“A hero to kids”: Celebration of Chris Duddy’s life draws crowd

Former Laguna Beach principal Joanne Culverhouse eulogizes her friend Chris Duddy at Crossline Community Church in Laguna Hills on June 20. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

El Morro Principal Chris Duddy was eulogized Monday as a loving father and husband and an educator who had an innate ability to connect with children.

Mourners filled the sanctuary at Crossline Community Church in Laguna Hills to celebrate the life of Duddy, 57, who died in his sleep in May. Although many wore Hawaiian shirts as a nod to his love of surfing and carefree spirit, audience members wiped tears away as his 27-year-old daughter, Paige Duddy, spoke from the lectern.

“He took so much pride in being a great leader and he did not take his role lightly,” Paige said. “He treated everyone with kindness and most importantly he served. He was able to serve our family, all of the students he taught, the students of El Morro, his colleagues and friends—all with his calm demeanor. I can truly say my dad was always the best version of himself.”

In addition to Duddy’s countless friends and family members including his wife Teri, son Taylor, and parents, attending dignitaries including Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen, Supt. Jason Viloria, School Board president Carol Normandin, and incoming El Morro Principal Julie Hatchel. El Morro staff members wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with “CD” on the front filled rows of the auditorium.

“It’s truly amazing to see the outpouring of love from everyone he touched. It comforts me,” Paige said.

El Morro Elementary Principal Chris Duddy. Photo courtesy of Laguna Beach Unified School District.

Among the eulogizers was Joanne Culverhouse who spent working 15 years working closely alongside Duddy as a former principal of El Morro Elementary, Thurston Middle School, and Laguna Beach High School.

Culverhouse spoke highly of her friend’s intrinsic ability to know what a student needed to be better. Some of his students didn’t need punishment after being sent to his office, they need connection, she said.

“Chris was a hero to kids because he was that hero. He was that guy. He was the dependable kind of hero who was always there, who did the right thing. And Chris helped kids do the right thing. That’s who he was to his colleagues, that’s who he was to his staff because we loved Duddy,” Culverhouse said.

A tribute to El Morro Elementary School principal Chris Duddy during a celebration of his life at Crossline Community Church in Laguna Hills on June 20. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Danny Duran, Duddy’s best friend and surfing partner, joked how his wife would say the two acted like 12-year-olds when they got together. He was consistently impressed with Duddy’s ability to remember every El Morro student’s name.

“Chris was always the friend you could count on for advice, a laugh, and having fun with,” Duran said.

Duddy loved to golf and was a huge fan of the Angels and the Chargers, Duran said.

“I know our hearts are broken and have holes in them from his loss but remember our hearts will always be filled with all the amazing memories he left us,” Duran said.

In true surfer fashion, Duran closed his speech by asking the audience to stand and yell “sup dude!”

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