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Astrid of European Optical carries on the legacy of her late father Udo Stoeckmann

By DIANNE RUSSELL

“Up until two weeks before he died, my 93-year-old dad carried on daily activities, as though he was a contemporary with his 80-year-old riding buddies, cycling 14 miles at a time,” said Astrid Chitamun of her late father Udo Stoeckmann, who founded European Opticals in 1974.

Even at 93, he still had 20/20 vision, took no medication and without fail completed those bi-weekly rides with his friends.

Astrid Chitamun with sign

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Astrid with the Celebration of Life poster of her dad, Udo

A Robert Redford look-alike, Udo charmed everyone he met, and all who knew him attest to his vitality and adventurous spirit. After hearing countless stories of memories imprinted in the minds and hearts of those who knew him, their sentiments came through very strong – and consistent.

According to Chitamun, his passion and genuine zeal for life was evident in all that he took on. Anyone who was fortunate to know him was instantly captivated by his charm and German accent, wit and ability to make all in his presence feel special. It was never about him – he took interest in everyone he met, and had a thirst for new experiences and learning from and connecting with people on a deeper level than most. He was a rare force, irreplaceable, excellent and spectacular human. To know Udo was to love him. You would be hard pressed to live a day and not have a snippet of him pass through your consciousness.

Astrid Chitamun Udo in front

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Courtesy of Astrid Chitamun

Udo Stoeckmann in front of European Optical

In addition to his unwavering love for people of all ages and walks of life, he was a true car, sports and animal enthusiast.

He skied, played tennis, windsurfed, paddle boarded, outrigged – and golfed every Monday with his wife, Annie.

As a member of the Rotary Club for 35 years, the 2023 Classic Car Show was dedicated to him. Whenever someone got a special automobile one of the first stops was the optical shop to see Udo’s reaction and, of course, get his stamp of approval on their selection.

Astrid Chitamun new store

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

New store location on Cress and PCH since 2020

Udo’s number one fan, Astrid traveled extensively with her father to many of car shows with the Mercedes-Benz Gullwing Group. Looking back, some of her fondest memories were during those trips they shared together. “He and his classic 1959 300SL Roadster were well known. I’m so fortunate I got to spend so much quality time with my dad, we were best friends, we did everything together and we were always giggling.”

Astrid Chitamun cars

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Courtesy of Astrid Chitamun

Udo Stoeckmann and his cars

Born April 24,1930, in Stettin, Germany, Udo’s young life was marked by the state of the world at the time – the depression and poverty.

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“Not many people knew he was a twin,” Chitamun said. “With his natural proclivity towards animals, he initially wanted to be a veterinarian which proved to be a challenge in Germany at that time. However, with limited options post war Udo’s uncle/guardian gave him three options for a career trajectory and optometry school proved to be the best fit. In 1954, he became a licensed optometrist and master optician.” Chitamun describes his mastery of working with the wire frames and learning the precise craftsmanship as a rarity in the U.S.

“After selling our first house in California in the Hollywood Hills, my parents custom ordered a VW camping van,” she said. “The goal was to spend an entire year exploring every inch of the U.S. as well as the world abroad, which is exactly what they did. In return for this year-long adventure, my mother agreed to put one-half of the profits from the house sale to open his own optical shop. Many of my father’s previous clients from Pasadena, where he worked as a master optician, had beach homes in Laguna and were always extending weekend invites to them.”

Astrid Chitamun mom and dad

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Courtesy of Astrid Chitamun

Astrid with her mom and dad

He fell in love with Laguna and in 1974 opened European Optical in the Shire Shops. His unique and exquisite sense of style and selection of one-of-a-kind frames, coupled with his ability to repair glasses in his on-site lab, instantly made him a mainstay in town. The shop became a destination spot not to miss when walking through town. He created a sense of community and his business thrived and grew rapidly on word-of-mouth recommendations.

As a teen, Chitamun began to work for her dad, learning the intricate details that go into the craft. Upon her dad’s retirement in 2008, she had 30 plus years under her belt, and he was cautiously optimistic she could handle it from here...the rest is history.

In lieu of flowers, if anyone is inclined, Chitamun asks to please donate to Udo Stoeckmann’s favorite nonprofits – Laguna Beach Rotary Club Foundation at www.lagunarotary.org, or Pacific Marine Mammal Center at https://apps.pacificmmc.org/donate and indicate the gift is for the Udo Stoeckmann Fund.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com

Lana Johnson, Editor - Lana@StuNewsLaguna.com

Tom Johnson, Publisher - Tom@StuNewsLaguna.com

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.

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