Remembering Dick Jahraus, Fanny Lum
On a misty drizzly Sunday last week we said goodbye to two very different people, remembered and honored by a lot of the same people.
Fanny Lum worked in the front office at Laguna Beach High School. Her daughter Lorna was my classmate at Thurston and LBHS, cheerleader, on student council, a homecoming princess.
I was living a Huck Finn life at the time, helped out by local families after my single mom who was raising me died. There was really no adult I answered to…except Mrs. Lum! She was a tiny lady, but a woman of great stature, proud of her Chinese heritage.
I was a high achiever in school, but incorrigible. All it took was a word or two from Mrs. Lum, even just a glance, to let me know one adult cared enough to set some boundaries for a kid who needed it. For me and a lot of kids over the years, she was a moral center of gravity in our lives.
Dick Jahraus was a giant of a man, but somehow still even larger than life. His daughter Jenny was a playmate of mine in Divers Cove in the ‘50s, and later also a classmate at Thurston and LBHS.
I remember Dick as King of the Beach, not because he tried to be, he just was! He would row his boat out through big surf, come back having speared enough fish to feed whoever showed up for that night’s cook out on the sand.
In the 1930s he and my uncle, Bob Hills, used to go fishing in Dick’s boat or spear fishing inside the reefs, not just in summer, all year long. My grandparents lived on savings in a small, but magical shingle cottage on the rim of upper Boat Canyon and my uncle gave most of what he earned to his parents. Dick was from a prosperous family with a big house on the bluff. Let’s just say Bob seldom had as good a day as Dick, but Dick made sure my uncle went home with enough lobster, sea bass, halibut or abalone to put dinner on the table.
When Uncle Bob graduated from LBHS in 1942, he enlisted in the Navy and went to war, served 38 years, got promoted from enlisted seaman to lieutenant commander. We went to see him in Virginia Beach just before he died. My uncle told me memories of those carefree days before the war, when the coves of North Laguna were a private play ground for kids like he and Dick Jahraus, gave him peace at night as his time grew short.
When I was a teenager in my left wing phase, Dick used to ask me if his old friend, my Uncle Bob, “knew his nephew was a smart-ass liberal?” Then he’d smile, and wink. In a way Dick was in real life the rugged individualist and old-fashioned business baron John Wayne portrayed in the movies.
Three decades later a frail but still formidable Dick Jahraus would see me on the street and mistake me for my Uncle Bob. Eventually I stopped correcting him. It seemed to make him happy to think for a minute that his cohort from the beach back in the 1930s somehow was back in town.
Two lives well lived in a small beach town by the sea.
Howard Hills lives in Laguna with his Lura and at any given time some or all of their five children and seven grandchildren. He is a constitutional historian and author of the upcoming book “Citizens Without A State.”