Rainy skies couldn't dim the sunny smiles at the brunch Sunday to pay tribute to the 2008 Patriots Day Parade honorees.
The parade committee selected Harry Lawrence to lead the parade as grand marshal. World War II veteran Robert Meyerhof was named Patriot of the Year and hotelier Claes Anderson the Citizen of the Year. Laguna Beach High School staff picked Junior Citizens of the Year Rebekah Elizabeth Farrar and Paul Hester.
"We are so fortunate to live in town where there are so many great people to honor," said parade President Charles Quilter III, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel and a past Patriot of the Year.
The Honorees Brunch at Tivoli Terrace was the prelude to the parade, set for March 1.
It is said half of the town marches in the parade and the other half watches. The parade was originated to encourage a love of country and respect for the American flag in the city's youth.
The 2008 parade theme is "Stars and Stripes Forever," which the country has been marching to since 1896 when John Philip Sousa composed it while served as head of the U.S. Marine Corps Band.
"'Stars and Stripes Forever' was inspired by our American flag," wrote Thurston Middle School student Allison Abney, in her essay on the parade theme.
"The flag is a symbol of the unity of our country as one nation and of our independence and it reminds us of how much we fought to earn our freedom."
Abney read her winning essay to an appreciative audience at the brunch.
"We pick the one that touches our hearts," Quilter said.
The essay will be printed in the parade program that will feature cover art by Laguna Beach High School student Cole Winocur. Art teacher Peter Tiner said the cover is one of the very best in the parade's history.
Biographies of the parade's grand marshal, citizen, and patriots [junior and senior] of the year will also be featured in the program.
However, Quilter offered a preview at the brunch.
"The Citizen and the Patriot of the Year were not born in the United States, but they have really taught us a lot about being American," Quilter said.
?Andersen, who was born in Denmark, came to America as an executive chef, a graduate with honors from the Hotel and Restaurant School in his hometown of Odense. He is an award-winning member of Chaine des Rotisseuers, an international gastromy group with roots back to 1248.
He has been recognized numerous times by the Southern California Restaurant Writers for the excellence of the cuisine at the Hotel Laguna, which Andersen has owned since 1985. He is a founder of the Laguna Beach Hospitality Assn. that morphed into the Visitors and Conference Bureau, which draws thousands of tourists annually to Laguna.
But it isn't his foresight or his cooking skills that have endeared him to Lagunans.
"Over the years, Claes has been generous in providing venues for fundraisers for many of our civic organizations," Quilter said.
His community involvement includes the Laguna Playhouse, SchoolPower, Laguna Art Museum, Pageant of the Masters and the Laguna College of Art & Design.
"The fire of 1993 when 366 families lost their homes still sears memories here," Quilter said. "Many will never forget his gallant gesture in opening the doors of the Hotel Laguna to those who lost homes, even as his own home was being destroyed, along with precious family heirlooms.
"He also repeated this unselfish action in the El Nino Floods of 1998 and I happened to be a beneficiary of that.
"Claes we salute you."
Andersen chose to come to America. The 2008 Patriot of Year didn't, Quilter said.
?Robert Meyerhof was born in Germany. His father was Jewish, not a happy circumstance after Adolf Hitler came into power. Meyerhof was spirited out of the country as a teenager, first to Switzerland and then to the United States.
When World War II broke out, Meyerhof tried to enlist, but was rejected because he was technically an enemy alien.
He secured three letters of recommendation and finally was "voluntarily inducted" into the U.S. Army. Like many Bavarians, Meyerhof learned to ski at an early age.
The army put this ability to good use, assigning him to teach skiing to troops which were to become the famed 10th Mountain Division.
Meyerhof later trained as a medic.
He was deployed with the 10th's 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment to Italy. In its 114-day battle up the spine of the Appenines, the 10th Division scored significant success against the German divisions, but the cost was horrific: 992 killed and 4,154 wounded.
Meyerhof was awarded the Bronze Star and the Combat Medical Badge for his actions in the bloody campaign.
After Germany surrendered, Meyerhof's division was scheduled for duty in the Pacific, but the war ended before it was deployed.
Meyerhof was demobilized and used his GI Bill to attend UC Berkeley where he earned a degree in architecture. He has lived with his family in Laguna Beach since 1981, although they owned a summer house here since 1965.
"We salute you for coming to the United States under difficult circumstances and serving it gallantly," Quilter said.
?Harry Lawrence, who was previously honored as the Citizen of the Year in 1981, also served in the military in World War II and easily could qualify for Patriot of the Year honors, Quilter said.
Lawrence enlisted in the U. S. Navy shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked, leaving his bride, the late Maxine West.
He first served as a petty officer in naval intelligence, tracking tuna clippers, but his talents were soon recognized and he was tapped for officer candidate school. Upon completion of the training and a course in ship handling, Lawrence was put in command of an LCI-329 "” an amphibious ship with a crew of 32 that could transport 225 Marines. He made 22 landings in the Pacific, including Guadalcanal and Bougainville.
In 1945, Lawrence returned to the United States for more training and served as first lieutenant on a newly commissioned attack cargo ship, the USS Marquette. He was still in the Pacific when the war ended.
He returned home and wound up in Laguna Beach in 1947 where the Lawrences bought Warren Imports and became acknowledged experts in Asian art, antiques and culture.
His civic activities are legendary.
"There are not enough pages in the program to list Harry's accomplishment and service to the community," Quilter said.
Highlights include founding the Beautification Council and convincing fellow Laguna Playhouse board members to build a new theater next to the Festival of Arts grounds, for which he co-signed for the loan.
"He was in the forefront of the effort that created Main Beach Park," Quilter said. "He also was a leader in getting South Coast Hospital "” now Medical Center "” built in 1969.
"Over the past 60 years, Harry Lawrence has done much to make Laguna Beach the special place it is and so today, it is fitting that we honor him as our grand marshal."