By Michelle Rice Doherty, Special to the Independent
Marion Flora Ohanesian Rice
Dec. 13, 1937—March 10, 2015
If you drove down Catalina Street any sunny Saturday, you were bound to catch a glimpse of one of Marion Rice’s signs pointing the way to another fabulous garage sale. Marion’s well-known sales were among the best places to be in Laguna Beach. In front of her yellow bungalow, built in 1917, you’d browse ornate collectibles or find that classic LP. But you soon realized you weren’t there for the sale. You became part of the neighborhood as you chatted with Marion, watching friends, young and old, wave on their way to the beach. You marveled at the activity that surrounded this inviting woman who knew practically everyone in town.
Perhaps you barely knew her, but when she asked “How ‘bout a cup of coffee?” you readily accepted. Wherever you were headed that morning no longer seemed important.
Marion, who passed away March 10, at 77 years old, grew up in Watertown, Mass., where she was fun-loving from an early age, often organizing social gatherings and adventurous outings. In her teens, yearning to be at the center of action, she landed a job as a disc jockey for the local radio station. She later reminisced with fondness upon this carefree time in her life.
Marion attended Mount Auburn School of Nursing in the late 1950s, where she met some of her dearest, lifelong friends. She also met her future husband, Edward Kitchen, during this time, and they were married in 1957. By 26, she was the mother of four.
In 1969, Marion boldly packed up all babes and flew west to begin a new life in California.
She, her new husband, Arthur Rice, and her children, Edward, Bradley, William, Lynda, and soon-to-be-born Michelle, moved to Laguna Beach in the summer of 1970. Although she longed for family in the east, Marion lived in her beloved Laguna for almost 45 years.
In 1985, she found new life as “grandma,” enjoying her grandson, Brendan. She looked forward to summers he’d spend with her, which were some of the happiest of her years. Childlike, herself, she brought humor and playfulness into his life and an enduring bond of love.
As the very hearth around which her family revolved, she bound them together in rich tradition and a lasting sense of home.
But Marion’s “family” reached well beyond the bounds of her household. As friend and second mom to many, her home became known as “Hotel Catalina.” Her brother, Roger, often teased her regarding the “eclectic” characters he’d encounter there. She celebrated people’s eccentricities as they, too, cherished hers.
In latter years, Marion volunteered with the Chamber of Commerce, American Legion Auxiliary, and the Exchange Club, where she participated in such landmark events as the Patriots Day Parade, Hospitality Night, and Pancake Breakfast. She also enjoyed staging productions at No Square Theatre and judging high school shows on the MACY Awards panel.
Among her favorite memories, she’d recall with a beaming grin, were those early mornings she’d spend teaching burly firemen how to make pancakes “just right.”
Former Chamber director Sande St. John professes, “She was my right hand for over 20 years and the most loving, giving, caring person to all who knew her.”
Also a much-loved member of Laguna Church by the Sea, Pastors Jay Grant and Jeff Tacklind, who officiated her memorial service on March 29, express heartache on behalf of the congregation. “I am deeply saddened over this loss,” says Grant. Tacklind affirms, “I, for one, will miss that twinkle in her eye, like she was always up to something. Whatever it was, I wanted to be in on it. She had such life and joy in the flash of her smile that brought something more out of each one of us.”
She possessed paradoxical characteristics, too. As a behind-the-scenes team player, she often turned out the leader of the show. She coveted old-fashioned values while being an original thinker. Marion, unassuming and accepting of all, embodied what it meant to “live and let live.”
If there was an adventure to be had, Marion was game. Whether riding horses on dude ranches or trekking Thai jungles, she inspired others’ risk-taking. Her cousin Linda reminisces, “She talked me into doing things I never would’ve done without her. I saw so much because of her.”
Marion will be sorely missed.
On sunny Saturdays, Catalina Street is quieter. We still look for signs to her house, brimming with collectors, family, and passerby, soon-to-be called “friend.”
She left an indelible mark on the world.
A week before her passing, she placed a note in her son’s pocket expressing, “I’ll love you more than you will ever know.”
We love you, Marion, more than you will ever know.
Rest in peace, precious one.
The author is Marion Rice’s daughter.