May 31 was the day dedicated to the memory of those to whom we all owe so much. In Laguna, Memorial Day includes breakfast in an idyllic setting, solemn rites at Monument Point and the joyful patriotic program presented by the Laguna Beach Concert Band.
The day starts early.
Dan Moy and Ken Kenworthy were at the Veteran's Memorial Building at 5 a.m. to help load up food and supplies for the annual Exchange Club Pancake Breakfast at Heisler Park.
City workers Reggie Christian and John O'Hara were manicuring the park for the breakfast by the time club member Patrick Freeman arrived at 6:30 a.m. to help set up equipment.
Not much later, veterans were out installing flags to remind everyone of the obligation we owe those who gave their lives so that we might celebrate the start of summer in whatever fashion we choose.
Volunteer firefighters were flipping flapjacks by 7 p.m. for the 600 folks who lined up until 10:30 a.m. — not to mention the 50 volunteers who responded to the marching orders of Generalissimo Sande St. John.
Volunteers included former Mayor Cheryl Kinsman, Anne Wood, Kathryn Delp Dew, Christina Vickers, Connie Burlin and probable City Council candidate Emanuel Patrascu.
The White House and Las Brisas provided the vittles cooked by Firefighters Kurt Bladergroen, Jeff LaTendresse, Joe Maxon, Frank Buckner, Mike Daignault, Sean Ilich, Steve Rening, Danny Kalscheuer, Adam Schulenburg and Chief — who used to go by Kris — Head. LaTendresse's son, Cody, and Maxon's son, Garret, and volunteer Marion Rice assisted.
John Bodrero, owner of the Orange Inn since 1971, provided the coffee, poured by the Police Department's Robin Levinson.
Police Officers Spring Sendale, Chris Dovias, Paul Bixby, and Police Assn. President Larry Bammer were on patrol.
"Laguna Tots" performers Vanessa, Ethan, Ryan and Danielle Gee, Faith Ackley, Annamarie McIntosh, Jade Hansen, Charlotte Rubino, Samia El Erian, Camryn and Katelyn Ostander, Annika McGraw, Sabrina Von Bogenberry, Dean Hodes, Jack Patillo, Zachary Levine, Aria Horowitz, Megan Cavanaugh and Conner McCombs entertained with excerpts from the show, supervised by Linda Haylett.
The firefighters closed up shop with nothing much left but crumbs of sausage and dregs of coffee.
MOVING RIGHT ALONG The 83rd Memorial Day ceremonies conducted by the Laguna Beach posts of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Heisler Park began 10:30 a.m. with a musical prelude.
The crowd was greeted by Legion Post 222 Adjutant Richard Moore, outgoing Post 222 Commander David Connell and VFW Post 5868 Cmdr. Bill Kremer, Legion Auxiliary President Diane Connell, VFW Auxiliary President Dorothy Toomey and Councilman Kelly Boyd.
"We need to remember not only those who gave their lives, but the families who lost their loved ones so that we could have a better place to live," Boyd said.
California Assemblywoman Diane Harkey was the guest speaker. She arrived wearing a leg cast and late, due to traffic, noting that Laguna is justifiably a very popular place.
She said Americans are lucky: They have the freedom to meet, access to education, freedom from bias and peaceful elections, not bloody coups. Many have died so that Americans can debate issues, she said.
"It is good to pause and remember there are greater issues than daily stresses," Harkey said. "America is a beacon of freedom. We have so much to loose, we cannot sit idly by."
Harkey was followed by the presentation of floral arrangements by 44 local organizations and individuals to honor the heroic dead.
Veteran Ron May had the dolorous duty to intone No Answer when the bell tolled for post members who had died in the previous year: Jerry R. Alsobrook, Edward L. Armstrong, Benjamin F. Blount III, Benjamin F. Caffey, Jesse W. Davidson, Francis T. Eddy, Edgar Hatfield, Marion N. Jay, Arthur J. Kelly, Albert W. Lilienthal, James E. Perry, Harvey A. Shaw, Ronald G. Strauss and William H. Waterson.
No Square Theatre singers sang the "Star Spangled Banner" and led the audience in a rendition of "God Bless America." Local Boy Scouts led the "Pledge of Allegiance." Noah Rosen played Taps to conclude the day.
AND THE BAND PLAYED Laguna's Concert Band gets better every year and the audience for the Memorial Cay Concert at Main Beach gets bigger every year, including many visitors.
Laguna Woods resident Clark Marshall said he always comes to Laguna for Memorial Day.
Locals in the audience included former Mayor Phyllis Sweeney, Niko Theris, Helene and Shelley Feingold, Storm and Shirley Case and toe-tapping Glori Fickling.
The band's extensive repertoire included John Phillips Sousa marches, jazz by the group's brass quintet, and a solo by Steve Calhoun on a refurbished 1952 vibraphone, the same vintage played by musical great Lionel Hampton, and a sing-along and whistle-along to "On the Wall."
IT'S A DOG'S LIFE AND A DOGGONE GOOD ONE Animal Crackers owner and pet rescue activist Gina Kantzabedian hosted a birthday recently at Lang Park for the pups born a year ago to Sugar, who was rescued while on the verge of motherhood.
Sugar, who may be a white schnauzer — or not — but not a big dog whatever the breed, had eight pups: seven of them coal black and one grayish one.
Guests included all the friends of the pups, including their humans and other dogs that have found homes through the efforts of Kantzabedian's nonprofit foundation.
"I am in heaven, " Kantzabedian said, surrounded by more than 25 frolicking dogs for whom she had found happy homes.
She could name every one of the dogs — and most of the humans at the party. Six of Sugar's pups — Pepper died from a bee sting and Sasha couldn't make it — romped with the other dogs while their human companions, with one hand on a leash and the other holding a fork, partook of a spread catered by Michael Karfaridis, owner of the Thasos Greek Island Grille at the Sawdust Festival.
Refreshments were also provided for the dogs, including a birthday cake for Sugar babies Pluto and Ajax, Austin and Sidney, Maggie, and Sweet Pea.
The pups were accompanied by their human companions: Susan and Dr. Michael Sandys; Linda Yost, Lynette Beers-McCormich, Rachel and Lori Burgi respectively.
Guests also included Roxy and Mr. Pickles with Madeline Natale, Boo and Tony with Mike Badstubner, Cooper and Termite with Marilyn Dillow, Hobie with Ying Clark, Clyde and Lola with Wynne Tapley, Zuma with Mike Nelson, Kenny with Tamara Oswald and Schotzie with Yoshi OConner. and Sweetie with Judy Miles, who also has a parrot and two cats at home adopted from Kantzabedian's never-ending list of rescues..
Also: Pip with Sweet Per and Burgi; Daisy Duke, Rickey and Lulubelle with Carol Stevens; Billie, Charlie and Laci with Catherine Reade; Lana and Abby with Costa Mesa Animal Control Officer Yolanda Macias and Animal Crackers Pet Rescue Vice President Helen Evers and animal holistic consultant Marlene Dantzer.
Party favors were balls and pull toys.
Most of the animal guests at the party were rescues. That costs money. Donations are appreciated and tax deductible.