Obituaries

The most recent submissions appear first. CLICK HERE to create an obituary online or send an email to Eric at ekos@alamedasun.com with text and photos attached. The fee is $75 per 250 words, and $25 per photograph.

Ginger Elaine Cowan, 85, passed away peacefully on Dec. 17, 2019, surrounded by loved ones. She was a devoted mother to Brad, Scott, Greg and Kirk, a grandmother of 12, and a great-grandmother to three with a fourth great grandchild due in February. 

Ginger was born in Alameda on May 23, 1934, to Kenneth and Esther Stanton. She was the younger sister to Barbara Stanton Gibbs and older sister to William “Bill” Stanton. She had an early passion for care-giving and after graduating from Alameda High School (AHS) in 1952 she attended UC San Francisco and Berkeley to pursue a career in nursing. 

She wed her AHS sweetheart Ronald H. Cowan in 1955, her ex-husband who preceded her in death in 2017. During their 20-year marriage they lived in Alameda and raised a family of four boys. Following her divorce Ginger completed her nursing credentials and enjoyed a 25-year career at UCSF, during which she advanced to a neurology operating room nurse.

Ginger was fiercely independent and spent the last 37 years hiking and gardening in her lovely home tucked in the coastal redwoods at the base of Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley. 

She was compassionate in her care-giving, in nurturing her sons and their families and in generously giving her time to extended family and close friends whenever one needed home care and her special brand of nursing and organizational improvements. Wherever she was needed most is where Ginger most wanted to be. Everywhere she went, she left behind improved health and spirits, as well as new household supplies and meticulously organized drawers and cupboards. Her selfless drive to help others was symbolized when Ginger received a police commendation for stopping along a highway in response to a father’s cry for help, to deliver a baby in the backseat of a car.

During her years at UCSF she re-organized the entire operating room floor on her own time and touched hundreds of lives with memorable kindness and curiosity so each person felt special, heard and cared for. She will be remembered and missed by her close family and many friends.

A celebration of life for family and friends will be held at Pier 29 Restaurant, 1148 Ballena Blvd., on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 2 p.m. For any questions please contact Kirk Cowan at kirkecowan@gmail.com.

In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the UCSF Pancreatic Cancer Research efforts to aid with research and testing of early detection techniques so that this aggressive cancer can be treated at the early stages. 

Donations can be sent to: UCSF Foundation, PO Box 45339, San Francisco, CA 94145-0339 and designate on the memo line of a check that the gift is in memory of Ginger Cowan to support the Dr. Andrew Ko Cancer Research Fund. You can also give online by visiting www.makeagift.ucsf.edu. Click “direct your gift” and enter the gift fund name in the other box.

Born in Duluth, Minn., to the late James J. and Evelyn P. O’Connell, Mike was the beloved partner of Toshie McGovern. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Timothy J. O’Connell.

Mike is survived by his brother, James J. O’Connell (Michelle Banik-Rake); sister, Chireen R. O’Connell; brother, William J. O’Connell (Judy) and many nieces and nephews.

Mike served in the U.S. Navy prior to working in Volvo sales. He later became sole proprietor of O’Connell Volvo and most recently, O’Connell Electric.

Mike was sponsor of a very successful local softball team for many years. He was a sports enthusiast, especially his Raiders and A’s. He will be missed by many. 

 

On the evening of Dec. 24, 2019, following a family Christmas Eve dinner and laughter-inspiring Mickey Rooney impressions while viewing a favorite film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, longtime Alameda resident Roy Lee Stark, 75, passed away peacefully in Warren, Ill.

Roy was born on Oct. 22, 1944, in Twin Falls, Idaho, the youngest child of Neal and Julia (Forrester) Stark, who divorced shortly after his birth. After graduating from Paola High School in Paola, Kan., Roy went on to complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Emporia State University (ESU). He was the only person in his family to complete college. 

During his tenure at ESU, he was a two-term president of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. His “brothers” remained lifelong friends, and he spoke often of their antics, usually with a glint in his eye and a wry smile.

In Kansas City in 1977, Roy was introduced to his future wife Marsha by her neighbor, his best friend’s mother. He loved to tell stories of courting her: giving her extra points at racquetball just for showing up, sending roses when he knew she was headed out on a date with a rival, twirling her around the dance floor and ultimately beating all other suitors to get the girl. When he proposed, it came with a caveat: “If you say yes, you have to move to San Francisco.”

And move they did, in the spring of 1979, on their honeymoon. For four years, they resided in San Francisco, with daughter Jennifer arriving in 1981. In 1983, the family made the move across the bay to Alameda, where they would reside for several decades.

Roy had a distinguished technology sales career and would regale with tales of the early days when a single computer system took up an entire building. His ability to forge strong relationships and cross many cultural boundaries was apparent in his professional successes working across Asia and around the world.

Marsha and Roy loved to travel, touring Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. together. On his final night with his family, he was still making plans for trips in 2020; first to historic Charleston, S.C., then a visit back to Emporia State to stay at his old fraternity house, which was recently converted to a B&B.

After his family, Roy’s true passion was sailing. His first sailboat, a 26-foot Ericson, made the move from Kansas to the San Francisco Bay, first to Pier 39, later to Alameda. The boat had no name for years, and after eliciting and rejecting many ideas from his family, he settled on Jenny Wren, the nickname he’d given his daughter as a premature baby. The name persisted on two subsequent sailboats. 

Family social life revolved around yacht clubs and the wonderful friends they made there; first at Ballena Bay Yacht Club (BBYC) from 1984 to 2002 and later Oakland Yacht Club from 2002 to 2017. At BBYC, he was famous for his annual lamb dinners, which always included his secret breathe-on-someone-and-you’ll-kill-them, garlicy Caesar salad recipe. An avid chef, Roy loved cooking and all food, no matter how exotic. He was a consummate food critic; his family often joking he had missed his professional calling.

Roy and Marsha retired from Alameda to Lakewood Ranch, Fla., in 2017. Roy loved the Florida weather, but always missed the Bay Area.

He will be remembered always as a loving husband and father, with the wind in his hair, either from sailing on the bay or one of his many convertibles (he never drove anything else), teasing us about something, giving a “history lesson,” with a twinkle in his eye and smiling at all of us while we toasted the chef after another amazing meal.

Roy is survived by his wife of 40 years, Marsha (Balbach); his beloved daughter Jennifer, previously of Alameda, currently of Chicago, Ill; his sister Nolene Hensley of Afton, Okla.; his sister-in-law Mary Stark of Clifton, Mo.; his sisters-in-law Sandra (Balbach) Shea and her husband Tom of Janesville, Wisc., and Jean (Balbach) Beeler and her husband Chris of Freeport, Ill.; his mother-in-law Jane (Hicks) Balbach of Warren, Ill.; nieces and nephews; and countless treasured friends.

He was preceded in death by his son Richard (from a previous marriage), his brother Wesley, his father Neal, his mother Julia, and his father-in-law John Balbach.

Graveside services will be private. A celebration of life is being planned in Alameda for later this year. Please share a memory or condolence with the family at www.leamonfh.com/obituary/roy-stark.

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