Our Laguna: Parade honorees are impressive bunch

The annual Patriots Day Parade Honorees Brunch this Sunday at Tivoli Terrace is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of hometown folks to our city and beyond.

To be honored this year: Grand Marshals Dorene and United States Air Force Gen. (ret.) George Lee Butler, 2012 Patriot of the Year Louise Buckley, Citizens of the Year Betsy and Dr. Gary Jenkins, and Junior Citizens Caroline Cannan and Bryce Blanton. Artist Jorg Dubin and athlete Natasha Strickland will also be honored.

Gen. Butler was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1961. Thirty years later he was a general, serving as commander-in-chief of the Strategic Air Command. Later he was named commander-in-chief of the U.S. Strategic Command, with responsibility for all Air Force and Navy strategic nuclear forces with the national security objective of strategic deterrence.

The appointments confirmed his worst fears about nuclear power, he said in 1999.

"I had to be prepared to advise the president to sign the death warrant of 250 million people living in the Soviet Union," Butler said. "I felt that responsibility to the depth of my soul, and I never learned to reconcile my belief systems with it. Never."

So he worked to reduce nuclear capability.

Butler retired from the military in 1994.

The Butlers founded a philanthropic nonprofit foundation, which has donated to the Laguna Beach Seniors Inc.

"He is an extremely bright and conscientious person, looking for ways to stop wars," said Chris Quilter, president of seniors. "And we get to pick his brain."

Dorene Butler is on the board of Laguna Beach Seniors and the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach.

The Patriot of the Year award honors those who have served the nation gallantly or meritoriously in time of war or national emergency.

The diminutive 90-year-old Buckley doesn't look like much of a warrior, but don't be fooled.

She served in the Women's Army Air Corps in World War II and has been a bulldog in the trenches on behalf of Laguna Beach seniors in their efforts to get the Susi Q center financed and built.

The Citizen — or in the case of the Jenkinses, Citizens — of the Year is chosen for significant contributions to the community.

The Jenkinses have been active in Laguna Beach since moving here in the early 1980s. Despite a busy pediatrics practice for more than three decades, Gary Jenkins has found time to serve as president of Village Laguna and SchoolPower.

Betsy Jenkins was an early supporter of the Laguna Art Museum, a member of the now-defunct Affiliates, which annually raised about $20,000 to sustain the museum. She is a ranking member of the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education and an ardent supporter of the Sisters Cities Assn. of Laguna Beach.

Their art-filled, hillside home has been the site of fundraisers for favored nonprofit organizations, and they are frequently seen at events that raise money for worthy causes.

The Junior Citizens of the Year are members of the Laguna Beach High School Class of 2012. They were selected for their achievements in leadership, scholarship, athletics and community service by the school faculty and staff.

Blanton became active in Give Jeans a Chance this year, involving both the high school and El Morro Elementary School. Now in its third year, the program is part of the Give Back Series, a partnership of the National Coalition for the Homeless and clothing manufacturer, Volcom, which raises awareness about homelessness and collects jeans for those in the homeless community.

Cannan is the daughter of Susan Cannan, director of the city's community services department. She has been a scholar-athlete for four years, playing varsity soccer for the past two years and was co-captain as a senior.

She serves on the executive board of the Assistance League of Laguna Beach's teen group, Assisteens, and is active at St. Catherine of Siena church.

The 9/11 memorial created by Dubin added luster to his already splendid career as a painter and sculpture. His work is shown locally at the prestigious Peter Blake Gallery on Ocean Avenue.

Strickland is a track and field star at Laguna Beach High School, excelling in the grueling cross-country runs, which develop character over the long haul.

The public is invited to honor the honorees at the brunch from 11:30 a.m to 1.30 p.m. on the Festival of Arts Grounds, 650 Laguna Canyon Road. Parking is free in spaces 300 and up in the city lot across the street.

Tickets are $25. Proceeds benefit activities of the all-volunteer Patriots Day Parade Committee. For reservations call (949) 494-6016.

The 2012 parade will be held March 3.

Entries in the popular event range from civic and veterans organizations to school bands, floats, vintage automobiles and lighthearted novelty groups.

The half of the town who isn't in the parade is expected to be lining the streets along the parade route.

"Never Forget" is this year's theme.

As the prompt for the Patriot's Day Parade essay contest states: "Our theme reminds us that as Americans, we hold dear the idea of a quest for a better life. We recall how our nation and communities such as ours united and rose to combat fascism, totalitarianism and global terrorism. We cherish and preserve the memory of those who sacrificed their lives that we might live in freedom and peace. Never forget our flag and those who defend it."

Love of country and respect for the flag were the ideals that prompted Emily Ross to found the Patriots Day Parade in 1967. She recruited Exchange Club President Roy Marcon Jr., members of the club and her chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to organize the parade. Ross participated in the parade until she moved out of town in 1978, returning to Laguna in 1979 to ride for the last time.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (949) 302-1469 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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