Friends Remembered: Rogene A. Vartanian

Rogene A. Vartanian

Carnegie Hero Rogene A. (Vartanian) McCorquodale, 79, of Santa Rosa, California, died Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.

She was born March 2, 1944, in San Francisco to Jack and Lorraine Vartanian, and graduated from Ursuline High School in Santa Rosa, California.

On May 31, 1964, in Bodega, California, Vartanian entered the Pacific Ocean to rescue 9-year-old Steven R. Wilson from drowning. In an area posted as too dangerous for swimming because of treacherous currents, Steven had waded into the rough surf fully clothed. He was submerged briefly by a breaker and then carried away from shore. Vartanian, then a 20-year-old student, ran 150 feet to the water’s edge, kicked off her shoes, and waded 10 feet into the surf before swimming 90 feet in waves 5 to 6 feet high. Impeded by her clothing, which included a heavy sweatshirt, she towed Steven shoreward. At a point about 12 feet from shore, most of her strength was spent, and she swallowed some water when a breaker submerged them and another rolled them along the bottom. Others, who meanwhile had formed a human chain extending from shore, were able to grasp them when Vartanian surfaced with Steven, nearly exhausted.

She later married Donald McCorquodale at Saint Eugene’s Cathedral on April 10, 1965, taking his last name. They had three children.

McCorquodale was active in the lives of numerous friends and family throughout her life, in particular, she was especially fond of motherhood, describing the time in her life as a stay-at-home mother as “heaven.” She enjoyed cooking, playing sports, and making crafts with her children.

McCorquodale is survived by her husband of 58 years; three children, Douglas III, Heather, and Stacy; grandchildren, Julia, Adam, and Charlotte; and nieces and nephews.