Valentina passed away in Santa Barbara on January 8, 2018 surrounded by her family.
Valentina was born in a big family of eleven children in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on May 7, 1930. She was eleven years old when WWII started, and in the midst of these hard times and food shortages, with the promise of a free piece of bread at school each day, she continued to attend school, not ever missing a single day. As ten siblings shared a single family room, concentrating on homework was difficult, yet Valentina remained determined and so resorted to spending her time studying in the non-heated hallway. In her youth, she already showed a strong resilience – a fighting spirit that shown throughout her life to her last days.
After high school, she decided to continue her studies at a medical college, but quickly transferred to a language college after passing out on her first sight of blood. Valentina dedicated the next 40 years of her life to being a teacher. In Tashkent, Valentina met her husband Alexander Makogon and together they had two children – a son Alexander and a daughter Rita. In 1995, she tragically lost her son.
After her daughter and grandchildren moved to the U.S., Valentina followed in 2002, and had lived in Santa Barbara since. Valentina’s dedication to her family continued throughout her life. She loved spending time with and taking care of her grandchildren. On weekends, when they came to visit, she would bribe her grandkids with freshly made Russian foods in order to get them to practice their reading in Russian. She was also a dedicated game show watcher, specializing and skillful in Jeopardy, Family Feud, and Wheel of Fortune.
A master knitter, Valentina not only just made scarves, sweaters, socks, and blankets for the family, but also made various little sweaters for her grandchildren’s dog. Valentina was also the good luck charm in her granddaughter’s chess career. When already in her 80s, Valentina traveled all around the world, through countless hours of driving and flying, to support her granddaughter in her chess competitions. Valentina’s passion, love, and dedication to those around her is irreplaceable.
She had a unique excitement for life – with a distinctive pioneering spirit she was always ready to take on a new challenge. At 84 she enrolled in SBCC to study Spanish, and visited Yellowstone, Niagara Falls, Mexico City, and Abu Dhabi. In Paris she walked faster than the youngsters, always ahead of the group, committed to seeing as much as she could.
In December of 2015, she was diagnosed with glioblastoma, and for two years fought cancer with faith and courage. At the Cancer Survivors Program, the YMCA, and the SB Athletic Club, where she did her physical therapy, she was a model student, inspiring those around her with her determination and strength.
Even as her vision deteriorated, she continued her crafting projects, creating many beautiful and intricate table cloths and blankets for her friends and family.
Valentina’s family is grateful to many people, with special thanks to Dr. Berkowitz of the SB Cancer Center, a man of great knowledge and a heart of gold. Her family also appreciates Nina Del Beccaro, a hospice volunteer who became a dedicated friend of Valentina’s, Paula Lilly of the SB Athletic Club, and the many people of the SB Cancer Center and the Visiting Nurse and SB Hospice Care.
Nina describes Valentina as “a strong and courageous woman that not once descended into self pity and never complained. Her love of life kept her going and her sense of humor brought moments of joy to both of us. We considered each other the best of friends. She gave me much more than I gave her. I thank her for showing how to fight for life. My good girl Valentina.”
Valentina found her piece with God and was given last communion by Fr. Gideon of the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church, Santa Barbara.
According to the Orthodox beliefs a 40th day service will be held at the Russian Orthodox Church on February 16 at 7pm.
Valentina will be greatly missed as her legacy is survived by her daughter Rita Makogon, and her grandchildren Agata, Alex, Seva, and Anna.