The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a terrible toll on our Santa Barbara County communities — as of this writing, 223 of our neighbors are dead. In a new series, the Independent is putting names and faces to this growing number with the purpose of conveying the human toll of the coronavirus. We feel it is important to recognize and remember these individuals as people, not just statistics. To share the story of a lost friend or loved one, contact Senior Editor Tyler Hayden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Norma M. Dockery
Norma Dockery moved from Wisconsin to Santa Barbara in the summer of 1963. Her husband and son led the way in a U-Haul. She followed in the family car with their three daughters. It took the mini-caravan seven long days to reach the coast.
In addition to being an excellent baker and talented seamstress, Norma loved to read, her family said in an obituary. She enrolled in SBCC Adult Ed classes and was determined to start a career.
By 1967, Norma had busted through the glass ceiling of male travel agents and opened Dockery’s Celebrity Travel of Santa Barbara. One of her daughters and a son-in-law joined the business. So did a daughter-in-law and a couple of grandsons. It was truly a family business, which expanded to a second agency in Roseville in 1993.
Over the years, Norma traveled the world. She loved the adventure. At 81, the onset of dementia forced her into what she considered an early retirement. But her spirit never faded.
“She never lost the sparkle in her beautiful blue eyes or her love for music, which was evident when she was visited by family and friends,” her family said. “She loved it when anyone sang to her, snapped their fingers, clapped their hands, or played an instrument. She always had an outstretched hand and a smile for everyone.”
Norma died on December 30 at the age of 95 from COVID-19 complications. To honor her wishes, her family did not hold a funeral or memorial. “She wanted to be remembered as she was in life,” they said.
Alberto Pinto Arciniega
Alberto Pinto Arciniega was born March 16, 1953. He lost his mother at a young age and started working in the 3rd grade. He immigrated to the United States “in the age of Grease,” said his son, Adrian, “one of his favorite movies of all time.”
Alberto regularly held two full-time jobs, whether it was picking fruit, cleaning dishes, clearing tables, or recycling cardboard. “He slept little but kept a positive attitude,” Adrian said. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 gave him a path to citizenship.
On December 15, 2020, Alberto started feeling “off” and light-headed, Adrian said. His doctor’s office, overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, said it was too busy to see him. Seven days later, Alberto lost his sense of taste and was having a hard time breathing. He called for an ambulance, which took an hour and a half to arrive.
At the hospital, Alberto was diagnosed with COVID-19. His oxygen levels were dangerously low. Nurses strapped an oxygen mask to his face and gave him Remdesivir (an antiviral medication), steroids, and something to increase his blood pressure. Every time Alberto took off his mask to eat or, because he was quarantined, speak by family by phone, he got winded and his levels dropped.
By January 5, Alberto’s condition had deteriorated so badly that he was transferred to the ICU and put on a ventilator. Three days later, his kidneys started to fail. Doctors put him on dialysis and administered three units of blood to bring his blood pressure up. On January 8, his pupils stopped reacting to light, and he no longer had a gag reflex. That afternoon, his heart stopped. Alberto was 67.
Adrian wishes everyone would wear a mask. He wonders if, at this point, 10 months into the pandemic, those who don’t could be convinced to do so. He also expressed gratitude and empathy for Santa Barbara’s overburdened health-care system.
“Hospitals are full, doctors are overwhelmed, nurses are tired, and families everywhere are hurting,” he said. “My experience was difficult, but my father’s experience was unimaginable. The nurses that cried with me will have to do the same tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after.”
Jean Lester Marvin cared deeply for the flowers and fruit trees that bloomed in her yard overlooking the Santa Barbara Channel, just as she did for the many beloved residents she served as a former nurse for the Samarkand retirement community.
Jean died November 19 at the age of 88 from Alzheimer’s disease and complications of COVID-19.
“Jean enjoyed history and genealogy and cherished her friendships and family,” her family said in an obituary. “She was diligent at keeping in contact with friends and relatives, and marking occasions with her creative, homemade cards. She will be dearly missed by all those who had the pleasure of knowing her.”
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