By Jennifer Erickson | LB Indy
The spirit of seasonal giving held sway at the City Council meeting Tuesday.
Detective Larry Bammer, president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Association, came forward to express his appreciation for contributions made towards the installation of a memorial honoring officers who died on duty.
But he later admitted he “was floored” when just-installed Mayor Elizabeth Pearson proposed a matching campaign of up to $10,000 for the project. That offer was preceded by the presentation of a $5,000 check for the memorial from Allan Simon, owner of Firebrand Media and publisher of the Indy.
Sparked by the tragic death of Laguna Beach police Officer Jon Coutchie in September, Bammer first announced plans for a memorial in October. He initially planned to install the memorial near two others in Heisler Park, with the city’s Arts Commission organizing a design competition. But the lack of control over the design and the relative lack of foot traffic at Monument Point made supporters reconsider, Bammer said.
The current plan calls for a memorial installed at City Hall near the police station, more trafficked by officers and the public, he said.
Supporters aim to raise $40,000 to commission and install a memorial, including a plaque honoring former Army Ranger and motor Officer Jon Coutchie as well as Officer Gordon French, who was killed making an arrest in 1953.
The police association will host a $100 a person fundraiser at Mare Culinary Lounge – located near the corner where Coutchie died in a collision with a motorist — on Monday, Jan. 27.
The Memorial Artwork Advisory Committee leads the project, which is chaired by Bammer and includes police Lieutenant Jeff Calvert and city Treasurer Laura Parisi. The committee established a charitable fund for donations through the Laguna Beach Community Foundation.
Hearts of Montage, employees of the Montage resort, pledged $5,000 towards the effort, announced during a tree-lighting last week.
Council member Bob Whalen, who with his wife Kirsten Whalen pledged $1,000 to the fund, sent an appeal by email earlier this week encouraging donations.
“Our police officers put their lives on the line for us each day and when an officer is lost it is a painful experience,” wrote Whalen. “While we can’t undo the sense of loss, we can remember their sacrifice by creating a permanent memorial in their honor. I hope that you will join me in making whatever contribution you can.”
Simon was the first to respond, matching the donation by Montage employees. Others followed including Matt and Mary Lawson, Roger Torriero, Don Crevier, and Francine and Daniel Scinto at the $1,000 level; and Doctors Ambulance, Tony Dallendorfer and the law office of Silver, Hadden, Silver, each donating $500.
The Council hopes to formalize its pledge of a $10,000 matching donation at the Jan. 7 meeting. The match would take affect once supporters raise the initial $20,000, which may happen as early as this week.
Bammer was thrilled by the surprise gesture, raising his optimism that the fundraising goal will be achieved by Jan. 27, which means the Arts Commission can then start soliciting local artists for proposals.
“I’m hoping [the memorial] will be ready for a ribbon cutting on the first anniversary of Jon’s death in September,” said Bammer. As of Wednesday, $4,100 in tickets had been sold, about a third of available tickets, he said.
Bammer noted a special donor, a man who dropped a check at the police station, saying that he recalled the death of Officer French, which he experienced as a child, and had always thought there should have been some kind of monument.
Tickets or donations can be made online or by check payable to LBCF-LB Police Officer Memorial Artwork Fund and dropped at the police station or the Laguna Beach Community Foundation, 303 Broadway, Suite 212, or mailed to PO Box 1628, Laguna Beach, 92652.
Photo by Jody Tiongco