Shylah Alexander, rest in peace. (GoFundMe photo)
Shylah Alexander, rest in peace. (GoFundMe photo)

The idea for Noozhawk was conceived and developed inside the Santa Barbara Club, my home away from home, but we actually got our start in Dennis Cagan’s former incubator on East Gutierrez Street across from Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center.

The innovative, high-tech co-working space was a beehive of entrepreneurship, which was one reason why SCORE Santa Barbara set up its business mentorship consulting there.

And that’s where I first met Paul Burri.

Paul Burri described himself as a “woodworker, inventor, entrepreneur, photographer, teacher and author,” which included writing a business column for Noozhawk. (Burri family photo)
One poor referral aside, Paul Burri helped Noozhawk run up the SCORE. (Burri family photo)

Paul was a SCORE mentor, and he stopped by my office one afternoon and introduced himself. He was curious about the Noozhawk concept as an online-only publication and, as a serial entrepreneur and lifelong tinkerer and inventor, he was eager to learn more.

Over the next few months, we chatted almost every week and he eventually pitched the idea of writing a business column for Noozhawk, using his SCORE experience and his long career in manufacturing and management as the foundation.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure our readership would be all that interested, but Noozhawk was a fledgling startup and I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. Paul wrote that column regularly over the next six years.

My instincts were largely correct about our readers but, as one of them, I found myself drawn to his perspective on problem-solving.

I could relate to the circumstances; media and manufacturing have more similarities than you’d think.

In those early days, Noozhawk was still in the cash-burning stage, and Paul urged me to take advantage of the SCORE program. That was about the last thing I wanted to do, but he really wanted to help, so I indulged him.

He set up a meeting with some crusty old retired captain of industry who took one look at our balance sheet and declared that I should shut down my company immediately.

“You’re spending more than you make, and giving away your product for free,” Captain Obvious scolded. “This will never work.”

He also had some opinions to share about the internet, but I had already checked out mentally.

The next day I told Paul that I’d be sticking to my own game plan. Less than a month later, Noozhawk hit break-even — and here we are 16 years later.

All of these memories came flooding back this week when I got a handwritten addressed envelope from Paul’s wife, Betty. Without opening it, I knew what was inside.

Paul had died Oct. 31 at age 94.

Regrettably, we had lost touch about a decade ago, after he told me he was too old to write anymore and that he thought he’d try something new in retirement.

Paul Burri described himself as a “woodworker, inventor, entrepreneur, photographer, teacher and author.”

To that I would add “friend.” And another in the very long list of quirky characters who have helped me make Noozhawk a success — even if it “will never work.”

Rest in peace, Paul, and thank you.

•        •        •

Noozhawk had an audience of 168,436 readers this past week, according to our WordPress analytics.

What follows is my own take on the Top Five stories you were reading during that period. In other words, this is my opinion column, not a news story.

What also follows is the grimmest Best of Bill column I’ve had to write in a very long time.

I apologize in advance for how awful the topics are, but my friend, Erin Graffy, does provide a positive diversion at the end.

1. Teenage Girl Struck by Train, Killed Near Santa Barbara

In the first of two heartbreaking stories leading off this run of bad news, a 16-year-old San Marcos High School student struck by a train and killed on Nov. 6 was identified as Shylah Alexander of Goleta.

As our Tom Bolton reported, a large contingent of emergency responders was dispatched around 9 a.m. to the Union Pacific railroad tracks near the old Santa Barbara County Juvenile Hall, at 4500 Hollister Ave. east of the Page Youth Center.

There they found the teenager dead from the impact from a southbound Amtrak train.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick said the Coroner’s Bureau was investigating the circumstances of Alexander’s death.

A celebration of her life is scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 1 at McDermott-Crockett Mortuary Chapel, 2020 Chapala St. in Santa Barbara.

Family friends established a GoFundMe account to assist with funeral expenses.

“She wowed us with her creativity and talent, she soothed us with her smile, and she gave the best hugs,” according to an accompanying post. “We will miss you more than we can say.

“Please cherish your loved ones. You never know when it’s going to be the last hug, the last smile and the last laugh. Keep us in your prayers, and thank you for your help.”

As of Nov. 10, the GoFundMe account had raised more than $19,000. Click here to make an online donation.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District was providing grief counseling and emotional support for San Marcos students, faculty and staff.

2. Man Reportedly Jumps to Death from Cold Spring Bridge in Santa Ynez Valley

A man who leaped to his death on Nov. 5 from the Cold Spring Canyon Arch Bridge in the Santa Ynez Valley was identified as 20-year-old Jiaxi Ma of Irvine.

As our Tom Bolton was first to report, the California Highway Patrol received a 9-1-1 call around 11 a.m. about a man lingering on the Highway 154 bridge, just north of San Marcos Pass.

The CHP, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies, county firefighters and other emergency personnel converged on the bridge but it was too late. The man was found dead on Stagecoach Road about 400 feet below.

Fire Capt. Scott Safechuck told Tom that two motorcyclists had been providing traffic control on the roadway until first responders got there.

Ma, a native of China, had graduated from Woodbridge High School in Irvine and played tennis as a freshman last year at College of the Desert in Palm Desert.

Click here for suicide prevention resources that are available 24 hours a day, as well as risk factors and warning signs for suicide.

3. Goleta Man Charged With Murder in Old Town Homicide

Sheriff's deputies detain a 'person of interest' in a homicide that occurred early Wednesday in Old Town Goleta.
Hold it right there. (Alex Valdez photo)

The suspect arrested in the fatal stabbing of 57-year-old Efrain Morales of Goleta has been charged with his murder.

As our Tom Bolton reported previously, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies discovered Morales’ body around 6:40 a.m. Nov. 1 on Carson Street in Old Town Goleta, between Magnolia and Pine avenues near Yardi Systems headquarters.

Efrain Morales was described as “an excellent and loving father, husband and a good friend to many.” (GoFundMe photo)
Efrain Morales was described as “an excellent and loving father, husband and a good friend to many.” (GoFundMe photo)

He had been stabbed to death.

According to sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick, deputies later found an injured man a couple of blocks away, and detained him as a “person of interest” in the killing.

On Nov. 3, our Giana Magnoli reported that the District Attorney’s Office had charged 42-year-old Marino Luis Diaz of Goleta with first-degree murder, a special allegation of using a deadly weapon (a knife), and aggravating factors.

The criminal complaint accuses Diaz of a crime involving “great violence, great bodily injury, threat of great bodily harm or other acts disclosing a high degree of cruelty, viciousness, or callousness” and a victim who was particularly vulnerable.

“The manner in which the crime was carried out indicates planning, sophistication or professionalism,” the DA’s Office alleges.

As of Nov. 10, Diaz remained in County Jail, being held without bail.

Morales’ friends established a GoFundMe account to assist his family.

The post described him as “an excellent and loving father, husband and a good friend to many. He was very loved and the pain we feel is unexplainable. He will be forever missed.”

Nearly $10,000 had been raised as of Nov. 10. Click here to make an online donation.

4. Bill Macfadyen: Old Town Goleta Homicide Details Trickle Out

I won’t say I told you so, but it was just as I predicted.

5. Erin Graffy: Santa Barbara’s Famed Child Estate Changes Hands Again, and Again

The 1897 landmark home of John Beale, later known as the Child Estate, was neglected into ruin and wreck, and subsequently destroyed in just one hour through a controlled-burn training exercise by Santa Barbara Fire Department. (Sam B. Maguire Collection photo)
The Child Estate goes up in flames in 1959, ending its era on the Santa Barbara waterfront. (Sam B. Maguire Collection photo)

Our Erin Graffy has the third feature in her fascinating series exploring Santa Barbara’s renowned Child Estate on the waterfront.

Although this installment includes the fiery end of the stately mansion, it is not her last words on the subject.

•        •        •

Good Reads

Here are six other important stories before you go:

» Federal Jury Convicts Conception Dive Boat Captain of ‘Seaman’s Manslaughter’ — Managing editor Giana Magnoli covers the verdict in the latest chapter of the 2019 Conception dive boat tragedy.

» Feud Erupts Amid Decision to End Remote Public Comment During Santa Barbara Council Meetings — Staff writer Josh Molina is in the stands for the latest performance of the Santa Barbara City Council circus.

» 2 Carpinteria Men Ordered to Trial on Murder Charges for 2021 Eastside Shooting — Giana has an update on the 2021 gang murders of Santa Barbara High School students Angel Castillo and Omar Montiel-Hernandez.

» Men Recognized for Lifesaving Efforts After Electrocution at Hollister Ranch — Giana reports on three rescuers being honored for their heroics after a Hollister Ranch job site accident.

» Hundreds Gather at Goleta Beach Park to Call for Release of Israeli Hostages Held in Gaza — Josh is on hand as Santa Barbara’s Jewish community holds a candlelight vigil for Hamas-held hostages in Gaza. In case you’ve forgotten, since my betters in the national news media seem to have, the terrorists are holding at least 20 Americans hostage, too, with hundreds more U.S. citizens trapped in the territory. I remember when that used to be a big deal, you know, back before the Afghanistan debacle.

» 17 Local Student-Athletes Sign Letters of Intent to Play in College — National Signing Day is a big deal for local high school athletes looking to move up to the next level. Sports editor Diego Sandoval has the details.

•        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? West Coast’s Last Atlas V Rocket to End Era at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

•        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

It’s a mind-blowing question: With the Sphere Here, Are We Ready for More High-Tech Architecture?

•        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

More #nicotime in my Instagram feed this past week, along with @sherrtapp and a #salutetoteachers.

•        •        •

Watch It

The course marshal is never gonna believe this. And the grammar police won’t believe how “Canadian” is spelled. HT to Best of Bill reader Kyle Young. Language warning, though.

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.