‘Everybody Knew Him’ : Stunned Crowd of 1,600 Bids Goodby to Slain Teacher

Times Staff Writer

More than 1,600 people joined in an emotional memorial service Tuesday in North Hollywood to honor a longtime Grant High School teacher and senior class adviser who was slain in front of his home last week.

Present and past Grant students, many of them friends who had not seen each other in years, attended the service at Temple Beth Hillel, embracing and exchanging stories about Hal Arthur, who had taught history and government at the Van Nuys school since 1961.

“Immeasurable is the hurt, and immense, immense is the loss,” Rabbi James Kaufman said during the service. He said Arthur was the man who in the early 1960s first encouraged him to become a rabbi.

Police said Tuesday that they still had no suspect or motive in the slaying of Arthur, 60, who was gunned down Friday morning while leaving his Sherman Oaks home for school.


Arthur’s longtime friend and colleague, Harlan Barbanell, said students of the slain teacher can be found on “every street in this part of the San Fernando Valley.”

Grant’s 1968 prom queen, Melinda Diner, said she recently had dinner with Arthur at a local restaurant “and, my God, people were coming up saying, ‘Do you remember me, Mr. Arthur?’ Everybody knew him. He was like an Ozzie and Harriet kind of counselor.”

In a hourlong series of eulogies by friends and relatives, Arthur was described as an energetic man; a lover of travel, good food and good drink; someone passionate about his profession who cared about his students. People filled every seat at the temple and stood in the aisles and doorways. Many cried. One boy fainted during the service.

“He was the prototype of the good, caring teacher,” said Wayne Johnson, president of United Teachers-Los Angeles, the district’s teachers union. Also attending were Los Angeles school Supt. Leonard Britton and school board President Roberta Weintraub, who represents the East Valley.


Andrew Plotkin, Grant’s senior class president in 1987, said he grew close to Arthur while traveling with him and 30 students during one of the summer trips to Europe that Arthur organized.

“Some of the best times I’ve ever had were with him in Europe, drinking together in bars and talking like friends,” Plotkin said.

Plotkin and others interviewed at the service said they still cannot imagine who would want to harm Arthur. Those who knew the teacher said they are still in shock.

Michael Tolan, Arthur’s cousin, said during the service that the killing is another example of the need for stricter gun control laws. “There’s not enough anger being expressed here,” he said.

Arthur is survived by his wife, Virginia, and three sons, Jason, Michael and Jeffery.

Senior class officers at Grant have scheduled a memorial service for Arthur at the school at 1 p.m. Thursday. They have also started a Hal Arthur Memorial Fund.