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Rickie Redman: Susi Q’s Director of Lifelong Laguna takes care of the serious side of aging…It’s not all fun and games

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

As most already know, Susi Q is a place to have fun, develop friendships and further one’s education – a place where active older adults as well as community members can take writing and art lessons, go to jazz concerts, brush up on opera, or learn to play the ukulele. However, Susi Q has a serious side as well. It serves as a valuable resource for the more vulnerable among our town’s senior population.

Aging and death are unavoidable laws of life. According to the National Library of Medicine, the current maximum lifespan is 79.25 years – an .08% increase from 2022 – and in 2054, the Census Bureau anticipates it will be 83.7 years. Yet with the added years also comes the potential for more biological changes, both physical and mental, that affect lifestyle.

Rickie Redman, who took over the helm as Director of Aging in Place: Lifelong Laguna, is dedicated to alleviating as many of these issues as possible. A daunting task (as one might imagine), but Redman is passionate about her calling, and working with seniors has evolved into her recent certification as an End-of-Life practitioner or Death Doula.

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Rickie Redman has an extensive background working with seniors

When Redman joined Susi Q in January 2023, she brought a wealth of knowledge from interacting with the older population. Redman has 14 years of experience working with seniors, including with Alzheimer’s Orange County, where she managed their Memories in Making art program and exhibition, and SCAN Health Plan, where she was a volunteer engagement specialist.

Raised in Newport Beach, she has a Bachelor of Arts with emphasis on Therapeutic Arts, and she is a certified instructor of Birren Center for Autobiographical Studies and teaches classes in Memoir Writing.

Although she didn’t initially plan a career working with seniors (she told her mother who wanted Redman to become a nurse or physical therapist that she didn’t want to work with old people), it soon became her passion. “It was by accident,” she said. “I was looking for a volunteer role with a specific focus on therapeutic art. I researched different programs and the one that resonated with me the most was with the Alzheimer’s Association. They have a program called Memories in the Making and I fell in love with it. I would go on a weekly basis to a memory care community and host painting classes, but it was also about storytelling. Once they’d painted their artwork, we’d see if any memories were attached to it.

“It was a beautiful experience and so after volunteering for five years, the program manager resigned and she encouraged me to apply for the job. I worked there for a few years and then I started working with Scan Health Plan as a volunteer engagement specialist focusing on what was a sort of ‘traveling senior center.’ We would go to low-income senior centers and host social events, so my role centered on programs and social engagement and then connecting with volunteers to make our program more robust.”

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Susi Q’s Library is a great spot to relax, read or socialize

Redman believes fate played a role in her landing the position at Susi Q as director of the program.

“I got laid off from my job and enrolled in an end-of-life practitioner program with the HeartWay,” she said. “In the midst of my training, Dr. Andrea Deerheart introduced me to Nadia and they (Susi Q) just happened to be hiring. It just felt like such a great fit and they were open to my background as far as the end-of-life planning goes – and then obviously with my experience in the past with its focus on aging in place, so I felt it was kismet.”

Aging in Place

Currently, Aging in Place: Lifelong Laguna program serves approximately 160-165 clients in different stages of need: the average age ranges in the 80s and 90s (with one who is 100).

If someone needs a ride to a physician’s appointment (the volunteer waits until the end of the appointment to take them home), a prescription picked up, or their house checked out for tripping hazards, Redman is there to find the help they need.

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Heather Tyson – Title Still Pending

By NANCY CARPENTER

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Welcome to Heather Tyson’s world

No matter what maps suggest, travel from here to there is never that unencumbered, surefire, straight-as-an-arrow path. Who knew the best route from Dayton, Ohio to Laguna Beach was via Chicago, New York and Los Angeles?

Just so, Heather Tyson’s journey. It’s 1997 and she, a recent Northwestern University theater arts graduate, along with a fellow grad and friend and dreamer, rented a U-Haul and made the trek to New York. A sensible decision for someone who always imagined she’d be an actor on a stage, with an orchestra in the pit, the smell of grease paint in the air, the audience silenced by the rising curtain and her name in neon lights. Her mother and aunt, both of them dancers and singers, were her inspiration. Whether nurture or nature, on stage was where she needed to be. New York was a mecca of endless stages.

As she explained, in the late ‘90s there was little crossover between the various disciplines or opportunities for acting; movies, TV, stage, commercials were the big ones, and actors stayed in their respective boxes. “A stage actor was a stage actor, a movie actor stuck to movies. If a stage actor shifted to the big screen cinema, that was the end of their stage career. You couldn’t have both.”

We both chuckled over the impression, back then, that a star’s career was in the dumpster if they appeared in a TV commercial. Translation: If the best they could do was pitch toothpaste between sitcoms and dramas populated with real actors, they were in a professional freefall. Commercials had nothing to do with serious acting.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

“I think that stories connect us. I think they educate us.”

Want to be an actor? First, you audition. Tyson soon realized, securing auditions was her job. Thursday was the most important day of the week. Backstage, the industry newspaper filled with casting notices for musicals and plays, hit the newsstands. You responded with a resume and headshot. She had a stack of them. “Both were critical, and it was important they not get separated.” Glue or tape were acceptable methods for securing the two documents. So were staples. While the two of us sat in club chairs in front of a fireplace, she did a darn good job pantomiming the process of stapling each corner, like it was a long-embedded muscle memory. For added measure, careful scissoring was required to reduce the standard 8 1/2” x 11” paper to accommodate the 8” x 10” headshot. Delivery instructions were specific, generally hand carrying them to an office. Sometimes that meant dropping them in a designated box outside an agency’s door.

Tyson did off-off-off-Broadway shows, generally without pay. She also did a lot of bartending. She was “giving herself time,” a mantra I’ve heard from others who tried to break into the business, a measurement in years before acknowledging that maybe, just maybe, this dream is never going to happen.

Then again, an opportunity might come out of nowhere. “It was about making connections and building relationships.” These incremental successes kept her going. Indeed, she landed a small part in The Sopranos. She wasn’t keen on camera work, but a success was just the sort of encouragement that gets an actor out of bed every Thursday and grab a copy of Backstage from the local newsstand.

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Courtesy of Heather Tyson

“I saw acting as art, but the truth is, it’s a business. Who knew?”

The reality TV show Survivor was first aired in 2000, and Tyson along with millions of other Americans tuned in. The word “reality” had many implications, mostly bad for an acting career. “I watched not necessarily trained actors getting paid to not necessarily act. At least what I thought was acting,” she said, then laughed. “How was I going to survive Survivor?”

While in New York, she met a man finishing his own education that would lead to a career in graphic design, and they married. Two people now pooled their financial as well as emotional resources.

Tyson also reasoned, not caring to be on camera was limiting her career and her income. Cameras meant Hollywood. She’d given New York seven years, but she wasn’t giving up her dream. Just recasting it. Another U-Haul, another road trip, another adventure, this time with her husband and his dreams. They both embraced the adventure.

Acting in L.A. is initially nothing but auditioning. Auditioning is an actor’s first job. Auditioning became her job. Unpaid but a job nonetheless. “To get in the game, you have to show up for auditions. Auditioning is tangible. There’s a certain stability in that, the steps defined.” She ticked them off.

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Karyn Philippsen – Patriots Day Parade Citizen of the Year 

By NANCY CARPENTER

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Karyn Philippsen relaxing at her home

Citizen of the Year: A daunting honor, the identification of one person from a community of 22,000. We are, all of us, citizens, so the competition is pretty stiff. Even writing about it intimidates. What exactly makes for Citizen of the Year?

I spent a recent afternoon with Karyn Philippsen, this year’s Patriots Day Parade honoree. Although I recognize the challenge presented to Sandi Werthe and the selection committee tasked with identifying this year’s nominee, faced as she was with many worthy citizens, Philippsen is clearly deserving of this recognition. She has dedicated a great deal of her career in the hospitality industry to make Laguna Beach not only a magnet for overnight visitors, but a great place for everyone who lives here. And of course, more.

Where to start?

Philippsen is not a local to Laguna, but rather grew up in the San Fernando Valley, graduating from Van Nuys High. Although a little ahead of her time, she proudly refers to herself as a Valley Girl. She has nothing but good things to say about those early experiences:  Cruising Van Nuys Boulevard with friends “after my father made a dry run with me, checking things out.” At the end of the evening, friends pitching in enough quarters to refill the tank. “At night, driving home from L.A. over the 405, the Valley was lit up like a treasure chest.”

Next stop, Pierce Junior College and UCLA. “I’d always wanted to be a teacher,” she said, pointing out that it is one of the most underrated professions. But it was an interview at NBC that started her on the path of hospitality. Her first job was a tour guide at the NBC Burbank Studios, her goal to ensure “people were having a good time.” She was also responsible for audience promotions – getting fans into studio seats for show tapings. The seats were free, but that didn’t make it less challenging. “Working at the studio thrust me into adulthood.” There was that business of dealing with egos, those that were forming and those who already had them, whether deserving or not. More than a job, it was an education.

She was the oldest of four daughters – their parents’ guideposts setting her on a course of self-discipline.

“Discipline is a good habit to have,” she said, “and has carried me through every section of my life.” She considers self-discipline the trait that keeps her on track. It means thinking ahead, being prepared. No argument from me.

This prompted memories, starting with annual trips to a family ranch in Rye, Colo. just outside Pueblo. The ranch meant tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine, jams put up for the winter, flies, horses, more flies and ubiquitous mosquitos. Another kind of treasure chest.

Decades later, she feels privileged to have gone on a road trip with her father, just the two of them after her mother passed away, making a loop from Chicago through Pryor, Tenn. where Gram, her father’s mother, had lived. A small community, they had an easy time connecting with extended family and more memories.

On to New Orleans, a new adventure for both of them, before heading north through Smyrna, Del., and finally Washington, D.C. During this trip, her father shared stores of his service in the Navy during World War II. He never discussed his war experiences when she was growing up. War stories might have been easier to share with sons than daughters.

“He manned one of those ships that landed on beaches,” Philippsen said.

He was at Omaha Beach?

“Yes.”

That was a very serious deployment, a dangerous mission that became a turning point in the war. Still, we both laughed, the name of “those ships” initially eluding us. “You know, that ship with the back that dropped down,” she said.

Later we did a little googling. Troopships, or more specific, Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel, LCVP for short, and he was responsible for getting men – often friends – on the shore where the enemy was waiting. Philippsen listened to her father’s stories and his beats of quiet as he thought about those experiences and not hearing of friends’ fates until months later.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Karyn with (L-R) Mark Orgill, Tim Hayes and Mike Orgill (Mark’s brother) at The Rivian

NBC was the beginning of more than 30 years of success in the hospitality industry. Philippsen played a key role training new staff and creating a brand for the 1984 grand opening of the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Laguna Niguel. The first luxury resort of its kind, the hotel was about to monopolize a beach highly prized by local surfers. A great deal of PR work needed to be done. Later she held similar roles at Montage Laguna Beach and Surf & Sand Resort.

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Brayden Belden: a long road to Athlete of the Year

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Seventeen-year-old Brayden Belden’s journey from suffering a traumatic brain injury six years ago, to being selected as Athlete of the Year for the 57th Patriots Day Parade, is nothing short of miraculous. Navigating that road involved an endless amount of hard work, rehabilitation and Belden’s unyielding commitment to healing – and surfing.

As a result of his dedication, Belden came in sixth in the Junior Men’s category (14-17) in the 2023 Brooks Street Surf Classic in September.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Brayden Belden is a junior at LBHS and a member of the LBHS surfing team

“I was very surprised [at being selected as Athlete of the Year],” Belden said. “I never expected in a million years that it would have happened like this. I entered that contest hoping just to make the heat and making the finals was just mind blowing.”

What’s even more astonishing is his recovery. Asked if he wanted to include the details of his accident and recuperation in this article, Belden replied, “Of course, it’s part of my story.”

It happened during ski week in 2018. “We went to Mount Bachelor in Oregon with family friends,” he said. “I’d been snowboarding before, and I caught onto it quickly because I was a good surfer. On the last day, I’d been off the jump three times already and my dad told me not to show off for anybody, but I got too much speed.” Belden propelled 30 feet into the sky off a massive jump. Finding him unconscious, his father, Matt, performed CPR.

“Initially, they only gave him a few hours to live,” said his mother, Denise. He was first sent to Saint Charles Hospital (where the surgeon said the only way to save him was to transfer him to a well- known Portland hospital). So, he then was sent to Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland where he spent three months.

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Courtesy of the Belden Family

Belden during semi-finals at the 2023 Brooks Street Surf Classic. He was already well-known as a surfer before his accident.

Belden was in a three-week coma and the accident left him with right-side hemiplegia. Doctors assured his parents that he would make it, but warned them that he might be a different child.

Denise described a hopeful moment. “One of my favorite stories is about his iPad. I didn’t know the screen code and he couldn’t tell me what it was. I didn’t know if he was in there cognitively – he could only move a finger on the iPad in front of him, but he knew the code. He unlocked the iPad, so I knew he was in there (somewhere).”

Belden had to relearn everything – walking, talking, eating – and he admitted, “I was basically reborn as a baby.” But he progressed rapidly.

He later spent time in Baltimore for therapy on his (right) frozen shoulder. “I was right-handed before the accident, but I became left-handed, and now I’m ambidextrous,” Belden said.

Due to that injury, he said, “I’m obviously not as strong a paddler as some of the kids my age.” One would imagine that would make it harder to compete, but that doesn’t seem to stand in Belden’s way.

As explained by Denise, “He brought himself back to surfing by working hard.” Only two years after the accident, he stood up on a long board (on the first try) then went to short boarding and on a family trip to Hawaii, he caught the very first wave.

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Photo by Bob Booth

Belden during the August 2021 Brooks Street Classic

Belden started surfing when he was 7 or so – after the family moved here from San Francisco (to be closer to family). “I first got on my dad’s big 10-foot-long board and then made my way up to longboards then eventually shortboards,” he said.

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Grand Marshal of the 57th Patriots Day Parade – Rick Shoemaker

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Rick Shoemaker has a history with the late Stu Saffer, founder of Stu News – one that has come full circle.

“Stu was the coach for my 13-year-old daughter Sarah’s Little League baseball team (she played on the boys’ team), and he kept saying, ‘Rick I want to write your biography’ but I said no, I don’t want to bother with that,” Shoemaker explained. Now, almost three decades later, readers will finally be privy to Shoemaker’s past and the basis for his selection as Grand Marshal.

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Courtesy of Rick Shoemaker

Photo taken 27 years ago at Riddle Field – Shoemaker’s daughter, Sarah, (on left) and Coach Stu Saffer (on right)

A 54-year resident of Laguna, Shoemaker is an Air Force Veteran, and a long-time humanitarian who has devoted years of service to Habitat for Humanity, both internationally and in the U.S. Closer to home, he initiated the Annual Christmas Breakfast for the Homeless at Laguna Presbyterian Church.

A pilot in the military and then for Continental Airlines and US Air, for more than two decades, Shoemaker has been dedicated to helping the homeless and has served as a volunteer at the ASL (alternative sleeping location), The Friendship Shelter and the Food Pantry.

Given that the theme for this year’s parade is “Laguna Heritage,” Shoemaker is the perfect choice. Vice President of the Laguna Beach Patriots Day Parade, Charlie Quilter, said, “Often grand marshals are famous individuals who have a connection to Laguna. But this year, we thought it would be more appropriate to choose someone who personifies the best of our ‘Laguna Heritage.’”

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Rick Shoemaker on the balcony of his home, which was rebuilt after it burned down in the 1993 fires, a process that took three years

Shoemaker will be leading the Patriots Day Parade in the bright red 1959 BT4 Austin-Healey he lovingly restored. He is a self-proclaimed car person, but that is just one of his many passions. “I used to race cars and I had a Triumph motorcycle,” he said, “and I love to fly.”

Born in Pennsylvania, Shoemaker grew up in Long Island and may have inherited his love for flying from his father. “We moved to Tulsa, Okla. because my dad, who was an airline pilot, was transferred,” Shoemaker said. “Oklahoma was a lot different from New York. To keep me out of trouble, my dad built a two-car garage behind the house so I could work on cars. Whenever any of my friends had trouble with their cars, they would bring them over.”

He also restored a ‘32 Ford and his mother’s Mustang and was working on a car when the 1993 fire hit. “I was restoring a Triumph 64 TR 3A and it was all apart. I had gotten all the new parts to put it back together and then the fire came.”

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Shoemaker will be riding in his classic 1959 Austin-Healey in the Patriots Day Parade

Destination California

Shoemaker attended Oklahoma State and graduated in 1959 with a Fine Arts Degree in Product Design.

After participating in the Air Force’s officer training corps, and while waiting to find out if he was selected for the Strategic Air Command, he and some friends headed to California. “I got a job at Disneyland operating the Alice in Wonderland ride. My friends would come down here to Laguna to body surf and when I saw it, I thought ‘this is where I want to live someday.’”

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Rick and his wife, Wendy

However, there were other adventures to come before he finally made it down here. He was selected to join the Strategic Air Command and flew a six-engine Boeing B-47. “It was a nuclear weapon bomber, but we didn’t fly with the weapon in the airplane. We went to bases like Spain and Morocco and places in England, and the airplane always sat there with a nuclear weapon in it. We would come as a crew and sit on alert for two weeks in case there was some Cold War crisis that we needed to attend to. The only time we really got involved was the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 – I was called to come down and listen to Kennedy’s speech, and he said Khrushchev is about to start something in Cuba and you guys are on alert. We were very concerned, but it didn’t happen.”

In 1965, Shoemaker got out of the service. “I thought I wanted to be a product designer and I went back to the L.A . Arts Center for a short period of time, but friends were saying, ‘what are you doing?’ I missed flying and Continental Airlines was hiring, so I want to work for them in 1966 and was based at LAX. That worked out quite well.”

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Retired Colonel Richard Seitz – Patriot of the Year

By NANCY CARPENTER

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Bob Seitz is still proud to have worn his uniform

Spending a few hours with Honored Patriot Colonel Richard Seitz (known around town as Bob Seitz) is to sign on for a crash course in all things military over the last five decades. Plus, a bit of history for extra credit. No mystery that he has been awarded Patriot of the Year for 2024. I asked him what receiving such an honor meant to him personally. His response made more sense once I knew some of the specifics that comprise his military career.

First, his history. Seitz’s military sensibility comes from his military family. His father served as a Marine in the Pacific during World War II, seeing action at Eniwetok, Guam and Okinawa. His mother joined the Marine Corp Women’s Reserve. Women serving our country in what was a new, non-combat capacity was not without a few detractors. Yet the call to enlist – “Be a Marine…Free a Man to Fight” – was heard by 20,000 women.

Both of my parents were proud to have served in that war, so I could relate when Seitz commented, “My mother would often say, ‘First, I’m most proud of my years of service in the Marines. As for you and your brother, the two of you are Number 2.’”

His parents lived in Los Angeles where he was born before the family made its way to San Francisco via Whittier. They no doubt brimmed with pride when he won a congressional appointment to West Point Army Academy.

This was the late ‘60s when Vietnam consumed the nightly news, and a young man’s draft number was synonymous with his birth date. West Point cadets were slated for four years of duty after graduation, their degree almost incidental. Their instructors were Army officers who served as role models to emulate.

The West Point motto, “Duty, Honor, Country,” became part of his moral compass. I got a hint of that when he talked about undergraduates gathering for dinner in the cadet mess hall. Senior cadets often had announcements, then read off names of previous cadets serving in Vietnam who were recently killed in combat.

Years drifted away as he recalled men who fell in battle, men he’d never met but still honored, then and now. Seitz’s wife, Robin – did I mention she was a welcome addition to our interview? – placed her hand quietly on his arm.

After graduating, he underwent rigorous Ranger training. “Only two out of five make it,” he said. “Rangers lead the way.” From there he volunteered for Vietnam. As a contemporary of that time, I can recall drafted friends deployed to a country they could not locate on a globe no matter how many geography courses they’d taken.

He shared a story or two about his time as a Lieutenant heading a platoon of 20 men, in the field sleeping on the ground every night. Everyone knew their assignments and what was expected of them, but at any moment another platoon might be hit and there were injuries and casualties that meant stepping up, stepping into a hard fight. As he put it, these are heartbeat decisions. “In the military, you learn to not only take orders without question, but to also take responsibility in unexpected and difficult situations.”

That Seitz was wounded in action took a back seat to his broader story. He received three decorations for valor, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Purple Heart.

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Courtesy of Bob Seitz

Bob Seitz in Vietnam, from his personal photos

We often hear the term “served gallantly,” which Seitz explained refers to a person who served in combat. Seitz’s career was not limited to Vietnam. He also “served meritoriously” in many non-combat capacities. For him, this meant a tour of duty on the Korean DMZ, a swath of land between South Korea and North Korea. Our presence even today “provides deterrence to keep the North Koreans at bay.”

As a Lieutenant Colonel, he served in a similar capacity throughout the ‘80s along the then-Inner German Border commanding an infantry battalion faced off against the Warsaw Pact of Soviet forces. NATO was long established and supported our specific role and partnership with West Germany and other European allies during what would be the last decade of the Cold War.

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Junior Citizen of the Year: Elaina Seybold

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

When Elaina Seybold was in sixth grade, a chronic illness kept her in the hospital for an extended period. During that time, she decided that going forward in her life, she’d never turn down an opportunity. “I was missing time and friends, so now when I find an opportunity, I take advantage of it,” she said. “I appreciate what I can do. For a long time, I couldn’t do anything – I had to make up work online.”

Since then, Seybold hasn’t stopped. Her all-encompassing, self-driven approach led her to be rated #2 in her senior class at Laguna Beach High School (out of 253) and honored as Junior Citizen of the Year (along with Tyler Palino) and ride in the Patriots Day Parade. The sum of her community service activities, academic achievements, sports accomplishments and awards is mind-boggling.

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Elaina Seybold ranks second in her senior class of 253 students

However, even before she started building an impressive resume, she came into the world with a bit of fanfare. Seybold had the distinction of having her birth live streamed, so her father, Joe, who was in Kuwait in the military, could see it.

On her college essay, Seybold wrote, “My dad’s active duty has shaped my patriotism and my appreciation for the sacrifices of our armed forces. Also, his long deployments cultivated my strength, resilience, adaptability and commitment to serving my country and the greater good.”

Seybold went all through the Laguna Beach School District, starting with TOW Elementary. Her older brother now attends the Naval Academy in Maryland, and her younger brother is a freshman at LBHS.

A love for science

Seybold grew up surrounded by science. “My dad was an electrical engineer but then did civil engineering with the Air Force and was more aerospace focused with Boeing – Rockwell and NASA. He worked on the space shuttle program, and I had all the models as a kid.”

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Seybold with her cat, Tiger

So, it’s no surprise that Seybold has an affinity for science.

“I like biomedical engineering and have pursued it thoroughly,” she said. “I was exposed to it at a young age and have spent my summers doing research projects in the field.

“After my freshman year, I took an extra class to accelerate in science over the summer then ended up in AP Bio my sophomore year. I found a passion for it and applied to a research project over the summer. There, I worked on two separate projects.” One involved the invasive monitoring technology in the ICU. “I was working on a project that was replacing intravenous blood catheter reading with that of a sonar chip. The readings were sent with Bluetooth and then interpreted by a computer.”

Part of Seybold’s dedication comes from her experience.

“I’ve been in the hospital and know how annoying (the equipment) it can be.” she said. “Then after taking bio, I took physics, and found a passion for it as well. UCI had a program for cosmology and physics, and I joined it. My lab took data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and attempted to estimate the energy at which Einstein’s theory of relativity falls apart.

“I like biomedical engineering because I have a background in research,” she said. “I spent my summers doing different projects but also struggled with my own health issues and have been exposed to so much of that technology and its growth and development throughout my younger years; I would like to enter that field.”

More of a thinker than a talker

Her mother, Jennifer, said, “Elaina makes me proud every single day. Her work ethic is off the charts. She is intelligent beyond her years, but she has never taken that for granted; she has a genuine thirst for knowledge and revels in learning about all subjects.

“She is more of a thinker than a talker, but sometimes she absorbs so much information about a particular subject that she may burst if she doesn’t find someone to share it with. And it is fun to watch her glow as she excitedly tries to make that person understand and love it as much as she does.

“Elaina has and continues to overcome health challenges, which makes her acutely aware of and empathetic to others’ challenges. Her volunteer work has been broad and extensive, but also hits very close to home. She has discovered how great it feels to help others and has enjoyed that journey. I love the person she has become, and I’m excited to see what’s next.”

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Seybold loves baking and whips up brownies, bread, pizza and just recently made her own pasta

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Junior Citizen of the Year: Tyler Palino

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

On more than one occasion, Tyler Palino has been described as a “Renaissance Man.” Based on his lengthy – and impressive – resume detailing his proficiency in a wide range of fields, it’s no surprise that he was chosen Junior Citizen of the Year (along with Elaina Seybold) for the 57th Patriots Day Parade.

A senior at Laguna Beach High School (LBHS), Palino was nominated by a teacher and competed against 120 other boys for the honor. Palino ranks seventh in his class (as of the end of the semester).

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Tyler Palino

Born in Aliso Viejo, Palino’s interest in community service started as early as elementary school. Drawing on his passion for computers, creativity and design, he used his talents to be of service. Palino comes from a family that valued giving back to the community. His dad, Rob, is a mechanical engineer and his mother, Missy, a psychologist, works as a receptionist and counseling assistant at LBHS. Palino’s sister just graduated from Chapman College.

“I did Scratch [Scratch is the world’s largest free coding community for kids] on the MIT website, and along with my friends, we got really good at it,” said Palino. “In fifth grade, my friend’s dad, who worked for a tech company, had us come up there to teach. We did a ‘hackathon’ so kids would make their own projects and the winners got Chromebooks.”

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Palino volunteers at Susi Q to help seniors navigate the world of computer technology

His experience with Scratch was the beginning of a long and varied series of community service and projects:

–Laguna Beach High School (LBHS) Peer Tutor – Tutors 9th-11th grade students in math, science, computer science and Spanish.

–IC2020: Internship with Professor Steve Sogo, in which they created educational computer simulations using UNITY hosted on the website to be used in on-campus classes and by off-campus instructors.

–American Legion California Boys and Girls State Delegate. Selected by Laguna Beach American Legion Post 222 for a highly selective week-long hands-on, realistic experience in mock government in Sacramento. He passed a mock California Bar Exam, was elected Superior Court Judge and presided over various cases.

–Connect Tech Laguna Club President – Educating older adults and the community regarding safe technology use and scam awareness through in-person presentations. He utilized research from my Authentic Exploratory Research (AER) Course and partnered with a mentor from the Council on Aging Southern California. He also researched how to structure an educational program and the needs of older adults regarding online and other scams.

The list goes on…

–Invited to participate in a teacher-level LBUSD Unit Design Course.

–Laguna Beach High School (LBHS) Peer Mentor – Creating a positive environment centered on empathy and kindness and coordinated wellness events for students on campus.

–Strength in Numbers Club Member – As Vice President (2023-2024), he helps students manage the stress of high school and stay sober. He hosts on-campus wellness activities and attended two annual conferences.

–Red Cross Club Member – Completed City of Laguna Beach CERT Safety Training.

–World Music Club – Researched music from different cultures.

–AI CAMP (Palo Alto, Calif.) Project Manager for a five-person team – Created a successful AI project regarding detecting bone fractures in X-rays. He was selected by an AI Camp instructor to be in a three-month intensive Team Incubator Program and also served as Project Manager for a six-person team and created an educational phone application called “AI On Thumbs.”

–Service-Learning Dominican Republic Marine Conservation Trip in which he participated in an eight-day coral reef restoration project.

–Completed Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Peer Mentor Training Program.

–Student Senate Member at LBHS.

–LBUSD Juntos Tutoring Program – Tutored Spanish-speaking elementary school-aged students online.

–Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters/Festival of Arts Cast Member, October 2023 – present.

–Summer 2023: Paid Summer Internship – Pi-Lit – IoT Motorist Safety Network Technology. Palino worked on a micro level with circuit boards focusing on duty levels, sensor chip selection, circuit board layering, information transfer protocols, synchronous mesh network construction, voltage, amperage and resistance.

He participated on LBHS JV Soccer Team and Laguna Beach Football Club (LBFC).

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Mike Tauber named Artist of the Year

By Nancy Carpenter

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Interviews are approached with a certain topic or goal in mind, an agenda so to speak, and as it should be. But no matter the amount of research completed or questions planned, occasionally another story surfaces. It’s a good idea to follow that script.

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Mike Tauber, painter, sculptor, ceramicist and “Artist of the Year”

When I was asked to interview Mike Tauber, my focus was on his most recent honor: Artist of the Year and, officially or unofficially, grand marshal of the annual Laguna Beach Patriots Day Parade, since it was the parade committee that honored him. This is just one of Laguna Beach’s many ways of acknowledging local artists and their contributions to the community. Tauber certainly qualifies. He has proven himself as an artist, but likely prouder of his involvement with innumerable local projects. More on that shortly. First, his artistic chops.

Tauber works with paint and cement relief, but he is perhaps most recognized as a ceramicist. Using tile he has fired, he creates large-scale interior and exterior murals. Think of this as the merging of architecture and design, and thus a permanent alliance.

Much of what he does is commissioned for a specific site, whether a private residence or commercial center. The Wilshire Grand Center’s six white-swimming-capped and red-tank-bathing-suited swimmers ready to dive into a pool has a smart retro look. Closer to home, you may be familiar with The Crab Cooker in Newport Beach and its interior scene that not surprisingly is ocean-themed. Within our own city limits, Whole Foods has four landscape murals that in this instance utilize paint and aluminum.

It takes a village to create on a grand scale. His public art is often a collaborative effort, and can be found in neighboring Orange County cities as well as San Diego. But it is Laguna Beach that I am most interested in, since that is where he lives and works, and Laguna is the city honoring him.

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Mike Tauber with his collaborative mural “Swimming in Sea Life”

We met in front of his most recent installation, Swimming in Sea Life, that graces the northwest exterior wall of the historic Taco Bell (now The Taco Stand) at the corner of Coast Highway and Cleo. Tauber didn’t hesitate in acknowledging the efforts of 95 citizens who participated in this LOCA Arts Education Project in 2023.

“I chose ocean life as inspiration for this piece,” he said. “I wanted the viewer’s eye to be drawn into the constant swirling motion. The grout lines give an added architectural quality.”

He went on to explain. “The sea otter is the focal point, the outline of the body and the flippers crucial to the overall piece.”

Tauber was responsible for ensuring the sea otter anchored the overall mural. But the rest was up to the volunteers whose contributions were necessary to the project. With little direction, each participant was tasked with creating a tile and assigned a row. The top row has a lighter color palette, the subsequent rows deepen into darker ranges, the way light refracts through water. The respective palettes were the only restrictions, leaving them to design anything relating to the ocean. Within the 126 tiles, I discovered a couple of octopus (or is it octopuses?), sea anemone, what might be perch, sea bass or halibut, starfish, crab squid, and a lone scuba diver staring back at me. Each tile stands on its own, leaving Tauber to the final assembly resulting in this masterful mural.

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“Laguna Honors Its Artists” mural honoring Michael Hallinan

Tauber and I didn’t have to go far to see another of his works: A quick walk to the other side of The Taco Stand and a mural honoring local impressionist artist and surfer Michael Hallinan. This is part of the “Laguna Honors Its Artists” series of murals, in this case, a tile scene inspired by the late artist.

Tauber has other murals worth exploring, including the Neighborhood Congregational Church with its street-facing Coastline to Canyon panel within easy walking distance of where we stood. This is on a much grander scale – that’s Tauber to the right, dwarfed by the finished piece and impossible to have completed without the efforts of 700 volunteers.

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Tauber dwarfed by “Coastline to Canyon”

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Marissa Pizzimenti changed her life and put her passion for fitness and nutrition into The Art of Juicing

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

The Art of Fitness is a place where miracles happen, and one example is Marissa Pizzimenti, who in 10 months, changed the trajectory of her life. However, it wasn’t exactly a miracle, it took hard work, determination and consistency.

“One day I looked in the mirror and felt ‘this just isn’t me,’” she said. However, it wasn’t always that way. A move to Los Angeles – and a devastating set of circumstances – led to a downward spiral during which she gained 75 lbs. in one year.

“When I went to school here, I came to this gym,” Pizzimenti said. “I can’t imagine telling 13-year-old me that I’d be partnering with the Art of Fitness owners Marian Keegan and Fernanda Rocha on a health café in the back, The Art of Juicing. It’s awesome.”

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Marissa Pizzimenti

Pizzimenti emphasized that her discontentment when she looked in the mirror wasn’t about her size. “It’s about whatever size you feel most happy and confident. I’ve always been an athlete and think strong is sexy, so it wasn’t about that. It was about getting back to the girl I used to be. I think I lost her a little bit in L.A.”

Originally from Scottsdale, Ariz., Pizzimenti came here and attended high school. “In Scottsdale, I never fit in. I never found my people, and I couldn’t find my tribe. All the things I was made fun of for in Arizona were celebrated here – including being artistic and creative. I’ve always loved the beach and I grew up with a mom who’s a nutritionist, who taught me that nature can heal your body, so I’ve always been into healthy food. The best way to just be happy and healthy in life is eating right and being active, that was very important in my family. They were all into sports and I thrived on that.”

Eventually, Pizzimenti’s interest in interior design took her to L.A.

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Pizzimenti with her one employee, Nate Brewery, who owns his own organic coffee company, “Brew It Up”

“I attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in L.A.,” she said. “I went there to pursue school while bartending evenings and I loved it, but I made a lot of stupid mistakes. I was involved with the wrong people. I was naïve and got in a terrible relationship that turned physical. It took a year to pull my life back together and later I became engaged to my (next) boyfriend of three years. He passed away six months later due to fentanyl. It was a lot to deal with, he had been my support system. Losing him was very difficult, and I gained even more weight.”

Climbing the Empire State Building stairs

So, Pizzimenti came back to Laguna and lives only two blocks from The Art of Fitness.

“I started working out at Art of Fitness 20 minutes a day, every day,” she said. “It took a year to gain 75 lbs. and then it took me 10 months to lose it – at a healthy rate, eating right. Since I came here to the gym in high school, once I was back in Laguna, I wanted to come somewhere comfortable and familiar.”

Consistency and setting goals were key she explained.

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Pizzimenti was on the Stairmaster every day

“I was on the Stairmaster every single day, starting with 20 minutes,” she said. “I told myself I’d just show up and do 20 minutes once. Then I started the cardio and when you get that endorphin high, your body loves it, and then when I’d hit 20 minutes, I’d do another 15. Then the next time, I’d do 20, and think I’m going to do 45 today. I got to the point where I could do 102 floors (Empire State Building) in 17 minutes and 30 seconds. In the beginning it took one hour. It’s about setting goals.”

Support from her friends at the gym also helped. “I did have a lot of friends – all the people in the gym who supported me and saw me every day and said, ‘Hello.’ Dennis Harris witnessed my progress from the beginning.”

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Jorg Dubin: Unfiltered in his approach to life and art

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

No one would call Laguna artist Jorg Dubin conservative in his approach to art. His work is provocative and, at times, disturbing. He readily admits that it’s not for everyone – there’s no denying it evokes strong emotions, both favorable and unfavorable.

Jorg Dubin: Paintings from the 2000s, the solo inaugural exhibition at the Honarkar Foundation Gallery, proves that assessment to be true.

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Jorg Dubin in front of the Honarkar Foundation Gallery

Dubin – a painter, sculptor, ceramist and production designer – arrived in Laguna in 1976 and has since, consistently produced controversial work. Uncensored for mass public consumption, his paintings combine beguiling portraiture with the urgency of current social and political times.

Jorg Dubin: Paintings from the 2000s chronicles Dubin’s engagement with portraiture over a 20-year period and is the most comprehensive showing of his work to date. The 38-piece exhibition was curated by Genevieve Williams and supported by The Honarkar Foundation.

As described; the artwork is a collection of unfiltered renderings of contemporary subject matter. Through his collection of portraits, Dubin explores the complexities of the human condition, addressing themes such as race, gender, sexuality, politics and power dynamics.

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Stunning space for Dubin’s exhibition

“Historically, when there are big social changes or ideological clashes in the world, writers, poets and visual artists are the ones who created manifestos or visual imagery of the times,” Dubin said. “I’ve always liked that kind of work. It resonates with me because I’ve felt that as an artist, you should say something about the times you live in.”

At its most profound level, art takes us from the everyday to a place of introspection and contemplation, to see the bigger picture of the human condition, and Dubin’s work, in whatever emotionally charged form it takes, is always thought-provoking. In a previous interview with Stu News, he said, “I don’t understand what people are afraid of. I’m angry because of what’s going on in the country, and cities like Laguna Beach should be at the forefront of the conversation. We’re a privileged community and as such we can’t ignore social, racial and economic issues.”

In September 2023, his luminous sculpture Mercury Falling was installed on the corner of Main and Jamboree in Irvine. It carries a powerful message on climate change – that we (humans) will do something about global warming and bring the earth’s temperature down. It’s the latest in the many public art installations Dubin has created, many of them visible throughout Laguna – Semper Memento (Always Remember), Trio, Viking Studio, Wavepoint, Quintet, The Castle Gate and Aliso.

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In the background “Distressed” (left) and “The Orange Stand”

“Not many galleries – or the museum – in Laguna would show my work,” Dubin said. “Content driven work isn’t a very commercial endeavor. Most people who buy art are decorating their homes and not collecting art. Commercial galleries don’t have the client base for this kind of work. I don’t have an art dealer in my own hometown, I don’t have one anywhere. Galleries don’t want to tie up their space for 30 days with a show they can’t sell.”

Enter the Honarkar Foundation. “MHAC created a nonprofit foundation to support our culture and the gallery is going to be open at least a few days a week for the show. It’s the first time a lot of people who have lived in Laguna have ever seen the inside.”

Gerald Buck, the previous owner, amassed a huge collection of contemporary artwork and bought the building to house it. When he passed away and the collection went to UCI, the building came on the market.

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“Bride” (left) and “Mr. Pink, Reflected”

The gallery is a stunning setting for Dubin’s artwork. “They were talking about it being a group show and then they decided to do a one-person exhibition,” he said.

However, Dubin didn’t select the paintings that appear in the exhibition. “The curator, Genevieve, looked at all the work in my studio (and storage) and chose the pieces. I trusted her and Peter [Blake]. It was fun to walk into the gallery and see what was selected for the showing,” he said.

Looking Back

Due to the explicit nature of many of his paintings (of women), who does he use as models? Dubin explained, “They’re friends and people I know. I’ve used professional models over the years, but I like people who aren’t professional models because they bring their own personality. They are in their own comfort zone, and it contributes something interesting to the painting.”

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