Obituaries

The Departed 2020: Arizonans We’ll See on the Other Side

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All throughout 2020 — since March, anyway — a song rattled around in my head: "People Who Died," by the Jim Carroll Band. It was a minor hit in the early 1980s; maybe you know it. Carroll, the punk-poet author of The Basketball Diaries, wrote it as a sort of tribute to friends he knew who died before their time. Some of them met wild ends: a guy killed by bikers, a woman who jumped in front of a subway train. Others left Earth via less dramatic but nevertheless heartbreaking routes. My favorite line goes: Bobby got leukemia, fourteen years old / He looked like sixty-five when he died / He was a friend of mine. The chorus goes: Those are people who died, died / They were all my friends, and they died.

It was lodged in my head — still is — because just about every day I see or hear a news report with the phrase "people died" in it. "Another 46 people died" in Arizona yesterday from COVID-19. So-and-so is "one of hundreds of thousands of people who've died" of COVID in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic. And so on.

More than 9,000 people have died of COVID in Arizona as I write this, and more than 350,000 total have died across the country. We didn't collectively include all those people in this year's edition of The Departed, our annual January ode to notable Arizonans we lost the previous year. It would have seemed too on-the-nose, or maybe too much to wrap our heads around, or something. Some of the people on our list did die, too young, of COVID. Others — a mall, a cocktail — are not actually people but were arguably victims of COVID. Still others simply happened to arrive at the end of the road during a global pandemic. Either way, this year's batch of Departeds impacted us in some meaningful way that we felt was worthy of mentioning one more time before we put 2020 out of our minds. Rest in peace to them all, and here's to 2021 being a year when we know fewer people who died. — David Hudnall

click to enlarge Richard Skoog - LUSTER KABOOM
Richard Skoog
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Richard Skoog

January 28, 1973 — February 28, 2020

Nobody called him Richard — it was either Rick or, as patrons of TT Roadhouse in south Scottsdale can tell you, just Skoog. He worked at the neighborhood bar first as a door guy, then as a bartender, and in 2009 became owner and operator. Skoog gave the roadhouse its edge. He was widely known as a whiskey enthusiast, stocking the place with high-end bottles of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, Booker's Bourbon, Woodford Reserve, Powers Irish Whiskey, and more. Upon his death, the bar shifted ownership to his three siblings (also Skoogs), who set to work giving the place a nice spring-cleaning during the COVID shutdown. The flags displayed on the ceiling? Taken down, washed, ironed, and rehung. All the motorcycle racing-related tchotchkes? Dusted and replaced. And the many, many labels Skoog had been collecting from Powers bottles? A new leaning area was erected in the small front room, which was lined with Skoog's label collection and sealed with epoxy. But worry not, TT purists: the bar has kept the same flavor. "We don't want to change anything," says Alicia Baldwin, Skoog's sister and now co-owner, "because it's his legacy." — Lauren Cusimano

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Shanna Hogan
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Shanna Hogan

October 21, 1981 — August 27, 2020

Shanna Hogan's work involved researching the deaths of people who had been murdered viciously by their loved ones, then producing books we wanted to read about those horrifying events. She was good at her work. So, naturally, when the 38-year-old writer was found dead at the bottom of her pool by her husband in August, the public took immediate interest. But there was nothing unusual or suspicious about Hogan's death, police quickly confirmed. In a tragic mishap, she had hit her head while using her pool with her 14-month-old son and drowned.

Friends and family remain beside themselves with grief, none more so than her husband, Matt LaRussa, now raising their boy without his mother. In spite of her chosen book material, Hogan was a kind-hearted soul who usually left people feeling better after a conversation, and people who knew her were inspired by the way she turned her dream of a career in writing into a reality.

Hogan grew up in Scottsdale, graduating from Horizon High School in 2000, and then from Arizona State University in 2005 with a degree in journalism. (She would later become an adjunct professor of journalism at ASU, where she was known to occasionally appear before class in costume for mock news conferences.) She worked at the East Valley Tribune and Times Media Publications as a writer and editor before writing books full-time and had also freelanced for Phoenix New Times. — Ray Stern

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Lute Olson
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Lute Olson

September 22, 1934 — August 27, 2020

A legend in Arizona sports and an inductee into both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, Olson was the coach of the University of Arizona men's basketball team for 25 years. Between 1983 and 2007, he took the Wildcats to four Final Four appearances, over 20 consecutive NCAA tournaments, 11 Pac-10 titles, and, in 1997, an NCAA title. Many of his players would go on to find great success in the N.B.A, including Steve Kerr, current coach of the Golden State Warriors.

Prior to arriving at U of A, Olson coached basketball teams at the University of Iowa, Long Beach State University, and Long Beach City College. He died in Tucson at the age of 85. He had been hospitalized in 2019 after experiencing a stroke and was moved into hospice care prior to his death. He had perfect hair right up to the very end. — Josh Kelety

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Astrid Guri Olafsen
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Astrid Guri Olafsen

March 29, 1948-July 14, 2020

Long before "sustainability" became a buzzword for hipsters and corporate behemoths, Astrid Guri Olafsen was creating repurposed designs through an enterprise she called RunzwithScissors. She'd make wearable works of art from T-shirts and "zombie" slip dresses using found objects, scraps discarded by other designers, and offbeat materials that reflected her bold aesthetic. "I was inspired by Astrid," says FABRIC co-founder Angela Johnson. "She had a really fun sense of humor, and she was interested in so many things."

Olafsen studied molecular pathology, botany, and Scandinavian studies at universities in California and Arizona, reflecting her Norwegian roots and foreshadowing her focus on sustainable fashion. Her designs were shown in several settings, from AZ Eco Fashion Week to the downtown On Central fashion show. An iconic image of Olafsen shows her sporting a bright orange jumpsuit, a crocheted ear-flap cap with lopsided eyeballs, and a furry gray puppet on one arm. Kathleen Donlinger reminisced on Facebook about meeting Olafsen years ago, calling her "a tall, elegant woman with purple hair and the kindest smile." Sara Vogelsanger described her as "the queen of making a statement."

Kristin Wesley, a Phoenix artist based in the Grand Avenue arts enclave, remembers Olafsen's involvement with the "burner" community created around Burning Man. She'd do pop-up art shows, race in the Idiotarod, and was an early fire spinner in central Phoenix. "She loved doing things that were colorful and fun." Olafsen was 72 when she died this summer after waging a quiet battle against pancreatic cancer. She's survived by her adult son, who goes by Zander. "They were inseparable," recalls Wesley.

Olafsen's work continues to have an impact on young designers, according to Johnson, who uses words like "humble" and "gentle soul" when talking about her gift for collaboration. "She did everything with such intensity and purpose; she had a big heart and always participated in such a sweet, sensitive way." — Lynn Trimble

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Beltran Family
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Beltran Family

Died July 21, August 20, August 26, and September 10, 2020

It only took one gathering to spell doom for the Beltran family. Over the Fourth of July weekend, the family gathered for a small birthday celebration in a South Phoenix backyard. That was enough for COVID-19 to take hold. Just over two months later, four members of the close-knit family were dead: grandparents Irene Ruiz and Gilberto Beltran, father Pablo Beltran, and beloved uncle Gil Beltran.

The Beltrans were just one of many Latino families devastated by COVID-19. In Maricopa County, Hispanic or Latino people comprise 31 percent of the population but 42 percent of COVID-19 cases where ethnicity is known and 38 percent of resulting hospitalizations. Statewide, Hispanic or Latino people have the second-most deaths compared to the population, second only to Native American people. Experts point to systemic factors, such as economic inequality, de facto residential segregation, and racism as driving the disparate infection rates. On a practical level, Latino people are overrepresented in jobs that are considered essential, require direct contact with others, or lack health benefits. It's likely that Gil, the first to show an infection after the party, may have been carrying the virus after contracting it at his job of 21 years driving rental-car shuttles at the airport.

Gilberto and Irene grew up in the northern Sonora, Mexico, border town of Agua Prieta, moving to Phoenix in 1978. Gilberto is remembered for his knack for making friends wherever he went; Irene is remembered for her love of pranking her kids, of whom she had four. Gil, named for his father, was the oldest and shared his love of Star Wars with his young nephew. Pablo was the second oldest and had recently married his partner of 16 years. He was a father to two sons. — Erasmus Baxter

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Stefan Pruett
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Stefan Pruett

March 8, 1985 — June 14, 2020

Stefan Pruett knew he wasn't going to live a long life. Born with a congenital heart defect (transposition of the great arteries), doctors told the Carefree native and future musician he'd never see adulthood. He defied those grim odds, surviving three open-heart surgeries and living into his mid-30s. Pruett's condition never got him down, though, or kept him from pursuing projects, says friend and onetime bandmate Mike McHale.

"I think it drove him to do a lot creatively," McHale says. "If there was something he desired to do, he'd just go out and do it. [Stefan] very much had a 'now or never' mentality and just always stayed positive and stayed busy."

In high school, Pruett played bass, fronted bands, and booked shows. At age 18, he co-founded influential local electropop act Peachcake. By 2009, he'd created an artsy television show called Planet Awesome, launched an indie imprint, and become one of the Valley's most charismatic frontmen.

Peachcake offered catchy, joyful electronic anthems and performances that were gleeful, over-the-top spectacles. (Imagine an elementary school P.E. class on a sugar bender led by Wayne Coyne.) Confetti and costumes were the norm. Audiences danced underneath unfurled parachutes. Pruett would dress in animal costumes, often roaming the crowd and sometimes passing out fake flowers.

He maintained this sense of whimsy offstage, wearing onesie pajamas as street clothes or bunny ears in business meetings. His positivity, DGAF attitude, and infectious love of music inspired friends, one of whom described him to the Arizona Republic as "an undefinable, magical man who offered support, escape and illumination."

Peachcake folded in 2013 after Pruett moved to L.A., but he continued making music up until his death on June 14 from heart failure. Since 2015, he performed as The Guidance, signing with producer Tommie Sunshine's label Brooklyn Fire and opening for She Wants Revenge and MXMS. "Stefan inspired me to literally do whatever the fuck I wanted to do," says local DJ/promoter Claire Slattery. "Seeing him do that made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to, even if the odds were stacked against me." — Benjamin Leatherman

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Skye the Baboon
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Skye the Baboon

February 11, 1983 — October 2020

Thirty-seven is not a grand old age — unless you are a baboon. When Skye, a resident of Phoenix Zoo, died in October, she was the oldest hamadryas baboon at any member institution of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. (Hamadryas baboons, a species native to the Horn of Africa and the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, were considered sacred to the ancient Egyptians, and representations of them can be foundin ancient Egyptian art.)

She arrived in town in 1989 to be part of the new baboon exhibit, and for 30 years held court among her fellow primates; the zoo describes her as a queen bee who dominated the other female baboons and did things according to her own schedule, not that of her caregivers.

Phoenix Zoo announced on its Facebook page on October 22 that Skye had been humanely euthanized due to declining health brought on by her advanced age. The post, which called Skye a "resilient old lady" who had "earned the respect and love of all of her keepers and will be greatly missed by everyone," garnered more than 100 comments from volunteers, employees, and the public, praising her thoughtful demeanor and sassy, no-nonsense attitude, and sharing memories from decades of her reign. Rest in peace, queen Skye. — Jennifer Goldberg

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Mikel Weisser
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Mikel Weisser

February 7, 1959 — May 13, 2020

Instead of a white hat, Mikel Weisser had white shirts. He always seemed to be wearing one. He was also prone to carrying pot shake in an Altoids tin in his pocket. Weisser was an unabashed stoner, medical marijuana user, and strong advocate for ending the lock-'em-up strategy of the War on Drugs. Making marijuana legal in Arizona was Weisser's mission for the past 10 years, but he died six months before the historic vote in November that made it happen. He was optimistic about legalization, though — one of his trademark traits.

Weisser was a poet, plumber, and high school teacher from Illinois who relocated to northwestern Arizona. He had experienced homelessness earlier in his life and became a strong believer in progressive politics. He also ran the local chapter of NORML, the marijuana legalization group, and was an important part of the legalization campaigns of 2014, 2016, and 2020. Cheerful and always ready to talk about the benefits of cannabis, he had a warm personality that made him a natural politician. Both he and his wife, Beth, threw their hats into various runs for office. Though she became a school board member, Mikel's campaigns as a Democrat for Congress against right-wing icon Paul Gosar in a heavily Republican district never worked out. But those involved in the legalization effort know how important Weisser's advocacy was, and they'll miss his work for the marijuana cause. — Ray Stern

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Metrocenter
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Metrocenter

October 1973 — June 30, 2020

In Phoenix, there are older malls. There are bigger malls and fancier ones. But none are as beloved, as iconic, as deeply connected to the coming of age of generations of our citizens as Metrocenter.

When Metro opened, it quickly became a hub of commerce and community for the west Valley. For decades, it served customers, provided a hangout for teens, and even starred in a movie (the '80s classic Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure). The shopping center was already limping to its demise when the pandemic closed it for six weeks beginning in mid-March; in the 21st century, changing neighborhood demographics and the emergence of newer, shinier retail centers slowly drained the life (and the money) out of Metro.

In mid-June, when its owners announced the mall would permanently close at the end of the month, love of and nostalgia for Metrocenter went viral. A Facebook group devoted to Metro memories quickly gained more than 15,000 members, and a series of "cruise the mall" events were held during the shopping center's final days. All that reverence would have been helpful while the mall still had a chance to stay open, but several decades' worth of Phoenix's former teenagers driving around the perimeter, sharing remembrances of first jobs, food-court lunches, and electric Friday nights, provided a fitting send-off to a place that was much more than just a place to shop. — Jennifer Goldberg

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Sophie Yazzie
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Sophie Yazzie

August 17, 1914 — January 25, 2020

Sophie Yazzie, a Navajo woman who died in January at age 105 as one of the country's oldest war veterans, might have made an excellent Navajo Code Talker, but she was barred from the position because she was a woman. She was never bitter about the discrimination she faced, says her daughter, Tucson resident Kathleen Lampert.

Yazzie resolved to help the war effort after the Pearl Harbor attack and seeing some of her cousins become Code Talkers. But the Marine Corps wouldn't have her. So she enlisted in the Army and worked in Texas during World War II as a cook for combat pilots in training. When she signed up, Lampert said, there were basically just two positions available for women: nurse and cook. Yazzie took the nursing route — until the day she attended a live birth. The blood was "all over" and she couldn't stand it, Lampert said. She walked out that day and retrained as a cook, which she excelled at. "She became a great cook" at the Wingate Boarding School, where she worked with her husband until she was 70, Lampert said. "She made the best cinnamon rolls." Yazzie's desire to help others continues in her descendants, who include a surgeon, a medical tech, and Lampert, a physician's assistant. — Ray Stern

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Clive Cussler
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Clive Cussler

July 15, 1931 — February 24, 2020

Author Clive Cussler wrote more than 85 books, among them several series of action-adventure novels such as the Dirk Pitt novels (named after his son Dirk) and The NUMA Files, which share a name with the National Underwater and Marine Agency he founded to preserve American maritime and naval history.

"Clive wrote grand adventures about things people could imagine themselves doing," recalls Barbara Peters, who owns The Poisoned Pen bookstore in Old Town Scottsdale. "He really thought of himself as a grand storyteller, not a literary genius."

Cussler also had a compelling side gig: He's credited with discovering dozens of shipwrecks, earning his reputation as a spirited adventurer. NUMA teams working with Cussler discovered artifacts from numerous 19th and 20th century shipwrecks, including the U-boat that sank the Lusitania and the Carpathia that rescued survivors from the Titanic. Artifacts they located have gone on to museums, universities, government entities, and nonprofits. The Cussler Museum he founded in Colorado houses a collection of more than 100 rare and vintage cars.

Cussler grew up in California, where he held down all kinds of jobs, from pumping gas to advertising, serving in the U.S. Air Force, and collecting cars. His literary accomplishments include selling more than 100 million books, landing multiple times on The New York Times' bestseller list, and having his writing translated into dozens of languages. Cussler worked with several co-authors, including Dirk Cussler, Boyd Morrison, and Justin Scott. Often, his writing reflected his own real-life adventures. "There was real history in his stories," Peters says.

Cussler, who split his time between Colorado and Arizona, was 88 when he died at his Paradise Valley home, where he'd built a studio for writing and collecting memorabilia. Looking back, Peters hails his down-to-earth nature and the way he mentored younger authors. "Despite becoming a celebrity," she says, "he never thought of himself as one." — Lynn Trimble

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Cecelia Miller
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Cecelia Miller

June 25, 1938 — May 7, 2020

Cecelia Miller, who founded Fry Bread House in 1992 and ran it until the mid-2010s, died in the spring after a long, non-COVID-related illness. Cecelia, a Tohono O'odham, was born in 1938 in Sells, Arizona, capital of the Tohono O'odham Nation. She later moved to the Gila River Indian Community "She was the main cook and caretaker for her four brothers and sisters," Sandra Miller, Cecelia's daughter and the current operator of Fry Bread House says of her mother. "That's where she learned how to cook." In 1992, Cecelia Miller opened Fry Bread House on Eighth Street and Indian School Road after saving money from a day job in real estate. She had three menu items and four tables. She made $50 her first day. Over the ensuing decades, her eatery became a pillar of indigenous food in Phoenix and a jewel in Arizona's restaurant scene. Most famously, Fry Bread House won a James Beard Award, the highest honor in American food, in 2012. Sandra remembers the day the foundation called her mom with the news. "She didn't even know who James Beard was," Sandra says. "She was like 'What are you talking about? I'm pretty busy. Can you call me back?'" — Lauren Cusimano

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Kristopher Chupp
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Kristopher Chupp

December 12, 1977 — July 12, 2020

If you've gotten down at a Scottsdale or Tempe club anytime in the past 20 years, it's likely you've danced to a soundtrack laid down by Kristopher Chupp. Known as DJ Steel, the late selector was a veteran of the local club scene, dropping beats at such memorable spots as Pussycat Lounge, El Hefe, or American Junkie.

"Club DJs have a certain reputation as hedonistic, cutthroat jerks, but Kris didn't fit that mold in the slightest," says friend and fellow DJ Chris Birkett. "He was friendly and generous to a fault and went out of his way to help anyone."

Friends and peers alike share similar tales of Chupp, who died on July 12 from complications of COVID-19. DJ Corey Eaton got his foot in the door at Tempe nightclubs thanks to Chupp. Steve "DJ Slippe" Lueder remembers the time Chupp sent him mixes of music. Regulars at his country dance nights at Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row in Scottsdale and Tempe recall how he'd play their favorite tunes.

Way before he dropped country anthems and electronic bangers at local nightspots, Chupp was a teenage hooligan performing at downtown Phoenix raves and underground parties of the '90s. "[At the time] I was a horrible kid and got in a bit of trouble with the law for stealing things," Chupp told New Times in a 2010 interview. "My friends and I were sitting around trying to come up with names, and one of my friends suggested DJ Theft. Another friend offered up DJ Steal, at which point I mentioned, 'What about DJ Steel?'"

Chupp dropped his juvie criminal ways but kept up the DJing. He eventually worked his way up to become entertainment director of all three Whiskey Row locations in the Valley. He lived to perform behind the mixers of the DJ booth, though. "As a DJ, you feed off the energy of the crowd," he told New Times in 2010. "There's nothing like a special event in Old Town; it's something that I am lucky enough to be part of and am grateful for every night I work." — Benjamin Leatherman

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Patrick King
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Patrick King

April 12, 1964 — April 4, 2020

Restaurateur Patrick W. King, co-owner of Valley eateries like The Living Room, CHoP Steakhouse, and Rock Lobster, died from melanoma, a form of cancer, in the spring at age 55. Though born in Detroit, King moved to Scottsdale in 1971 and was a 1982 graduate of Saguaro High School. King started his career in the Phoenix restaurant industry with Mastro's Group at the classic Scottsdale steakhouse What's Your Beef. He is said to have assisted in opening and developing more than 70 restaurants. "As a partner, Patrick was the guy that runs to a fire, and I am the guy that runs to get help," said Tom Kaufman, his business partner and co-owner of The Living Room. "There were no filters, he was my friend for 35 years, and I am going to miss our talks." Prime Steak Concepts partner Scott Troilo said, "None of our lives will be the same without him, but all of our lives [are] better because of him." — Lauren Cusimano

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Jane Dee Hull
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Jane Dee Hull

August 8, 1935 — April 16, 2020

A native of the Midwest and a lifelong Republican, Jane Dee Hull lived out a remarkable rise in Arizona politics before the turn of the century. She was elected Secretary of State after serving in the State Legislature for decades as House Majority Whip and Speaker of the House. She went on to be appointed governor in 1997 after the incumbent, Fife Symington, was convicted of extortion and bank fraud, and in 1998 Hull became the first woman formally elected to the position in Arizona. Her ascension to the governor's office was widely anticipated prior to her appointment; Hull told Phoenix New Times in 1997, "My joke — only in small groups — is that my husband gets the paper in the morning and checks to see if I'm governor."

During her political career, Hull would earn a reputation as a tough survivor who learned to love pragmatism and largely avoided ideological purity and controversy (setting aside her rather inflammatory and subsequently infamous 1982 statement that prisoners ought to receive harsher treatment). Hull supported taxes and public education. She flip-flopped on abortion. Barry Goldwater was an inspiration for her. Remarkably, Hull, 84, died only a few hours after her husband, Terry, 85, also passed away of natural causes. Her friends said that she had been in declining health, according to the Arizona Republic. They raised four children. — Josh Kelety

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Gregory Tresner
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Gregory Tresner

April 19, 1948 — October 24, 2020

Arizona's first-ever master sommelier, Greg Tresner was an important figure in the Arizona wine community. He was born and raised in the Skagit Valley of Washington and first moved to the Southwest in the 1990s, landing in Tucson, where he worked at the influential but now-closed Cafe Terra Cotta. He then relocated to the Phoenix area, specifically The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, in 1998. There, he was a favorite among customers at Mary Elaine's Restaurant — another now-closed eatery that is considered one of the best fine-dining establishments in Valley restaurant history. By 2000, Tresner graduated from the Court of Sommeliers, becoming the first Master Sommelier in the state. In 2006, he was nominated for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service as Master Sommelier at Mary Elaine's. Tresner returned to Skagit Valley for his retirement. "Greg, you will be missed beyond measure," read his obituary. "Whatever you put in the Thanksgiving gravy was fabulous." — Lauren Cusimano

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Mark Urquiza
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Mark Urquiza

August 13, 1954 — June 30, 2020

Tolleson was home for Mark Urquiza. It was where he grew up, and it was where he met his life partner, Brenda Urquiza. His daughter, Kristin Urquiza, who now lives in California, recalls coming home to visit and having to compete for his time with the errands he was running for friends around Tolleson. Mark also loved the outdoors. This year, he won the lottery to hunt elk in Four Peaks Wilderness Area, his favorite spot.

He never made it. Mark Urquiza died from COVID-19 on June 30. Kristin was unsparing in his obituary: "Mark, like so many others, should not have died from COVID-19," she wrote. "His death is due to the carelessness of the politicians who continue to jeopardize the health of brown bodies through a clear lack of leadership, refusal to acknowledge the severity of this crisis, and inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction on how to minimize risk."

Kristin Urquiza laid the blame specifically on President Donald Trump and Governor Doug Ducey, saying that her father wouldn't listen to her warnings to avoid going out with friends after the two leaders downplayed the danger of the virus at the beginning of the summer's outbreak. The obituary went viral and Kristin Urquiza went on to form a national advocacy group and speak at the Democratic National Convention. "He would love it. He loved the attention," Brenda Urquiza told New Times over the summer. "He's telling God and everyone up there 'That's my daughter, raising hell.'" For now, Mark Urquiza lives on in the group's name and hashtag, #MarkedByCOVID, and in the remembrances collected under it. — Erasmus Baxter

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South American Sour
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South American Sour

February 2017 — March 2020

The Dressing Room, which debuted next to monOrchid in 2017, was — as we called it in our original review — a "refined and playful addition to historic Roosevelt Row." The petite restaurant's name was a nod to the building's history as a dressing room for Phoenix's first drag bar, and it was operated by the restaurant group Conceptually Social. We say "was" because The Dressing Room closed temporarily in March 2020, tried doing a takeout-only approach, closed again, and never reopened. Though there is high turnover on RoRo, this place will be particularly missed. The staff was great, the food was tasty, the back patio was lovely — but we'll especially miss the cocktails. Specifically, the South American Sour. This was a tequila drink, blended with lemon, orange, and charred Fresno (chili pepper) syrup, all topped with a Malbec float. It was a spicy, citrusy vacation from the world, and a beautiful-looking beverage as well: the way the orange-tinged bottom of the glass contrasted with the rich, red, bubbling red wine on top, the whole thing garnished with a porous-looking orange rind. Last year, COVID took so much, including one of the best craft cocktails in town. — Lauren Cusimano

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Lawrence Zubia
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Lawrence Zubia

July 7, 1964 — December 19, 2020

Lawrence Zubia had the aura of a rock star with the look to match. The late vocalist of The Pistoleros had a yen for sunglasses, skinny jeans, neckerchiefs, and a slicked-back coiffure. He also possessed an effortless charisma, stage presence, and profound vocal talents that gave the band's songs, largely written by Lawrence and his brother Mark Zubia, an extra emotional punch.

The Pistoleros were a prominent part of Tempe's vaunted '90s music scene alongside Gin Blossoms, Dead Hot Workshop, and their ilk, but stood out from these jangle-heavy acts, thanks to their roots-rock sound and Lawrence's throaty vocals. "The way he [Lawrence] performed was mesmerizing," says Sara Cina, former manager of scene hotspot Long Wong's. "Their songs were lyrically soulful and he had this way of conveying emotion with his singing." Like other Tempe bands of the era, The Pistoleros earned major-label attention, releasing Hang On to Nothing on Hollywood Records in 1997. It was the pinnacle of success for Lawrence and his brother, who'd started playing together as kids in their father's mariachi ensemble and later founded rock band Live Nudes in 1988. Five years later, they formed The Chimeras, which later became The Pistoleros.

Their relationship was tumultuous at times. Zubia's personal demons and substance abuse issues during what Mark calls his brother's "darkest periods" led to suicide attempts, The Pistoleros' break-up, and the two being estranged for nearly a decade. Lawrence cleaned himself up by the early 2010s, focusing on raising his three children and performing in side projects and solo gigs. The Pistoleros eventually reformed and signed with local label Fervor Records in 2014. Lawrence's demons eventually caught up with him, though. Repeated bouts of pancreatitis over the years caused by his alcohol abuse led to a "highly invasive" pancreas surgery last April. He spent the next several months convalescing but died from pneumonia in December. "He was always grateful for the years we got to create together," Mark says. "That supersedes any of the bad stuff." — Benjamin Leatherman