She was 'fiercely loyal to Laguna'

Cynthia "Cindy" Frazier, who served as city editor of the Coastline Pilot for nearly eight years, has died. She was 60.

Cindy had been battling pancreatic cancer for the last year. She succumbed to her illness Wednesday morning at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills.

After working at community newspapers in the Santa Monica area, Cindy joined the Coastline Pilot in January 2005 as city editor, quickly immersing herself in the community.

She placed a strong emphasis on City Hall and arts coverage, and also wrote quirky columns about everything from taking art classes to her small roles on the community theater stage. During her tenure, she led the newspaper staff to numerous California Newspaper Publishers Assn. awards.

"Cindy was fiercely loyal to Laguna Beach," said John Canalis, who supervised Cindy as editor of Times Community News South. "She championed her staff, freelancers and columnists, and took great pride in serving as a community editor. Our entire staff is grieving."


An idyllic suburban childhood

Cindy was born in Westlake, Ohio, on June 15, 1952, according to her sister, Elizabeth "Libby" Root. She grew up in Westlake; Akron, Ohio; and Norwalk, Conn.

"She and our brother and I would play together happily a game of the imagination we called 'horses and men,'" Root recalled by email. "We always played this in our brother's room, scrunching up his chenille rug into a mountain range surrounded by Cindy's ranch with many horses and Lou's homestead, with many Army men with my family living in the mountains."

Their childhood was described as suburban and idyllic.

"She and I loved to play 'traveling Barbies,' wandering around the neighborhood, pretending the Barbie dolls were visiting in a faraway land," Root said.

Cindy graduated from Bennington College in Vermont in 1975 and later studied journalism at Cal State Northridge.


Career in news

Prior to joining to Coastline Pilot, Cindy worked at the Argonaut, which covers communities on the Westside of Los Angeles, the Palisadian-Post in Pacific Palisades, and at the Brentwood Media Group.

"When Cindy arrived, she was a longtime journalist from Santa Monica and really a neophyte when it came to Orange County news, and especially Laguna Beach," said Tony Dodero, who hired her when he edited the community papers for The Times. "But her skills as a journalist were evident from the start as she quickly immersed herself in the town and its issues and produced some compelling and interesting stories."

Aside from journalism, Cindy also worked as an assistant to the librarian in Santa Monica in the early 1980s.

"Cindy loved to read and write," her brother, Lou Frazier, said in an email. "She was good in school, I thought. She leaves a collection of work that includes novels, short stories, poems, plays and screenplays."

Cindy loved the Beatles, particularly John Lennon, and other the music from the '60s. She was greatly influenced by the Civil Rights Movement, which shaped her worldview and inspired a passion that never subsided.

"Her intellectual curiosity brought many interesting ideas and people into our lives," her sister wrote. "Her interest in the women's movement inspired my mother and all of us.

"She was always fiery when discussing injustice, which she saw in many places. She really loved exposing and solving social problems. She was going to save the world and did save bits and pieces of it over the course of her 60 years."

Cindy, who lived with her longtime partner, Sharon Gretsch, in Laguna Woods, chronicled her illnesses in her column, "From Canyon to Cove," in the pages of the Coastline Pilot, taking readers along with her to medical appointments and surgical procedures.

"Cindy would not give up," her brother said. "She fought and expected to continue fighting right to the end. Less than a week before she died, she said to me, 'I'm going to write a story about this!'"


'She was a brave warrior'

The Laguna Beach community grieved when news of Cindy's death circulated through the village and canyon.

"She was a brave warrior," Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson wrote in an email. "Up until the very end, she always thanked me for calling or visiting, no matter how difficult her situation was."

Sharbie Higuchi, marketing and public relations director for the Festival of Arts, called Cindy "a great supporter of the arts and the Laguna Beach community ... She will be deeply missed."

Those who worked with Cindy had kind words as well.

"While she cared deeply about watching City Hall, the most important job of any newspaper, Cindy also gave a great deal of attention to the little things that matter to the community's readers," Canalis said. "She treated arts coverage as importantly as crime and politics and, I think, in an arts-centered village like Laguna, that's the right way to do it."

Cindy was close friends with the advertising representative for the Coastline Pilot, Chris Mattingley of Laguna Beach.

"The world and Laguna Beach is a better place because of all the lives Cindy touched," Mattingley said.

The two were always collegial, but Cindy's illness brought them closer.

"My relationship with Cindy started on a professional level and grew to become much deeper as she began the fight against cancer," Mattingley recalled. "She was honest about her illness, and I was compassionate and willing to reach out and help."

Mattingley was impressed that Cindy found the strength to attend the recent Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, where she received a small honor for her poetry.

"She told me she was going no matter what, even though she was weak and it took all of her strength and will," Mattingley said.

Surfer and environmentalist James Pribram, a former columnist for the Coastline Pilot, said that "Cindy was like a mother to all of us who wrote for the paper. [She] taught us as much about life as our writing."

Candice Baker, a former Coastline Pilot reporter, recalled Cindy as her first newspaper editor and mentor "in this wild and crazy field."

"We covered everything from murders to landslides to MTV reality shows together," she wrote in an email. "She was as passionate for her job and for the community she served as I have ever seen in this field."

Baker, who still contributes to the paper as a freelancer, recalled that the Coastline staff grew close when it occupied a small office downtown. She said Cindy really learned the neighborhood when she took midday walks — doctor's orders to "de-stress."

"Even in her compulsory resting time, her news hat never came off," Baker recalled, adding that Cindy's marriage to Gretsch in Connecticut was an example of her loyalty.

"Her relationship with her wife, Sharon, was long-lasting and rock solid," Baker said. "Their wedding was a long-awaited moment, and I know she was fiercely proud to have the opportunity to finally proclaim their love with public vows."

"I loved her very much. She meant the world to me," Gretsch said.

In addition to Gretsch, Lou Frazier and Root, Cindy is survived by sister Anne Veno.

Mattingley is coordinating with Cindy's family in hopes of planning a local memorial service.

Alisha Gomez, who has been serving as interim city editor, will continue to oversee day-to-day operations of the Coastline Pilot until a permanent replacement is named.

Twitter: @CoastlinePilot

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World