Editor’s note: The Riverside Sheriffs’ Association has set up a website so people can support the Werksman family as well as the family of Deputy Terrell Young, who also died due to complications related to COVID-19. To donate, please click here.
The masked woman stood in her driveway, safely distanced from other onlookers but with her dog Ruby, 11, a German shorthaired pointer, by her side.
Ruby actually was Dave Werksman’s dog. She adored him. And he adored her.
The woman, Kristin Werksman, wore black as she watched the procession briefly stop outside her house in Corona around 2:30 p.m. on Friday, April 3.
The body of Dave Werksman, a Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy who died the day before from complications caused by COVID-19, was in a white van that was transporting him from the Riverside County Coroner’s Office in Perris to a mortuary near his home.
The long procession of motor deputies and other members of law enforcement stopped for several minutes in front of the Werksman residence to allow Kristin to see her husband’s final ride.
Kristin, having tested positive for COVID-19, remains under quarantine. She watched in silence as honor guards saluted her.
In addition to losing her husband of nearly seven years, Kristin, for now, has lost the ability to have physical contact with loved ones – she has two children from a previous marriage — and friends.
She lost physical contact with Dave after she dropped him off at an emergency room when his fever spiked on Sunday, March 29.
That was the last time Kristin saw him.
For now, of course, there will be no funeral – no celebration of life for the beloved law enforcement veteran, a former dispatcher at the Tustin PD who spent 22 years at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
When he died, Dave Werksman was planning to medically retire. His dream was to buy a catamaran and move with Kristin to the Bahamas.
Inside a silver Honda Civic near the back of the procession were Dave Werksman’s former wife, Debora, and their three children: Oliver, 26; Abby, 23; and Shelby, 19.
As the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues to tighten the world in its often-deadly grip, killing 508 statewide and 32 in Riverside County as of Thursday, April 9, loved ones of the fallen struggle through their grief to hold onto something more powerful than any virus:
“My dad raised us in a strict household, and he raised us well,” Abby Werksman said in an interview Wednesday, April 8. “My siblings and I are finally at the age where we could start enjoying a relationship with my father as friends. It’s so unfortunate this happened to him, because his kids were his life.
“We had recently started opening up to him about more private parts of life, and we just wanted him to be a part of our adulthood. We’re all young adults who are all coming into ourselves, and he was really proud to see that.”
Kristin Werksman, 47, said the worst of her battle with COVID-19 is behind her. But the enormity of losing Dave is just starting to hit her.
“It’s been unreal,” said Kristin, whose two children, a 19-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, fortunately have tested negative for COVID-19.
“I’m trying not to think about the virus,” Kristin said. “I’m trying to focus on being thankful for the time that I had with him. I’m shocked, obviously, that he’s gone. I’m just trying to remember the good times. Because I think that’ll help…
“Dave was an honest, trustworthy, hard-working person. He never lied. He was a very faithful husband and father who was committed to his family. He was just a really good guy.”
FOOD AND MUSIC
Dave Werksman, 51, was one of two Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies to die from complications caused by COVID-19 on the same day. The disease, a pandemic that has upended societies worldwide, also claimed the life of Deputy Terrell Young, 52, on April 2.
Interviews with Dave Werksman’s family and a best friend paint a picture of a private man with a sense of humor who loved music (he played the guitar, and recently had gotten into reggae) and loved to cook (he recently purchased a smoker and was famous for his ribs).
“It took him 12 hours to make, and they were the best ribs I ever had,” said Oliver Werksman, who last June began a career as a public safety officer with the Irvine PD, where his mother, Debora, also works as a forensic specialist.
“The meat just fell off the bone,” Oliver said.
Chocolate chip cookies also were a specialty.
“My dad loved to not only cook but bake as well,” said Shelby Werksman, who is attending Orange Coast College. “I would always ask him to bake me chocolate chip cookies because, in fact, his were always the best.”
At the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Werksman distinguished himself as a friendly deputy and a highly accomplished member of the agency’s Bomb Squad.
Werksman began his career with the RCSD on April 23, 1998, and worked assignments at the Robert Presley Detention Center, Jurupa Valley Station, Hazardous Device Team, and Lake Elsinore Station. Most recently, he was assigned to Sheriff’s Administration.
Dave was an FBI-certified Public Safety Bomb Technician and also had an advanced IED electronics certification. He was a HAZMAT specialist and Radiologic/Nuclear First Responder, and also was certified in confined space rescue.
Dave also was a range master, first aid/CPR instructor and advanced scuba certified, to name a few of his accomplishments.
His best friend at the RCSD was Deputy Ralph Cuevas.
“They had a ‘bromance’ like no other,” Debora Werksman said with a laugh.
Cuevas, who has been with the RCSD for 24 years, first met Dave when Dave was assigned to the RCSD’s Hazardous Device Team, in 2003. They formed a fast and deep friendship. Ralph’s three children were about the same ages as Dave’s.
“We watched our kids grow up,” Ralph said Thursday, April 9, in an interview. Over the years, the two went on hundreds of callouts together.
“There were a lot of good conversations between us and more memories than I can share,” Cuevas said. “We always said we were brothers from another mother. When I learned of his death, I was devastated.”
Ralph wasn’t about to let Dave take that final ride by himself. He rode in the second sheriff’s marked unit behind the transport van that carried Dave in the procession.
“To Dave’s wife and family, I’m sorry for your loss,” said Ralph, who currently is assigned to Court Services West in Riverside.
“To Dave, we will meet again.”
Werksman, who has two older brothers, Bill and Harry, both of whom survived him (their parents are deceased), grew up in Rancho Mirage.
His parents — Harry, a transportation business owner who was 51 when he became a father; and Mary, a fashion buyer from Scotland — ran a tight ship at home. They sent their three sons to boarding schools. Dave selected Culver Military Academy in Indiana as his college-preparatory high school.
In 1991, Dave graduated from Chapman University. A year later, he met his first wife, Debora, at an ambulance company.
“He had a girlfriend at the time,” Debora recalled with a laugh. “I just loved everything about Dave. I loved his sense of humor. I loved his sensitivity. He was just a very heartfelt person. He was an extremely private person, but he was so damn funny.”
Debora and Dave worked as dispatchers at the ambulance company – in fact, he was the one who hired her.
Later, Dave worked as a dispatcher at the Tustin PD, from 1993 to 1998 – the year he joined the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
“He was always into U.S. history, the military, and law enforcement,” Kristin Werksman recalled.
MEMORIES FROM CHILDREN, BROTHER
Oliver Werksman said his father was an inspiration for him getting into law enforcement. Growing up, Oliver recalled doing a lot of shooting with his father, who not surprisingly was into guns.
“I was 11 when he took me to Las Vegas for a shooting competition for his work,” Oliver recalled. “We spent three or four days over the whole weekend at this massive shooting competition, and it was really fun.”
Since Shelby Werksman was 4, her father was involved in her soccer career.
“As I got older,” Shelby said, “my dad was at my side no matter what. He was not only my dad, but my trainer and coach throughout my soccer years.
“He was always a jokester and always has been. I’m going to miss all the funny memes that he would text me throughout my day to brighten my day and put a smile on my face.”
Dave’s favorite holiday was Halloween.
“I will never forget all of the funny dramatic inflatables that he would have on the front lawn of his house,” Shelby recalled. “We would laugh so hard about how gigantic these Costco inflatables were.
“In fact, every time we went to Costco together during Halloween to go grocery shopping, we would pass by them just to check them out and he would say, ‘Those are awesome!’”
Every Halloween, Dave would decorate the family golf cart.
“We would all jump in and go trick or treating,” said Shelby, who also recalled her dad teaching her how to swim.
“He would throw golf balls into the deep end of my granny’s swimming pool and I would hold my breath for a long time,” Shelby said.
Shelby recalled her father being excited to get his own six-foot fish tank.
“We went driving all over Orange County to every saltwater fish tank store we could find that had good reviews, of course,” Shelby said. “My dad would always look up reviews before going anywhere, you name it. The ‘Biggest Yelper of All,’ as I would call him.”
Abby Werksman graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2018 with a major in business marketing and a minor in criminal justice.
“My dad inspired my minor,” Abby said. “He was always telling us his stories about patrol around the dinner table during my childhood, which got me interested in law enforcement.
“Our entire family bleeds blue.”
Above all, Dave Werksman was a protector – the classic man of the house.
“That’s why he was such a great cop,” Debora said.
Abby fondly recalled regular family meals.
“We all sat down for dinner every night,” she said. “If he didn’t end up being a cop, he would have been a chef.”
Abby recalled her dad showing up for her kindergarten show and tell. At the time, the Werksmans were living on an acre lot in Corona with chickens, goats, and other animals.
Dave showed up in the classroom with a crate of chicks and a goat on his back.
Bill Werksman, 52, lives in Las Vegas. He is an executive recruiter for the gaming industry.
“My brother was a gentle giant,” said Bill, a father of two grown children. “He was a very, very, caring person. He was exceptionally sensitive to people and their feelings. He would lend a helping hand to anyone, whether it was job related or when he was off the clock.”
Bill said Dave’s years at Culver Military School were formative in his development and helped fuel his desire to pursue law enforcement as a career. Bill’s daughter, Whitney, 22, will soon enter the police academy in Henderson, Nev.
“Dave was very instrumental in coaching her,” Bill said.
HIS WIFE REMEMBERS
Kristin said that in addition to Ruby, the German shorthaired pointer, Princess, 9, a pug, and Cera, 3, a Husky, are helping her get through these very difficult days.
So are the women and men of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Riverside Sheriff’s Association.
“Their support has been huge,” Kristin said. “It’s been a huge outpouring of support from everybody.”
When he died, Dave had been on light duty in the RCSD administration office due to job-related injuries that required surgeries.
He and Kristin went to the Bahamas last July for the first time, and fell in love with it.
“He loved being near the water,” said Kristin, who met Dave in late 2012. Both of their daughters played on the same AYSO soccer team in Corona.
“We really hit it off and started dating,” said Kristin, a civil engineer. “We were both in similar life situations.”
Kristin isn’t sure how Dave got COVID-19.
He had been caring for his mother for a while. Mary Werksman died March 17, 2020, at age 88.
On March 29, Kristin drove him to the hospital. He called her twice later that night with updates. Those were Kristin’s last conversations with Dave. He then was placed in a medically induced coma and put on a respirator.
As she continues to recover at home, Kristin can only imagine what might have been – and what was, for more than seven years, a wonderful relationship.
She thanked the RCSD and RSA for all of their support – and for the procession. Debora Werksman and her children are very grateful for the support and help shown by the Irvine PD, too.
“Me and Debora and Dave’s kids are all doing our best to honor him and support each other,” Kristin said. “We will get through this together as that is what Dave would have wanted.”
“To have a little bit of that closure was comforting,” Kristin said.
Meanwhile, Debora, Abby, Oliver, and Shelby continue to comfort each other.
Said Debora: “We haven’t been able to leave each other’s side.”