Laguna Beach offers fond farewell to Arnold Hano

Stephen Hano speaks at a celebration of life for his father Arnold, Village Laguna’s first president, on March 12 at Neighborhood Congregational Church. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Arnold Hano wished to be remembered as a writer.

But after his 99 years, Hano was eulogized Saturday for much more than his world-renowned book “A Day in The Bleachers”—Village Laguna’s first president, environmentalist, civil rights activist, Peace Corps volunteer, father, and husband to his wife Bonnie for 75 years.

Mourners packed Bridge Hall at Neighborhood Congregational Church, prompting event organizers to squeeze in several more chairs. Multiple people still lined the walls to hear the speakers who were led by Arnold’s son, Stephen Hano, who attempted to play the last voicemail he received from his dad but decided to read a transcript after some technical difficulties.

“I’m going to run out of time soon, very soon,” Hano said in the Oct. 7, 2021 recording. Hano died on Oct. 24—a little more than two weeks later. He never lost the wit and brutal honesty he was known for as the author of at least 26 books and over 500 articles.

“My favorite memories of dad revolve around cigars,” Stephen Hano said. “I always tried to find the longest and biggest ones. Why? The longer and bigger they were, the longer we would talk.”

Bonnie Hano, whom Arnold called “The Tiny One,” sat in a wheelchair in the front row, comforted by family members on Saturday. Stephen Hano remarked she was tiny only in stature.

Audience members packed Bridge Hall during the Celebration of Life for Arnold Hano on March 12. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Councilmember Toni Iseman, Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen, Laguna Beach writer Jean Hastings Ardell, and local business owner Larry Ulvestad were among the other featured speakers who eulogized Hano. Laguna Beach resident Gary LeFebvre also read a statement by former mayor Bob Gentry who was unable to make the trip from Hawaiian home.

“Before Wikipedia there was Arnold,” Iseman said about her long-time friend. For decades, Hano was the brain trust of modern Laguna Beach history. The diehard San Francisco Giants fan also had a photographic memory for baseball statistics, Iseman added.

Councilmember Toni Iseman speaks at a celebration of life for Arnold Hano, Village Laguna’s first president, on March 12 at Neighborhood Congregational Church. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

“I don’t know if Arnold was ever mad at you,” she said recalling a city council vote Hano opposed years ago. “He accused me of voting that way because the owner of that particular business was handsome. We managed to get past that.”

After getting elected to city council for the first time in 2012, Whalen received an invitation from Hano to meet at his home.

“As you would expect Arnold impressed upon me that I had been entrusted with a great responsibility to keep Laguna the beautiful place that it is and talked to me about the qualities he had so valued and fought for over the years,” he said.

Whalen admired that Hano always offered public comments in the Council Chambers with clarity, decency, and honesty. A lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, Whalen on Saturday held up his limited edition, hardbound copy of “A Day in the Bleachers”—a gift his wife Kirsten.

“Laguna Beach was Arnold’s home field and he had a hall of fame career,” Whalen said.

Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen speaks at a celebration of life for Arnold Hano, Village Laguna’s first president, on March 12 at Neighborhood Congregational Church. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Ellen Pickler Harris, a friend of the Hanos for more than 30 years, recalled reading “A Day in the Bleachers” as a 12-year-old girl while attending baseball practices with her dad and brothers.

“We were a match from the beginning. They’ve been like family to me and my family,” Harris said. In her opinion, Hano enjoyed luck, chance, and optimism throughout his life.

“You have to be optimistic to be 99 and a half,” Harris said.

The celebration of life closed with a screening of the short documentary film “Celebrating the Life of Arnold Hano” by filmmaker Jon Leonoudakis. The film opens to the sound of a typewriter clacking away and covers Hano’s life of diverse accomplishments.

As Laguna Beach enters an election season that will revolve around whether the public should have a vote on certain development projects, attendees took away some parting words from the man who spearheaded the campaign to preserve what is now Main Beach Park.

“What you’ve got here is perfect. Don’t screw it up!” Hano said.

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