Wilson gave his heart and soul to making Goat Hill a bona fide
city. He died Jan. 4 of congestive heart failure. He was 86.
Wilson persevered in getting Costa Mesa incorporated and showed
the same determination in his final days. Wilson told the Pilot in
December 2003 that he wanted to make it to Christmas so he could
spend the day with four generations of his family. The Wilsons bought
their first home in Costa Mesa in 1948 on East Flower Street.
Their home soon became a hotbed of activism: those who wanted to
see the area become a city met there for brainstorming sessions.
Incorporation supporters triumphed on June 29, 1953. That same year,
Wilson was appointed to the Planning Commission and served as its
chairman. In 1960, he was elected to the City Council, where he
served for 16 years, including three stints as mayor. During his
political life, he spearheaded the building of the first City Hall,
helped bring the Costa Mesa Golf and Country Club to the city and
aided the acquisition of the land for Fairview Park.
The Ritz founder died Jan. 17 at 74 after a heart attack and
stroke. Prager was a culinary genius and philanthropist whose name is
practically synonymous with fine dining. T
he celebrated restaurateur made his mark in Newport Beach, when he
opened the Ritz Restaurant and Garden. Prager escaped from Nazi
Germany with his family when he was a child and lived in Shanghai,
China before coming to the United States. Once here, he worked at the
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he honed his talent for cooking. On the
West Coast, he worked at Scandia restaurant and then managed the Five
Crowns in Corona del Mar. Prager found success in many of his
business ventures, opening restaurants in Irvine and Westminster. In
1977, he opened the Ritz in a tiny storefront in Newport Beach.
After its initial success -- credited to the delicious food,
elegant ambience and Prager’s incredible attention to detail, a
regular customer convinced him to move to its present location in
The longtime Daily Pilot advertising director worked at the paper
for 21 years, helping to return it to profitability through her
strong character, leadership, creativity and dedication. She died
Feb. 26 at 51.
As the advertising director, Oetting handled people with the ease
of a seasoned psychiatrist -- be it her superiors, those who worked
under her or the advertisers who bought space in the paper, said the
paper’s publisher, Tom Johnson. Oetting joined the paper as a legal
advertising clerk in 1982.
She was promoted to legal advertising supervisor and later headed
that department. But it was 1998, when she became advertising
director, that her leadership qualities sparkled, Johnson said.
The former Newport mayor died March 18 at 85 from complications
from Parkinson’s disease. Ryckoff was an advocate for slow growth and
the environment. He was elected to the City Council in 1972 and
served until 1980 -- a critical period for the city. It was during
this time that Newport Beach was drafting its first general plan,
which Ryckoff helped steer toward slow-growth priorities. The 1970s
were also a time of battles to preserve the Back Bay and to slow
expansion of John Wayne Airport -- causes that Ryckoff was involved
Owner of the Dover Drive home that drew neighbors’ ire since the
‘60s because of junk strewn on his lawn and roof, Thomassen died at
Hoag Hospital on April 14 at age 83.
He had been battling lymphoma and other ailments while city
officials were cracking down on the numerous code violations at his
home, including large quantities of debris on the lawn and tires on
More than 1,000 people stood solemnly, almost silent, as a
flag-draped coffin containing the body of 22-year-old Win’E was
carried to the front of the auditorium at Calvary Chapel in May.
Family and friends came to pay tribute to Win’E, a longtime Costa
Mesa resident and U.S. Army specialist who died in action in Tikrit,
Iraq, on May 1 after the truck he was driving hit an improvised bomb
the previous day. Family and friends remembered him as a friendly,
supportive and always smiling person.
He was the first salaried president and chief operations officer
of the Orange County Performing Arts Center. He died on May 6 in his
Corona del Mar home. He was 70. Kendrick was first hired by the
center in 1985. He retired in 1993. Kendrick was involved in getting
the center’s new cultural complex on its feet, including planning,
hiring employees, fundraising and marketing. He worked for the
Washington Post from 1959 to 1977, holding a variety of editing
positions. Before joining the performing arts center, he was director
of operations at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in
Washington, D.C., for nine years.
Even as the end of her life loomed just around the corner, the
former Newport Beach mayor kept looking straight ahead, eyeing the
future with the anticipation of a young woman with her whole life yet
to live. Plummer died the morning of May 13 from cancer she knew
would be fatal. She was 79. Plummer grew up in Newport Beach and was
living on Newport Island when she won a seat on the City Council in
1980, representing West Newport and the Balboa Peninsula. At the
time, developments were cropping up in the undeveloped parts of town,
and city officials were cutting deals with developers to require them
to build parks and other infrastructure. But those parks and
improvements were all going into the newer parts of town, and Plummer
believed older West Newport should enjoy some of the improvements,
too. In 12 years on the council, which included a term as mayor from
1989 to 1990, Plummer also helped get restrooms built on the beach in
West Newport as well as bus shelters and street improvements
throughout the area.
ARNOLD O. BECKMAN
Hundreds of admirers gathered in June at the Richard Nixon Library
to say goodbye to the intellectual businessman and philanthropist,
who died May 18 at the age of 104. Nearly 400 gathered in the library
garden as speaker after speaker shared favorite memories of the
esteemed man, a longtime resident of Corona del Mar. Beckman was an
inventor, scientist and Renaissance man, whose name graces buildings
at universities throughout the country.
Newport lost its “Lifeguard Larry,” Larry Capune, known for
paddling down U.S. coasts and showing movies at Dover Shores in the
summer. Capune died May 25 after months of battling cancer. He was
61. As a tribute, the Dover Shores community gathered to dedicate to
their lifeguard the 150-foot stretch of beach where Capune had kept a
watchful eye on swimmers, children and their parents. It was dubbed
“Larry’s Beach,” a fitting, albeit premature memorial to the man
residents say made an indelible mark on their lives.
Reynosa was looking forward to the birth of his and his wife
Dinora’s first child when Rafael, a Marine, was killed by a car bomb
explosion in Iraq on May 29. Patti Lanni, a Dover Shores resident who
read Reynosa’s story in the Daily Pilot, couldn’t go about her life
without thinking of it. She talked to her friends and neighbors about
it, and finally, eight of them pitched in to buy a few things for
He transformed the Santa Ana Army Air Base into Orange Coast
College in less time than it takes to carry a baby. And he did it
with the help of amateurs -- 35 students, who were not trained in
carpentry and were paid only 60 cents an hour. Albers, a 61-year
Costa Mesa resident, died May 30. He was 84. Hired as the college’s
carpenter on Feb. 1, 1948, Albers was given only 8 1/2 months to get
the campus ready for classes in the fall. He and his crew turned
barracks into classrooms, offices and lecture halls. One of the
biggest challenges was turning the air base service club into a
college gym. That gym was used by OCC athletes for 13 years. It was moved to Vanguard University in 1962, where it is still in use.
Albers worked for OCC for 33 years, until his retirement in 1981. He
was campus carpenter for the first year, then served as director of
maintenance and operations for 32 years.
HOLLY HALSTED BALTHIS
She was like the “Queen Mum” for Rose Queens. It makes sense. She
was the oldest surviving Rose Queen. And for 73 years, Rose Queens
looked up to Balthis as their glorious predecessor. Balthis died on
July 30 of natural causes at her home in Laguna Beach. She was 95.
She was originally from Los Angeles, moved to Newport Beach in 1957
with her husband, Frank Balthis, a Los Angeles County Superior Court
judge. The couple lived in Bayshores but moved to Laguna Beach in
GEORGE HARRY YARDLEY III
A Newport Harbor High graduate who went on to become an NBA star,
Yardley died Aug. 12 at his Newport Beach home with all of his family
members at his bedside. The NBA Hall of Famer would have been 76 in
November. The gregarious Yardley, who stood 6 feet 5 and never did
anything without flair, succumbed to a battle with Lou Gehrig’s
disease. Yardley’s career in the NBA lasted just seven years, and he
was named an All-Star six times as he dominated on and off the floor
with his spectacular play and constant upbeat nature. He left the
game at the young age of 31 for two reasons. First, he wanted to come
home. He promised his wife that they would settle in California once
the children reached school age. Second, even though an All-Star, he
was convinced he could make a better living for his family as a
businessman, thanks to an engineering education at Stanford, where he
was a walk-on basketball player for the Indians aside from his
A prominent philosopher of the 20th century and a UC Irvine
professor of philosophy, Derrida died Oct. 8 of pancreatic cancer at
the age of 74. Derrida, founder of the school of deconstructionism,
was a UCI distinguished professor of philosophy, French and
comparative literature since 1986. He was the author of more than 50
books on subjects such as philosophy, literature, Marxism and
critical legal studies. According to a short bio on the university’s
website, Derrida has influenced philosophical debates throughout the
world and paved the way for new ideas in critical theory.
A high school youth pastor at the Newport Mesa Christian Center,
Janzen died suddenly on Nov. 13. He was 42. Janzen, an Irvine
resident, had been involved in youth ministry for the last 20 years.
ROBERT ‘BOB’ BARKER
A veteran Orange County newsman who worked at the Daily Pilot for
more than two decades as a reporter and copy editor, Barker died Nov.
18 after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 73. Barker began his
journalism career as a sportswriter in 1957 at the Garden Grove
Evening News, later doing stints at a number of newspapers as a copy
editor, managing editor and reporter covering county and city
government, mostly in Huntington Beach. Barker was known around
Huntington Beach City Hall as much for his hard-nosed,
muckraking-style exposes as he was for his softhearted features,
which he filed for the Pilot for more than 20 years.
DEX AND SANDY
Scientists in December examined and buried the second of two
bottlenose dolphins that inhabited Newport Harbor since July.
Biologists believe the dolphin -- named Dex -- died Nov. 23, which
means it floated around in the bay for more than a week before it was
found. Marine mammal remains usually have a 48-hour window before
they’re considered useless for examination, but the dolphin was well
preserved by frigid bay waters, experts said. Scientists and students
took samples of the dolphin’s brain, blubber, muscle, kidney, liver
and skin and hope to get them analyzed for meningitis and priority
pollutants, including dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, commonly known
as DDT, and metals. OCC’s marine science students took duplicate
samples, so they can conduct their own research, and took turns
assisting their professor with the necropsy procedure by cutting away
muscle tissue from bone. The findings could also shine light on the
death of Sandy, thought to be an older and bigger dolphin, found dead
in late September but too badly decomposed to determine why it died.