Spring 2018 for Yvonne

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Dear Friends,

Where to start?.......I want everyone to know I am so grateful for the love, condolences and good thoughts from near and far, especially on Facebook where the hundreds of “love letters” to Yvonne will remain forever as a tribute to her bright, positive spirit. Our family really appreciates it and we are doing ok, considering.....

My beautiful wife and partner of 31 years, Yvonne, passed away March 16 from complications of a brain tumor and pneumonia. This is not something that we planned for. Yvonne believed that she would beat it. She fought hard; we fought hard with a positive attitude, and we did our best to enjoy every moment together these last 4 years, despite her worsening symptoms. We were all set to go to London for 4 nights at Pizza Express in March, and then on to Germany to visit her relatives, but had to cancel last minute..........

I am so lucky to have the support of our close friends and neighbors all through this time, and with our boys being 20 and 23, they seem to be handling it very well. In the last few days and weeks we have visited some of Yvonne's favorite places in nature to pay tribute to her and cry and smile.......and repeat. I spent 2 weeks “camping“ at the beach and joined some of our oldest couple/friends on a trip we had planned months ago to Sedona and the Grand Canyon. The fresh air really helps, and Yvonne's spirit is now settled in her new, permanent place, deep in all our hearts.

I have been getting back on my feet and am ready to play some music again. I am flying out today for 2 weeks of shows and visiting more old friends, so I hope to see you in the coming weeks and months. Since “Soul Secrets” came out in late 2014, that was also the start of Yvonne’s health problems, and I never could answer the question, “When are you coming out with a new CD?”, other than just to hold that thought and accept that the priority is on things other than music.

I trust that music can heal; music has given us a charmed life, so I’ll be “Looking Up”, taking it as it comes, and let’s see where the inspiration leads.

Please do me a favor and check out “Three Wishes, One Desire” with great lyrics and vocals by my buddy Ron Boustead, and “Healing Song”, featuring Kirk Whalum, and think of Yvonne.

Yvonne DiSimone Karukas June 11, 1963 - March 16, 2018

Yvonne DiSimone Karukas passed away peacefully March 16 after an 18-month, hard-fought battle against an inoperable brain stem tumor. She was 54 years old. She was surrounded throughout the day by the incredible love of her family and friends, playing music and singing. We will be forever grateful for that day and hold her beautiful, positive spirit deep in our hearts.

Yvonne grew up in Thousand Oaks, CA, and attended T.O. High. The eldest of three daughters of Robert and Rosemarie DiSimone, she was raised with music always playing in the house. Dad (Bob), was a busy weekend musician and Mom (Rosie), was a passionate arts lover, singer and dancer. Yvonne was a classical piano student of local instructor Rae Holcomb, and also taught piano in her late teens. She attended Moorpark College and Cal State University Northridge, where she earned her Masters’ Degree in Health Administration. While at CSUN, she met her husband, Smooth Jazz pianist Gregg Karukas, and they spent the next 31 years together. They raised two boys, Alex and Stevie; first in Granada Hills, then moving back to the Wildwood area of Thousand Oaks in 2007. Yvonne was an active volunteer for all the kids' school activities, especially the T.O. High School Bands. She also volunteered at Conejo Players Theater as house manager while son Alex lit up the stage.

Her career in health administration brought her to Las Encinas Hospital, St John's, and finally, to Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills, where she handled all the claims after the Northridge earthquake.

Yvonne enjoyed hiking, camping and traveling the most. She went on many trips abroad with Gregg for his performances, to exotic places like Mallorca, Japan, the UK, The Dave Koz Cruises to Alaska, Spain, Italy, and to many shows in Hawaii.

Four years ago, before the brain tumor, she developed a painful rash that we learned was CTCL - Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma with Sezary Syndrome, a very rare form of skin cancer. Eventually, she found relief with a clinical trial drug from Japan. Four months later, she had dizzy spells and the brain stem tumor was discovered. While researching all about her brain tumor, even with her double vision, she was constantly posting on the private newsgroups and Facebook groups to support the CTCL sufferers and Glioblastoma (GBM) patients and caregivers seeking advice. Yvonne shared what she had learned and helped many others while battling her own new cancer … all by speaking/posting into her iPhone.

Yvonne is survived by her husband Gregg Karukas of Thousand Oaks; sons Alex Karukas of Glendale and Stevie Karukas of Bloomington, IN; father Robert DiSimone and sister Michelle DiSimone, both of Thousand Oaks; sister Renee Dugan and her husband Tim of Lake Oswego, Oregon, and the Dugan children, Bethany, Talia and David. She also leaves behind countless other relatives, friends and neighbors - all considered “family” in her journey.

Her good deeds and memory can be honored by making a donation to: CLF foundation https://www.clfoundation.org/giving-online

........I believe there is an undercurrent of love in all our relationships, whether we are just friends, co-workers, lovers or even just co-humans. Every song, every melody has an undercurrent of some kind of love or emotion: romantic......or funky love. We need to express it. We need to hear words and sounds of love, and now is the best time to show your love for someone close who needs it.

In tragic times like this we all have to cope with what life gives us, and hopefully you’ll get some relief from the sadness by expressing yourself.

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Thank you. Gregg

Finally, if you’ve read this far, this is personal, but it sums up Yvonne and what this experience has brought out in our family. This is an excerpt from my son Stevie’s post on his Facebook:

"...........In addition to the inspiration, education, and endless support my parents have shared, I have inherited my favorite thing about my mother: her often reserved, but always lighthearted and silly, manner. Even now in her frail condition I can tell that she remains the same on the inside; her inability to express this through speech is the most heartbreaking part of this process for me. As time inevitably proceeds forward, at the very least I can take pride in carrying bits of her personality everywhere I go. I attribute my best qualities to her; it is unfortunate that most of my friends (from school, etc.) will never meet the source of my personal inspiration--you would have loved her.

Whenever I would have people over at my parent's house, my mom would greet them with a big smile and hug them, and when they left she couldn't stop talking about how much she loved each one of my friends. I bring this up because I want these people to know what she felt for them. She was so happy to see my brother and I developing true friendships--and so much more open to sharing this love than I have ever been. Even when she was in excruciating pain for 2 years due to a rare type of lymphoma, she still had a positive outlook; never once did she turn her suffering outwards.

Because I have been (away) so involved in school, my parents thought that sugarcoating the bad news would be best for me, and I can't blame them for feeling this way...I appreciate my friends who have already reached out to me, though I am not looking for sympathy; this is about my mother, not me. I was considering keeping quiet on social media about this (as I tend to do), but I realized it would be hypocrisy to hide the truth from those of my Facebook friends who have had the fortune to meet her.

She will be home soon for hospice care, and my family will be doing our best to keep her comfortable and happy. Again, I appreciate the sympathy my friends have shown me, but what is important now is how my mother feels. If you would like me to relay a message to her, comment here or send her Facebook account (Yvonne DiSimone Karukas) a private message. We may be able to read them to her depending on how she is feeling."

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with Jazzmine