Laguna said goodbye this year to residents and community contributors who touched our lives and will long be remembered in our town.
Jazz musician Roger Shew, of Fullerton, who taught music at the high school, Thurston Middle School and two community college campuses, died Aug. 30.
He was recognized for innovation in the classroom in 2013 when he received the California All-Star Teachers award. Students Margaux Reckard and Jhani Randhawa, 2009 graduates who studied with Shew, nominated him for the award. “The fact that he knew about all of the activities that his students were involved in, which subjects they liked and what their families were like and if they took music lessons demonstrated to me that he was invested in his students and invested in their growth,” said Reckard.
Many will miss Glen Arthur Arentz, the smiling parking attendant at Wells Fargo who held the door and always had a kind word for the customers. He died at age 53 on Jan. 11.
Andy Leaf, confined to a wheel chair since age 18, died Dec. 21, 2015. He was one of the longest surviving victims of spinal cord injury in the United States. Leaf founded the nonprofit SEED Business Institute in 1995, which provided advisory support to 120 small businesses started by people with disabilities.
Carl Schwarz was known to many as a father figure, a mentor and a friend advocating for causes such as Save Laguna Canyon, LagunAquatics and the Cross Cultural Committee. He served as an elected trustee to the Laguna Beach Unified School District for three terms from 1981-1994, two as president. He died July 25.
Not only an artist and art teacher, Bob McMenomy involved himself in Village Laguna and the school board upon arriving in Laguna in 1970 and later donated time to Friendship Shelter. He died June 14.
A devoted philanthropist, Carl Post, a Laguna Beach resident of nearly 45 years, supported an extensive list of charities including Guide Dogs for the Blind, Laguna Presbyterian Church, the former South Coast Medical Center, the Boys and Girls Club and the Susi Q Senior Center. After the 1991 death of their 21-year-old son, Brandon, “we couldn’t breathe for six months. There was no pleasure to be had in life,” recounted Post in an interview. Post and his wife Cheryl turned their grief into grassroots action, founding Brandy’s Friends, one of Laguna’s first outpatient treatment centers for adolescent drug and alcohol abuse. They also established an ongoing scholarship for Laguna Beach High School seniors committed to helping their peers resist the temptations of substance use. He passed away June 9 from Parkinson’s disease.
Along with her husband Marcel, Monique ran Dizz’s As Is restaurant, a local landmark located in a 1920s shingled cottage, now in its 38th year. Through the French doors, Mrs. Pitz could be found greeting guests, while her husband cooked in the kitchen. She passed away on May 3, at the age of 80.
Her son Marc died three months before, on Feb. 15, at the age of 51 from cancer. He managed the family restaurant, where he was adored by staff and customers alike, while raising a family of three children with his wife, Julie.
Arts organizations also lost key supporters this year.
Beverly and Mark Blumenfeld, a ceramicist, were founding members of the Sawdust Festival in 1968. She died April 5 at the Canyon Acres property purchased in 1975 by the couple with her husband’s sister, Nicki Grant and her husband. The two families raised their children on the compound, which contained their homes and studios. Blumenfeld and his sister continue to be Sawdust exhibitors.
Another ceramicist, Lynda W. Nicholson, died in January. She was 81. After moving to Laguna in 1976, Nicholson took pottery classes at Laguna Beach School of Art. She was a Sawdust exhibitor from 1977-1989 and Festival of Arts participant from1986-1996. She was commissioned for work by a local hotel and represented in the gift shops of the Laguna Beach and Newport Harbor museums.
Ann Webster moved to Laguna Beach in 1978 and fell in love with the Pageant of the Masters. She worked for 28 years as makeup supervisor for the Pageant, spent 15 years as an elected Festival of Arts board member and served 14 years on its scholarship committee. When she traveled she researched artwork that could possibly be re-created in the Pageant. Webster was 91 when she died on Sept. 16 at her home in Laguna Beach.
An early political activist, Douglas C. Reilly called Laguna Beach home while working in Irvine and Laguna Woods and serving a term as a Laguna planning commissioner. He was also a board member of Village Laguna, serving at various times as president and as treasurer and producing its monthly newsletter. He was an art lover and a member of Laguna Art Museum board.
Laguna College of Art and Design lost two supporters. Popular trustee Dr. John M. Smart served since 1995. “His advice and counsel were invaluable and John always could make sense of a complicated situation,” said college President Jonathan Burke. Dr. Smart died on March 19.
Terry Thomas Smith, a long time resident and LCAD trustee, chaired the college’s development and Collectors Choice committees. As a benefactor, he was instrumental in funding projects such as the Scholarship Fund. A civic activist as well, he also served on the city’s Arts Commission and volunteered for Friends of the Library and with the police department. Smith died Sept. 29 in Mission Viejo. A memorial fund in his name has been established at LCAD.