Looking Back: 2009 Orange County Deaths

Turn on the weepy, string ensemble music: It's time for us to look back on the year that (almost) was and remember some of the figures from Orange County who have left us.

There was unexpected tragedy, there were some suspicious circumstances, there were rich legacies... there's even the possibility that a person or two on this list that miiight not even be missed by many.  Or, uh, at all. (We're just putting that last one out there.)

After the jump: 2009 Orange County deaths.

Roy E. Disney

1930 - 2009
After battling stomach cancer, Roy E. Disney passed away on December 16 at the age of 79 at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach. He was the nephew of Walt Disney and a longtime executive for the Walt Disney Company, which was founded by both Walt Disney and Roy E. Disney's father, Roy Oliver Disney. Many remember Roy E. Disney for his role in toppling two Disney execs, Ron Miller (1984) and Michael Eisner (2005).

Read the original breaking news post of Roy E. Disney's death here.

John Kissel
1966 - 2009
On September 9, a memorial gathering for Costa Mesa resident John Kissel, who died in an August 29 Lake Havasu cliff diving accident, happened northside at the Huntington Beach Pier. Over 150 surfers and friends gathered for a traditional surfers memorial service by paddling out on their boards and honoring their friend in the pacific ocean. Later, a memorial party took place at the Aloha Grill in Huntington Beach on Main Street. Friends and family of the former surfer spent time telling stories and sharing memories of their time with John.

See more photos of the memorial paddle-out and party here.

Nguyen Huy Vu
1975 - 2009

Nguyen Huy Vu, one of the most beloved, award-winning reporters in OC Weekly history, was taken off artificial life support on May 15 in a Los Angeles County hospital. 

The 34-year-old, who was my ambitious, idealistic first intern nearly 10 years ago, collapsed during a Mother's Day soccer game after scoring a goal, suffered cardiac arrest.

Vu--who also worked at the Orange County Register, Seattle Times, Nguoi Viet, Associated Press and, at the time of his collapse, the Daily Breeze--was a determined journalist, fun-loving character and the person who taught me how to eat pho. He'd married about six months ago and was, according to his parents, happier than ever.

"I can't believe my son is gone," said Vu's father, a decorated former South Vietnamese air force fighter pilot. "It's not right when parents out live a son." (R. Scott Moxley)

Read the original blog posts on Vu here.

Chris Hawk
1951 - 2009

Huntington Beach native and surfing legend Chris Hawk passed away at home in San Clemente October 23, finally succumbing to oral cancer after a long fight with the disease. Hawk played a key role in creating Huntington Beach's surf culture in the 1960s and 1970s.

He won national renown for his surfboard shaping, a skill which he diligently learned alongside greats like Reno Abellira, Davie Abbott and Dick Brewer. Surfers all over California knew his reputation and his boards, and continue to revere his contributions to surf culture today. On September 18th, Chris received the Surfers' Hall of Fame Trophy and cemented his hand and foot prints into the sidewalk, leaving his mark at the base of Duke Kahanamoku's statue, along with a host of names as diverse as Bud Llamas, Sean Collins and Bruce Irons. (Bradley Beylik)

See more photos of the memorial paddle-out right here.

Allen Shellenberger
1969 - 2009

Looking Back: 2009 Orange County Deaths

On August 13, Allen Shellenberger, drummer and founding member of Fullerton-based Lit, lost his battle with brain cancer at the age of 39. In May 2008, Allen was diagnosed with a malignant glioma brain tumor and immediately underwent clinical trials, chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the Cedars-Sinai Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute.

See our original post on Shellenberger's death here.

Looking Back: 2009 Orange County Deaths

Nick Adenhart
1986 - 2009

Nick Adenhart, the Angels starting pitcher, was one of three people killed in a collision involving three cars just past midnight on April 10 in Fullerton.

A passenger riding in a silver Mitsubishi driven by an unidentifed woman, 22-year-old Adenhart apparently died shortly after being rushed to UCI Medical Center. Another male passenger, who was not identified, had already died at the scene, the intersection of Lemon and Orangethorpe, which is expected to remain closed until noon today.

Authorities this morning confirmed Adenhart, who hails from Silver Spring, Maryland, was among the fatalities in the crash. The Mitsubishi slammed into a light pole after apparently being clipped by a red minivan, whose driver fled the scene but was later captured and arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run. A third car was also smashed in the same intersection. The driver of that vehicle was not injured. (Matt Coker)

Read the original blog post on Adenhart's death here.

Looking Back: 2009 Orange County Deaths

Monte Kevin Valentin 1959 - 2009
On July 24, our coast was bombarded with the biggest waves we've had in a year. Rumors raged across the county of freak triple overhead closeouts, broken leashes and far worse.

We all shuddered and thought of our own near-death surfing moments when we heard that Monte Kevin Valentin, a 50-year old bodysurfer who came in from Lawndale, was beaten against the jetty at the Wedge in Newport Beach and died from injuries. (Bradley Beylik)

See the original post on Valentin here.

Mike Penner
1956 - 2009
Mike Penner, a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times, was pronounced dead on Nov. 27 at a Culver City hospital from an apparent suicide. Penner was 52. In April 2007, Penner wrote a column announcing he was a transsexual who would from then on would be known as Christine Daniels. (Penner later resumed using Mike Penner as his byline in October 2008.)

Penner was an alumnus of both Anaheim's Western High School and Cal State Fullerton. He joined as a staff writer for the Times' Orange County edition in 1983.

For the original post, click here.

Wes Bannister
1936 - 2009

Wes Bannister, who'd been a Huntington Beach city councilman and mayor and ran unsuccessfully three times for state Insurance Commissioner, died Dec. 10, after a lengthy illness. He was 73.

Bannister almost escaped Weekly snark, not really appearing in our pages or online until we  handicapped the race for the Republican nomination he eventually won in 2002: "A local in the insurance biz, Wes Bannister of Huntington Beach, is running in this race, as is unknown businessman Gary Mendoza, but anyone who could persuade the secretary of state to include the nickname "Watchdog" [Stefan Stitch] on the ballot is obviously a can-do guy worthy of your vote. Besides, whichever of these guys wins will lose badly to the high-powered Democrats seeking the office forever disgraced by Republican Chuck Quackenbush." (Matt Coker)

See the original blog post here.

Jan Vandersloot
1945 - 2009
Jan Vandersloot, the Huntington Beach dermatologist and leading environmental activitist, was found dead in his home on Nov. 4. Vandersloot, 64, was a founder of both the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, which fought to preserve the wetlands and the Ocean Outfall Group, which opposed offshore wastewater dumping.

See the original post here.

Looking Back: 2009 Orange County Deaths

August Coppola
1934 - 2009

August Coppola, father of Nicolas Cage, brother of Francis Ford Coppola and actress Talia Shire, was residing in a Newport Beach owned by Cage when he suffered from a heart attack in October. August Coppola later died in Los Angeles. Coppola was also a comparative literature professor at Cal State Long Beach in the 1960s and '70s.

Read the original post with mention of Coppola here.

Looking Back: 2009 Orange County Deaths
Charles "Mask" Lewis
1964 - 2009

The driver killed in a September early morning Newport Beach crash that severed and mangled a $140,000 2004 Ferrar was identified as "Mask," Huntington Beach's 45-year-old mixed-martial arts promoter and TapouT clothing company founder Charles Lewis Jr. Police arrested the driver of a 1977 Porsche , 51-year-old Jeff David Kirby of Costa Mesa, on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter. (Matt Coker)

Read the original post here.

Oral Roberts

1918 - 2009
Oral Roberts, one of the most well-known American Pentecostal televangelists of the 20th century, passed away December 15 in Newport Beach at 91 years old. Roberts was met with some scandal in 1987, when Roberts told television audiences that God would "call him home"--that is, unless he raised $8 million by March. He ended up raising $9.1 million instead.

Danny Pang
1966 - 2009
Danny Pang, a Newport Beach financier, died at home of unknown causes on September 12. Pang ran the Private Equity Management Group, Inc. and Private Equity Management, LLC.

Pang was California's purported answer to Bernie Madoff, accused of running a Ponzi Scheme and supposedly making false claims about his background, including faking some educational credentials.

Though it definitely wasn't Pang's first brush with controversy: In 1997, he quit his senior position at a venture capital firm, despite accusations of a $3 million theft from an escrow account. Later that same year, his wife/former stripper Janie Louise Pang was murdered after she started the motions for a divorce.

An autopsy conducted on Danny Pang in September eliminated the possibility of foul play as a cause of death. Toxicology reports will be released soon, but most suspect suicide.

Don Callender
1928 - 2009
Don Callender, co-founder of the Marie Callender's chain of restaurants, died in Corona del Mar on January 7.

Here's to you, Don. And your banana cream pies. (Delicious.)

(EDIT:  ADDED 12/28/09, 10:00 P.M.)
James Owen Sullivan ("The Rev")
1981 - 2009

Avenged Sevenfold drummer James Owen Sullivan was found dead on Dec. 28 in his Huntington Beach home. Sullivan, better known to fans as the Rev, was 28.

According to the OC Register, Sullivan seems to have passed away due to natural causes. Sullivan was a founding member of Avenged Sevenfold (A7X) since its inception in 1999 in Huntington Beach.

Read the original full post here.


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