By Sondra Murphy
At a Saturday gathering at a private home in Ojai’s Arbolada, stories of courage, wit, loyalty and rebelliousness were shared about a man who meant a lot to many in our community. About 100 diverse friends and family members came together for a memorial service in honor of Jeffrey W. San Marchi. editor of the Ojai and Ventura Voice bimonthly newspaper, San Marchi died of a heart attack Dec. 23 after collapsing while delivering papers in Ventura.
Several speakers referenced San Marchi’s commitment to his publication and the tenacity he possessed. “Jeff would be blown away by this,” said friend Ray Alpern, who added that news of San Marchi’s death had made it into many western publications. “I think he would be amazed by the reach he had.”
Friend and contributor Helen Yunker read “A voice has been silenced,” which she wrote about San Marchi. “Jeffrey’s death was a shock to many in the community, she said. “He was delivering his last issue when he died, making the last deadline.” Yunker called San Marchi a true and loyal friend. “Your voice may be silenced, but the effects of your journey on this earth will always be felt.”
Ron Ellis Smith said, “All of us who knew Jeff probably knew him differently. To me, he was Mad Dog San Marchi.” Smith spoke about his friend’s passion for photo ops and how he loved creating funny pictures for the Voice. “He disliked the actions of people in the community, but I don’t believe Jeff had a mean bone in his body.”
“In Jeff I feel I met a kindred spirit,” said Cathy Elliott Jones, adding that she and San Marchi argued a lot. “We once had a heated exchange about punctuation,” said Jones. She also complimented his ethics. “Jeff could not be bought. His integrity was not for sale.”
“He never kissed anyone’s ass,” said friend Dr. Peter Milhado. “Not from the right or the left and not for profit. He was a relentless warrior for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”
Brother Steve San Marchi thanked those in attendance for recognizing San Marchi’s “dedication to the community via the Voice.” Steve San Marchi said that his brother’s two daughters, Ana and Rosa, were the joys of his life. “I am very proud of my brother. I only wish he had heeded advice to take better care of his health.”
Ron Rowe is another longtime contributor who called San Marchi his friend. “For some odd reason, we resonated together and we never knew why. He called me a stiff upper-lipped Englishman and I called him my wild colonial boy.” Rowe, too talked of having frequent disagreements with San Marchi, but always parting on a good note. “He left us quickly and quietly: the way I know he would choose. Jeff, old son, I miss you and will continue to miss you as all the days, months and years go by.”
Michael Kaufer addressed San Marchi’s sharp wit and impeccable moral standards, calling him “A lamb in wolf’s clothing.” Kaufer told how the Voice was started by a few supporters after the Ojai Valley News was sold in the late 1980s, and San Marchi suggested that, “Maybe Ojai needs another paper.”
Kaufer said that there was a lot of support for an alternative newspaper and, after a successful benefit, San Marchi agreed to become editor. “He was the right person to do it,” said Kaufer. “He was the driving force.”
Daughters Rosa and Ana San Marchi addressed the crowd near the end of the memorial and said they were impressed by the turnout. “We didn’t know what to expect because we didn’t know how many people in town still liked him after all these years,” said Rosa San Marchi. She added that few people are able to live their lives doing what they love like their father did. “In the last few days we’ve realized what a voice he had in Ojai. Dad, wherever you are, we hope you’re causing trouble.”
“What a great guy,” said Jonathan McEuen about San Marchi. “What a great support to people all over. I just want to sing one for him and say thanks.” With that, McEuen played guitar and sang “Amazing Grace.” He invited everyone to join in, which they did.