Bonnie Hano, a founding board member of Village Laguna and 2013 Citizen of the Year, died Monday. She was 95 years old.
In her failing health, Hano had been concerned whether she would live to see a March 12 celebration of life for Arnold, her husband of 75 years, said Councilmember Toni Iseman, a friend of the Hanos for 41 years. Bonnie was in the front row of the standing-room-only gathering at Neighborhood Congregational Church.
Up until the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hanos were still fixtures at city council meetings often sitting in the front row during major hearings.
“They were a force of nature together,” Iseman said. “And when he would speak, she would speak and they never say the same thing.”
Bonnie Hano was born Sept. 12, 1926, and raised in Sioux City, Iowa. She moved to New York City where she worked in publishing at Bantam Books. After his return from fighting in the Pacific theater during World War II, Arnold Hano became the company’s managing editor and the couple fell in love.
After the birth of their daughter, Laurel, Bonnie found indoor city life was too constricting for children. With Arnold enjoying success in freelance baseball writing, they opted to move to California. On a drive to San Diego, they passed through Laguna Beach and decided to stay.
Bonnie returned to college at Cal State Fullerton and qualified as a psychotherapist. She served as the city’s representative in the formation of Orange County’s first child guidance clinic. She also played a role in the founding of the Laguna Beach Free Clinic, the predecessor of the Laguna Beach Community Clinic.
“As a therapist, she had a very interesting practice. She worked with women in abusive relationships. She was very important in their lives in finding safe places to move and getting them out of bad situations,” Iseman said.
The Hanos often recalled their days sipping martinis and smoking cigarettes at the beach with friends in the 1950s, Iseman said—Laguna Beach has since banned alcohol and tobacco on the sand.
At 66 years old, Bonnie volunteered alongside Arnold for the U.S. Peace Corps and went to Costa Rica where they helped build a school. She came back with a command of the Spanish language, Iseman said.
She also served on the Laguna Beach Heritage Committee which advises the City Council on the preservation of historic structures.
“She was my big sister. It’s ironic because she was a little tiny woman,” former planning commissioner Anne Johnson said.
Johnson added that Bonnie preferred to work behind the scenes and let her husband and others stand in the public spotlight. The couple deeply appreciated the recognition as citizens of the year by the 2013 Laguna Beach Patriot’s Day Parade.
“It was nice for them to be recognized by the whole community,” Johnson said. “It was a nice gesture, especially at their age, but Bonnie never sought honors.”
Even in recent years, Iseman would often visit the Hanos’ home and find Bonnie with her MacBook on her lap. She was a frequent contributor to Democratic national campaigns and elections in other states.
“There was no question she was a Democrat but she was insightful, she was well-informed and concerned about the direction things were going,” Iseman said.
More recently, Arnold and Bonnie Hano supported a $1 million fundraising campaign to fully renovate the Laguna Beach Community Clinic.
Bonnie always managed to keep her home immaculate, never leaving a newspaper or magazine out of place despite being a voracious reader. Her memory was also extraordinary right up to the end of her life, Iseman said.
“Bonnie Hano was smart, articulate and kind. She was a lifelong defender of civil rights and a crusader for environmental protections. Her love of Laguna and passion for the village atmosphere is an example we will continue to follow,” Village Laguna president Anne Caenn wrote in an email.
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