Six overachievers will be honored this month by the Laguna Beach
branch of the American Association of University Women.
Iris Adam, Marsha Bode, Julia Johnson, Jeanette Merrilees, Irma
Ronses and Marilyn S. Thomas will be recognized for their
contributions to our community at the annual Laguna Beach Leadership
Dinner, set for Oct. 21 at Tivoli Too.
“These women are just outstanding,” said Carol Reynolds, who
started the recognition dinners four years ago.
Adam will be honored for her 13 years of service on the Laguna
Beach Arts Commission, during which she oversaw the city’s holiday
She is an exhibitor at Art-A-Fair and its landlord. Adam and her
husband mortgaged their home and everything else they owned to buy
the property when the owner canceled the festival’s lease.
Adam participates in the Sawdust Festival’s annual Studio Art Walk
and she is a founding member of Laguna Outreach for Community Arts,
which brings art into the schools.
Bode has earned her stripes in community service.
She managed the Episcopal Service Alliance center in South Laguna,
serving lunch everyday for 20 to 30 homeless people. She started the
Adopt-A-Family holiday program for low-income families, which gives
food and presents to 250 adults and children annually with the help
of the Assistance League of Laguna Beach, the Laguna Beach Resource
Center and the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club, of which she served as
president for two years.
Bode was the director of the Laguna Fire Relief Coalition and is a
member of the Laguna Beach Beautification Council. She has served on
the city’s Affordable Housing and Human Affairs and Recreations
committees and as a Vision Laguna facilitator.
She manages the Hortense Miller Gardens. Her hobby is a two-acre
orchard in Vista.
Johnson will be honored for her contributions to education.
She started the Sunshine Readers program with her daughter Candace
and was in the National Charity League, a mother/daughter
philanthropic organization. The program now has 200 teenage members
trained by Johnson to go to libraries, hospitals and homes to read to
children, the elderly, the handicapped, pregnant women and the
An actress with film and television credits, Johnson was persuaded
by “Read-Aloud Handbook” author Jim Trelease to give up her role on
“The Young and the Restless” to develop the program. She recently
received a letter of commendation from Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante for
Johnson has taught video production, public speaking and drama at
St. Margaret’s Middle and High School and as a LEARN summer program.
She gives workshops on pubic speaking and was the keynote speaker for
the Orange County Children’s Librarians.
She has also made 300 short films for the Korean government on
Merrilees, known for her dedication to the environment, was a
leader of the coalition that fought to preserve Crystal Cove from
development as a resort.
A resident of Laguna Beach since 1973, Merrilees helped the city
acquire the ocean bluff area that is now the Crescent Bay Viewpoint
Park. She opposed the Smithcliffs project based on the loss of public
access to Emerald Bay beach and the massive re-grading of the
blufftop to create the lots. The required coastal access remains in
contention, she said.
Merrilees, a docent for the Crystal Cove State Park, leads monthly
tide pool tours.
Ronses is a graduate of the La Playa Center at St. Mary’s
Episcopal Church, which teaches English to Laguna’s Spanish-speaking
residents. She served there as liaison to the Spanish-speaking
community, as she did for three years with the PTA. She continues to
help La Playa with the sale of tamales on Hospitality Night.
She is a board member of the Cross Cultural Task Force and manages
the Day Labor Center on Laguna Canyon Road , which she helped
reorganize from chaos to a well-regulated service to the community.
Thomas is the volunteer’s volunteer. So far this year, she has
contributed 4,500 hours to various projects.
She was honored this year as Volunteer of the Year for her
services to the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.
Thomas taught at the children’s lab there, took exhibits in the
institute’s Ocean in Motion van to children with special needs in
schools throughout Southern California, developed curriculum, wrote
songs for the K-3 program and performed them on her autoharp.
She also worked with her husband, Les, and Arts Commissioner
Emeritus Doris Shields to establish Concerts in the Park Inc., which
partners with the city in the free concert series.
Thomas coordinated the police department volunteers, which began
as the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and became the Citizens on
Patrol. She was trained by the John Walsh organization in how to keep
children safe. She has taught safety in Laguna Beach schools and
tutored in the El Morro Elementary School bilingual program.
Oct. 12 is the deadline for dinner reservations. The cost is $35
per person, $15 tax-deductible. Reservations for tables of eight will
get priority seating. For more information, call 497-0986.
STATE OF THE STATE
Laguna Beach High School students David Bean and Gianella Smith
were among the eight high school juniors selected by American Legion
Post 222 for the Boys and Girls State citizenship training programs
held annually in Sacramento.
The post hosted a dinner recently at the Veterans Memorial
Building on Legion Street to honor the students and their families.
Smith’s parents, Mary Lou and Ben, and David’s mother, Irene, and
stepfather, Brian, attended.
Teachers and counselors select the candidates. Representatives of
the post and the Women’s Auxiliary chose the winners.
The week in Sacramento coincided with finals, so David had to take
his tests a week early.
David is a member of the California Republican League Associated
Students and paged this summer for Congressman Christopher Cox.
All the Orange County “staters” traveled to Sacramento by bus.
Sixty-five boys and 31 girls represented the county.
“It was fun getting to know the others,” David said.
He already knew Gianella. They are co-editors of the Brush and
Palette, Laguna Beach High School’s award-winning newspaper, which,
by the way, will keep its traditional name despite the change in the
school nickname from Artists to Breakers.
Gianella learned from a school counselor that she was a candidate
for Girls State.
* OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline
Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box
248, Laguna Beach, 92652, hand-deliver to 384 Forest Ave., Suite 22;
call 494-4321 or fax 494-8979.