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Don Angel, pioneering Times Orange County journalist, dies at 91

Don Angel in a suit smiling
Don Angel, an editorial writer for the L.A. Times Orange County edition, died Aug. 5.
(Joanne Curran Angel)

Don Angel, a longtime editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times’ Orange County edition, died of natural causes at his home in Rossmoor on Aug. 5 at age 91.

In 1963, Angel was among the first journalists hired to launch the Orange County edition as part of The Times’ strategy to expand into the region’s fast-growing suburbs and compete aggressively with local papers.

An editorial writer tasked with, among other things, endorsing politicians in a conservative area, Angel was a moderate who gave everyone a fair shake, said John Needham, a colleague.

Angel also edited the Sunday Opinion column and Letters to the Editor — “a tough and very thankless job,” Needham said.

Steve Straehley, a sports editor, said Angel was “a great journalist who knew Orange County as it grew from a suburb to a powerhouse of its own.” He made “its complicated politics easy for readers to understand,” said Straehley, who sat near Angel for a decade.

Angel was a cheerful presence in the newsroom, reliably lighthearted in stressful moments and eager to share ideas and sources with reporters coming up dry, recalled Dana Parsons, a former Times columnist.

“Don was the soul of our staff,” said Gerald Hicks, who worked with Angel in the Orange County newsroom for two decades.

Born in 1930 to a tightknit family of Jewish immigrants, Angel grew up in Brooklyn playing stickball and throwing pennies from the stoops of his friends’ brownstones, according to his wife, Joanne.

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He enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school in 1950 and was deployed to Korea soon after.

After marrying his first wife, Jane Angel, in 1951, he moved to California, where he sold insurance and wrote for the Costa Mesa Lions Club newsletter.

In 1959, an editor at the Orange County Register invited him to try out for the paper, launching a journalistic career that included a prestigious Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford.

He married his second wife, Joanne Curran Angel, in 1988 and became a father to his fifth child at age 70.

During Angel’s three decades at The Times, the Orange County bureau expanded to at least 200 staffers. It was the newspaper’s first and largest regional edition, with a daily circulation of nearly 200,000.

With the rise of the internet and decline in print readership, The Times stopped printing suburban editions, and the bureau withered.

After retiring in 1995, Angel worked as a consultant for the paper for seven more years. He served on the board of the Lung Assn. of Orange County, volunteered for the California Highway Patrol and read to children at his son’s elementary school as part of The Times’ Reading by 9 program.

He attended poker nights in which, Times colleagues say, no one ever made or lost too much money.

Angel remained an avid Times reader, as did his wife. Unwilling to part with the morning paper long enough to share it, the two kept separate print subscriptions.

Angel is survived by his wife; children Debbie, Sherry, Jill, Dan and Robert; as well as six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


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