First Girl to Surf San Pedro Remembered

Cheryl Ann Zabica 

September 26, 1950 – May 19, 2014

Cheryl was the oldest of five children born to Mark and Carol Zabica in San Pedro California.

She is preceded in death by her parents and three of her siblings: Mark Zabica Jr., Paul Earl Zabica, and sister, Jan Styke.  The Zabica siblings grew up in the San Pedro neighborhood of 27th and Dolphin Streets, colloquially known as Pneumonia Hill.  Cheryl claimed to have been among the local kids who, with scrap wood and altered shoe skates, were the first skateboarders in San Pedro, if not the world. Also notable, as a  teenager she became well regarded by local surfers as the first girl to surf San Pedro.

The Zabica family attended Mary Star of the Sea Parish and later, Holy Trinity Parish. Cheryl attended San Pedro High School, and was a founding member of the girls’ social club there, the Ordepnas (San Pedro spelled backwards). She graduated in 1968, the same year that she married Gordon Blahnik Jr. of San Pedro and had her first son, Paul. She continued her education, pursuing certification as a dental assistant, a profession she enjoyed and was proficient at her entire working life. Her second marriage was to Jimmy Bautista of San Pedro with whom she had a second son, Travis.  Although that marriage ended after several years, the two remained close friends until Jimmy’s untimely death in 1986.

Cheryl was proud of her Croatian heritage and was an ardent San Pedran, rooted in what she called classic Pedro (those years of her youth, the 50s and 60s,) but was always interested as well in the new growth and developments in her once small town.  She loved the beach, the port, the open ocean and the local culture.  She lived for 22 years in a small but miraculously expandable-for-family-celebrations, crows’ nest apartment that overlooked the surf of Cabrillo Beach. There was always room for one more, and as her boys grew independent, Cheryl adopted that one more, Mark

Colson, the son of her ailing sister, Jan.

Cheryl cherished her extended family, was devoted to her elders, proud of her cousins, looked forward to every family gathering, and was a steadfast archivist of family accomplishments. She loved jazz and never missed the summer festival on Catalina Island; and she was a gifted cook, always making enough for ten more than were expected; especially popular was her mostaccioli.

She traveled with exuberance to the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Europe, the Philippines and Hawaii. A talented photographer, she recorded it all with stunning images. She was an attentive “teta” to her nieces and nephews but, she would say she never knew the extraordinary joy of children until she loved her granddaughters. They called her Nuna, and remember summer days with her around the pool outside and at the beach below, those ever-ready peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and her absolute delight in their magic ability to make her laugh until she cried.  

Cheryl died way too soon at age 63 of complications due to pneumonia.  Her long illness had prohibited her from meeting her first great grandchild, Colton Alan Scott. We know her bright spirit surrounds him now. Cheryl leaves her sister Antoinette Zabica, of Wilmington, CA; her sons: Paul Gordon Blahnik of Long Beach, Travis (and Lila) Bautista  of  Kau, Hawaii and Mark Colson of Wilmington CA;  companion, Theodore Washington of Lakewood, CA; daughter-in-law, Monika Chantal Tumbrello of Temecula;  granddaughters: Kelcie Taylor Campbell,  Ciera Nicole Blahnik,  and Isabella Rose Tumbrello of Temecula, and  Meilani, Cynammon, Isabella and Sunnie Girl Bautista of Kau, Hawaii; and  nieces: Chelsea Roussos of Long Beach, Heather Lopez of  Wilmington, CA. and Michele and Amber Leach of  Alabama; and nephews Michael Cora  and Brian and Jonathan Lopez of Sacramento, CA, and a great number of close relatives including, John Blahnik of Long Beach, CA, and Judith Blahnik (and Sharon Creal) and Jasmine Rodriguez of San Pedro.

A Celebration of Life Mass will be offered on June 19, 2014 at 10 AM at Holy Trinity Church in San Pedro. A private burial at sea will take place at a later date.  In lieu of flowers, please send donations in honor of Cheryl Zabica to the Cabrillo Beach Boosters, 3800 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro, CA 90731.

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