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COVID-19

News >  Pacific NW

Stolen by COVID: Lives remembered

UPDATED: Sun., Jan. 31, 2021

The following accounts, which make up a fraction of the people who have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic, represent people whose families attributed their deaths to the virus or related complications. The information and photos were drawn from obituaries, news accounts and interviews with family members.

Ron Chimenti  (Courtesy of the family)
Ron Chimenti (Courtesy of the family)

For more than three decades, Ronald Paul Chimenti cut hair in Greenacres at Ron’s Barber Shop. After his retirement in 2017, he and his wife, Barbara Anne, loved to spend winters in the warmth of Yuma, Arizona.

Raised in Noxon, Montana, Ron grew up loving the outdoors, hunting and fishing. He became a barber and moved to Libby, Montana, in 1974, then met his future wife, Barbara Anne. They moved to Spokane in 1987 and raised six children here.

In addition to running his barber shop, he volunteered at the American Cancer Society’s Camp Goodtimes for children, where he was known as “Razor.” A strong conservative, especially with regard to Second Amendment rights, he enjoyed sparring with his liberal friends on Facebook. He died late on Christmas Eve at age 74.

Ken Assmus  (Courtesy of the family)
Ken Assmus (Courtesy of the family)

Kenneth Charles Assmus became known as the “Hummingbird Whisperer” for his ability to draw the tiny, flitting creatures in for the perfect photo – a pursuit that combined his love of the outdoors and photography. He also helped in recent years to capture, band and research hummingbirds at Rudeen Ranch, which hosts an annual “roundup” to study and preserve the birds near American Falls, Idaho.

Born in Durango, Colorado, Ken spent most of his youth in Arvada, Colorado, before embarking on a 40-year career in the mining industry. He married his wife, Tracy, in 1980, and they raised four children while moving around to different states for his career. They were faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Ken served in many capacities, including as a member of the bishopric and as young men’s president.

They have lived in Spokane for 25 years, and Ken and Tracy celebrated their 40th anniversary last June. He died on Jan. 5 at age 63.

Anne Uyehara  (Courtesy of the family)
Anne Uyehara (Courtesy of the family)

Anne Sumiko Uyehara raised three children in Spokane before she returned to college in the 1970s, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in secondary education at Eastern Washington University.

She went on to teach for 25 years at Shadle Park High School. A lifelong resident of Spokane, Anne had met her future husband, Bob, while they were students at Lewis and Clark High School, and they were married in 1958.

Anne and Bob loved traveling, and some of her favorite places were Japan, Switzerland, Greece, Croatia and Paris. She was known as an inspiring mentor to her students and she had a large circle of friends, making new ones everywhere she went.

After she contracted COVID-19 late last year, she was treated, in part, at Sacred Heart – the hospital where she was born.

She died Dec. 17 at age 80.

Robert Brandvold  (Courtesy of the family)
Robert Brandvold (Courtesy of the family)

Robert Earl Brandvold met his future wife, Elva Joyce, when they were in the second grade in St. Maries.

He began working on the railroad there as a young man, and when the engines went from steam to electric power, he and Elva moved to Spokane, where he continued to work with steam power at the Steam Plant and eventually at Sacred Heart hospital. He worked there for more than 30 years as an engineer in the boiler room, until his retirement in 1993.

“Everywhere he went,” said his son, Terry, “he worked in steam.”

He and Elva were married for 57 years, raising two sons in Spokane. He also trained horses at Playfair for many years, and was a Model-T aficionado.

He died Aug. 6 at age 90.

Charlene Odeen  (Courtesy of the family)
Charlene Odeen (Courtesy of the family)

Born in Geddes, South Dakota, Charlene May Odeen married her husband, Don, in 1954, and they moved to Spokane six years later. Don, who died in 1995, worked for Wonder Bread for 30 years. Charlene worked for 25 years as a cook, and eventually head cook, in the Mead School District.

Charlene and her son, Kelly, were close their entire lives. She lived with Kelly in Spokane in recent years, and he helped to take care of her. “She was always there for me, no matter what,” Kelly said. “Thick or thin, all our lives.”

She enjoyed painting and gardening, and liked country music, playing the accordion and dancing. She died Jan. 9 after an 18-day battle with COVID-19 and pneumonia at Providence Holy Family Hospital; she was 89.

Eldon Walton  (Courtesy of the family)
Eldon Walton (Courtesy of the family)

Born in Newberg, Oregon, Eldon Lloyd Walton graduated from high school in Hood River, Oregon, and served in the Army during the Korean War – playing the French horn in the Army Band and working as a typist in Korea.

He returned to Oregon, where he married and had a son, working in a variety of jobs until he settled into sales. Years later, when he was again single, he reconnected with a former girlfriend from his teen years, Lois. She had been raising six boys as a single mom; they were married and moved to Eugene, and then later to Spokane, where he retired from his last job as branch manager at Airflow Systems. He stayed busy in retirement, including working as a parking garage attendant at the Davenport Hotel.

Walt, as he was known, stopped working 10 years ago to take care of Lois, who was suffering from dementia. He also had Parkinson’s disease, though his symptoms had remained relatively mild. They moved together into the Spokane Veterans Home in 2019.

He contracted COVID-19 and died May 8, in the bed next to Lois. He was 90.

Swanda Wimett  (Courtesy of the family)
Swanda Wimett (Courtesy of the family)

Born in Missoula, Swanda Jean Wimett moved to Spokane with her husband, Ken, and their three daughters in 1973. She worked as an aide at Valley General Hospital and then at Damon Orthodontics until 2001.

“She had an uncanny ability to remember everyone’s names,” her obituary said. “Hundreds of Dwight Damon’s patients will remember her fondly.”

Swanda and Ken loved to play bridge, and were members of many bridge groups. When they retired, they became snowbirds, traveling in the winters to the Happy Trails Resort in Surprise, Arizona, where they golfed and made many friends.

Swanda and Ken worked at the restaurant there, and she wrote a monthly newsletter called “Chuckwagon Chatter.” They celebrated their 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries in Surprise.

After Ken died in 2018, Swanda moved to Brookdale Park Place, where she wrote a newsletter called “The Park Place Post.” Her health declined, and she moved into assisted living. She was hospitalized with COVID-19, and died Dec. 21, at age 82.

Vince Bozzi  (Courtesy of the family)
Vince Bozzi (Courtesy of the family)

Vincent Edward Bozzi grew up in Spokane, graduating from Rogers High School and Eastern Washington University. Even as a child, he had an interest in hosting events, something that continued well into his career as a magazine publisher, business owner and host of parties and social events.

Vince met his wife, Emily, while on a trip to the Philippines more than 35 years ago. They were wed before his return, and over the course of their marriage they worked together to create and expand their Spokane publishing business, Bozzi Media, and other enterprises, for many years.

The company published Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living and Nostalgia Magazine; Vince’s regular column, Lilacs and Lemons, in which he made pithy comments about local news and culture, was a well-known feature of Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living.

Vince was hospitalized in early December, and spent more than a month in the hospital before he died at age 63. His hospitalization came just one day after Emily’s death on Dec. 8 at age 59. Both died of COVID-19.

Emily Bozzi  (Courtesy of the family)
Emily Bozzi (Courtesy of the family)

Emily Guevarra Bozzi was born in the Philippines, and grew up in the town of Agdangan. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Luzonian University; she married Vince in 1987, and moved to Spokane shortly thereafter.

She and Vince had one son, and were partners in business as well. She was president of sales and co-publisher of Bozzi Media; the couple also had a restaurant and catering business, and were widely known as a host of events such as their Best of the City gatherings and magazine launch parties. Her friends remember her for an abundant energy and appetite for life – she would jump into an icy lake for the Polar Bear Plunge and from an airplane on a skydiving adventure with friends.

The Bozzis had continued hosting events during the pandemic, as recently as November. Vince’s sister, Angie, said that people could honor them by focusing on safety and taking the virus seriously.

“We all feel more strongly than ever how important that is,” she said. “I know that they would feel the same way on how to be careful and take it more seriously.”

Abbi Watson-Frestad  (Courtesy of the family)
Abbi Watson-Frestad (Courtesy of the family)

Like so many teenagers, Abbi Watson-Freestad struggled with the limitations of the pandemic. A student at Cheney High School, she had played volleyball on the freshman team – but the sport was put on hold last year, along with in-person classes and other activities.

For an outgoing and “very spunky” teenager, who liked to change her hair color regularly and post frequently to social media, the limitations of the pandemic were difficult, her loved ones said at her memorial.

“She was a very spunky kid,” said her uncle, Noah Bleam. “But she always had a smile on her face and she could care less about her own problems. She was always more worried about everyone else.”

Abbi suffered from serious health problems – asthma and allergies. She was hospitalized in November with intense chest pain, and was diagnosed with COVID-19.

She died Nov. 20, recorded by the Spokane Regional Health District as the first COVID-19-related death in a teenager, of which there are now two. She was two weeks shy of her 16th birthday.

Jim Buchanan  (Courtesy of the family)
Jim Buchanan (Courtesy of the family)

Jim Buchanan was born at home in Peaceful Valley and lived most of his life in Spokane – apart from a brief time in his childhood when his mother ran a tavern in Clarkia, Idaho, in the 1940s.

He attended North Central High School, but joined the Army Honor Guard before finishing and was sent to Germany to help with rebuilding efforts after World War II. Upon his return, he met Rita Evans at a party at Loon Lake, and they were married in 1957.

They raised three children while Jim worked for Washington Water Power – later Avista. He eventually became foreman in the gas department. He loved to spend time at Priest Lake with his children and grandchildren, water-skiing, fishing and riding four-wheelers.

Rita died in 2009. Jim was living at Royal Park Health and Rehabilitation last year when he was infected with the virus. He tested positive on July 27, and he died July 30. He was 85.

Joe Hodl  (Courtesy of the family)
Joe Hodl (Courtesy of the family)

Joseph Louis Hodl III met his future wife, Cheri, when they were 12 years old, growing up in Spokane. They eventually married and raised three children, settling into their “forever home,” Post Falls, in 1992.

Born in Spokane, Joe attended St. Peter’s Catholic School, Gonzaga Prep and Washington State University. He earned a certificate in industrial electricity from Spokane Community College, and made that field his career, working for his dad at H&N Electric for 20 years. In 1999, he started his own business in Post Falls, North Idaho Air Compression, until he suffered a massive heart attack. After his recovery, he worked at Cascade Machinery and Electric in Spokane until he retired.

He loved sports and supporting the Post Falls High School Trojans, in particular. He was a longtime member and former president of the school’s booster club.

He died Aug. 17 at Kootenai Health at age 64.

After his death, Cheri Hodl and others in North Idaho started a campaign to memorialize Joe, his big smile and his support for mask-wearing during the pandemic by distributing “Smile-4Joe” masks for free. You can contribute to their effort at gofundme.com/f/smile4joe-memorial-fund.

Vern Waldenberg  (Courtesy of the family)
Vern Waldenberg (Courtesy of the family)

Born in Great Falls, Vernon Louis Waldenberg had a lifelong love of the outdoors – camping, riding horses, floating rivers and spending time at the family cabins in Montana.

He met his wife, Joanne, when they were students at Central Catholic High School in Great Falls. They were married in 1952, and celebrated their 68th anniversary in December. Family was the center of their lives – they raised nine children and had 25 grandchildren.

Vern worked in the Great Falls plumbing business founded by his father, Central Plumbing and Heating, which is now operated by his sons. “His wisdom, inventiveness, and caring for others had him putting seatbelts in our Rambler in the ’60s before they were commonly installed in cars,” his obituary said. “He was ahead of his time, always willing to learn from others and frequently sharing his latest self-help read with his kids.”

Vern and Joanne moved to Spokane 20 years ago, and helped their daughter, Carol, raise two girls she adopted from China, going to soccer games and ferrying Sophia and Olivia to ballet classes and ski races. He was an exceptional grandfather.

He died Jan. 5 at age 86.

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