and her mother, Jane Peng. Mroz was born Peng Shao Ching in Taiwan, moved to the U.S. at the age of 7, and naturalized at 18. During her formative years, Mroz moved from coast to coast and beyond — Chicago to Queens, New York; Miami to Hawaii.

Mroz earned her bachelor's and law degrees from Arizona State University. Her judicial career was filled with accolades, including the 2020 Arizona State University Judge of the Year, the 2020 National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Trailblazer Award, and the 2014 Maricopa County Superior Court's Penny Gaines Collegiality Award.

Even though she often toiled late into the evening, Mroz would always check her kids' homework after dinner, family members recalled. If they were working through the night, she was up with them. Mroz was ever-present at the events of her children and often volunteered alongside parents who knew her as a mom, not as a judge.

Following her death, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Howard Sukenic described Mroz as "the truest friend and colleague one could have."

Mroz's death highlighted the dangers pedestrians face in Maricopa County. Some 460 pedestrians were killed in the county in 2021. Final numbers for 2022 are not yet available. — Elias Weiss

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Pat Olivo
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Pat Olivo
March 7, 2022

When Pat Olivo died from unspecified health reasons in March at the age of 80, the Valley lost a longtime LGBTQ ally, mentor, and benefactor. As the owner of Pat O's Bunkhouse Saloon, he was a generous and larger-than-life figure who kept things inclusive at his namesake Melrose District joint.

Hoping to foster an atmosphere of acceptance, belonging, and community, Olivo welcomed anyone and everyone, regardless of their orientation or gender identity. This spirit carried over to the varied events his bar hosted, ranging from drag shows and discussions on trans rights to fundraisers for the Phoenix Gay Men's Chorus. Raucous parties were also the norm and often included Olivo at the center of the fun.

Olivo was a fixture of the local LGBTQ scene for decades. Born in New Castle, Pennsylvania, he landed in Phoenix in 1972 after earning a degree in hospitality management from Penn State University and traveling the world. Following stints managing Phoenix's infamous Playboy Club and co-owning the now-defunct pizzeria Mr. O's, he bartended at legendary bars Mr. Fat Fingers and Apollo's Lounge for more than 20 years.

In 2002, Olivo bought what would become the Bunkhouse while continuing to support other nearby LGBTQ spots, which helped earn him such nicknames as the "Godfather of Melrose" and "Uncle Pat." Kobalt Bar co-owner Jeffrey Perales cited him as a mentor in an Instagram post following Olivo's death. "He never sought the spotlight but was a light that many could depend on for guidance, support and friendship," Perales wrote. — Benjamin Leatherman

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Gerda Weissman Klein
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Gerda Weissmann Klein
April 3, 2022

If all Gerda Weissmann Klein had done was survive the Holocaust, her story would be extraordinary. Born in Bielsko, Poland, she was 15 years old when the Nazis entered her town. Her brother disappeared, and her parents were murdered in the concentration camps. Klein worked in a number of slave-labor camps before enduring a brutal 350-mile forced march that ended when her captors left in the night and American forces showed up. Among them was Kurt Klein, a Jewish soldier. They fell in love, married in Paris, and moved to Buffalo, New York, where, after years of being surrounded by death, Klein was able to begin living. The couple had three children, and in 1957, Klein wrote her memoir All But My Life, the first of 10 books she'd author. When Kurt retired, they moved to Phoenix, where they often spoke publicly about the Holocaust and established the Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation to promote education and tolerance. When she was in her 70s, she was the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary short, One Survivor Remembers. When she passed, she was a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, which was awarded to her by President Barack Obama in 2011; a grandmother of eight and a great-grandmother of 18; and a woman whose legacy of speaking up about the things that matter will long survive her. As they say in the Jewish faith, may her memory be for a blessing. — Jennifer Goldberg

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Kent Dana
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Kent Dana
April 19, 2022

For decades, anchor Kent Dana was the most recognizable face in local television news. An icon of the Phoenix airwaves, he was welcomed into Valley homes nightly to deliver the latest headlines in a calm, gentle, and almost fatherly demeanor to generations of locals.

Dana was so beloved that following his death last spring, longtime Valley residents felt like they'd lost a family member. Dana, 80, died due to complications from hip surgery. "If you grew up in Phoenix, you knew Kent Dana. He was the face of news in this town for a long time," local resident Joe Ferra tweeted after Dana's death.

A Valley native, Dana was born into the broadcasting biz. His father, Joe, worked in local radio and TV from the 1930s through the '50s. Kent began his career in 1974 at KOOL-TV, now Fox 10, as a protégé of the legendary Bill Close before moving to KPNX in 1979. He rose to prominence co-anchoring nightly newscasts and hosting weekly "Wednesday's Child" segments that helped local foster kids find families. When the NBC affiliate topped the ratings beginning in the mid-'90s, Dana was often at the forefront of the station's promos.

In 2005, he changed channels again, heading to KPHO. Viewers followed, increasing ratings for the station's newscasts by 55 percent.

Dana, who retired in 2011, stayed humble and never let fame go to his head, eschewing the sort of ego typically associated with news anchors. As former colleague Rick DeBruhl told KJZZ in April, "[Kent] was exactly the opposite. He was just such a low-key, pleasant, nice guy." — Benjamin Leatherman

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Pablo Luna
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Pablo Luna
April 19, 2022

Throughout his four-decade career as an artist, Pablo Luna walked the line between respectability and infamy, all while leaving an indelible mark on the Valley's cultural landscape.

Born and raised on Phoenix's west side, he grew up using shards of Sheetrock to adorn his family's concrete patio with aliens, tanks, and other fanciful drawings. As a teen, Chicano culture and New York City street art inspired Luna to become a graffiti writer. He joined local graf crews or started his own, adorning walls and alleyways with jagged block letting.

In his 20s, he began tagging freight train cars with murals and lettering under the moniker of KAPER. By the mid-'90s, he went semi-legal, dabbling in experimental metal sculptures. But he kept active in the graffiti world by forming the NG Crew alongside local artists such as Lalo Cota and Mando Rascon. Both have cited Luna as an influence.

Eventually, murals and graf became legit in the art world, as did Luna. In 2011, his pieces were seen in the art book The History of American Graffiti and in local exhibitions. He also introduced more Chicano elements, such as calaca skeletons, into his art. Four years later, he collaborated with Rascon and renowned artist and former Valley resident El Mac on Nuestra Gente, a prominent mural near 13th Place and Van Buren Street.

Luna's murals have since become a staple of downtown Phoenix's art scene, adorning businesses such as Barrio Café and Carly's Bistro. Since his death at age 52 due to complications from diabetic ketoacidosis, they've become part of his legacy, as have the artists he influenced.

"It's hard to quantify just how big his contribution was to the cultural growth of Phoenix, both directly and indirectly," El Mac told art publication Southwest Contemporary. "He would be considered a pioneer of the arts scene in Phoenix." — Benjamin Leatherman

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Allister Adel
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Allister Adel
April 30, 2022

Allister Adel was a complicated character — a loving wife and mother who struggled with addiction and mental illness who also ran the third-largest public prosecutorial agency in the U.S.

In 2019, Adel became the first woman to lead the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. She had prosecuted gang and drug crimes in the office from 2004 to 2011. She worked as a criminal court administrator in Maricopa County Superior Court between 1999 and 2001. Over the years, Adel also served as an administrative judge for the Arizona Department of Transportation, general counsel for the Department of Child Safety, and executive director of the Maricopa County Bar Association. Adel grew up in Dallas but studied criminology at the University of Arizona and obtained a law degree from Arizona State University.

Adel carried out some of the reforms she promised when she ran for, and won, the county attorney office in November 2020. But her tenure was also marked by scandal. She resigned in March 2022, a month before she died of unspecified health complications at the age of 45.

Among attorneys in Maricopa County, "Allister Adel rose to the top," Bill Gates, chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, once told New Times. A fairly progressive Republican, Adel emphasized cracking down on sexual harassment and advocating transparency in the county attorney's office.

Adel was survived by her two children and her husband, David DeNitto. After the news of her death, DeNitto said he was "utterly heartbroken by this unimaginable loss."

"We are so very proud to call Allister wife and mom," he said. — Elias Weiss

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Clarence Dixon
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Clarence Dixon
May 11, 2022

In 2014, the state of Arizona stopped executions. The badly botched killing of a person on death row brought enough scrutiny and litigation to keep Arizona from issuing death warrants for almost a decade. But the execution of Clarence Dixon marked a new, bloody era for the death penalty in Arizona, which Attorney General Mark Brnovich had worked to restart for years. Since Dixon's execution, two more on Arizona's death row have been put to death: Frank Atwood in June and Murray Hooper in November.

In December, with only weeks left in his term, Brnovich requested another death warrant for Aaron Gunches, a man convicted of a 2002 murder. During each execution in 2022, state Department of Corrections officials have struggled to properly insert IVs to administer the lethal drugs. Each execution also marked the end of a thorny capital case that had stretched decades.

When Dixon died, he was 66. Some 44 years had passed since the murder of which he was convicted — that of 21-year-old Deana Bowdoin, who was assaulted and killed in her Tempe apartment in 1978. Only Bowdoin's sister lived to see Dixon's final moments. Dixon, as his attorneys argued before Arizona's clemency board, was elderly and frail by the time of his execution. "Extinguishing his life isn't justice. It may be revenge, but it is not justice," attorney Amanda Bass said. The state proceeded anyway. — Katya Schwenk

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Bernard "Klute" Schober
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Bernard 'Klute' Schober
July 18, 2022

Walt Whitman and, more recently, Bob Dylan claimed to contain multitudes. And they do. So, too, did Bernard Schober, known as The Klute. He was a mainstay of the Valley poetry scene for 20 years, lighting up stages with his hilarious, high-energy performances; representing the Valley at many national poetry slam competitions; and inspiring and encouraging countless writers around him.

His other passion was shark conservation — remember, multitudes. Schober took every opportunity to go scuba diving around the world to see his favorite animals and published books of poetry about sharks and donated the proceeds to conservation organizations. He was outspoken about his political opinions, often sparring on Twitter with people who voted Republican or didn't believe in climate change. He was a fan of mai tais — preferably served in tiki mugs — and long black trench coats.

After Schober suffered a heart attack while hiking, tributes from around the country poured in from his family, friends, and the many people whose lives he touched in the poetry and conservation worlds. They spoke of his generosity, his wit, and his kindness. In his honor, they've written poems and organized beach cleanups. His legacy lives on. — Jennifer Goldberg

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Mike Felder
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Michael Felder
August 30, 2022

People trusted Michael Felder. They told him their stories, their fears, and their troubles. For someone who lived on the streets in Phoenix, that trust was an important quality. It helped him survive, but more significantly, it also made him an effective organizer. Felder was born in South Carolina, though he left that state in adulthood and spent time in Florida and Nevada before moving to Phoenix. He came to the city to seek a new life in 2018 and soon found himself living in a downtown Phoenix encampment called the Zone. That's where he became a leader.

Felder worked with an organization called the Fund for Empowerment to collect the stories of his neighbors and document alleged abuses by the city in the area. He helped distribute masks and other supplies during the early days of the pandemic. But in the summer of 2020, things took a turn. Felder was jailed on a petty drug charge just before he was set to receive a housing voucher.

When he was released in August 2022, he lived on the streets again. Felder, 62, died of heatstroke in his tent on August 30, two days after he got out of jail. The high that day was 109 degrees. He wanted to get back to his work with the Fund for Empowerment and speak with investigators from the U.S. Justice Department, which is looking into the city's treatment of unsheltered people. Instead, he became one of 378 heat-related deaths in Maricopa County in 2022, according to a preliminary accounting. For his friends, Felder's death was tragic, senseless, and cruel. "Michael was an amazing seeker of justice," said Elizabeth Venable, a fellow organizer with the Fund for Empowerment.

Now, the city faces a lawsuit over its treatment of unsheltered people — treatment that Felder fought hard to bring to light. — Katya Schwenk

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Emmanuel 'Manny' Tripodis
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Emmanuel 'Manny' Tripodis
September 6, 2022

Many knew Emmanuel Tripodis as Manny, a man who had a tremendous impact on the local music and nightlife scene in Phoenix. He died on September 6 following a three-year-long battle with cancer. He was 51.

Tripodis grew up in La Porte, Indiana, before making his way to the desert southwest. He not only loved music but also was a singer and guitarist. In Scottsdale, he ran Rogue Bar, an iconic rock venue with nightly shows, for 12 years. There, he encouraged emerging talent and fostered budding musicians. He provided a stage for new bands to perform for the first time in front of a small crowd at the 80-person-capacity venue. In 2012, New Times named him Best Local Music Booster and noted his "tireless support of local music."

When Rogue Bar closed in 2019, Tripodis turned his attention to Linger Longer Lounge, a friendly dive bar and music venue in north Phoenix that he ran with his wife, Jade Noble, and friend Cal Cronin. Tripodis and Noble also bought the beloved boutique Frances on Camelback Road. There, in Tripodis' first foray into retail, he managed the numbers. Tripodis often remained behind the scenes, encouraging others to take the stage and spotlight. But when news of his passing spread, tributes poured out on social media, radio stations, newspaper articles, and live shows with his legacy now in public view. — Tirion Morris

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Ali Osman
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Ali Osman
September 24, 2022

In the days and weeks after Ali Osman's death, he was mourned and remembered in different ways. As a brother, a son, an uncle. A refugee from Somalia whose family had found a new home in Tucson. A devout, spiritual man. A once-successful Phoenix business owner who succumbed to his struggles with mental illness.

On September 24, at age 34, Osman was shot and killed by Phoenix police officers. He had thrown a rock at a passing patrol car, and then again at two officers as they approached him. Osman had been planning to fly to Kenya on September 27 to visit his mother, whom he hadn't seen for 17 years. In 2022, Osman was one of 10 people killed by Phoenix police, including at least one other person with a history of mental illness. This fall, as the department resisted releasing the full footage of the shooting, Osman's death spurred new outrage and demands for change — from Somali and Muslim communities in the city, and from people across the Valley.

"I don't know what else we can do," community organizer Muktar Sheikh told New Times after Osman's death. For years, Sheikh has pushed for police reforms and focused on the policing of refugee communities. Yet Osman's death seemed a sign that change was still a distant hope. "We've protested. We've elected officials. What else can we do?" Sheikh asked. — Katya Schwenk

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Sylvia Laughter
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Sylvia Laughter
October 15, 2022

She was the first Diné woman to serve in the Arizona Legislature and the first and only lawmaker to do so as an independent since Arizona became a state in 1912. Sylvia Laughter, who died in October at age 63 after a 10-month battle with COVID-19, left an undeniable mark on the Copper State.

Laughter served in the state legislature from 1999 to 2005 and helped secure more than $20 million in funding for elders, education, and veterans, according to the Arizona Republic. She sponsored the bill that produced the Navajo Nation license plate and legislation to create an annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day.

Laughter was a Navajo woman who descended maternally from the Towering House Clan and paternally from the Red Running into the Water People Clan. She grew up with a foster family in Mesa and graduated from Brigham Young University in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in broadcast communications and a minor in music.

"Our mother, Sylvia Marie Laughter, fought a long hard battle with COVID the last 10 months and passed away unexpectedly October 15, 2022," her daughter Nakita Nez Guminiak posted on Facebook. "She was the strongest woman we knew, an inspiration and advocate for freedom and truth. She had many hobbies, one of which was thrifting and chalk painting beautiful furniture. We love and miss her so much."

Laughter's son, Ned Mitchell Nez, died at age 19 in an automobile accident in 2003. She is survived by daughters Nez Guminiak and Tasha Vlach, as well as seven sisters. — Natasha Yee

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Jose Jimenez
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Jose Jimenez
November 6, 2022

Jose Mackario Jimenez was a staple of the Phoenix food scene, the type of guy you'd laugh with while he whipped up your Peanut Butter Burger at Welcome Diner or fried some fresh tortilla chips at Gallo Blanco in Garfield Historic District. Though he was only 47 when he died, he asked that some of his younger colleagues refer to him as "grandpa" and gifted them Batman comics.

Jimenez died after a shift with Cloth & Flame, an event company that creates pop-up dinners throughout the Valley. He hopped on his bike and texted his family that he was on his way home. The next morning, Phoenix police found Jimenez's body in the canal near Seventh and Dunlap avenues. His family and friends are still investigating his mysterious passing, which police described as an accidental death.

He leaves behind his wife, Amanda Nash-Jimenez, their two children, a granddaughter, and his mother. And while his legacy is unequivocally tied to the culinary industry, it also lives on through Jimenez's charitable work. Earlier in 2022, AmeriCorps awarded the Jimenez family with The President's Volunteer Service Award in recognition of 2,000 hours of service for hosting foreign exchange students from around the world. He also rode his bike 238 miles in the Great Cycle Challenge USA to raise $793 to fight pediatric cancer.

Multiple memorials were held for Jimenez, including a December 4 one hosted by Cloth & Flame at The Icehouse in downtown Phoenix. North Mountain Brewing Co. created a beer in his honor, which can be found at North Mountain, Welcome Diner, Sin Muerte, Belly in both the Melrose District and Gilbert, and Little Miss BBQ, a Sunnyslope restaurant where Jimenez worked most recently.

"I hope that everyone can drink the beer with love and light in their hearts, looking up at the moon, like Jose would want. He was one of the most loving men," Nash-Jimenez said. "And he's loved not just in Arizona but across the states and globally. My goal as his life partner is to continue to honor him." — Natasha Yee

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Winifred Green
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Winifred Green
November 29, 2022

In 2007, Phoenix named a park after Winifred Green to commemorate her commitment to the betterment of the north Valley's Sunnyslope neighborhood. It was a crowning moment of her long career of service. Green died on November 29. She was 93.

Green was born in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Phoenix in 1960. In 1967, Green and her husband, Frank, opened the Antique Outpost, a store on Cave Creek Road that the couple ran together for 52 years. Frank passed away in 2017, but Green continued to run the store for two more years.

Along with managing the business and raising her children, Floyd and Stella, Green spent her time advocating for her community. She was a founding member of the Sunnyslope Village Alliance and served two terms as president. When a group of young mothers voiced concerns about a lack of safe spaces for children to play, Green worked to establish a youth center that was later expanded to include a park and playground. It's now known as Winifred Green Park. Green also spent her time volunteering with her local church, family services organizations, and citizens committees. Green's legacy lives on through her children, her commitment to the community, and her park. — Tirion Morris

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