Share this story

Letters to the Editor

Kudos to PMMC

I wanted to thank you for the recent story “Pacific Marine Mammal Center breaks ground on ‘The Next Wave’ expansion project.”

I have long thought that the Pacific Marine Mammal Center was one of our community’s most amazing and under-appreciated assets.And while we seem to be in constant struggle to maintain our status as an “artist city,” we will always be a city whose primary identity is actually the ocean and those who inhabit its shores and waters – including our people and our sea life.

We are so fortunate to have had the foresight and commitment of the original founders and volunteers. But we are also now especially fortunate to have Glenn Gray as CEO – who is actually a retired bank president with a unique skill set that seems to be taking the PMMC to even greater heights with an even greater vision of what is possible for the center and our community. Bravo to all of them!

I applaud the PMMC leaders and volunteers and look forward to a day when the welcome signs to Laguna Beach include the Festival of the Arts, the Pageant of the Masters and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center! It is a recognition well-deserved and one that reflects as well on our great little city as our arts-oriented heritage has for so long.

Dean Keller

Laguna Beach 

Appreciating art

Nationally respected columnist David Brooks recently wrote a moving opinion piece entitled, “The Power of Art in a Political Age.” I meant to write a response after reading his column, but political firestorms kept popping up so I wrote about them instead. 

Having first moved to Laguna in 1970, and worked for LAM here in town and two other museums over the years, I couldn’t help but wonder what art means in times like ours. Is it meant to prevent the daily struggle of becoming “a shallower version of oneself” as Brooks claims, or is it meant to “see the world through the eyes of another” – often someone who sees more deeply than most?

As far as I am concerned, art helps me better understand myself. As a young boy, I remember seeing the Chagall and Miro posters my parents hung in our house. As a 20-something graduate of USC, I remember driving several times from Laguna to Pasadena to visit the Norton Simon Museum. And as a 70-something collector, I always enjoy seeing the art on my walls every morning when I wake up. That’s because they are more than pretty pictures in frames. Simply put, they remind me who I was when I purchased them, and who I want to be in the future.

I believe writer Brooks would agree that art, more often than not, speaks to the viewer. I can tell you that is 100% true in my case.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Share this story

Letters to the Editor

Impressive financial numbers are a reminder of the good going on inside City Hall

I’m hopeful you all took the time to read a recent news article on how our City Manager, city leaders and city employees reported a $17 million increase in the city’s operating budget. The general fund came in $7.4 million ahead of a 20% reserve requirement, according to a staff report.

Our city outperformed budget estimates in its parking fund by $2.8 million (naysayers say that parking revenue doesn’t pay for itself), the capital improvement fund by $2.5 million and the Measure LL fund by $1.6 million (naysayers don’t like or want any more hotels).

Those numbers were driven, in part, by $5 million in hotel bed tax revenue. The operating budget also benefited from an increase in property tax and sales tax. Laguna Beach collected 34% more in sales tax during fiscal year 2021-22 over the previous year, leading to a $1.8 million increase in the balance with a majority of those funds coming from restaurants and bars. City departments also saved $1.4 million through a combination of cost control strategies and unfilled positions.

This was all done with the help and direction of our incredibly bright and forward thinking Shohreh Dupuis, our City Manager, and three (3) city councilmembers…Sue Kempf, Bob Whalen and Peter Blake, who were the members of the City Council that you all berated, but were voted in by the balance of our community to keep Laguna Beach in the 21st century.

All naysayers and name callers who seem to love to fight…IT’S TIME TO STOP FIGHTING AND CONTINUALLY FINDING FAULT WITH OUR CITY GOVERNMENT…it’s time tojoin with the rest of our city that want to see Laguna Go Forward!

Sam Goldstein, former PAC member

Laguna Beach

Share this story

Letters to the Editor

Doesn’t want any more photos of vandalism incident

Would you please stop publishing photos of the vandalism at our City Manager’s home? We get it.

Bill Anderson

Laguna Beach

Share this story

Letters to the Editor

Laguna Beach High School students working on solving water issues on the other side of the world

Last week, Denny Freidenrich and I met with a dozen Laguna Beach High School students working to bring clean water to villages in Africa and Asia where women and children must walk miles each day for this basic necessity of life.

As part of “Walking for Water,” a nonprofit founded by Laguna resident Susan Hough, these young activists’ mantra is “If they have to walk for water, so can we.”

Denny and I were so impressed with these students’ commitment to help others. Last year this group raised $100,000, which paid for wells, a school in a Tibetan refugee camp in rural India and tuition for kids in Africa who otherwise would be unable to further their education. To date, the nonprofit has built 37 wells in West Africa and India and paid 4,174 kids’ tuition in sync with their mission statement: “Water is Life. Knowledge is power.” Their goal on March 26 is to match or exceed $100,000 this year. 

Thanks to Hough and her nonprofit, Laguna Beach High School students are learning early that by expanding their circle of caring beyond themselves, they can make positive changes in individuals’ lives, making the world a more connected and better place for all of us. We invite you to meet and sponsor these teens next month at their high school walk-a-thon and auction. 

To find out more about the group’s goals and how you can help, please click on

Robin Pierson

Laguna Beach

Share this story

Letters to the Editor

What will this year’s Pageant bring?

I hope this year’s Pageant of the Masters will be a Pageant of Real Masters as it was for the past 80 years, and not just some postcards from around the world sent by a Ship Master and some unknown dancing from other countries with no master directing them.

Bob Couse

Laguna Beach

Share this story


Ruth Willette

January 3, 1934 – February 15, 2023

Obituary Ruth Willette portrait

Submitted photo

Ruth Willette

Ruth Alpha Kinsman Willette was born to Frank Kinsman and Eusebia Maria Davis on January 3, 1934 in Panama City, Panama. She passed away peacefully at 89 on February 15, 2023 at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, following a short illness.

When she was 8 years old, she moved to Los Angeles with her family and attended high school at Flintridge Sacred Heart. At 22, she married Edward Willette and they lived in Rosemead, where they began their family. They moved to their forever home in Laguna Beach in 1973, and owned liquor stores in Dana Point and San Clemente. 

Ruth loved gardening, swimming in her pool and going to the movies. In her later years, she enjoyed various recreation department classes such as water aerobics, memoir writing, guitar and French. She enjoyed talking with friends, painting birdhouses and stepping stones, and playing with her grandkids.

She was preceded in death by her parents, husband Ed, brothers Maurice and Walter, and sister Liz.

She is survived by two daughters and sons-in-law, Karyn and Tom Raymer of Griffin, Georgia and Raquelle and Alaín Basto of Laguna Beach, and son and daughter-in-law John and Virginia Willette of Laguna Beach; two sisters, Alice Kinsman of Laguna Beach and Margo Kinsman of San Marino; seven grandchildren – Victoria, Chloe, Cosette, Giselle, Claudette, Dominique and Eduardo; and two great grandchildren, Levi and Gavin. She touched many lives and will be remembered with love by all who knew her. 

Ruth’s memorial service will be held Saturday, Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. at Pacific View Mortuary, 3500 Pacific View Drive, Corona de Mar.

Share this story

Letters to the Editor

What happened at the City Manager’s home

Emil Monda was right to condemn the vandalism at the City Manager’s home (Stu News Letters, Feb. 14). Hopefully, police investigators will find DNA at the scene and quickly match it to the perpetrator or a relative. If not, then I urge the City Council to offer a $5,000 reward to the person whose tip leads to the arrest and conviction of said perpetrator. Surely, that person told someone what his or her plan was or bragged about it afterwards. 

As Monda pointed out, “This cannot stand.” I agree 100%.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Share this story

Letters to the Editor

Laguna Beach Republicans condemn vandalism to City Manager’s home

The Laguna Beach Republicans condemn in the strongest terms the vandalism that was done to our City Manager’s home (last week). There is now an ongoing investigation by the Laguna Beach Police Department to identify the culprit(s). We look forward to whomever is responsible being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This cannot stand.

Emil Monda, President

Laguna Beach Republicans

Share this story

Guest Letter

Rick Reiff

Editor at Large

Orange County Business Journal

Remembering to remember the past

Guest letter Rick Reiff rock with plaque

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Rick Reiff

Plague honoring Thomas A. Cummings is mostly hidden and obscure these days under a growing lemonade berry bush

(The following is an open letter to the OC Parks and Laguna Beach County Water District.)

I assume Laguna Beach never intended Thomas A. Cummings to be forgotten. Not when he was honored with an impressive boulder-mounted bronze plaque at the trailhead of the Laguna Beach Wilderness Park on October 8, 2000.

Cummings was long gone by then, but he’d been a big deal back in the day. In 1927, he became newly incorporated Laguna Beach’s first mayor, a job he held on and off through 1942. He was a founding director of the water district, serving it from 1925 until 1944, most of the time as president, and earning, as the plaque attests, the sobriquet “Father of the District.” He’s the most prominent official in photos of the 1926 Coast Highway dedication, bespectacled and in a three-piece suit, standing between Hollywood royalty Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. 

Guest letter Rick Reiff old group

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

Thomas Cummings (with glasses) stands between Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford (in white)

All of which is to say, it’s a shame that the thousands of hikers who pass his plaque each year have no idea he even existed. That’s because since that 2000 park dedication, a lemonade berry bush has grown up next to the boulder, almost completely blocking it from view. You have to stray from the walking path to discover the plaque with its stunning coastal backdrop. 

Now, far be it from me to suggest the district cut down a lovely shrub, although if I had to choose between it and old Cummings’ memory…well, never mind.

But here’s an idea. To be honest, not my idea, but the brainchild of my neighbor, fellow walker and another former Laguna mayor, Jane Egly, who joins me in this bipartisan request:

Move the boulder! Surely the water and/or park district has the wherewithal to relocate the rock a mere few feet to an unencumbered roadside spot. Placing the plaque a little closer to the nearby “dos and don’ts” signposts might even encourage more visitors to read them.

History respected, nature preserved, a trailhead enhanced. A win-win-win. I’m guessing Mr. Cummings would approve. 

Rick Reiff is Editor at Large of the Orange County Business Journal and lives in north Laguna Beach.

Share this story


Michael John Mammone

June 5, 1964 – February 1, 2023

Obituary Michael John Mammone

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of the Providence Mission Hospital

Michael John Mammone

It is with the utmost sadness that we announce the loss of Dr. Michael John Mammone on February 1st. His family as well as the entire community are devastated by the tragic event that took place.

Michael was a loving husband and father who absolutely adored his wife and family. At home he was known for his infectious joyful energy and his silly jokes. He would often bring the family together to enjoy his homemade pizzas, perfected guacamole recipes and signature cocktails.

Michael was passionate about scuba diving, surfing with his children and snorkeling. Although he loved exploring his local beaches, he traveled the world in pursuit of beautiful places and adventures that he could share with his family. Some of his favorite stories to tell were of his volunteering in Papua New Guinea, bathing elephants in Thailand, diving in Belize, safaris in South Africa and historic sightseeing in Italy.

Michael always had a gift for taking care of others. He took a job as a lifeguard with Los Angeles County when he was 18 while he pursued a bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego and his medical degree from USC. He completed his residency at Loma Linda Medical Center with an emphasis on Emergency Medicine. In 1996, Michael was Medical Board Certified and accepted a position at San Antonio Regional Hospital in Upland, Calif., where he worked for the next 20 years.

Outside of the hospital, he served as the Medical Director for the Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department from 2002-2008. Michael and Julie loved visiting Laguna Beach ever since the start of their relationship in 1992, and in 2010 he accepted a position at Providence Mission Hospital, Laguna Beach. 

Michael was known by his colleagues and patients to be a doctor that humbly took the time to listen to and care for each individual and their needs.

Michael’s family will forever cherish the beautiful memories they share with him and will continue to celebrate and honor his wonderful life and legacy.

Please visit for further details.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO -

Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

Email: with news releases, letters, etc.


Email: for questions about advertising


*The content and ads in this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the publisher.

© 2023 2S Publishing, LLC - All Rights Reserved.