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Citrus Heights volunteer, Deaf interpreter remembered by community

Tami Levario. // Photo provided by family

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By Mike Hazlip—
Citrus Heights resident Tami Levario, a volunteer with a passion for serving the Deaf community, passed away last month at age 63 after battling cancer.

Levario was born at McClellan Air Force Base in 1963. Her husband of 37 years, Martin Levario, described his wife as a “go-to girl” who had ambitions to become the first woman EMT in California.

After learning sign language a little over a decade ago, her skills were put to use as the interpreter for Heights Church, formerly Bayside Church of Citrus Heights, where Levario signed the sermons for a small group of about 10 church members who were deaf or hard of hearing.

Q&A: Why is Bayside Church of Citrus Heights no longer called Bayside?

Levario also worked as a receptionist for Norcal Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Natomas. The organization posted a tribute on its social media page last month, announcing her death.

“We have recently learned that our beloved employee Tami Levario has passed this morning,” the March 6 statement said. “Tami was a true and wonderful friend to everyone. She was the first face you saw when you walked into NorCal HQ. She was a passionate person who worked hard at NorCal’s mission simply because she wanted to help people… She was simply just a wonderful person. We will all miss you Tami, thank you for being our friend.”

Heights Church Pastor Craig Sweeney said in an email to The Sentinel that the Levario family was part of the fellowship since its beginning. He said Levario served as sign language interpreter starting in 2016, until she was too ill to continue her role a few years later.

Levario also served as Mrs. Claus alongside husband Martin who played Santa at Christmas events. The family participated in several church events throughout the year, according to Sweeney.

“When it comes to Tami’s life, what should be said about her is that she allowed her faith to impact every aspect of her life,” Sweeney said. “Her church, family and workplace—all relationships—were influenced by her. She demonstrated kindness and respect to others, and it’s gratifying to see someone live out their faith beyond the church walls. She embodied well the traits found in 1 Corinthians 13.”

Sweeney said he wants to continue serving the Deaf community, but the church is currently without an interpreter.

Tami Levario was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and continued treatments and surgeries until August of 2020 when doctors told the couple to have their affairs in order, her husband said.

Levario is survived by her husband and two adult sons: Ryan and Adam. In an interview with The Sentinel Monday, Martin Levario said his late wife was passionate about the Deaf community and had “a great way of interacting with people.”

He recalled going to various events to support his wife as she became more involved with the Deaf community.

“It wasn’t just Tami volunteering, she brought the whole family with her,” he said. “But we wanted to support her, we wanted her to be successful.”

Martin said he began to see that his wife had a gift for sign language as she began learning, and later interpreting.

“It just flowed from her,” he said. “Watching the beauty of those words coming to life through those hands was really cool.”

The family supported the Deaf community by running a fireworks booth each July. The funds raised through the sale of fireworks went to pay for deaf children and children of deaf parents, to attend a week long summer camp.

Martin Levario said the sales at the booth increased each year as customers who Tami befriended would return the next year with new customers.

“Tami wanted me to share what she learned from her life, and I quote, ‘Your past is just that – your past'” he said, reflecting on his wife’s life and her faith.

“I cannot change what happened and I did not let it hold me back. I did some things that I am not proud of but I learned a lesson and moved forward with my life,” he recalled her saying. “God forgave my past and covered it with His blood, so why should I wallow in my past. I have been mad, angry and blown up at God for things that have happened to me but in all that, God still loved me.”

Martin Levario said he and his sons will continue to run the fireworks booth this July, located at the Walmart at 7901 Watt Ave. in Antelope.

Disclosure: Our reporter Mike Hazlip knew Tami Levario for more than a decade. He requested to add a personal note: “I will miss her laugh and sense of humor. She laughed at anything and everything because she truly saw the humor in any situation and that is something we all need to remember.”

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