Harry Lawrence earned the nickname “Mr. Laguna” because since 1947 he played a role in numerous organizations and beautification movements that make the town what it is today.
The public is invited to help him celebrate “Harry Lawrence Day” at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, with cake and ice cream in Main Beach Park.
Over 60 years, Lawrence, who made his living buying and selling Asian art and antiques, lavished his eye for beauty on Laguna, organizing the Chamber of Commerce’s Beautification Council in 1952. He was a leader in the building of the former South Coast Medical Center, Laguna Playhouse and creating the Main Beach Park and “window to the sea.”
The decorated WWII veteran tried his hand at a number of jobs before putting down roots taking over the gift shop of Earl and Florence Warren in Laguna, which would give him the opportunity to visit 155 countries over six decades. He always scheduled his travels to be home for Chamber of Commerce meetings, though. “You don’t do all the things I’ve done without continuous work,” said Lawrence, who closed the store in 2009.
One on One with Harry:
We spoke with Lawrence about his life’s work and why community service matters.
Q: When asked What motivates your civic service?
A: I stand for clean, quaint culture – everything is guided by that short statement, and look what’s happened.
That’s just me. Things needed to be done, and I do my best to help. I have great joy being surrounded by good people, unselfish people with good objectives. You’d be surprised. God has always looked out for me in impossible situations. I know if I do the right thing, all will be well.
Q: Of all the places you’ve traveled, which is your favorite?
A: I’ve often been asked this, and I’ve answered evasively – but Laguna Beach! Where on earth – I’ve gone everywhere, and there’s no comparison, when you put everything together that we have here.
Q: What does patriotism mean to you?
A: I think I’m a pretty good reflection of an American. I’ve served my family, served my country… Really in my heart, I haven’t felt like I deserved it, but people get excited.