Jonathan Litman Dies; Was Family Celebrity

Jonathan Joseph Litman

 

Jonathan Joseph Litman was born Oct. 26, 1960, with Down syndrome. Rejecting the pediatrician’s advice to put Jon in an institution, his parents, Norma and Marshall, decided to raise Jon at home, despite having very low expectations for his future. Little did they know that Jon would become the celebrity of the family, charming everyone he met. 

The youngest of six children, Jon grew up in a noisy and rambunctious family in Whittier, California, where he was loved and treasured. His mother Norma was a nursery school teacher who believed in the power of experiential learning to develop a child’s natural talents and abilities. Norma and Marshall immersed Jon in a rich and varied social and physical world, including traveling throughout North and Central America, and Europe.

Jon enriched the lives of all who knew him. He danced like John Travolta in “Grease,” gave thumbs-up like the Fonz, dispensed wisdom (“that’s life,” “times change”), and kept us laughing with his masterful gestures and impersonations. 

Jon loved old movies, and could recite the years and stars of his favorite films. He was an avid sports fan, wisely waiting until the end of the game or season before deciding which team he supported (always the winner). Nonetheless, he demonstrated lifelong loyalty to the California Angels—even when that required him to tweak their record a bit. Jon had a vast collection of baseball cards, which he sorted according to some rule that only he knew. In addition to enjoying spectator sports, Jon himself was an athlete. He won medals in basketball, swimming, and skiing, along with all his fellow Special Olympic athletes. 

Jon was a gentle and caring uncle to 10 nephews and nieces and a growing cohort of grand-nephews and -nieces. As the little ones matured, Jon’s family witnessed an endearing role reversal, in which the nephews and nieces gracefully and lovingly assisted and supported their Uncle Jon. 

Jon lived independently for most of his adult life, with assistance from family, the Regional Center system, and CAPC, Inc., a non-profit organization that assists people with disabilities to maximize their lives. Jon was very proud of his job at Polly’s Pies Cafe, where he worked for 30 years, and equally enthusiastic about his subsequent retirement. He insisted on a “retirement party” at every family reunion. Jon loved his high school sweetheart and life-long fiancé, Teri Westbrook. When his parents moved to Davis, California, in the early 1990s, Jon chose to stay in Whittier to continue his relationship with Teri and his “very important work” at Polly’s Pies. According to CAPC Director of Services Edith Fierro, “Jon was a pioneer. He pioneered independent living. What he did was unheard of in those days.” Jon and Teri were featured in an episode of the PBS series Visionaries, hosted by actor Sam Waterston: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs7JTYlHXwg

In 2013, Jon moved to Sacramento to be close to his oldest sister, Laurie. There he established new routines, walking three miles each day to buy his lunch, listening to disco and Motown, watching sports on television, organizing his baseball cards, and staying very busy. He spent a month every year in Sitka, visiting his sister Cindy and brother Michael and celebrating Christmas with Cindy’s family.

Sadly, many people with Down syndrome have a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s disease, and Jon started showing signs of the disease soon after he moved to Sacramento. For the first several years he was still able to do all the things he loved: walk each day, make his special burritos, and fly alone for visits to siblings in Sitka and Southern California, but little by little he lost those capabilities.

Over the last year or two, Jon’s condition deteriorated to the point that he could no longer maintain his independent lifestyle, but thanks to a team of wonderful caregivers he was able to fulfil his desire to remain in his apartment. As his disease progressed and he entered hospice care, Jon continued to enjoy life, music, and visiting with family via Zoom until the end. His five siblings were with him when he died peacefully on April 2, 2021.

“Having Jon as a member of our family was a great gift, and we are happy that we helped him live life on his terms and to the fullest extent possible,” his family said. “Jon was the happiest and most self-confident person we know. He taught us that living a rich, kind, and loving life is the end goal, intellectual ability is insignificant, family is everything, and John Travolta rules.”

Although he was largely unaware of it, Jon’s independence required a team of helpers, and he was lucky to have the best. His family thanked Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center, which trained Jon in life skills, and especially Miriam, who played a special role and had a special place in Jon’s heart, even going on double dates with Jon and Teri. CAPC supported Jon to live independently while he remained in Whittier and he had especially warm relationships with Edith and Jeannette.

“Alta Regional Center in Sacramento has been amazing, treating Jon with great respect and finding ways to support and keep him living independently as his abilities declined,” his family said. “Special thanks to Edward, B.J., and many caregivers who went above and beyond expectations in their kindness to him, and to his loving caregiver and friend Carol, the best of the best. We are forever grateful for all their support, and believe that caregivers deserve significant respect—and commensurately significant pay.”

Jon leaves behind five siblings: Laurie (Sacramento), Cindy (Sitka), Michael (Sitka), Todd (Victoria, B.C., Canada), and Kerry (Claremont, California) Litman. He also will be missed by four loving brother- and sisters-in-law, and two generations of Litman, Guevin, Tabangcura, and Steele nieces and nephews.

Jon was preceded in death by his parents, Norma and Marshall Litman, his beloved brother-in-law Tony Guevin, and his fiancé Teri Westbrook. A celebration of Jon’s life will take place in Sacramento on his favorite day of the year, October 26, his birthday. 

“In lieu of flowers we ask that you practice love and kindness, and dance to disco or sing 1970s love songs in celebration of Jon’s life,” his family said. 

For those who wish to honor Jon with a donation, contributions may be made to the Jon Litman Memorial Fund at CAPC, Inc. Jon thrived from a life filled with enriching and challenging experiences. The Jon Litman Memorial Fund will be used to enrich the lives of people like Jon. CAPC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that relies on donations to fund the services it provides. Those who choose to donate online, should write “Jon Litman Memorial Fund” in “Comments About Your Donation.” Those who prefer to send a donation by mail, should write “Jon Litman Memorial Fund” on the memo line of the check. Credit card donations can be made online at:

https://www.capcinc.org/donate/ Checks should be made payable to CAPC, Inc. and mailed to: 

CAPC, Inc.

7702 Washington Ave

Whittier, CA 90602

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AK COVID-19

At a Glance

(updated 9-28-22)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:15 pm Wednesday, September 28.

New cases as of Wednesday: 546

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 282,928

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,329

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 3,955

Case Rate per 100,000 – 74.91

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "High.'' Case statistics are as of Wednesday.

Case Rate per 100,000 – 117.30

Cases in last 7 days – 10

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,358

Hospitalizations (to date) – 29

Deceased (cumulative) – 7

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.

 

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20 YEARS AGO

September 2002

Photo caption: Bus drivers Derrell John and Sabrina Smith stand next to the new Community Ride buses at Crescent Harbor bus stop, which serves as a transfer point. The two public transportation buses will run two routes, one along Halibut Point Road, the other along Sawmill Creek Road. 

50 YEARS AGO

September 1972

 Photo caption: Bill Willis, the new owner-manager of the Dip’n’ Sip in the Triune Building serves up another ice cream cone for a pleased customer. Bill and his wife Dorothy purchased the business from JoAnne Harris. Along with the ice cream treats, sandwiches and soups will be added to the menu.

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