Service to Honor No. 1 Laguna Beach Gadfly


This city will say goodby Saturday to its best-known gadfly, Alan Adams, a determined activist who attended every City Council meeting for 20 years until severe injuries in a November automobile accident broke that string.

Adams, 79, succumbed to those injuries a month later.

For two decades, Adams had harangued city leaders about "people issues," in particular championing more services and low-income housing for seniors.

Wearing his trademark T-shirt--with the words "I'm not a tourist, I live here" imprinted on the chest--Adams would generally lead off the public speakers at the meeting as he commented on the first agenda item. He would often return to the podium to offer his thoughts at other points during the session as well.

"He was irascible, difficult, big-hearted and kind," said Barbara Williams-Pemberton, administrator of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Laguna Beach where Adams was a member for more than 20 years and where his memorial service will be held.

"He wasn't someone you could overlook. He cared more for the city than almost anybody else I know. It did not make him easy to live with."

Although he had become increasingly frail in the past year, Adams always mustered the strength to rail at council members about some agenda item, to chide them if they did not seem to be taking him seriously or even to poke fun at former Councilman Robert F. Gentry's mustache.

Adams persisted in saying at each meeting that any record in the "Guinness Book of World Records" was being broken "again and again" by his repeat performances.

Before to the November election, Adams had repeatedly reminded then-Mayor Ann Christoph, who was seeking reelection, and retiring council members Lida Lenney and Gentry that their days were numbered.

He was right on all counts.

Christoph was defeated in her bid to retain her seat.

But in the first meeting following the election, Adams--who had been in the automobile accident the day before--was not on hand to gloat.

When the council realized Adams had missed what would have been his 397th consecutive meeting, they unanimously granted him an honorary attendance count to keep his astounding streak intact.

But he never made it to another council session. Adams had received severe spinal injuries in the accident and died Dec. 16.

"His dedication to causes and to values is the thing that was preeminent about him," said Chris Schriner, minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

"He was one of the people who was constantly focused on what he felt were the important things in life and would not let himself get distracted or pulled off course like most of us do. He had a perceptive ability to uncover hypocrisy and double-dealing."

Gentry, who often took with good humor Adams' admonitions for a dozen years, called him "a fixture at City Hall and part of our culture and how we do business."

A retired stock broker, Adams was born in New York on June 18, 1915. Friends say he served in the Army during World War II and was seriously injured during the Battle of the Bulge.

Adams had been devoted to his wife, Helen, who died nine years to the day before his automobile accident.

Initially, Adams was taken to Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo. On Nov.30, he was transferred to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Anaheim, where he remained in intensive care until he died. Adams body has been cremated.

The memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at 429 Cypress Drive. The public is welcome.

"Alan wanted to be remembered for . . . helping people and teaching peace," said Luana Herlihy, an Arroyo Grande resident and friend of Adams, who has handled his affairs since his death. "Those were his goals."

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