The Laguna Playhouse is celebrating its 90th anniversary and outstanding contributors to the theater's financial and artistic stature are being honored at special events throughout the year.
Saturday was Vern Spitaleri's turn.
Patriot, publisher, patron of the arts, parent — Vern Spitaleri has done it all and he's done a lot of it in Laguna Beach.
The former Laguna News Post publisher served as president of some of Laguna's most prestigious organizations, including the Laguna Moulton Playhouse.
"Anyone who has sat in the balcony should say thanks to Vern tonight," said theater General Manager Karen Wood.
However, Spitaleri's service to the Playhouse during the expansion to the Broadway location is but one reason he was honored.
Spitaleri served as president of the Laguna Beach Boys Club, Friends of the Library, the local group that morphed into Opera Pacific, the Afghan Amity Society, the Laguna Beach Historical Society and the Emerald Bay Assn., where he lives with his wife, Cherry, and raised their sons, Marc, Eric and Kris and daughter, Lynn — not to mention a menagerie of animals.
He also served on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce, Main Beach Committee, Main Beach Park Foundation, Citizen Advisory Committee, South Coast Medical Center when it was South Coast Hospital and the Festival of Arts.
Spitaleri was honored as the 1996 Patriot of the Year in recognition of his military service in World War II, in which he received three Purple Hearts and a Presidential Unit Citation.
His family was at the Playhouse to hear the tribute paid to him on Saturday: Cherry, their daughter, their sons, daughter-in-law Michelle and granddaughter Gabrielle.
"I loved the book," said Jane Hanauer, owner of Laguna Books in the Old Pottery Place. "I am going to get a new copy."
Also in the audience: former Mayor Cheryl Kinsman and son Nicholas, 90th anniversary honorary chairs Jim and Suzanne Mellor, Leslie and outgoing Laguna College of Art & Design President Dennis Power, Friends of the Laguna Beach Library President and a member of the anniversary committee Martha Lydick and her son Chip, Joe Hanauer, Festival of Arts Event Coordinator Susan Davis, Michael Tauber and Glori Fickling.
Woman's Club Holiday Kickoff
Tarnished Treasures is one of the events that polishes Laguna's image as a caring community.
As always, the business community and the members of the Laguna Beach Woman's Club made generous donations to the club's annual fundraiser.
Whatever doesn't sell is recycled into the club's annual Low Income Family Party, at which less fortunate folks get to choose clothes, housewares, linens, art and toys.
Donations this year to the silent auction included a landscape consultation with former Mayor Ann Christoph, handmade truffles from Sandy Thornton, a painted commode from Beverly Hine, a Dennis Junka bear print, an oil painting from Lizette Chel and her mother Elizabeth, a painting of a stream bought by City Councilwoman Verna Rollinger, 10 tickets to the Pageant of the Masters from Nancy Thompson and tickets to Laguna Beach Live!, "Lagunatics" and "Mame."
Also, gift certificates from Watermarc, Sundried Tomato, Café Zoolu, the Cottage, Gigi's Bistro, Eva's Caribbean Kitchen and the Cliff; a three month membership to the Total Woman Gym, Christmas ornaments and decorations, a set of Williams Sonoma book, jewelry and two computer monitors.