By Jack Casey, Special to the Independent
John Hedges, my dear friend from Laguna Beach, left us Saturday, March 14. Although I live across the country in upstate New York, our families have shared much over the past 40 years. His beloved Barbara asked if I would write something to honor his memory, and I offer these recollections.
In the summer of 1972, I joined college friends to paint houses in Laguna Beach, and we bought our supplies from John Hedges Paint & Glass on Forest Avenue. Walking into his shop was a step back into old Laguna. In his fisherman’s cap, moustache, pipe and twinkle in his eye, he often shared his experiences of growing up in Laguna. You knew your day just took a turn for the better.
He opened his store at 7:30 each morning by hanging the stars and stripes above the door. There was a palpable glow in his store that’s impossible to capture but we all felt it.
Hedges harkened back to a simpler time. His parents and sister, Harriet, moved to Laguna Beach in 1934, where his father built beach cottages when Laguna was a sleepy artist colony. He joined the Navy the day after he graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 1944 and fought for his country in the South Pacific. In 1955, he opened his store on Forest Avenue, across the street from what was then the Laguna Beach Lumber Mill. He owned and operated his store for 35 years. Even the family dog, Otis Bear, was drawn to the store atmosphere, unless he was sneaking off to the beach or begging for a bone from a butcher at Acord’s Market.
For the summer of ‘73, Hedges invited me to work with him in his store. I loved it. Each day was like an old movie with unexpected twists and odd characters. It was the best job I ever had. Years later, John and Barbara visited me in Edinburgh when I was in graduate school. He was a world-class dart player, and we held the dartboard at Deacon Brodie’s Pub on the Royal Mile for three hours to the amazement of the cynical Scots.
Hedges closed the door to his store for the last time in 1990. However, new doors were opened as he pursued his many interests. He and Barbara spent the following years enjoying travelling and lawn bowling. He also enjoyed landscape painting, vegetable gardening and restoring his ‘38 Ford.
Hedges is survived by his wife, Barbara; son, John; daughter, Karen; sister, Harriet; grandson, John; granddaughter-in-law Nicole and one great- grandson.
Jack Casey is a novelist, playwright and songwriter who lives in Troy, N.Y.