PASSINGS: Newport-Mesa's notable losses in 2006

December 30, 2006


In his 23 years as general manager at the Arches Restaurant in Newport Beach, Gabriel "Gibby" Fernandez was a familiar face. When he died in April, just five months after his retirement, friends and customers remembered him as a snappy dresser and a gentleman with a sharp wit.

Over the years, his plaid suits and wide grin became common sights around one of the city's most upscale restaurants

In 1995, the Southern California Restaurant Writers Assn. named Fernandez maitre d' of the year.


The fall started on a tragic note at Eastbluff Elementary School as teacher Candace Tift, who taught the fourth and fifth grades, died as a result of a bicycling accident the week before school began.


Tift was riding her bicycle on West Coast Highway on Aug. 25 when a woman driving a Lexus veered onto the curb and hit her. The driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Tift, who had taught at Eastbluff for three years, died the next day.

On Sept. 21, the school held a service for her, with teachers, administrators and family members offering tributes.

Tift was survived by her husband, Wade Tift, and her 1-year-old son, Owen.


Pat Smith, the attendance clerk at Corona del Mar High School, died of cancer in April — two days after she came into work on a Saturday to straighten out her office. It was a fitting farewell for a woman whose colleagues remembered her as a woman with an iron work ethic.

Smith had worked at Corona del Mar High for nine years. Although her official post was in the attendance office, she became a familiar face all over campus, running the Preliminary SAT tests and often showing up to support drama productions and athletic events.

In addition, she left a legacy of charity and volunteer work. In 2002, she co-founded the Relay for Life, a Newport Beach fundraising walk to benefit cancer research, and last year, she helped her city build a Centennial Float for the Rose Parade.

Widowed at an early age, she was survived by her sons, Mike and Kirk Smith, and several grandchildren.


Remembered by many as the bagpiper at military ceremonies and funerals, Costa Mesa resident Jason Bond died of esophageal cancer on Sept. 1.

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