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Obituary

John Keels Pettit Jr.

December 15, 1942 – February 9, 2022

Obituary John K. Pettit Jr

Courtesy of the Pettit family

John Keels Pettit Jr.

John Keels Pettit Jr. passed away fearlessly yet peacefully on February 9, 2022 with his family by his side, in the Laguna Beach home he built. He was 80 years young.

John was born and raised in La Jolla, Calif. Often referred to as “Felix” or “Big J” by friends and family, he developed an affinity for adventuring and the outdoors at a young age. One of the original members of the renowned Wind N Sea Surf Club, John was an avid surfer & diver through his teens, but would soon after transition into a well-rounded waterman, heading commercial fishing charters from San Diego to South America. After honing his skills in the Pacific Ocean, John took a hiatus from Southern California and ventured to the mountains landing in Sun Valley, Idaho. There he built his first home in the form of a log cabin and began pursing what would become his new passions – white water kayaking and skiing. John’s amiable character and eager nature resonated with the resident “crew” who immediately took him under their wing. He absorbed everything the local outdoorsmen threw his way and became a staple in the community; guiding rafting and kayak tours during summer, and doing avalanche control for the Sun Valley Ski Patrol in the winter.

Just when John thought he had found his forever home, he met a young brunette artist from Laguna Beach by the name of Holly Ann Nichols; the love of his life whom he would spend the next 44 years with.

Upon starting a family, John packed up his mountain life and headed back to Southern California, residing in Laguna Beach with Holly. As an experienced carpenter, John would build Holly’s booths at the Sawdust Festival each summer, where she would showcase her ceramic talents. During this time John would also refocus his attention back to the ocean and master celestial navigation, earning his captain’s license in the process. From there he proceeded to conduct local charters on a famous wooden schooner in Dana Point called the Kelpie and led long-distance charters from Hawaii to California chasing the Transpac Race. Captain John was a worthy seaman.

John and Holly’s family quickly grew from one to four, which led John to pursue a safer form of employment…endeavoring to take up building full time. With a knack for geometry and an eye for style, he created a niche role for himself doing custom stair design. As an independent contractor for developers at the time, John, with a small crew, had a hand in building many homes in what is now the greater Aliso Viejo and Laguna Hills area.

John retired from building at the ripe age of 65, in-turn focusing his energy on both the Single-Handed Sailing Race Circuit and Theology. As John’s study and knowledge of Christianity grew, so did his faith, which he carried with great pride to the end.

John was a devoted husband, loving father and a truly selfless individual. He will be remembered as a man whose goodness, honesty and strength of character always led him to defend what he believed in with certainty and one who stood up for others wholeheartedly. He is survived by his wife Holly, children Chelsea, Blake and Dustin, son in-law Brian, daughter in-laws Eva and Alex, grandchildren Mason, Harper, Blakely, Breck, Briar and Wallace, Brother Ralph and his dog, Caleb.


Obituary

Harry Berberian Jr.

December 18, 1931 – February 27, 2022

Obituary Harry Berberian Jr.

Courtesy of the Berberian family

Harry Berberian Jr.

Long-time Laguna Beach resident Harry Berberian Jr. passed away February 27 peacefully in his Laguna Beach home at the age of 90.

Harry was born in New Jersey and raised in Los Angeles, CA. He graduated from Hamilton High School in Los Angeles and then went on to college at UCLA. Upon graduation from UCLA, Harry joined the Navy as an officer during the Korean War. He moved to Laguna Beach in 1971 and has lived in Laguna for the past 50 years on Rounsevel Terrace where he resided with his beloved wife of 50 years, Jayne.

He was a proud father to both Brad & Brian Berberian, and he and Jayne raised them in Laguna where they both graduated from LBHS in the early ‘90s. Harry was a constant fixture at all of his boys’ sports games, and he loved going to and watching UCLA sports games with his sons.

Harry was known as a man of great integrity and sage wisdom and was loved and respected by all who were honored to know him.

He will now join his lovely wife Jayne in heaven and he will be missed by many. He is survived by his sons Brad & Brian, and his five grandchildren (Brooke, Ella, Luke, Kate and Riley).

Go with God now Harry and forever Rest in Peace!

A memorial service is planned for Monday, March 16 at 2 p.m. at Pacific View Mortuary & Memorial Park, 3500 Pacific View Drive, Corona del Mar.


Letters to the Editor

Eighteen-year Laguna Beach public servant lobs in her opinion of Laguna Resident First Initiative

As a former 12-year Councilmember and 6+ year Planning Commissioner, I’d like to respond to those arguing for a new Initiative that allows residents to weigh in, through a vote, on new businesses/projects near or on Laguna Canyon Road and Coast Highway, I’d like to provide the following two considerations:

We already have a process to weigh in – through planning commission and City Council hearings. I offer the following to demonstrate that our existing system works, and why the alternative is a bad idea:

The Montage Project

The approval of the Montage. The Planning Commission (on which I then participated) spent 2+ years reviewing in minute detail, the Local Coastal Plan and Environmental Impact Report – as well as working in concert with the Design Review Board – to review (over and over again) the design, including the landscaping and view corridors. Was there input at every step? Yes. EVERY SINGLE STEP. Once the Planning Commission approved the project and passed it along to the City Council, were residents allowed to weigh in? Yes, time and time again. Did the naysayers fight it at the Coastal Commission? Of course, en masse. Ultimately the plan was approved by the City and Coastal Commission. And it was built as the Planning Commission and City Council approved it. Is it a high rise? No. Does it “fit in” to all of our visions of being smaller-scale and compatible with the environment? Does it have a park for the public? Are residents allowed to access the beach now, where they weren’t before? Our system worked, and some of it thanks to the input of some of the naysayers along the way, through the system we already have in place.

Many of the people now involved with this new Initiative wanted to stop the creation of the Montage after it was approved, so they got enough signatures to put it to the project on the ballot – causing a referendum to go in front of the voters. This town was torn in two. It was vicious and divisive…and negative. The nay-sayers mailed out, citywide, oversized post cards depicting Miami Beach with their high hotel towers saying that this was what Laguna was going to look like if the Montage moved forward. The proponents of the new Montage, the one that was built as approved, barely won that election.

I believe that if this new Initiative were to pass, we will be living in the negative environment we lived in during the Montage fight – over and over again.  Aren’t we trying to live in a more peaceful environment and working to avoid that kind of vitriolic local society?

Other cities have used this type of initiative to control their city’s projects – is a claim the proponents of the Initiative make. I ask you: Have you taken a look at those cities? Are they as charming as ours? Do they have buildings over 36’ (our height law)? Do they have illuminated signs and/or billboards? Do they look charming and low-scale, or simply “urban” or “too commercial?” The reason why we “look and feel” different is because our codes have been written to maintain the charming nature of our commercial areas, AND THEY WORK. Our existing codes already protect our town…we don’t have to “fix them.” We were ahead of everybody else by developing codes since 1971 to ensure that our unique “look and feel” were maintained. And yes, some of the Initiative’s proponents had input into those codes along the way…a good thing.

In conclusion, let’s keep our town peaceful and charming – let’s not open the flood gates to repeated viciousness and divisiveness such as was experienced with the Montage referendum. That kind of environment is not who we are, nor why we moved here. Vote “no” on the Laguna Residents First ballot initiative.

Elizabeth Pearson

Former Mayor and City Councilmember and Planning Commissioner

Laguna Beach

Recognizing the special talents of a coach in our community

(A letter sent to the Athletic Department at Laguna Beach High School and cc’d to Stu News Laguna.)

I am writing to not only thank you, but to inform you of what I consider a very special gift to the students in the Girls Junior Varsity Basketball program. My granddaughter, Ava Gonzales, is a sophomore and became a part of this program this season. The man entrusted with her introduction to basketball is Coach John Selbe.

I am writing because I witnessed girls from all walks of life and experience be guided and coached in what I consider a very gifted way. As the season progressed, I witnessed a TEAM coatless out of the various participating girls’ levels of ability. As you know, Laguna Beach High School is at a disadvantage due to its low student census compared to other schools in the area that we compete with. Coach John Selbe molded these girls into a team at a level that carried the day against the larger schools that had the benefit of having a greater pool of students to draw from. As a result, they won a decisive game Wednesday night coming out on top of their league for the season. 

As the season progressed, I noticed a willingness on the part of the participating girls to listen to guidance and a coaching style that was firm but considerate. There is a delicate balance between coaching and criticism and Coach John Selbe executed it with grace. I saw the girls listen with respect and take coaching as John’s desire for each girl to improve yet not take it personally. He followed up his coaching with continuing supportive complements when the girls made great plays. 

I witnessed each girl’s confidence and skill grow exponentially as the season progressed. In my granddaughter’s case, I saw her bloom in so many ways that would not have been possible without the coaching and mentoring relationship that Coach John Selbe provided.

I am a retired U.S. Navy Captain and I know gifted leadership when I see it. Coach John Selbe is a special gift to this program and his accomplishments through skill, patience and understanding should be recognized. I hope I have done that with this letter.

Captain Eric Axel Jensen 

Laguna Beach

(Ed.’s note – Thank you Captain, mission complete.)


Obituary

Ray Bryson

July 4, 1930 – February 20, 2022

Obituary Ray Bryson

Courtesy of the Bryson family

Ray Auldon Bryson

RIP Ray Auldon Bryson, born 4 July 1930 in Los Angeles, CA. Raised in Bakersfield, CA, graduated Bakersfield High School in 1949, University of Redlands in 1953, Berkeley Seminary in 1956. Resident of Laguna Beach for 56 years. Died 20 February 2022 after moving to Escondido, CA in February 2021.

Wed his wife of over 68 years, Ruth Charlene (Cain) Bryson, on 7 June 1953 in Redlands, CA.

Ray was an ordained American Baptist minister, married his three children, four of his grandchildren, and numerous family and friends. But his career was as a teacher, including 30 years teaching Social Studies at Horace Ensign Junior High in Newport Beach, CA, before retiring in 1992.

His greatest loves included his family and friends, being a member of South Shores Church for nearly 60 years, telling enthralling stories, eating (a lot), fixating on everything Danish, taking cruises with his wife and offspring, meeting new friends along the way, working on scrapbooks of his journeys, his ocean view from his Laguna Beach hillside house, being a “living model” in the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters, and listening to the “holy trinity” of classical music: Wagner, Beethoven and Verdi.

He is best remembered for those spellbinding stories (many personalized versions of E.A. Poe stories), his weird sense of humor and perhaps the worst fashion sense in the history of the planet. Witness his loud and clashing ties, shirts and “trousers”.

Preceded in death by mother LaRue, father Auldon, stepmother Sylvia and brother Ronnie.

Survived by his wife, three children and spouses (Richard & Uldine Bryson, Kathryn & Fred Adams, Randal & Teresa Bryson) seven grandchildren (Alysa, Nathan, Karen, Steven, Angeline, Peter, Dianna), four great-grandchildren (Jackson, Wesley, Evelyn, Xander) and two brothers (Joe, Dax).

We love you and expect you to prepare a place for all of us to join you in heaven,

–Your loving family.


Letters to the Editor

A “must see” show

I heard that Wells Fargo Bank had taken down the Allyson Allen quilt show from its second-floor art gallery. Whatever made the show so controversial that it would be taken down after having been completely hung made it a “must see” show for me. So, when it was rehung at the Neighborhood (Congregational) Church on St. Ann’s Drive, I went to see it.

Shame on Wells Fargo! Fabric art is the latest fine art medium and I was blown away by Allyson Allen’s work. Each piece not only speaks volumes but, the quilting quality and creative genius is clearly the work of a master. It is an outstanding and timely exhibit. 

It is not a BLM show as some have asserted but addresses so many of the injustices all around us. Including rape and animal rights. But what makes Allyson Allen’s art so impressive is her quilting and creative style. She juxtaposes contrasting fabrics to create clear images that not only tell a story and convey a message, but also demonstrate far advanced quilting techniques. Her amazing skills set this show apart from other art and quilt shows. It is one of the most powerful contemporary shows I have been to in a long time. Pictures don’t do it justice. You cant capture her three-dimensional quilting techniques or unique background patterns in a photo. It is a “must see” show.

Jessica DeStefano 

Laguna Beach


Obituary

Dr. Richard Squire Jonas

September 25, 1928 – February 16, 2022

Obituary Dr. Richard Jonas

Courtesy of the Jonas family

Dr. Richard Squire Jonas

The Jonas family and friends are deeply sad to announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend, Richard Squire Jonas, M.D. We are also proud to share the story of his remarkable life.

He was born in Glendale, CA on September 25, 1928. He was the son of a Los Angeles ceramics factory owner and a doctor’s daughter who had come to California as a young couple on an adventure, arriving from the East Coast just in time for the Great Depression. As a child, Dick was known as “Blackie” for his jet black hair, and was a hard working student who was liked by his fellow classmates with whom he developed a balance of work and play that he enjoyed life long. His humor and warmth moved everyone who met him. At age 17 at a backwards dance at Glendale High School, he met 16-year-old Johann Wertz and the two immediately fell in love. Their first dates included a night at the Los Angeles Palladium Theater, where they heard Doris Day sing “Sentimental Journey” with the Les Brown Orchestra, a song that would remind them of their early months for the ensuing seven decades of life together.

The two went to UCLA where they joined the social world of the fraternities and sororities Phi Kappa Psi and Pi Beta Phi, meeting many of the people who would remain their life-long friends. Then he joined the ROTC. When he received his BA in Public Health from UCLA in 1951, he was commissioned in the Medical Service Corps. He and Johann married not once (January 28, 1950), not twice (June 1951), but three times (August 1951), thanks to a snafu in the rules of marrying before receiving his military orders. The three marriage certificates were framed together and hung next to their bed for the rest of their lives, reminding everyone of their remarkable connection and its clear spirit of humor and love.

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Dick was shipped off to serve in the Korean War as Lieutenant. He received the Bronze Star in 1954.

After Korea, Dick went to USC Medical School on the GI Bill and chose to go into private practice as an OB/GYN. The young couple vetted various Southern California communities before choosing Newport Beach to start his practice and raise a family. Starting in 1958 with their first son, Stephan, followed in 1966 with Christopher, and then, as a total surprise when Dick was 41, with Jason in 1969, the family grew as did Dick’s OB/GYN medical practice.

He said, “as a doctor, the most important part of your work is to take the time to listen to and serve your patients,” a quality that made him beloved by his patients, and earned the respect of the nurses and doctors who worked alongside him. Over his 30 years of practicing medicine, Dick delivered thousands of children, many of whom were the granddaughters of his original patients. He was an avid advocate for women’s reproductive rights, culminating in service on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood of Southern California.

Dick and Johann, passionate supporters of the emerging Southern California contemporary art world, were early members of the Newport Harbor Art Museum, which later became the Orange County Museum of Art.

In 1979, after the commercial expansion of the Santa Ana Airport and the resulting jet noise that was a constant presence in their home in Newport Beach, the family moved to Laguna Beach, finding a beautiful home on a hillside of pine trees in Emerald Bay. There, the Pacific Ocean was a constant fascination for Dick and his family, watching the migration of the California Gray Whales, some 15,000 sunsets, and was the backdrop for many gatherings with Dick and Johann’s remarkable circle of friends. At age 60, Dick retired early to ski in Mammoth, play tennis, travel, and enjoy daily life with his beloved Johann.

The original house burned in the 1993 Laguna Beach fire and they rebuilt a beautiful art-filled house in its place, created in anticipation of many years of happy life together that came to be there. Motivated by that same fire, serving on the Emerald Bay Community Board, Dick led an effort to better prepare the community for future fires by creating wider fire breaks and community response plans. Amazingly, only two weeks before his death, in the February 2022 Emerald Fire which was in many ways a repeat of the 1990s fire, was this time not able to penetrate the community. Dick’s efforts preserved not only their own house but also those of his neighbors.

Dr. Richard Squire Jonas passed away February 16, 2022 of a heart attack, just over 76 years after his first date with Johann. He died, held in love by his family, grandchildren and his many friends, and fellow community members. He lived 93 years of a richly loving, successful and honorable life of service, generosity, humor, medicine, friendship, family, and still deeply in love with Johann. He will be missed. We love you, Papa.


Letters to the Editor

There may yet be an answer to liking our crows

I recently read and heard on the German news that in Sweden there are folks who are training crows, yes crows, to pick up cigarette butts from the ground. If they do and take them to certain containers, the crows get a treat. Crows being a very smart bird, would find this fun and rewarding I would think. People have complained about crows in this town (we are an official bird sanctuary) – does anyone want to volunteer and start this new environmentally safe trend? 

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach


In Loving Memory of Lewis Manford Tarter

In Loving Memory Tarter

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

May 30, 1942 – January 30, 2022

Lewis was a wonderful husband, father, brother and a friend to many in the community. Celebration of Life services will be held on March 19 at 2 p.m. at The Woman’s Club located at 286 St. Ann’s Drive, Laguna Beach.


Letters to the Editor

Passing the Initiative is good for Laguna Beach and good for the environment

I do not want there to be large monolithic structures in Laguna Beach. Their construction creates an enormous problem, by having an adverse effect on climate change, creating a further crisis.

Adaptive reuse keeps the culture of an area alive. In communities like Laguna Beach, it maintains the culturally significant sites that would otherwise be left to decay or demolished to create room for new buildings and parking lots.

Adaptive reuse is also a form of sustainable urban renewal.

The greenest buildings are the ones that already exist. All the emissions released in construction, from fabrication to delivery to assembly...the fossil fuels burned to create raw construction materials and move them to the site, the carbon released in making concrete, makes up 49% of the total carbon emissions of new global construction. Trees felled for timber are already embodied in existing structures.

Waste is also an issue, with building-related construction and demolition debris amounting to 26% of all nonindustrial waste generated in the United States.

There is already an abundance of retail and hospitality space in Laguna. Why not renew and reuse those empty commercial buildings and stores, rather than tear them down. Preserving old buildings is more sustainable than demolishing a building and starting from new. It takes about 65 years for an energy-efficient new building to pay back the amount of energy lost in demolishing an existing building, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

I want Laguna Beach to commit to be part of the solution to Climate Change, and not by merely being water wise. I support this ballot initiative and want the voters to have input on every major development project, as our city evolves and changes, to mitigate the impact each major project has on our neighborhoods and our climate. Supporting this ballot initiative may be the way to save what we treasure about Laguna Beach and reduce our carbon footprint by using the power of our votes.

Jahn Levitt

Laguna Beach


Letters to the Editor

Agree, “when they’re gone, they’re gone”

Thanks to Mr. Johnson for his sympathetic account of the preservation community’s concerns about the Coastal Commission’s decision to make historic preservation largely voluntary in Laguna Beach (Feb. 11, 2022 edition). We share his disappointment and appreciate the acknowledgment that despite the city’s assurances that nothing will change, of course that is not true. As he says, when the historic properties are gone, they’re gone.

I do want to correct one statement. The new ordinance and other amendments to the Local Coastal Program are not limited to residential properties. They apply to all locally eligible historic resources including commercial properties (many of the buildings on Forest, Ocean and Coast Highway, for example), and civic buildings (such as the Municipal Water Building, next to City Hall). The transformation of Laguna’s built environment would extend well beyond its residential neighborhoods, affecting every aspect of our town if the changes are allowed to go into effect. 

Catherine Jurca

Laguna Beach

Mask mandate expires tomorrow

Beginning (tomorrow) Wednesday, everyone who lives in Laguna and is fully vaccinated and boosted can finally shop indoors again without face coverings. The only glitch is this: Unvaccinated people still will be required to wear masks indoors. Unless the unprotected are wearing something like a bright orange patch complete with the letters U.V. printed on them, how will anyone know who is and isn’t vaxxed? 

To date, millions of Californians have refused to roll up their sleeves and take the jab. Because I doubt any of them will wear an orange patch, I suggest that, once the mask mandate is lifted, authorities immediately begin to fine unvaccinated/unmasked indoor shoppers. How much should they be? Start at $250 for the first violation, followed by $500 for a second violation. A third violation would cost $1,000 and a fourth $2,000 plus 5 days in jail. 

Like a toll road payment, if a ticketed shopper fails to pay his or her fine within five days of it being issued, a 20 percent late fee automatically will be added to the total amount due. In my opinion, if the reluctants won’t get jabbed in the arm, then jab them where it really will make a difference – in their pocketbooks. 

This year marks the third year in our war against COVID. Now that three vaccines are readily available, the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths occur among the unvaccinated. I, for one, don’t want to spend another day wondering if an unmasked shopper passing me in Ralphs or Hobie Sport is vaccinated or not. Starting tomorrow, I’m guessing fully vaxxed and boosted shoppers will feel the same way.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Too many hoops are making my re-build difficult, and causing harm to our beaches and ocean

I love Laguna Beach and would like to make you aware of how the local government, in particular the Public Works Dept., are making decisions that are detrimental to our beautiful beach and ocean and are contrary to one of the prime directives of the California Coastal Commission which is to mitigate runoff that flows into our ocean. 

I am building a new home on my old home lot that I lived at for over 15 years. Despite approval by the DRB to have the mandated parking area be covered with permeable pavers, the Public Works Dept. has instead superseded this decision and states they want the area covered with asphalt or cement. This obviously creates more runoff which goes directly into the ocean instead of percolating into the ground the way nature intended. 

In addition, the heat emanated from such a hard surface contributes to the warming of our environment. This is not the first change they have made. Drainage from my home was initially to be managed by a large French drain, which was dug during construction and handled all rain runoff without issue, including during the most recent rainstorm during which we had more inches of rain for two days than we have had in over 20 years. 

Instead, they now want water collected in a tank and pumped uphill, to run down the street. This obviously creates more runoff directly into our ocean. 

Understandably, I am upset by these changes which have no basis on current recommendations by the California Coastal Commission and are obviously contradictory to best practices. I think we Laguna Beach residents need be aware of how the city government is making decisions that affect the quality of our beach and ocean in adverse ways. 

Thank you for your time.

E. Orrillo Blas, M.D.

Laguna Beach

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