Heidi Miller, business owner and kidney donor, is named Citizen of the Year by LB Patriots Day Parade

Heidi Miller, owner of Tight Assets, a clothing store on Coast Highway, living kidney donor still recovering from surgery, and board member of numerous LB philanthropies including the Laguna Playhouse and LB Historical Society, has been named Citizen of the Year by the Laguna Beach Patriots’ Day Parade Committee.

“It’s crazy,” Heidi said upon first hearing the news. “I’m so honored. Stu won it two years ago!”

More about Heidi’s achievement and what it means to be Citizen of the Year in Friday’s issue.

Hospitality night draws hundreds in a holiday mood

Photos by Scott Brashier


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Hundreds of Laguna residents poured into downtown on Hospitality Night, enjoying free cookies, carolers and all things Christmas

Joy, grief, celebration and commemoration: Club Q toy drive coincides with World AIDS Awareness Day 


On Friday night, Hospitality Night, following a Christmas Potluck, twenty members of Club Q, Susi Q’s club for senior LGBT people, walked from the community center to the Police Station laden with gifts for the Spark of Love toy drive. 

The group, led by founder Larry Ricci, was happily welcomed by senior members of the police department, including Chief Laura Farinella, Civilian Services Administrator Jim Beres, and Captain Jeff Calvert. 

The joy of giving was evident in the smiles and laughter as the group mingled.

At the Potluck, the atmosphere had also been one of joy as members celebrated the holidays. Two members told me how much Club Q means to them and the pride they took in giving back to the community in this way.

Georgette Cerrutti said, “The Club offers support and services in a number of areas, and gives us the opportunity to give back and enrich lives and connect with the community.”

Marla Burns, Georgette’s partner, reminisces about the 1960s, the boardwalk at Main Beach, and Maxine Weldon who sang at the Barefoot Bar, located more or less where the Greeters’ Corner Café now stands. 

Marla is the reason Georgette moved to LB. 

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Photo by Lynette Brasfield

Members of the LBPD accept toy delivery from Club Q

Also present at the potluck were Wayne Lawrence and Lee Durler, who met in high school – actually dated the same girls then – and have now been together for 55 years, married for four (by no less than Kelly Boyd).

This year, the toy drive coincided with World AIDS Awareness Day. Lawrence and Durler commented on the significance of the day to them.

“It’s like - boom - here we are, it’s World AIDS Awareness Day, which might seem schmaltzy, but to us it is a big deal, because we lived in an era when it was never talked about, and now there are walks and runs, and awareness events, which we could never have imagined back in the eighties, when we lost so many friends to AIDS,” said Lawrence. 

Durler added, “These days there is more an acceptance of people of all genders, colors, with religious affiliations and without religious affiliations, that we’re all just human beings, which is the way it should be.” 

So it was that the walk with toys of joy to the police station turned into a more somber pilgrimage as Club Q members left the police station and headed to Main Beach, where a candlelight vigil commemorating those who died from the disease would take place.

Amid twinkling lights, festive decorations, people decked out in Christmas attire, (and seemingly ready to deck the halls), I made my way with the group to the Main Beach commemoration, where a crowd was already gathering. 

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Photo by Lynette Brasfield

Ric Uggen, Sarah Kasman, Executive Director of Shanti OC, Larry Ricci

On the way to the Cobblestones, Larry Ricci and Ric Uggen, who are long-time residents of Laguna Beach, both for 40 years, talk to me about the late 1970s. They recount the heyday of the gay community when Dante’s and the Barefoot Bar were on Main Beach, and the sand south of the lifeguard stand was a gay beach. 

But then they talk about the dark days. They bore witness to the deaths of many of their friends as the disease that was AIDS was finally recognized and named.

“In the early 1980’s, we worried when someone said they weren’t feeling well. Because it seemed to happen quickly after that. They’d be gone in 30, 60 or 90 days,” says Larry. “I was in the interior design business and many of design shops closed because the proprietors died.”

So they are here tonight, an emotional Larry says, to both celebrate those lives, and grieve their deaths.

Both Larry and Ric are worried about the new generation of young gay men who seem unconcerned about using protection, and who seem to be having sex earlier.

“These young kids never saw the horrors we saw,” says Larry. “Why wouldn’t you use protection, why wouldn’t they be smart.”

Ric explains, “They think it’s no big deal, they can just take a pill. But HIV lasts a lifetime.” And Ric knows of what he speaks, his partner died from AIDS, and Ric has been living with HIV since 1984. 

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Photo by Lynette Brasfield

Ceremony ends with sunset and silhouettes

They both advocate re-educating the younger men. “There is a group at Shanti OC that educates teachers who go to the students to explain what HIV is. They teach the teachers how to teach it,” Larry says.

By this time, we reach the Cobblestones at Main Beach, and a crowd of 40 or so, with more drifting in, surround a table with a small tree bearing pink hearts. Attendees are asked to write the names of friends and family members who died from AIDS on the hearts. 

The police chief and Captain Kravetz join the crowd, along with Pastor Rod Echols of NCC and Sande St. John and dozens of other Lagunans as the sun dips below the horizon and the sky turns from pink to black. Each person holds a candle, specks of light in the dark.

Visibly shaken, Larry returns to talk to me. “I started writing down the names of my friends, and I got to six, and I couldn’t go on. Back when they started dying, and the number got to 30, I said I don’t know what to do. A friend gave me some good advice. ‘Larry, stop counting.’”

But the counting continues. A group of four people read the names of those who died, and a small bell is rung after each name. And then the moderator asks for people to call out the names of those they knew who hadn’t been mentioned.  Between Larry and Ric, they call out another 30 or more names. 

“These were sons, children, husbands, and wives. It’s not just a gay disease and never was,” Larry says.

Toward the end of the ceremony, Terrell Washington Anansi sings an exquisite rendition of “Hallelujah,” a perfect reflection of the solemn beauty of the occasion.

I love words and wrangling them, but in the presence of these who lost so many friends and family members, words seem inadequate to express the experience.

Yet in this commemoration of indescribable grace and loss, Larry’s words from earlier in the day struck home, “It’s a day of celebration and grief.”

He couldn’t have been more right.

Park Plaza trial continues to be contentious: Graphic artist Bill Atkins offers a “beautifying” suggestion

Letters and comments about the Park Plaza trial have been pouring in to Stu News – click on our Letters tab to see what some of our readers are saying. Our Readers Poll, which is not scientific, currently shows 757 for and 542 against the parklet.

One of the issues raised: that the roadblock signs present an eyesore and are not a good first impression of our town.

Bill Atkins, local graphic artist known for his creative poster designs and the California “whale tail” license plate, has a solution: attractive banners. Atkins shared with us some concepts that he recently delivered to the Beautification Council.

Composite of four possible banners

“The committee members told me that whatever concept presented may need to be white in color to adhere to Cal Trans rules, so I developed alternative concepts with more white showing, and even with a smaller width to come closer to existing rules,” Atkins said. 

“I believe a compromise is possible and necessary in order to make this park a visual asset to the community. I do recognize the huge work completed by the Laguna Beach Beautification Council members last week in decorating the Plaza 

for the holidays.”

Atkins has lived and worked in Laguna Beach since the 1970s. He’s a member of many local committees and clubs including the Sister Cities Association, Festival of Arts, Sawdust Art Festival, the Beautification Council, South Laguna Civic Association, Human Rights Campaign OC, Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage Committee, and he also works with Sally’s Fund to help promote its important work assisting senior citizens. 

His work can be seen at The Vintage Poster Gallery located at 1492 S Coast Highway or online at www.lagunaposter.com.

This week, our poll asks for your feedback on your support of a possible bond to fund undergrounding utilities – vote in the Readers Poll in the right-hand sidebar on Front Page One, and keep those letters coming! Email Letters to the Editor to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Landscape(er)/Garden(er) of the Month

Passion points to a place where plants proliferate in Powell’s picturesque piece of paradise on Panorama


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Located in North Laguna in the lovely tucked away Panorama neighborhood, Norman Powell’s landscape extraordinaire is populated with a perfection of plants, 40 varieties, mixed in a stunning aesthetic. A visual delight punctuated with texture, shape, size, and form, his colorful collection includes over two dozen types of succulents, as well as a dozen varieties of plants and trees.

With a design covering 2,000 square feet of outdoor space, Powell thinks of himself as a landscaper.

“I often say I am more of a landscaper than a gardener. It depends on what you think the words mean,” Powell said. “What’s the difference between landscape and garden? Well, they overlap a lot, don’t they? But I look at what I did as a landscape project - it’s a broader thing.” 

Everywhere you look you find an exciting mix of plants and trees with gorgeous details of transformation and blooms living harmoniously with found art and other accent pieces, adding color to his palette.

There are two fire hydrants and a large water valve stem in the garden. This collection of found objects is called “The Panorama Waterworks.”

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Norman Powell enjoys the use of colors as well as art installations 

His installation pieces are amidst jade, agave, aloe, elephant plants, and black bark eucalyptus leaves.

Touring his garden, his many towering cactus were remarkable. 

“This is commonly called candelabra. It will grow 30 feet 40 feet high. That’s why I planted them out away from the house,” Powell said. “You know the normal obsession of symmetry? I put them right in the middle, so I pushed them out.”

Among his treasures, he showed me red hot pokers, California holly, rosemary, Carolina cherry, and lemonade berry.

“These are the ones that I told you that are edible, natal plums. There’s very few of these that look like a tree; they all trim it down into a hedge,” Powell said, but he prefers a more natural look. “It has fruit almost all year long, and it has wonderful, fragrant, little white blossoms and smells a lot like an orange. 

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Natal plums are a delicious treat, one of many edible plants in Powell’s garden

Despite the picturesque landscape, Powell has a penchant for the imperfect in a perfect way. 

“I keep what I like and let the rest go. It’s the same with what I plant. If it doesn’t work, I don’t baby it,” Powell said. “It has to survive on its own in this environment, so I am looking for things that find a niche here. If they don’t, adios. I don’t struggle with it.”

His soil is as dry as the desert, but he has a heart of gold. Powell is as friendly as he is knowledgeable. 

“I have found that many plants can live quite happily without irrigation, consuming only rainwater. For example, the two Hollywood junipers have lived quite happily for 40 years without being watered since they were initially established,” Powell said. “Because of the lack of watering they are only seven feet tall, which is fine with me. I believe that many plants adapt to the absence of water by slowing or stopping their growth; but they do not necessarily die.”

Roaming the garden is his beloved Siamese feline friend named Gadu, which is Armenian for cat - quite a playground.

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Gadu rules the garden and loves every minute of it

In the dry season, Norman said he waters most of the garden for three minutes every three nights, using about 350 feet of drip line. And he does not water in the rainy season. 

Yet, beauty proliferates and plants thrive and multiply. 

“What you might say is my favorite flower is my nasturtium. They are just coming up, they don’t start blooming, but as you saw this whole thing will be covered,” Powell said. “I have thousands of seeds that I put out. Now is the time to put them in before the rain. It’s like a wild flower.”

“Now as I pointed out, when you drive by, this looks like a hillside of agave, but you can see here that the natal plum is working its way in. That little blue echiveria, that’s what all the succulent garden people use to put blue into their garden. It gives you all the blue you want. That’s how blue it is,” said Powell. “There’s a lot of jade peeking out. That’s a candelabra. I am trying to get some elephant bush growing there. But as you can see there’s different things in here and they all bloom differently.”

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Powell’s garden is full of succulents in all shapes, sizes, and colors

Toward the back side of his house, Powell showed a special project that he’s excited about. “So I want to show you this project that I am working on. It’s kind of my quasi Chinese garden. This is a genuine antique Chinese swing, so it sort of set me in that direction,” Powell said. “I am going to repaint that different colors because look at the intricate work it has. This used to be just a hill and this is the latest wall I built here and will plant fig ivy to grow up on this.”

He’s also planning on adding big color pots with birds of paradise.

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The Chinese Garden will be a great place to relax, have coffee, and meditate

As for the Laguna Beach Garden Club, he’s basically addicted to it. 

“I am a new member. I have a new member badge. I joined this year. They cover every detail,” Powell said. “I think everybody enjoys the meetings. They’re fun, f-u-n. And it’s entertaining even during the run of the mill business part; it’s still fun.” 

Walking up the street a bit to check out a neighborhood garden, I pointed to his garden from a vantage point. I said look how beautiful your landscaping is. 

He said, “You know what, actually standing here it’s really starting to look good. I hadn’t really stopped to look at my own place,” he said with a huge grin. “Yah, it’s really starting to look good.”

Grief Support Strategies During the Holidays: Workshop offered at Susi Q on Thurs at 3:30 – 5 p.m.

A workshop offering Grief Support Strategies During the Holidays will be offered at Susi Q this Thursday from 3:30 – 5 p.m., led by Vivian Clecak, LCSW.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is a difficult challenge at any time. But the holiday season can magnify one’s sense of loss. It is hoped that those who have lost a significant family member, loved one, or pet, will find some solace at this thoughtful discussion about ways to cope. 

Register online at www.thesusiq.org or call 949-464-6645

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

Lynette Brasfield is our Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

The Webmaster is Michael Sterling.

Katie Ford is our in-house ad designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Cameron Gillepsie, Allison Rael, Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers.

Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle and Suzie Harrison are columnists.

Mary Hurlbut, Scott Brashier, and Aga Stuchlik are the staff photographers.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

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Email: Lynette@StuNewsLaguna.com with news releases, letters, etc