George Floyd protest
Locals crammed together by the thousands for Santa Barbara’s May 31 demonstration against racial injustice. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

Lost in the monumental chaos of the last couple of weeks is the truth that life is fleeting and tomorrow is promised to no man. Or woman.

We know that George Floyd didn’t wake up on May 25 knowing it would be his last day on earth. Yet, before sundown, he was dead, a victim of ghastly and reprehensible cruelty — no matter what he had been suspected of doing.

My friend, Annie Chase, also woke up one morning last week, on May 30, and went about the very routine business of her day. She took the bus to downtown Santa Barbara from the Noleta group home in which she lived with a handful of fellow adults with developmental disabilities.

Annie Chase

Annie Chase, 1966-2020: Rest in peace, Sweet Annie. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk file photo via Instagram)

As she usually did in the mornings, she hung out for a while at Willie’s Barber Shop at 12 W. Figueroa St. While known throughout much of the upper downtown area, Annie seemed most at home in that first block of West Fig.

Willie’s, Los Arroyos, Walter Claudio and, years ago, the late South Coast Beacon newspaper; they all welcomed her, feeding her, doing her hair, seeing the inner beauty and kindness of soul that radiated through her frequently disheveled appearance.

Sometime in the early afternoon, Annie boarded a bus to go home. As she trundled toward her house, she collapsed and died, apparently from cardiac arrest. She was 53 years old.

As tragic as those circumstances are, Annie was carrying no identification with her that day. Responding paramedics and firefighters had no way of knowing who she was and, inexplicably, no one was around to recognize her.

In the end, was she just that invisible? To everyone but the witness who called 9-1-1 after seeing her crumple to the ground?

Annie’s body was taken to the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Bureau, where she laid — anonymously — for the rest of the weekend.

Late that night, the group home house manager reported her missing and her family was notified early the next morning. It would be the afternoon of June 1 before the identification connection was made.

Annie was very much a part of our family and she made us part of hers. She remembered all of our birthdays, asked about each of my children every time she saw me, and even gave me sweet Father’s Day cards. She was great friends with two of our Alaskan malamutes, and I regret that she never got the chance to meet the newest member of our pack — because she loved puppies.

Annie was born on Sept. 1 but, for reasons I never understood, insisted on celebrating her birthday the day before. Over nearly two decades, I’ve missed maybe three of those parties.

She loved riding around in my Ford F-250 so, afterward, she’d always announce that I would be driving her home. Those trips habitually included requests to stop at Chaucer’s Books, where she worked, and CVS. Although she had her own money, somehow I always paid.

I can’t begin to imagine how much she fleeced me for over the years, but those books about horses and unicorns, the Disney DVDs and troll dolls were worth every penny. As were the dinners and the three-course second meals she would order to go after our annual trips to the Santa Barbara Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Arlington.

Oh, what I would give now for one more shopping spree with her, or Battle with the Mouse King.

Long ago, when I had the South Coast Beacon, our offices were at 15 W. Figueroa St., on the ground floor of the building you pass on the way into the public parking lot by the Santa Barbara MTD transit center. At the rear are three parking spaces reserved for tenants, and Annie used to settle on the back porch to read her Junie B. Jones books.

She also would police those parking spaces.

One day, my late father-in-law stopped by to see me and made the mistake of parking there. She gave him such an earful that he joked about meeting our “back-door receptionist.” Annie was quite proud of herself when I shared that with her later, and both of them told the story for years afterward.

Annie did not have an easy life, but she was a beacon of hope, gratitude, character and fierce loyalty. She was a true friend, and there are dozens of people in her circle with stories just like mine.

It breaks my heart to think of how she died, although I pray it was instantly. I’m sure her last day was a good one. She always had a smile on her face when she was at Willie’s.

The truth is that Annie usually had a smile on her face, a wry sense of humor, and a childlike ability to let go of her frustrations and anger. Although her circumstances were often challenging, it never deterred her from seeing the good in people or extending unconditional compassion.

I would not be man enough to trade places with her, but I sure wish I would be more like her.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about Proverbs 27:1 these past few days: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”

While I can, however, I’ll boast about yesterday for Noozhawk, which is the whole point of these Best of Bill columns. According to our Google Analytics, we had an audience of 127,628 readers over the past week.

What follows is my own take on the Top 5 stories you were reading, which — curiously, and for the first time in months — does not include any coronavirus coverage.

To be clear, this is my opinion column. This is not a news story.

1. Dramatic Moments Mark George Floyd Protest as Thousands Rally in Santa Barbara

Thousands of people rallied at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse on May 31 before marching five blocks to deliver a list of demands outside the Santa Barbara police station. The raucous but peaceful demonstration was a protest against racial injustice after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

While similar demonstrations around the nation have been accompanied by rioting and violence, the 3,000 person-strong Santa Barbara rally and march had none of that. It was not without drama, however.

As our Josh Molina reported, one poignant moment came when dozens of people laid down at the intersection of East Figueroa and Santa Barbara streets.

With the crowd looking on in silence, the lie-in lasted for an agonizing 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time that Floyd, a handcuffed black man, was pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis police officer during a Memorial Day arrest.

A more dramatic confrontation came afterward when Mayor Cathy Murillo attempted to address the demonstrators.

“I asked you for a meeting with you to talk about everything that …,” she started to tell Krystle Farmer, one of the organizers.

“You should have been on TV condeming police brutality and racism,” Farmer replied.

“There’s been corruption in this community. Where have you been? This is not new. This is not new.”

As Murillo began to speak, Farmer cut her off: “When a black woman is speaking, silence.”

Murillo then countered, “when the mayor is speaking,” prompting Farmer to interrupt.

“I don’t listen to you,” she said. “I don’t have to listen to you.”

Murillo graciously walked away but it had to be a surreal experience for the first Latina mayor in Santa Barbara’s 170-year history, especially since she’s spent her political career championing about 100 percent of the protesters’ points.

The list of demands, which Murillo apparently was there to formally accept on behalf of the City of Santa Barbara, includes the protection and preservation of black landmarks rather than “monuments to white supremacy;” a City Council resolution condeming police brutality and declaring racism a public health emergency; and transparency and accountability from the Police Department and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, the latter of which is outside the city’s jurisdiction.

Police Chief Lori Luhnow had issued a statement condeming Floyd’s death, but some of the day’s speakers dismissed it as meaningless.

Protests and commemorations have been held throughout the county, including in Buellton, Isla Vista, Lompoc, Santa Maria and an earlier May 29 march in downtown Santa Barbara. Most of them have been peaceful but all have ignored social-distancing edicts that were so mandatory just days ago — and still required and enforced for vast swaths of society.

The events were sparked by the universal revulsion and anger at the death of Floyd, who had been accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill. A police officer, Derek Chauvin, was videotaped kneeling for nearly nine minutes on Floyd’s neck as the 46-year-old suspect repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and pleaded for his life.

For the last three minutes of the video, Floyd was nonresponsive. He was pronounced dead after paramedics spent about an hour trying to revive him.

Chauvin and three other officers at the scene were fired the next day, and have since been arrested. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Aiding and abetting charges were filed against the other three former cops.

2. Santa Barbara Police Seek Public’s Help in Finding Nurse Missing Since Friday

A Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital nurse was reported missing June 1, and Santa Barbara police appealed to the public for help locating her.

Ashley Zachman

Ashley Zachman (Zachman family photo)

SBPD spokesman Anthony Wagner told our Tom Bolton that 36-year-old Ashley Lynn Zachman was last seen leaving the hospital when her shift ended at 5 p.m. May 29.

Her parents alerted authorities after she failed to show up for work on June 1.

“Family members and co-workers have not seen or heard from her since she left work on Friday,” Wagner said.

He added that her parents said it was out-of-character for the woman.

Zachman is described as 5-foot-5, 115 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. She drives a 2008 white Mazda 3 sedan with California license plate number 6DRL358.

Wagner said Zachman’s cell phone was found at her residence but her purse and car were missing.

Anyone with information about her whereabouts is asked to contact police at 805.897.2465.

3. Vegetation Fire Blackens 700 Acres on Santa Cruz Island, Is 80% Contained

Santa Cruz Island fire

Smoke from the Scorpion Fire on Santa Cruz Island mars the sweeping view from the island’s Diablo Peak. (Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club screen capture)

A wildfire that ignited on Santa Cruz Island the morning of May 31 grew to nearly 1,400 acres before being fully corralled June 3.

Authorities say the blaze started near the anchorage at Scorpion Cove on the island’s eastern end. The site is a popular day-trip and camping destination, but the area has been closed for months while a new pier is being built.

There were no injuries in the blaze, and no structures were threatened.

As of June 3, Channel Islands National Park fire crews were patrolling the scene for hot spots but Santa Barbara County and Los Padres National Forest firefighters had returned to the mainland.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

4. Bill Macfadyen: Suspected DUI Crash on Santa Barbara’s Mesa Spreads the Hurt, and Debris

I wrote about the alleged DUI crash of a reportedly stolen vehicle on the Mesa in Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County’s coronavirus toll, new life on State Street downtown, a suspected arson fire at a church near Goleta, government permission to go to church and get your hair cut, threats of fines and jail if you don’t wear a mask, and the merger of the Goleta and Santa Barbara chambers of commerce.

In a quick update about Maesyn Fitzgibbons, the 20-year-old Mesa wreck victim who was a passenger in the SUV, her mom reported that doctors removed 25 staples and 22 stitches, as well as the last drain from her leg.

Fitzgibbons suffered a broken pelvis and other bones and excessive blood loss in the May 7 crash, and her lower left leg had to be amputated.

In a May 31 post to her GoFundMe account, Lynette Gaona said her daughter is learning how to navigate stairs with a walker and wheelchair, and has even attempted to walk with crutches.

“We know this is just the beginning of a long road with ups and downs,” she said. “I watch her determination, her will to be positive and her gratitude for the opportunity to heal, and I am so proud of her.”

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The alleged driver, 19-year-old Sofia Koch of Santa Barbara, has been charged with driving under the influence causing injury, driving with a blood-alcohol level greater than .08 percent causing injury and vehicle theft — all felonies — along with an array of misdemeanors and charge enhancements.

5. 52 Officers, Deputies from Santa Barbara County Headed to Los Angeles to Help Quell Unrest

Mutual aid

Rolling out to Los Angeles. (KEYT News photo)

Santa Barbara County is accustomed to mutual-aid calls among its firefighting agencies, with local crews heeding requests throughout the county, the Central Coast, California and the West — and reciprocity in return.

For law enforcement? Not so much.

But with rioting engulfing Los Angeles in the wake of the George Floyd killing, 52 deputies and officers from the sheriff’s and Guadalupe, Lompoc and Santa Barbara police departments armored up and headed south from Santa Barbara’s Earl Warren Showgrounds the afternoon of May 30.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Raquel Zick told our Tom Bolton that the contingent was en route to an undisclosed staging location in Los Angeles County under a request made through the state Office of Emergency Services.

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Police Investigating Homicide on Santa Barbara’s Eastside.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

2020 has been a mess of a year, but there has been hope. There is always hope: Community Throws Adoption Parade for 2-Year-Old Who Spent 700 Days in Foster Care.

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

@sadiethealaskanmalamute discovered the rule of plums in my Instagram feed this past week.

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Watch It

“Let’s light this candle.”

YouTube video

(CNET Highlights video)

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk and Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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