Six honored for work in community


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

palette program.

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

the project.

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

speaking English.

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.


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.