Eugene Brizzolara passed away on January 16, 2020. He was 81. Gene was married to his wife, Mary for over 35 years. Gene is survived by wife, Mary, children, Marci, Nadia, Carlos, and George; grandchildren, Joseph, Halea and Emilia; sister, Rose Harris and cousin, Carl Celleti.
Gene was born in Jersey City, NJ on November 14, 1938 to Attilio Joseph and Teresa Marie Radice Brizzolara. At the age of 7, his family moved to Arizona. Attilio and Teresa were both born in the United States but moved back to their parents' homeland of Italy. Attilio grew up in Genoa and Teresa in Torino. Gene was very proud of his Italian heritage and recounted, perhaps jokingly, kissing the ground upon arriving in Italy on a trip he took in adulthood.
Growing up at the tail end of the depression, Gene remembered scarcity as a young child. One story he told involved a salami that hung from the ceiling. The family "dasn't" (his word) cut into the meat, but simply rub a piece of bread on it for flavor.
His childhood exemplified the mid century American experience. Armed with a canteen, a bicycle with a Whizzer motor and his .22 rifle, Gene would hunt jackrabbits. His first job was washing dishes in his parents' Italian restaurant. As a teenager, weekend nights were spent driving aimlessly, hanging at a malt shop, and listening to early rock 'n' rollers like Gene Vincent.
After graduating from Douglas High School, earning a varsity letter in track and field, Gene attended the University of Arizona in Tucson and served in the Tucson Police Department. Less than half of its current population size, an exciting night on patrol might involve a terrified resident calling in to report a Gila monster trapped in their backyard.
In 1962, Gene moved to Long Beach and joined the police department. There, Gene had a walking beat on The Pike. Rowdy sailors, colorful characters, tourists, and natives made for a vibrant crowd as Gene maintained order in what could be a chaotic scene.
Gene retired as Assistant Chief of Police. He served in multiple capacities, commanding the patrol bureau, running the city jail and police academy, community relations and internal affairs. He completed his studies at Cal State Long Beach with a B.S. in Political Science.
After retirement, Gene and Mary moved to the Central Coast. He reprised his role administering a police academy, this time for the Law Enforcement Training Academy at Allan Hancock Community College which trains recruits for local agencies. He would go on to teach Introduction to Criminal Justice and Evidentiary Procedure at the college.
Gene was a loving family man and a strong believer in traditional values. Never wanting for an opinion, he often spoke his mind and loved to laugh. In later years, he was a follower of political news and enjoyed traveling and going to his neighborhood pub with Mary. He died, following a two year battle with pancreatic cancer, in his Santa Maria home, surrounded by loved ones.
Services were Tuesday, January 28 at Saint Barnabas Catholic Church at 11:00am. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made in tribute of Gene to the Mission Hope Cancer Center, Santa Maria.
Published in Gazette Newspapers from Jan. 30 to Feb. 6, 2020.