Issue 302 — The Paregien Journal — June 11, 2015
Roberta Paregien Fournier
1943 to 2015
by Stan Paregien Sr
Roberta Louise Paregien was born to Harold and Evelyn (Cauthen) Paregien at the home of Evelyn’s parents, John and Veda Cauthen, just outside Wapanucka (Johnston County), Okla., on Sept. 1, 1943. Her parents were actually living in Santa Paula, Calif., but Evelyn wanted to be near her mother when the baby was born. Dr. S.S. Haberly delivered her, as he had also delivered her brother, Stan, and other extended family members.
Evelyn holding Roberta [Photo 1944-01]
Roberta Paregien was a healthy child, but was forever getting hurt. When she was about a year old, she climbed up on the kitchen table and fell off and hit her head on the baseboard. It knocked her out and she turned blue almost immediately. Evelyn ran out the back door to get the landlady, Mrs. Burdicks, to telephone the doctor. Roberta came to about that time, but they still took her to the doctor.
When Roberta was about 15 months old, she climbed up on a dresser. She picked up one of Evelyn’s crocheting needles and stuck it in her mouth. She really stuck it in her throat and it hung there. Evelyn heard her making a funny sound, so she investigated and found her with that needle stuck in her throat. Evelyn rotated the needle and it came out. Then she rushed her to Dr. Silas Williams’ office, two blocks away. It turned out that Evelyn had turned the needle just right, so there was no permanent damage.
On Aug. 2, 1947, Harold and Evelyn stopped their car to buy some chickens down on Howard Street in Santa Paula. Evelyn went inside, while Harold remained in the car with Stanley and Roberta. Evelyn’s crocheting needles and some material she had been working on were on the front seat of the car. She had positioned them toward the car seat, but with the kids shuffling around, the needles got positioned in a vertical angle.
Roberta was in the back seat and decided she wanted up front. So she slid over the seat with her knees bent. One of those needles went into her knee, right in the joint. And when she automatically reacted with pain and straightened out her leg, it bent that steel needle. Harold tried to ease it out, but could not. And at that moment Roberta reached down and jerked it out, tearing the membrane loose.
They rushed her to Dr. Williams, and he said she should be okay. They took her back to him every other day for two weeks. Then Dr. Williams went out of town on a trip, and Roberta began getting worse. They took her to Dr. Sterling Clark in Ventura. He put her right into Ventura General Hospital and operated on her knee on Aug. 20, 1947. Then he had to operate on it a second time. And the operations left a scar about three inches long by 3/8″ wide.
The hospital staff had to draw the water off her knee every few hours for several days. They gave her penicillin shots every three hours for 17 days, to fight the infection, but she still had a temperature when she left the hospital. Roberta celebrated her 4th birthday in the hospital. Evelyn recalled, “She cried every minute we were with her while she was in the hospital, and I did my share of crying, too.” Roberta’s Grandpa and Grandma Cauthen came out from Oklahoma and visited her in the hospital.
Roberta recalled one time her father, Harold, was having a problem with dogs turning over their trash cans. So he rigged up a live electric wire and wet the dirt around the trash cans to make sure the dogs made a solid contact with the electricity. Roberta says, “I don’t know if the dogs learned to stay away, but after my third time of getting shocked, I learned to stay away.” Harold rigged up the same apparatus a time or two, much later, at the Edwards Ranch.
In July, 1948, while living on the Todd Estate (or “Joy Ranch”) west of Santa Paula, a very traumatic event took place. Roberta was home with her mother. She heard Evelyn screaming, then saw her running from the back porch to the bedroom. She was on fire. She had been washing some work clothes in gasoline and the fumes drifted next to the water heater, resulting in a flash fire. Evelyn had the good sense to get into bed and roll up in the covers to put the fire out.
Meanwhile, Roberta–being all of not quite five years old at the time–tried to use the telephone to call for help. It was the old-style “crank” phone. She started cranking it and yelling, “Help, my mom’s on fire.” She finally got the fire department on the line. Then she ran outside and yelled for her father, hoping he might be working near enough to hear her. He was nowhere around.
Evelyn ran back outside, in great pain, and began screaming. A couple passing back in their car saw the fire truck pulling up and knew something was wrong. They stopped and took her to the hospital. Roberta still remembers the fire truck arriving. Evelyn suffered 3rd degree burns to both legs.
By about 1948 Roberta had become quite an accomplished roller skater. She and Stan spent many hours at the roller rink on the east edge of Santa Paula, Calif. Evelyn sewed several skating costumes for her. She worked very hard to learn how to do special tricks, such a “figure 8”, both forward and backward, plus doing jumps of all kinds. She also liked to enter the speed races at the skating rink. But one afternoon, while doing some figure skating, she remembers doing a backward jump and her skate hitting a patch of sand or gravel on the rink floor. She fell and hit the back of her head, resulting in a concussion. She remained unconscious for a while, and was taken to Dr. Williams.
Roberta didn’t get to go to kindergarten because of her knee. She began 1st grade in Sept., 1949, at Briggs Elementary School about three miles west of Santa Paula, Calif. Mrs. Tomblin was her teacher. She had not been going to school very long when some boy pushed her down on one of those steel grids designed for scraping mud off shoes. It skinned up that same knee, but in time it healed again. However, she walked with that knee turned in. So the doctor put high top shoes on her to try to force her to walk straight and without a limp. She had to wear that clunky, “army boot” kind of shoe until she was in the 7th grade, and she hated them.
Roberta remembers, and Stan tries to forget, the time they were playing cops and robbers or something similar. And Stan decided to use a trick that he had recently seen in a movie. While he was hiding from Roberta, he loaded up with a handful of table salt. And when Roberta found him, he threw it in her eyes. It worked for the hero in the movies, and the recipient certainly didn’t cry. But life did not imitate art, in this case. The salt burned her eyes and she cried long and loud, resulting in Evelyn coming to the rescue and giving the “hero” a whipping.
Mattie (Nolen) Paregien and Frank Paregien were Roberta’s paternal grandparents. They moved from Wapanucka, Oklahoma to Santa Paula, California in 1942 and both found war-time jobs at the Navy base in Port Hueneme (Oxnard, CA).
Things didn’t get much better for Roberta in 2nd grade. She was standing in line to ride the bus home when a boy in front of her slung his lunch pail over his shoulder. It hit Robert’s front tooth and broke it in half. They took her to Dr. I.P. Brown in Santa Paula. He put a plastic cap on it, which turned yellow in about a month. Finally, in about the 9th grade, he fixed it the way it should have been fixed in the first place.
In 1951, Harold Paregien went to work for Newhall Land & Farming Company. The company provided a clapboard frame house for them, located 6 miles east of Piru, Calif. It was on the south side of Highway 126, about a hundred yards east of the Ventura-Los Angeles County line marker. It sat on a high bluff overlooking the Santa Clara riverbed, with an active railroad track about 40 yards to their north and the highway just north of that. They lived there until Aug., 1955.
During this time, both Stan and Roberta had a series of horses. Roberta had a large, beautiful pinto named “Tony” that had a really soft gait (single-footed); but it was too much for a little girl. Then she got another large horse, this one a plodding, hard-to-motivate red-colored horse named “Red Wing.” This normally very gentle horse bucked her off one day when she was riding along Highway 126, and she landed on her head and neck.
Her best horse was a smaller pinto, perhaps a Welch breed, named “Little Bit”. She could ride that horse like the wind.
Their horse-riding buddy was Ann Walker, who lived about three miles east of them. One winter day they–Ann, Stan and Roberta–went for a ride due south of their house, up the mountain. They had never been in that area before, and discovered an old line camp up there. It was such a long ride that they did not get back until long after supper time, and Evelyn was very worried about them.
During the summers, Evelyn, Stan and Roberta all used to go swimming almost every day over at the ranch headquarters at the McBean home. They also earned a few dollars in the fall by picking up the English walnuts in the nearby orchards.
In 1954, there on the Newhall Ranch, Harold would let Roberta drive the family car into the garage by herself. Of course, her feet did not quite reach the gas or the brake peddles. As she pulled in, Harold would stand in front of the car and motion for her to pull it up more. One day he was doing that and told her to stop, but she hit the gas instead of the break. Fortunately for Harold, he quickly jumped up on the hood of the car as it continued forward until it hit his workbench.
John and Vada Cauthen were Roberta’s maternal grandparents. They moved to far west Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1946 from Wapanucka, Oklahoma.
The family moved to the west side of Tulsa, Okla., in Aug., 1955. They were just three or four miles to the east away from her Grandma and Grandpa Cauthen’s house. In 1956, while living in Tulsa, Okla., she and her cousin, Jona Ruth Cauthen, were riding on a motorcycle with a friend and had a wreck.
Roberta and Stan both had bit parts in the wedding ceremony of Johnny Cauthen and Ethel. The wedding was at the Church of Christ (non-Sunday School) in Sand Springs, Okla. Robert and Jona Ruth Cauthen were candle girls and had dresses just alike. Roberta remembers that nearly everyone in the wedding party had sunburns from being at the lake, and that her dress really scratched her sunburn.
The family moved back to California in August, 1956, and lived on the Samuel Edwards Ranch, one mile west of Piru [in Ventura County; see map, above]. Stan started the 10th grade at Fillmore High School, while Roberta went to nearby Fillmore Junior High.
Roberta’s paternal grandfather, Frank Paregien, of Santa Paula, Calif., had a heart attack and died on Sept. 6, 1956 at the Foster Memorial Hospital in Ventura, Calif. He was just one day shy of his 71st birthday. He was buried in the cemetery at Santa Paula. [See his photo in the 1950 section.]
In July, 1957, Roberta and her mother went to the brand-spanking new Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Roberta was allowed to drive part of the way down there, even though she was only 13 at the time. Harold used to let her drive on the Turner Turnpike in Oklahoma long before she got a license.
Roberta was in the 10th grade the fall of 1959. That’s when Roberta and her friend Marla Brewer were helping her mother make some of her delicious donuts, using very hot grease. They were turning the donuts as they turned brown. The two teenagers got to acting silly and fighting over who got to turn the donuts. That’s when another accident happened. The pan of grease got knocked off the burner and hit the floor splashing hot grease everywhere. Evelyn tried to get to the two of them, but with grease all over the floor she was slipping and sliding. And the girls were repeatedly slipping and falling down.
Finally, they all got out of the grease. Marla’s legs were turning red, and Roberta was frantic because she could not see. Evelyn put the girls into the car and rushed into town to the doctor’s office. Roberta remembers that she was scared to death she was permanently blinded, but about halfway there she began to see a little blur of light. The doctor said Marla had 2nd degree burns to her legs. Roberta had 1st degree burns to her eyes, but she could see again once he cleaned the grease out of her eyes.
Roberta & Marla Brewer at Ventura Beach in 1959
In 1960, Roberta and her friends Janice Wilson and Larry Batey had a car wreck near “foothill” in Fillmore, Calif. The car turned over three times as it rolled down the hill.
Roberta graduated from Fillmore High School in June, 1961. She started to beauty college right away. In late 1961, Roberta was returning from Los Angeles with some friends. The driver went to sleep and ran into a telephone pole east of Fillmore.
Later in 1961, she was on her way to the Ventura Beauty School in her parent’s 1960 Comet on the rain-slick road and had a tire blow out. The car went spinning around, finally overturning in an orange orchard about 1/2 mile east of “Cave-in-Road” east of Fillmore. Ironically, she drove her parents’ car that day because she was afraid of driving her own 1956 Ford convertible on rainy days; but that may have saved her life.
In 1962, she was working in Oxnard, Calif., for a mortgage company. Her employer sent her to Los Angeles to the main office. There was a heavy fog at the time. And when someone stopped in front of her, she smashed into them.
As a result of all of the mishaps mentioned above, she has kept many doctors living in luxury. She still suffers from pains in her knee and neck, and has migraine headaches.
From 1964-68, she worked as a secretary-receptionist for Jenning Hansen Engineering in Ventura, Calif.
NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, the following statements in quotation marks are from material submitted by Roberta Paregien Fournier in December, 2005.
Roberta’s maternal grandfather, John Whitehead Cauthen, died on Sept. 12, 1963 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In his last years he had suffered from a dementia similar to what today we would call Alzheimer’s Disease (back then they called it “hardening of the arteries”). He was buried in the Enterprise Cemetery just southwest of Wapanucka, Oklahoma.
She married David M. Loffswold on Sept. 17, 1967. Their marriage was performed at the East Ventura Church of Christ by minister W.W. (“Woody”) Allen, the father of Stan Paregien’s wife, Peggy.
“Dave” was the Personnel Director of the Montgomery Ward store in Ventura. They lived in Ventura until Sept., 1968, when he went to work for Litton Industries and they moved to Panorama City, Calif. Roberta took a craft class at night school, and this opened up a whole new world for her. She discovered she was talented at making things.
And speaking of making things, David and Roberta Loffswold had their first son, Douglas Loffswold, early in 1969 at Van Nuys, Calif. They lived in Panorama City until Jan., 1970, then bought their first house. It was in Simi, Calif.
Dave, who was a graduate of San Jose State University, Litton Industries transferred Dave to Lubbock, Texas in Sept., 1971. He and Roberta bought a house there.
“Doug at age 3 [in 1972] started reading the newspaper, and his knowledge of words was just incredible. Texas Tech University even came out and gave him a lot of tests. He was also extremely good with music, and taught himself how to play the song THE STING on the organ.”
While living here in Lubbock, Roberta made three Christmas “wise men” figures. She entered them in the county fair and won FIRST PRIZE.”
Their second son, Bradley (“Brad”) Morris Loffswold, was born in Lubbock on a hot summer day in 1972. Stan and Peggy took Grandma Vada Cauthen with them from Oklahoma to see the new baby.
In Feb., 1973, David Loffswold was transferred by Litton Industries back to California. He and Roberta bought a house at 3109 Arlington Ave., Simi, Calif. 93063.
“Brad became very ill at this time. And for several years he periodically ran extremely high fevers. It was very common for his temperature to get up to 105 degrees. And he ended up once in the hospital for tests, and they gave him pneumonia.
“This was happening when Doug was already going to school each day. So I was looking for something for Brad to do. I found a really helpful Tiny Tot group, where the kids would met at a park recreation building 3 mornings a week. Each mother had to work 1 of the 3 days. That was a lot of fun, and I made some great friends with this group.”
Roberta’s paternal grandmother, Mrs. Frank (“Mattie”) Paregien, died in the Memorial Hospital in Santa Paula, Calif., on Feb. 27, 1973, at the age of 82. [See the photo of Frank and Mattie in the 1950 section.]
Roberta’s maternal grandmother, Vada Walters Cauthen Wheeler Skinner, died in Tulsa, Okla. on Aug. 30, 1976. She, like her first husband, John Cauthen, was buried next to him in the Enterprise Cemetery just southwest of Wapanucka, Okla. [See a nice photo of John and Vada in the 1954 section.]
Evelyn and Roberta were in Tulsa for the funeral. The family had to decided on a date for the funeral – either on September 1 (Roberta’s birth date) or on September 2 (her cousin Rhonda Cauthen’s birth date). Evelyn asked Roberta’s permission to go ahead and have it on September 1st.
“I said okay. That was a real heartbreak for me. Grandma Cauthen had ALWAYS sent me birthday cards every single year. And now we were having her funeral on my birthday.” The funeral service was conducted on September 1, 1976 at Sand Springs and the burial was at the Enterprise Cemetery near Wapanucka (Johnston County), Oklahoma. And the photo you see, above, was the birthday cake that Evelyn got for Roberta later that same day at Grandma Cauthen’s house where they were staying.
Roberta continues: “And here is a strange little story for you. About a month after the funeral, I was ironing some mending tape onto a quilt. My ironing board cover had seen better days and then I remembered that my mother, several years earlier, had given me a new cover. I found the new cover and proceeded to put it on my ironing board.
“Then I started ironing, again. All of a sudden something hit the floor. I looked down and saw it was a letter. And the minute I saw it I knew it was a letter from Grandma Vada Cauthen. She had some light blue stationery with pansy flowers on it. Her letter was SEALED. It had NEVER BEEN OPENED. And it was dated seven years prior.
“I immediately began to cry. Then I opened it up and this is what Grandma had written seven years before: ‘Sorry I can’t be with you on your birthday.’
“I got to thinking back to when we moved from Simi, California to Lubbock, Texas. Mother had given me several items, including that ironing board cover, that I just stuck in a box. I must have stuck that letter in there, too. And somehow it got stuck down inside the ironing board cover. I am still amazed that her letter would stay lost until she passed away and then show up shortly after her death to wish me a happy birthday.”
Dave Loffswold then accepted a job with Harrah’s Casino in Reno, Nevada and the family moved there. He was the personnel director and the company had over 7,000 employees.
Roberta and Dave separated in August of 1977 and divorced in December of 1977. Even worse, after just a few years, David had no further participation in or even any interest in the lives of his sons.
Roberta and her two sons moved back to Fillmore, Calif., and lived with her parents for a while. Then she moved to a rent house in Simi, Calif. She started selling and building swimming pools as a dealer for Foxx Pools. And that is how she met Norman Patric Fournier at a Foxx Pools dealership convention. Norm was also a dealer for Foxx Pools, only up in Fresno, Calif.
A terrible flood hit the Los Serenos sub-division in Fillmore, California in the early spring of 1978. The house her mother and father lived in had over four feet of water inside it. The repairs took many weeks to perform, all during the time that Harold was dying from lung cancer.
One day, Roberta was driving from Simi to Fillmore with her mother, Evelyn. They had been crying about the awful flood situation. They decided they had
better eat something before they got to the house to start cleaning, so Evelyn took a bite of an apple. They were stopped at the intersection of Highway 126 and Highway 23, headed north. Evelyn choked on that apple, and got out of the car. Roberta ran around and grabbed her and did the Heimlich procedure on her, expelling the apple and cracking a rib in the process. A passing truck driver stopped, thinking Roberta was attacking Evelyn, but saw what was really happening and radioed for a fire department rescue unit. Roberta took her on to the doctor.
On May 9, 1978, Evelyn and Roberta somehow managed to take Harold to Dr. Swartout’s office for an appointment about 3:00 p.m. They asked about putting him in the hospital, and he said if they really wanted to do the kindest thing for him to just take him home. They got back home about 4:30 p.m. Harold died at about 8:15 p.m.
After the flood and the death of her father, Roberta wanted to be closer to her widowed mother. So she bought a home at 1149 Los Serenos, in Fillmore. It was just around the corner from her mother’s home and it, too, had seen water damage. The water had been over five feet deep in her house. She bought it cheaply, but had to do major repairs to it.
Roberta married Norm Fournier in Nov., 1980, at Las Vegas, Nev. They lived in her house in Fillmore, Calif. He began selling solar panels for a company in Santa Paula.
“When Mother married Chester Spradling on March 14, 1982, they decided to buy a new double-wide mobile home and live in a park east of Fillmore. So Norm and I bought her house because of the pool I had built at her house a year or two before the flood. So we moved down the street.
“We had opened a collector record store in Ventura. And it was doing very well. But I was working 6 days a week, which was very tiring.
“During this time we got to met so many singers. Norm and I went to a club in Hollywood every Tuesday night. That was their oldies night. Most of the singers we met there we also became good friends with — such as Hank Ballard, The Tokens, The Safarri’s, and Marvin & Johnny.
“Then at our record store there was always someone famous stopping by. Like Jimmie Rodgers (‘Honeycomb’), Sheb Wooley (‘Purple People Eater’), Jerry Wallace (‘Primrose Lane’), and Sonny Curtis of the Crickets (the group that backed Buddy Holly). We even did some special mail orders for singer Frankie Laine. Plus record producers use to stop in our store.
“But the best was Ritchie Valens’ mother [Connie Valenzuela]and her son Bobby. We became extremely close with them.” Valens died in the plane crash with Buddy Holly.
In April, 1981, she moved her record store from Ventura to 515 E. Main Street in Santa Paula. Then in 1983 they moved it to Los Angeles Avenue in Saticoy, Calif. They named it “The Record Fan,” as they sold both records and ceiling fans.
This view, looking northwest from Fillmore to San Cayetano Mountain was one of Roberta’s favorites. Thanks to Berta’s friend, Sharon Horn Villasenor, for emailing the photo to me. It does bring back some good memories for sure.
Christmas of 1985 at Chester and Evelyn (Cauthen Paregien) Spradling’s house off of Highway 126 in the east part of Fillmore, California. Clockwise: Chester Spradling, Stan Paregien Jr., Stacy Paregien, Doug Loffswold, Brad Loffswold, Roberta Paregien Loffswold Fournier, Eupel Paregien Higgenbotham (sister of Harold Paregien), Peggy Paregien and Evelyn. [Photo by Stan Paregien Sr]
On March 29, 1987 the Ventura County Star-Free Press newspaper carried a large feature article about Roberta and Norm and their record shop.
In 1991 Roberta and Norm moved the store way up north to Jackson, Calif., in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. Brad and Doug continued to live in the family home in Fillmore until it sold, and then they moved in with their grandmother Evelyn.
The store in Jackson was located at 139 Main St. They finally closed the store in January, 1995.
“We were living in Pine Grove and tried moving our store to a building on that property where the store was next door to where we lived in Pine Grove. But that location flooded, and ruined about $25,000 worth of records. Then it took us a year to fix the store back up. And a month later it flooded a 2nd time. I was just sick of the whole mess, and we permanently closed our store.”
Berta was an avid fan of Elvis Presley from the first time she heard him sing. She collected so much of his memorabilia that newspapers and TV stations have interviewed her about it. She started an Elvis Presley Fan Club in 1995 and was the president of it.
This is Norm & Berta Fournier on a visit to Wapanucka, the town in Oklahoma where she was born at the home of her maternal grandparents, John and Vada (Walters) Cauthen.
Front row: Christal Magness, Madelynn Loffswold, Daniel Paregien, Dylan Magness. 2nd row: Roberta P. Fournier and his mom Evelyn P. Spradling, her brother Stan Paregien, her maternal uncle Johnnie Cauthen. 3rd row: Peggy Paregien, Berta’s son Brad Loffswold, Stacy (Paregien & John Magness), her niece Jodi Paregien, and Jodi’s parents, Becky & Stan Paregien Jr.
In about 2003, they bought and moved into a small house on about two acres of land just northwest of Pioneer, California (about a half-mile north of Highway 88). Their address was 23574 Bonanza Road, Pioneer, CA 95666. It had 15 or 20 large oak trees on the property, as well as a garden area on the east side. Deer and wild turkey were frequent visitors. It was in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in beautiful country.
However, they had bought the house when the real estate business was red hot. House prices were soaring and unscrupulous mortgage companies were reducing or flatly ignoring lending qualifications. So lots of folks across the country who could not really afford to buy a house were able to do so. Roberta and Norm were among them. Then the bubble popped. A depression hit the real estate market nationwide. And suddenly people with little disposable income found themselves living in homes where the value had dropped from 30 to 60%. They were stuck with homes they couldn’t afford and they couldn’t sell them, either.
In the summer of 2004, Norm and Roberta welcomed the arrival of her mother to live with them. Roberta’s son, Bradley Loffswold, and his wife (Michelle) and child (Madelynn) also lived on their property in a garage apartment.
Evelyn Cauthen Paregien Spradling had lived with her son and daughter-in-law, Stan and Peggy Paregien, in Edmond, Oklahoma for 11 years. But, at age 82, she was getting more frail. So they agreed that it would be best for her to move to Pioneer, Calif., since Stan and Peggy were still working full-time. Norm flew to Oklahoma, rented a U-Haul truck, and brought her furniture and belongings back to California.
“Evelyn, Roberta and Madelynn love to bake, and so they were always fixing something special to eat, especially cookies and cakes. Then Roberta and Madelynn both love to make things. They made some puppets for her class play. Plus lots of things for Easter, July 4th, and Christmas. They always had some craft project to work on.”
Roberta and Norm at Pioneer, Calif.
This 2009 photo taken in Pioneer, Calif., shows Evelyn Cauthen Paregien Spradling in May on the occasion of her 87th birthday. FRONT: Roland Loffswold and Evelyn. BACK: Norm and Roberta Fournier and Stan Paregien Sr.
By 2009, Roberta’s world was falling apart. Her health was rapidly deteriorating, largely to her reduced lung capacity. She had been a heavy smoker since her teens and watched as her own father basically sufficated to death from his emphesema/lung cancer. But that did not motivate her enough to give up her own addition. Now she had to be attached to a bottle of oxygen nearly 24-hours a day and was only able to sleep sitting up in her recliner.
Berta Fournier got to where she could only walk a few steps and then had to be pushed in a wheel chair. She is shown here in 2009 going out to eat at the big buffet at the Rancheria Casino east of Jackson, Calif. Others, L to R: Daniel Paregien (son of M/M Stan Paregien Jr.), Dylan and Christal Magness (children of M/M John Magness), Madelynn Loffswold (daughter of M/M Brad Loffswold), and Stan Paregien Sr. Photo by Peggy Paregien.
Her husband was very concerned and one day said to her, “Berta, if you don’t stop smoking, those cigarrettes will kill you.” She countered that with what she thought was a safe, fool-proof argument: “Well, Norm, I can’t stop smoking if you’re still smoking.”
To her great surprise, Norm reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and tossed them on the table. “Alright, then,” Norm said firmly, looking Berta right in the eyes, “I quit. Now you quit.” But she did not. We were all pleasingly surprized, though, that Norm could just quit “cold turkey.” He never smoked another cigarrette.
Berta claimed she had quit, but would sneak over and open a window. Then she would light up a cigarrette and blow the smoke outside through the screen. Norm never said anything, but he caught on to her little act early on. Eventually, she had to be on larger and larger intakes of oxygen, 24-hours per day and that is when she quit smoking. It was way too late.
They had stopped making monthly payments on their exhorbitant mortgage a year or two earlier. But they were allowed to continue living there as no bank or mortgage company at that moment wanted another house sitting empty. That didn’t keep them from badgering Roberta and Norm for money. One day Norm told another rude mortage company collector on the phone, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. We’ll move out tomorrow and I’ll leave the key hanging out by the door.” The man backed off, saying “Oh, please, don’t do that. Maybe we can work something out.”
The mortgage company never worked anything out. And in the spring of 2010, they told Roberta and Norm that they were foreclosing and for them to be out of the house by May 31st.
Meanwhile, Norm was dying from liver cancer. Roberta certainly could not care for him when she couldn’t even care for herself, much less care for Mom (who was seriously debilitated by her dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. So one of Norm’s daughters by his first marriage, moved him to Reno, Nevada and to a small apartment where she could help him (she is a licensed nurse).
Right in the middle of this, Brad Loffswold and his family were also having to move out of their garage apartment on Roberta’s property to somewhere else elsewhere. So he began to look for a place where Roberta could also live with them.
Roland Loffswold sure did love his Grandma Berta
In mid-March of 2010, Peggy and I decided that Mom should live with us, again. So we drove to Pioneer, California and rented a big U-Haul Truck. Brad and Peggy helped me load Mom’s belongings. It was a sad, sad day for everyone as I drove that truck down off the hill with Peggy driving our car and Mom at her side. And then it got worse for Roberta.
Roberta in her bedroom/study on Sept. 22, 2010
Brad eventually found a duplex at 418 Preston Ave., Apartment B, in Ione, California 95640 that his family and his mom could squeeze into . . . and afford. It was tight, very tight.
Berta did have a small bedroom by herself, one with the recliner in which she continued to sleep, plus her computer and a secretarial type chair. Everything else, including most of her photo albums and scrapbooks and her music collection had to be stored in the one-car garage. She would spend the next six years of her life there, very seldom feeling well enough to venture outside. So her computer became her major link with her friends and family.
Then her husband Norman Patric Fournier–from whom she was separated because of his medical needs and her own limitations–died in Reno, Nevada on June 10, 2010. His body was cremated and there was no funeral service.
Meanwhile, back in Edmond, Oklahoma, Evelyn P. Spradling’s dementia was becoming acute. I came up with the idea of making a “Last Time Around” swing through southern California, visiting sites where she had once lived and visited with people she had known. I was hoping it might jog her memory and help her connect the dots, again. We saw lots of sights and folks along the way, and Peggy and I shed many tears as we experienced some terrible moments of dealing with Evelyn’s mental condition.
It was a heart-breaking ordeal for Roberta when, because of her frail health, she could not be present when her husband died nor when her mother died. Out of the depth of her sorrow, she wrote the following poem about her mother:
Peggy and I flew out to Ione, California to visit with Roberta and her son Brad and his family. As it turned out, this was the last time we saw her. She actually felt well enough to leave their home to go out and eat a couple of times, plus stopping at a thrift store or two. She and her mother had been Queens of the Garage Sale Circuit a few years back, when they were both able to get around on their own.
Stan & Berta in 2015
Oh, did I tell you she and our mother loved their deserts? When we went to a buffet, each of them would immediate head for the desert bar before getting anything else.
Robert’s health issues — emphysema, COPD, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. — became worse and worse. Her hands were often in such pain that she had to quite using her beloved computer for several days at a time. And her breathing was just a constant challenge, forcing many trips to the emergency room and stays in the hospital.
Then about 7 am on Sunday, May 31st, she had another serious inability to inhale enough oxygen. So Brad took her to the Amador Sutter Hospital in Jackson, Calif., and she was admitted late that afternoon when a bed finally was available.
The doctors placed a mask over her nose and mouth — a “B-pap,” I think is the term– to try to get her lungs to accept more oxygen. They told him if the mask did not work, there was only one thing left they could try and that would be to put her on a ventilator which would do all of the breathing for her. That would require a tube down her throat, preventing her from breathing; and they would have to feed her through a tube in her stomach; and she would have to be transferred to and live in a special facility for such treatment for the rest of her life, how ever long that might be.
Some time during the next couple of days, she received a special telephone call. Elaine Campbell Harris was first my girlfriend back in the dark ages (1956-57) and, after we stopped dating, continued as a friend of Roberta’s both by emails, Facebook and phone calls. Elaine herself has been bedridden for the last year or two. But she read on Facebook about Berta being in the hospital and tried to call her.
Later, after Berta’s death, Elaine phoned me and related that conversation. A staff member answered the phone in her room. Elaine explained she was a close friend of Roberta’s and would like to speak with her. That nurse told her that Berta could not talk at the moment because of wearing that “B-pap” mask and no family member was present right then. So Elaine said, “Just tell her that Elaine Campbell called and left this message, ‘I love you.'” The nurse conveyed that message to my sister and then told Elaine that Berta had smiled and pointed to her own heart, then to the phone, to have the nurse tell Elaine that she loved her, too.
Brad later reported he had watched as the nurses took the mask off of Roberta to try to get her to eat something. They had the mask removed for only about five minutes when she began to turn blue from lack of oxygen, so they quickly replaced the mask.
By Wednesday, June 3rd, the doctors had decided that the mask was not increasing the oxygen level in her blood. And Roberta had let them know in no uncertain terms that she refused to be placed on a ventilator. So the doctors told Brad to go ahead and arrange for a hospital bed for Berta to use at their home, and to arrange for hospice and home health assistance.
Late on the afternoon of Thursday, June 4th, a medical supplier delivered a hospital bed and set it up in her room. The doctors then released Roberta, minus the B-pap mask, and she was sent home with only the oxygen bottle she always used–and which could no longer keep her alive for long. They gave her doses of both morphine and an anti-anxiety drug to make her more comfortable. Her elder son, Doug Loffswold flew in from Portland, Oregon and made it to her beside about 9:30 that evening. She seemed to acknowledge his presence, but could say little. She lasted through the night.
Meanwhile, Stan and Peggy Paregien left their home in Bradenton, Florida about 3:30 am (EDT) on Friday, June 5th, and drove to Tampa International Airport for a 7:20 am flight to Sacramento, Calif. Actually, it was a 4-part series of short flights strung together, so they did not arrive at the airport in Sacramento until about 3:30 pm, local time.
They made a call to Brad to let him know they had arrived. And that is when they learned Berta had given up on her long, hard fight and breathed her last breath about 11:00 am that morning. They continued on to Brad’s house, arriving about 5:30 pm. There they learned Berta’s remains would be cremated. And because few, if any, of her friends could attend a funeral service the decision had been made not to have one.
Please take a minute to scroll back to pages 35 and 36. The two poems there, “Come With Me” and “I’m Free,” are just as appropriate for Roberta as they were for our mother, Evelyn. Please re-read them with Roberta in mind.
The following two photos of Roberta were taken by Peggy Paregien during our 2014 visit with Roberta there at her home with Brad in Ione, California. As you can see, she still had those beautiful blue eyes (as did our father). And the second photo is a good example of her laughing and making the best she could of her life. She will be missed, so terribly, by each of us who knew and loved her. Berta, dear Berta, . . . we will not forget you and we will always love you.
See the information below about her two sons and her two grandchildren. At the very end you’ll find out how to view many more photos of Roberta and her family, and how to contact Stan Paregien.
1. Bradley Morris Loffswold
Bradley Loffswold was born in the summer of 1972 in Lubbock, Texas. ”Brad was born when we lived in Lubbock. In Feb. of 1973 we moved back to Simi Valley and bought a home on Arlington Way. Brad learned his ABC’s
and was talking up a storm. When Brad was about 1 years old he started developing extremely high temperatures, some as high as 105 degrees. He then, started not being able to say his ABC’s, and he quit talking. The fevers
were really affecting him.
”We ended up at UCLA hospital, and the only thing they could think of was Jr. Arthritis. But I did not believe this for a second. But the fevers continued for over a year, and he was on antibiotics almost the entire year. The
pediatrician wanted to put him in the hospital to run tests for “fever of unknown origin”. He was fine and no fever when they put him in for these test. But a couple days later, his fever spiked. They wrapped him in ice
cold blankets with no clothes on, and THEY ended up giving him pneumonia. He was so very sick, and the Dr. one evening said if he is not better tomorrow we are going to air lift him to UCLA to do a lung tap test. He was not talking, and was just almost in a coma like state, and laying there in an oxygen tent over his bed and he had not eaten in several days. I was just at my wits end, and was afraid he was going to die. I went out to grab a quick bite of dinner.
”When I returned about 30 minutes later I found him sitting up in bed, and he was eating a plate of spaghetti, and he was talking. It truly was a miracle. After spending a week in the hospital, and so close to death, I could not
believe his turn around, in just a few minutes.
”Brad came home from the hospital and I thought I will never let the doctors put him through this again. At this point he was so weak that he could no longer walk, and I had to carry him everywhere. He still was having high
fevers off and on. Finally Evelyn talked Roberta into taking him to a Chiropractor. Roberta knew they could help with back problems, but did not think they could help with fevers, but as a last resort, we took him. On his first treatment, he was running a temperature, but by the time the treatment was over his fever was gone. We then took him in for treatments for about 6 months, and finally his fevers had gone away.
”We moved to Reno, Nevada in 1977. Then we moved back to Simi Valley. Then in 1978 we bought a house in Fillmore, just down the street from Evelyn Paregien (Grandma). That worked out great. They stayed with Grandma about 1/2 the time, and the boys loved being near her.”
Roberta built a swimming pool at Grandma’s house. Brad and Doug become great swimmers, and practically lived in the pool. “Brad started kindergarten in Fillmore and went there through 12th grade. He took his S.A.T. test and finished early. Brad was very involved in drama during school. He became very close with his drama teacher. A couple years after high school, his drama teacher was teaching at Beverly Hills high school, and she had Brad come down and act in their school plays.
”Experience as a professionally trained actor allows Brad the capability of performing multiple ‘roles’, in both movies and live play productions. Brad was in the TV show ‘BEVERLY HILLS 90210’ several times. He also was in the TV series ‘RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.’ He also appeared in the TV show ‘PARKER LEWIS CAN’T LOOSE.’ He has performed in a variety of skits and plays for schools, community groups and businesses; topics included parodies, original skits, improv exhibitions and office satire. Wrote original material and collaborated with other writers to develop skits and plays. He also designed and built sets and props.
”Brad worked 1 year for a swimming pool company, putting gas concentrated chlorine into swimming pools. Brad worked as manager of PET BARN, in Ventura for 5 years as manager.
”Brad and Michelle Loffswold had a daughter they named MADELYNN RAE LOFFSWOLD. She was born in the summer of 1996. One spring day in 2002 Brad married his long time sweetheart, Michelle Maddox.
”Brad worked 2 years for Kinko’s printing company. They were living in Ventura. Michelle worked for her Mother’s daycare facility in Santa Barbara.
”In 2003 Brad and his family moved to Pioneer, Calif., right next door to his Mother, Roberta. This was so wonderful having family right next door. Michelle got a job working with county agencies, in training daycare workers, and she loved her job.
”Brad got a job that he loved, doing tours through a local cave. Brad was Lead Tour Guide/Cavern Naturalist, at Black Chasm Cavern, Volcano, California, from Sept 2003 to January of 2005. He became Certified for cave rappelling. He gave guided tours through cave, and ran the gift shop as manager. Plus he trained other tour guides.
”Madelynn did fantastic in school. She was always winning awards. She excelled in Match, and reading. She even won a bicycle at her school for reading a certain number of books.
”In 2005 Brad and his family moved to Agoura Hills, CA. Michelle went to work at a daycare facility. Brad went to work for a company that tests games, for cell phones and x-boxes, and he is enjoying his work.”
Sometime later, they moved back to Pioneer, California to live in the garage apartment next to the home of his mother and stepfather. In 2010, after the place went into foreclosure and they were all evicted, they moved to Ione, California, where they live presently. In the spring of 2015 they started their own child care center, with Michelle as the director. It has become so successful they are adding on to their building and hiring more staff.
At this time (June, 2015), their daughter Madelynn Loffswold works at a fast food restaurant and has since her graduation in 2014 from high school in nearby Jackson. Roland is now in the fourth grade and enjoying several sports and acting.
2. Douglas Loffswold
The following information was submitted by Doug:
Doug Loffswold was born early in 1969, in Van Nuys California. The family moved around quite a bit, and when the dust settled, a second son, Bradley was born. The family landed in Simi Valley, California.
Doug was unusually bright, and began to read at the age of two. By the age of three he was embarrassing his parents with complicated questions about who “Deep Throat” was, as he picked up the latest story about Nixon and Watergate.
This proved to be meddlesome however, when he entered kindergarten. His reading comprehension was already that of a senior in High School, while his classmates were still learning their ABC’s. It was decided he would be moved ahead into the first grade.
All through school, Doug excelled in English classes, but because he skipped a few basic lessons in Kindergarten, certain subjects like Math and Geography were tough. Doug was more of a dreamer and spent more time looking out of the classroom windows, wondering about the life cycles of caterpillars and the shapes of leaves rather than learning about what year the Louisiana purchase was made.
In high school he joined the Drama club and Jazz band, playing drums. Later he was in the marching band. He wrote poetry and short stories, and taught himself how to play the guitar. By the time he was a senior in High School, he’d picked up a Super-8 movie camera, and with his friends as actors, started making films. Once he’d acquired a multi-track audio recorder, he started making his own soundtracks for the films, editing and adding sound effects like a one man band… but with film.
He graduated High School in 1986, and after a few fits and starts in Ventura, moved to Oakland in 1989. Throughout the next few years, he made more films, played music in several different bands, and by 1994 he found that audio editing was something he excelled at. He and a friend started a group called Screenbred, the name referring to how the people of his generation were brought up on various screens of different types- be they movie, TV or ATM screens, this Generation X (as it was now called) were surrounded by them.
The music was a cut and paste pastiche of “Found Sound” (Children’s records, cassettes found in thrift stores, audio clips from TV etc.) mixed with live instrumentation. The result was something that sounded like a humorous cross between radio drama and rock and roll, with an eye toward skewering the status quo by re-editing the junk we’re bombarded with in the media every day, and serving it up anew as a tongue in cheek criticism of media.
After spending nearly a decade in the Bay Area, Doug moved to Portland, Oregon several years ago. That is where he lives today. He works for a large corporation, and he is still active in his creative pursuits
for a large corporation. He is still active in his creative pursuits.