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Letters to the Editor

Connection to Tommy Chambers makes me happy for Ruby Samson and what’s potentially to come

In this unprecedented time of turmoil here at home and abroad, I was happy to read about LBHS student Ruby Samson and her award-winning work [Thom Chambers Award] on behalf of SEA Your Future.

While I don’t know Ruby, I did know the late Thom (Tommy) Chambers. We first met in the late 1970s, when he and his good friend, Fred Stodder, rented a small pottery studio below my home on Jasmine Street. It was clear to me those two teenagers had many life goals in mind, just as I’m sure Ruby does now.

As a 70-something senior, I worry about the world my two grandchildren will inherit when they are in high school. If Ruby’s vision and commitment is any indication of things to come, I’m confident my two little ones will want to follow in her footsteps.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Remembering Barbara Metzger

Barbara Metzger’s recent passing has left a hole in the hearts of many.

Barbara loved Laguna and showed it by giving her time and energy to help maintain its village atmosphere. She served on the Heritage Committee, Design Review Board and the Planning Commission.

One of her charitable works for years was feeding the homeless every month at the Alternative Sleeping Location together with Verna Rollinger and Charlotte Masarik.

She was a Village Laguna board member for over 30 years, serving as corresponding secretary for decades and publishing the monthly newsletter through October of this year. Barbara enthusiastically supported our annual Charm House Tour and was famous for making the world’s best lemon bars.

Barbara was a member of the Ladies Who Lunch group that started in the mid 1970s by women who made a difference. Founding members were Phyllis Sweeney, Sally Bellarue, Verna Rollinger and Hortense Miller, among others.

She was a great editor and worked on the book Celebrating A Treasured Historic American Landscape, as well as documents and brochures for Village Laguna and others.

In addition to her many talents, she played in a group of instrumental recorders.

Barbara had a strong passion for Laguna’s historical landmarks and very much wanted to see the digester restored as agreed to by city council several years ago. She didn’t live to see it happen, but it would be a great way to honor her if that project is started this coming year.

Anne Caenn, President

Village Laguna

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In Memoriam

Herb Nolan


Photo by Doug Miller

Herb Nolan, 1984

Herb Nolan peacefully passed away on November 22, 2023, at his beloved home in Ketchum, Idaho.

Herb moved with his single mother, Helen, and three siblings, Ben, Dick and Mary from Michigan to Laguna Beach in 1946. Although the Nolans lacked resources, Herb felt enriched growing up in Laguna. He thrived at diving, surfing, racing hotrods and other mischief with his Sultan “gang,” and finding inspiration from Coach Guyer. Herb graduated LBHS in 1952 and then from Orange Coast College in 1954. After spending the winter surfing Oahu’s north shore big waves and summers lifeguarding in Laguna, Herb enlisted in the USMC to become a pilot. He graduated top of his class and was stationed at El Toro, flying in the F8 fighter wing. While on a summer training flight, Herb regretfully gave a low-level flyby to his buddies at Oak Street Beach that caused numerous Laguna windows to blowout when he hit his afterburner and pulled straight up. The Marines reprimanded Herb to the East Coast where his adventures continued, including ejecting from a mid-air collision during an aerial dogfight. The Marines allowed Herb to return to Laguna for his brother Dick’s memorial from a crash at the Coast Highway and Emerald Bay dip.

After completing his USMC duty, Captain Nolan flew commercial for a year out of Chicago, but found this type of flying too routine. He quickly picked up the thrill of skiing and while on the ski patrol at Alta Utah found his future wife, Diana “Josh,” crashing down the mountain. The newlyweds spent their winters at the Peruvian Lodge in Alta and summers commercially diving for abalone at San Clemente Island with Josh tending the compressor on the surface, while Herb searched for abs in his metal helmet and boots on the bottom.

The Nolans decided they needed a safer profession to raise a family in Laguna, so Herb started working for Peggy Taylor as a real estate agent in 1962 and then opened his own office, Nolan Real Estate. Herb hired his first agent in 1968 and built a team of young professional agents with many remaining active in the community today. Soon Nolan Real Estate was the most productive office in Laguna with 40 agents.

The Nolans had become a family of four with Steve arriving in 1963 and Daniel in 1966. Herb became an active dad with countless trips to San Onofre with the VW bus packed with neighborhood kids and surfboards. There were also surf camping trips to Baja with other Laguna families, where Herb taught the kids the skills to enjoy the rewards of nature. Herb also continued his love of flying by taking family ski trips across the West and landings on Baja beaches in the family’s plane.

After an amicable divorce, Herb sold Nolan Real Estate and retired at 45. He set off trekking the Himalayas and then was reintroduced to Collen/ “Gail” who he originally met while lifeguarding in Laguna. Gail and Herb moved to New Zealand for a year to oversee the building of their 50’ catamaran. They spent the next four years sailing the South Pacific to Alaska and then back to Laguna.

In 1999, now married, the Nolans moved to Ketchum, Idaho and built their dream home with a beautiful view of Sun Valley ski resort. In 2010, Herb’s love, Gail, succumbed to stomach cancer. Herb’s need for thrills never stopped, he skied competitively until he was 87 in slalom and GS events in Sun Valley, and traveled to events with the Masters race team.  Herb joked that he usually won his age group, since everyone else was gone or too smart to be pushing the envelope while flying down the mountain.

Herb is survived by his two sons and five grandchildren. Herb did not want any fuss when he passed, but hoped that those he touched would give him a nod when they turn their adventure dreams into action. His ashes will be spread by his family next to Gail’s overlooking the mountains.

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In Loving Memory

Bob “Huff” Huffman

In Loving Memory Bob and Chris Huffman

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Photo by Barbara MacGillivray

Bob and Chris Huffman in 1980, excited about the birth of Shaun MacGillivray

Bob “Huff” Huffman, 88, was the owner and witty proprietor of The Forest Market, now leased to the fantastic 230 Restaurant. Perhaps the funniest man to ever live in Laguna, Huff passed on to the quiet side this past week in beautiful Point Arena, Calif. Known for his friendly Tuesday poker games in the back of the market, the best sandwiches ever in town, and the drollest comebacks to any greeting, Huff was a true Laguna iconoclast. He supported the rights of the poor, and with his membership in Village Laguna, fought for the wild canyons and the clean ocean. He was a liberal in politics, a lover of all humans and a caretaker of any kinetic thing – including lost golf balls at Ben Brown’s. He would have loved what Mark Christy has done with the Aliso Canyon that he treasured.

Huff began his wild Laguna ride with a bikini company called Strawberries in the ‘70s with his first wife, Pickles. When she died from cancer suddenly, he bought The Forest Market in the late ‘70s, with his second wife, Chris, and they transformed it into the town gathering spot, with healthy fresh squeezed fruit drinks, whole wheat sandwiches and fair prices. Every employee Downtown ate lunch there daily, and grew healthier in the process. One day, when Huff had to attend a family event, Greg MacGillivray took over the cash register for lunch for only four hours and became a stuttering fool – what a demanding, stressful job. Huff and Chris must have had a special tolerance gene made for that task. They made the Market the highlight of our Downtown.

Huff had thousands of friends, some attracted by his creative antics. He invented the fine art of streaking a party to make it even more spirited. He loved controversy and the absurd. On some July Fourths, he literally became an exploding naked attraction, holding lit spinning pinwheels between his legs and sparklers in his hands. Yet he had no shortcomings. As his friend Mark Dawson has said: “Huff had a kind heart. He always had positive and fun things to say to the people he encountered, things meant to lift a person’s spirit or boost their self-esteem. He had an unusual and special desire to lift people up. I can’t help but think how much better our world would be if we had more Huffs.”

His wife, Chris Fidler, has called out affectionately: “I am the lucky woman who fell in love with Huff. He introduced me to a life rich with good friends and a loving family. He had a heart of gold and the personality to make sure that everyone around him felt loved and special. We were a great team to host the Forest Market and embrace the community. Loving Huff has been one of the best experiences of my life.”

In later years, Huff traveled with his dear, steadfast and caring friends, Lorelei and Tim Brooks, to live a quiet, beautiful life in glorious Point Arena, Calif. He’d tell MacGillivray, “It’s small and personal, like Laguna was in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”

Recently, Laguna Beach filmmaker Robin D. Williams traveled to Scotland with Huff: “Huff enjoyed chatting with the locals, who all had a thick Scottish brogue, and it was fun to see him pretend to understand every word they spoke. He did not know it, but soon he was picking up the Scottish accent, and unfortunately, I could no longer understand him,” shared MacGillivray.

“One of the smartest men I’ve ever met, Barbara (MacGillivray) and I give our Thanksgiving thanks to have known and enjoyed this true Lagunatic: Bob Huffman, one of the best humans to ever love Laguna,” said MacGillivray.

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Letters to the Editor

We should do everything we can to protect our ocean quality, not less

On Wednesday, Nov. 29, approximately 95,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled out along our coastline areas from Laguna Avenue to Blue Lagoon. With the area polluted by our very own human waste, I couldn’t help but think about our fragile ecosystem and what effect this will have, both short term and long term, for our aquatic life, not to mention the quality-of-life issues for the folks who live along the beach and the many businesses that rely on it. I can’t stop asking myself, how could we let this happen?

When Amplify Energy spilled thousands of gallons of oil in our ocean, killing land and marine life and closing businesses, we were all rightly outraged. What happens in our state and federal waters is out of our control. We rely on the good actors, or in Amplify’s case the bad actors, to maintain their infrastructure and to sound the alarms immediately in the event of a failure, in order to minimize the impact. But in this case, the spill of raw sewage now polluting our shores and water is our fault. We have no one to blame but ourselves. And it’s not the first time. As recently as November 2019, one million gallons of sewage spilled into the ocean near Aliso Beach. Some have suggested this November timeframe has to do with the city’s strategy for managing runoff in the winter.

Recently, David Shissler, a civil engineer with many years of experience in building and maintaining sewer facilities and training employees, retired as the city’s Director of the Water Quality Department. Under his management, the department was divided into two divisions, one handling sewers and the other handling storm water infrastructure. The city has since rolled these divisions into the Department of Public Works and Utilities. Instead of finding and hiring the top candidate to focus on our water quality, the city eliminated Shissler’s position. To me, this seems to indicate that water quality and public health and safety are less of a priority.

I would think bringing on an experienced engineer and ensuring we have the latest and greatest technology and infrastructure and staff would be among the city’s top priorities. Instead, we chose to have a void in leadership by eliminating positions, all while having old and failing infrastructure. In a town where ocean water quality is a public priority, how should we interpret this coastal city eliminating the department with that sole responsibility?

Judie Mancuso

Laguna Beach

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In Loving Memory

Jean Rogers Hall

June 4, 1941 – October 31, 2023

In Loving Memory Jean Hall

Submitted photo

Jean Rogers Hall

Jean Rogers Hall died on Tuesday, Oct. 31 after a long period of declining health. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating Jean’s memory. She was the most attentive listener, the best reader, a constant friend, a dedicated professor and a loving wife to her husband James Hall for, according to Jim’s calculations, 59.184 years (!).

Jean was born June 4, 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor, in Wilmington, Calif. at the Port of Los Angeles, where her father Ray Rogers worked as a chemist for Union Oil. Ray, Jean and her mother Dorothy Katherine Conroe Rogers, moved to Fullerton, Calif. in 1951, and it is there that Jean attended high school, finding her niche in the speech squad. As Jean was always modest about her considerable academic and professional achievements; even close friends might not know that Jean won the California state competition in Oratory, and in Impromptu Speaking. Jean once grudgingly admitted to a cousin, “In those remote days, I was a star.”

While attending Pomona College from 1959-1963 as an English major, Jean met her future husband, James Hall, a fellow student who worked in the dining hall. When they took a philosophy course together, Jim was flabbergasted by Jean’s intellect. Romance ensued. After graduating from Pomona, Jean worked briefly as a legal secretary in Los Angeles. On the day President Kennedy was assassinated, Jean ran down the hall to watch Walter Cronkite on the only television in the building. That TV was in an office belonging to the famously flamboyant Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. It is hard to imagine a more unlikely duo than Jean Rogers Hall and Hedda Hopper watching that broadcast together.

After marrying in 1964, both Jean and Jim went to graduate school at UC Riverside, where Jean received her Ph.D. in English Literature. In 1968, Jim who had been in ROTC at Pomona, was called up to active duty as a Captain in the U.S. Army and stationed at Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, N.J. Every weekend, he and Jean would go into New York City to enjoy the museums, the symphony and the theater. Soon, however, Jim was sent to Vietnam. Jean found a wrinkle in the regulations that could spring Jimmy from the war early if he had a job as a farmer or teacher. Clever Jean was able to secure him a job teaching chemistry at a parochial school, and thus get her husband the hell out of Vietnam, and the Army, in record time!

Jean moved to Laguna Beach and joined the faculty at California State University, Fullerton in 1970 and taught there until 2002. Tom Klammer, her friend and former chair of the Fullerton English department, remembers that Jean “represented the best qualities of an entire generation of university faculty, enthusiastically guiding her students to love and appreciate great literature and pursuing a life devoted to scholarship and teaching. Her colleagues remember her warmth, sense of humor and caring friendship, qualities that helped make her department into a supportive professional community.”

Professor Hall taught undergraduate courses in Romantic Poetry, Modern Poetry and Victorian Literature, along with graduate seminars in Victorian Poetry and Women’s Writing. She was an early advocate of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Study Away programs, having three times taught a semester-long program of study in London.

As a scholar of the English Romantic period, Jean published peer-reviewed articles, as well as two scholarly monographs: The Transforming Image: A Study of Shelley’s Major Poetry (University of Illinois Press, 1980) and A Mind that Feeds Upon Infinity: The Deep Self in English Romantic Poetry (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1991).

Jean retired in 2002, primarily to care for her father, Ray. Over the next 21 years, Jim and Jean managed to travel the world with friends and colleagues, often visiting London for months at a time and traveling to New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Mexico, Alaska, Costa Rica, Antarctica, India, Africa, Egypt, Vienna, The Czech Republic, Berlin, Italy, Norway, France…well, you get the idea: every continent on the globe.

Jean eagerly devoured art, music, movies, theater and books, books, books! Her devotion to the written word was unparalleled. Moreover, she brought her intellect, warmth and emotional intelligence to all her many important friendships. Though she was herself an only child, she married into a loud and large family – Jim has five siblings. Her deep understanding of the dynamics of that family and her sympathetic observances of it, were uncanny and illustrative of a lifetime of sensitivity, generosity and kindness.

In the new year, a celebration of Jean’s life will be held. Until that time, in lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made to Human Rights Watch (

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Letters to the Editor

What’s the rush?

There was a LBUSD board meeting on November 16 that received no media coverage; it should have. Ostensibly, the meeting was to provide an update to the Facilities Master Plan (FMP) including recommended sequencing of projects. The board will meet again on December 14 and approve a roughly $100M FMP.

The district boasts about the reduction from the original (ill-conceived) FMP but it’s still $100M for the smallest district in OC with declining enrollment. The $100M includes $50M at the high school campus, $21M at El Morro, $14M for new district staff offices and $15M of upgrades at TOW and Thurston.

The high school expenditures include replacing the current 25-meter shared high school/community pool with a 50-meter Olympic competition pool. The existing wading/kiddie pool is eliminated and the bathhouse is being demolished and rebuilt. Cost for the pool complex, approximately $16 million. There are viable options that cost millions less, fully address student/resident needs and are far less disruptive.

The district is planning a general obligation bond of $80-$100M that would likely come for a public vote in 2026. Interestingly, the timing in the plan showed spending for the pool starting in 2024 and ending in 2026...BEFORE the bond is presented to voters. Apparently the pool will be funded from “available funds” and is being fast tracked before the bond vote. Additionally, the city currently funds 70% of the pool costs and has not finalized their position on community pool options.

So what’s the rush on a project that has considerable resident opposition? Approving the project now avoids the transparency of a bond issue and attempts to force the city to participate in funding. The better approach is to delay approval of the pool and work cooperatively with the city on a solution that fully addresses the needs of residents and school athletes in an economical manner. This is a resident tax-funded project and should have resident visibility and support; it does not.

Gary Kasik

Laguna Beach

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In Loving Memory

Laura Puente

May 24, 1959 – October 27, 2023

In Loving Memory Laura Puente

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Laura Puente

Laura Puente, born on May 24, 1959 in Chicago, Ill., passed away after her courageous battle with cancer, at her home in Laguna Beach on October 27, 2023. She was a beloved partner, mother, sister, daughter and friend, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of all who knew her.

Laura grew up in a lively household in Chicago, the second of four children. Right out of school she was actively involved in the family business. From there, she went on to become the first female president at Elgin National Industries. In 2001, Laura’s career path led her to Laguna Beach where she joined her brother in his business, Premiere Services, a business of which she loved and cared for all she worked with.

In 2002, Laura met her life partner, Anne Krizman. They embarked on a journey of love and partnership that lasted 21 years. Together they created a home filled with warmth, laughter and an open door to friends and family. Their union was further blessed with the joy of parenthood as they welcomed their two children, Lucca and Quincy. Laura’s role as a mother was one she cherished deeply.

Laura’s favorite place was always beside her family. She had a special gift for creating moments of joy and togetherness, whether it was through her delightful cooking, her kindness or her thoughtful conversations. Her home in Laguna Beach was a place where friends, family and all the children she knew would gather to share in the warmth of her company. Laura was a devout person of faith and tried to always do the right thing in God’s eyes.

In her passing, Laura leaves behind not just her beloved partner, Anne and their two children, Lucca and Quincy but also her mother, Kay Brenwald and her siblings, Denise Nicolette, Mark Puente and Suzy Phelan. She will be deeply missed by her extended family, friends and all who had the privilege of knowing her. Laura’s life was a testament to the power of love, kindness and family. As we mourn her loss, we also celebrate the incredible life she lived and the countless lives she touched. Her legacy will continue to live on in the hearts of her family, friends and all the people she has impacted along her journey.

A memorial service will be held on December 2, 10 a.m. at Saint Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, 1042 Temple Terrace, Laguna Beach. Please feel free to join with family and friends as we celebrate Laura’s life.

In lieu of flowers. a donation can be made to Laura’s favorite charity, Operation Underground Railroad,

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Letters to the Editor

A well-deserved atta boy

With all the current disagreement about what the arts mean to Laguna Beach and whether this is an “Artist Colony,” I want to briefly offer kudos to a person who is supporting local artists in a unique and necessary way. It has been many years since Laguna Beach was a true “Artist Colony.” The first requisite for such a place is that it be very affordable, where artists (particularly younger ones) can live, interact and grow their concepts without the constant fear of losing their housing or going hungry and without the distracting idea of branding…just diving in for the thrill of it.

Our town’s qualification as a true artist colony lasted an incredibly long time but those days are gone. But Laguna has evolved into a much-needed hub that welcomes and promotes art and provides many places for artists to exhibit their work and generate income to help support them, even if most can no longer afford to live here. A drawback to this situation is that, due to the high cost of maintaining venues, art must have commercial value to generate income for these venues to thrive. Though some have the ability to find support through the various organizations in town, many wonderful artists lack the talent or desire to spend their time wrestling with how to get their work before the public.

This is why I want to shine a little praise on Rick Conkey and his contributions, supporting artists with unique visions who haven’t been able to find an outlet in Laguna. Rick has organized numerous fundraisers for a variety of vital local causes. He has always looked for a way to feature and promote local artists, particularly musicians and often at his own personal expense. Why would a guy who makes his living teaching tennis, spend a good deal of his own income to highlight many unknown artists and musicians? Simply because foremost he, like of those artists, wants most to serve the arts.

To that end, Rick has now taken over the gallery space on Forest Avenue previously known as BC space, a gem with art display capabilities and a wonderful little stage with seating. Now calling it the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center (The Center), Rick has upgraded the facility, improved the lighting and renovated the restrooms. The stage has been improved, the stage lighting upgraded, a wonderful sound system and a nice baby grand piano have been added.

For musicians this is a much-needed facility. Many working musicians dream of writing and performing original material. Without a huge following where can one perform this material in front of an intimate and focused audience? To make a living most musicians work in bars and restaurants where the social aspect of the facility is foremost and they are required to play music that people recognize. Or they teach.

At The Center they are encouraged to stretch their creative wings. And importantly, they don’t have to sell a tremendous number of tickets to make the event a reality. Just remove the seats and there is gallery space, space for dancing or whatever else is required.

I am a big supporter of Rick, his vision, his sacrifice and I always open his email blasts. I never know what is coming next, but I do know it won’t be happening anywhere else in town.

Steve Wood

Laguna Beach

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Brock Thomas Lyster

February 3, 1954 – July 22, 2023

Obituary Brock Lyster Mendocino

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Photo by Ron Leighton

Brock Lyster somewhere on the Mendocino coast, 1989

Brock passed away peacefully on July 22 at home surrounded by love and expressing joy and thankfulness for the beautiful life he lived. He had cancer the last six years but did not let that define him, living his life to the fullest each and every day.

We hope you spend your days doing what you love and always telling the ones you love how much they mean to you, just like Brock did.

Obituary Brock Lyster Central Coast

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Courtesy of the Lyster Family

Brock Lyster on his favorite hike on the Central Coast, 2023

We will forever have a beautiful life because of the way he loved us. We may not see him every day, but we know he will be with us always. We will carry him in our hearts forever, surrounded in the beautiful life he has built for us.

Love, Marci and Sylvi.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO -

Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

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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.

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