Our Laguna: Patriots Day committee recognizes honorees

The Patriots Day Parade Committee wasn't making a political statement when it chose "All Together Now" as the theme of the 2013 parade on March 2.

"We selected the theme well before the national election in November without knowing its outcome," said committee President Edward Hanke at the annual Honorees Brunch on Feb. 3 at Tivoli Terrace. "We respectfully suggest that 2012 be a time we all work side-by-side toward common goals that we aspire to as a united people."

Thurston Middle School student Hannah Levenstein read her winning essay on the theme at the brunch, which can be found in the parade program with its cover art by Laguna Beach High School student Aspen Rocha.

Committee Vice President Charlie Quilter also spoke about the theme.

"The goal is to keep moving forward," said Quilter, perennial master of ceremonies for the brunch. "Our aim is to remind people that love of country takes many forms. Showing respect for one another is a good way to start."

Laguna is fortunate to have a deep pool of individuals worthy of commendation by the parade committee, Hanke said.

"We are honored to have Capt. Jason Ehret as our Grand Marshal," Quilter said.

Ehret is a SEAL, the acronym for Sea, Air, Land Teams. He is permitted to wear the coveted gold trident SEAL badge among his many other decorations, of which he would rather not speak, said Quilter, himself a decorated U.S. Marine pilot and past Patriot of the Year.

Ehret's decorations include three Bronze Star Medals for valor and nine Navy Commendation Medals, including one for valor. He was deployed to the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other locations that are still classified.

Laguna is proud to call Ehret one of its own, Quilter said.

He grew up here, attended the now-closed Aliso Elementary in South Laguna and participated in Patriots Day Parades. While a student at Laguna Beach High School, Ehret captained the water polo team and for 11 summers served as a city lifeguard, eventually as a supervisor.

After graduation in 1983, Ehret went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, earning a degree in industrial engineering.

An interest in engineering may be a characteristic of overachieving LBHS students. Junior Citizen of the Year Brock David Csira, who has a 4.6 grade point average, plans to study mechanical engineering in college.

Csira is president of the LBHS Solar Club, currently equipping the boat club members built with solar power for a race against more than 35 other schools, while still finding time to tutor Thurston Middle School students.

Female Junior Citizen Michelle Brown also has a 4.6 GPA, tutors fourth and fifth graders in math and captains the Sunshine Readers at the Laguna Beach Library, among other community services.

The Senior Citizens of the Year need little introduction beyond their names: Bonnie and Arnold Hano.

The Hanos have been active in community affairs since they moved here from New York in 1955. They battled policies in town at a time when no barber would cut a black man's hair, helping to found the Laguna Beach Inter-Racial Committee. But their big guns have always been trained on those who would change the character of Laguna by rampant development, Quilter said.

She serves on the Heritage Committee. Both are founding members of Village Laguna, an outgrowth of the successful 1970s effort to limit building heights in Laguna that preserves public views of the ocean.

And anyone who follows LBHS Sports knows the name of football star Drake Martinez.

"He is the most exciting player at the school in a half century," Quilter said.

The team went undefeated in league play and made it to the third round of the California Interscholastic Federation playoffs.

"This was a remarkable achievement for a school of only 750 students that on a good night gets 30 players in uniform, some to play both ways," Quilter said.

Martinez was honored as the league's Most Valuable Player, even though his team did not win the championship and as an All-CIF offense player.

The 2013 Patriot of the Year fought his battles differently than most of the military, Quilter said. "Many heroes of our Armed Forces are often unsung, even those responsible for saving lives," Quilter said. "Dr. Joe Pursch is one of them."

Pursch was commissioned in the U.S. Navy as a flight surgeon in 1960, during which time he became aware of the stress of duty aboard a carrier, often leading to drug and alcohol abuse, for which he looked and found solutions.

Pursch created effective programs that returned afflicted personnel to full duty status, later teaching other physicians the art of substance abuse treatment that has become standard in the field.

"In recognition, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal," Quilter said.

Medals for outstanding service to the city might be appropriate for the volunteers who produce the parade every year.

Among them: committee officers Sandi Werthe and Kathy Hanke; Jack of all trades Joe Jahrus; Hospitality Chair Sande St. John and assistants Jean Law and Elizabeth Tomlin; American Legion liaison Richard Moore; vehicle chair, Don Black, car judge Mike Morrison, and no parking teammates Marvin Johnson and Boy Scout Troop 35, who all keep the motors running. Explorers help control traffic.

Jim Rue is the web master, Howard Levin the parade starter. Barbara and Jim Pemberton greet entrants on parade day; Michael Lyons, Deborah and Dylan Bryant, Ellie Levin, Pam and Perry Valentine and Anne Wood keep them in order.

Gene D'Isabella, who drives the city's pumper engine in the parade, also helps set up the reviewing stand. Jay Andrus controls the dispersal area.

Patrick Quilter and Jerry Ford assist the Larson Lighting and Audio Team in setting up the public address system, used by parade announcers Rue and John Kountz. Doug Miller is the official photographer.

The city is represented by Ben Siegel, Kristin Buhaglar, Tom Toman and Sgt. Bob Rahaeuser.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (714) 966-4618 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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