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Virgen: Community celebrates Harlan Andersen

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Tammy Walz presents Harlan Andersen, who gave 42 years of service to the Boys & Girls Club of the Harbor Area, his retirement gift of golf clubs on Thursday.
(SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot)

Harlan Andersen’s voice shook when he spoke into the microphone in front of so many friends Thursday night.

He began to tear up. And, who could blame him?

He knew he only wanted to say a few words to sum up 42 years of work at the Boys & Girls Club of the Harbor Area, which includes Costa Mesa, Irvine and Newport Beach. He also wanted to talk about a special night of honoring the man simply known as “Harlan.”

“Thank you everybody,” he said. “Thank you for all you’ve done for the club, for me. Thank you.”

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Actually, many people were at the gym to thank Harlan. He did his best to move from one well-wisher to the next.

Each one wanted to express their gratitude and some also wanted to find out what Harlan would be doing after his last day at the end of this month.

“I’m excited to spend some time doing some golf, fishing and traveling,” Harlan said.

There were no tears there. Just a smile.

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It appeared to be a smile of contentment and satisfaction.

During the night he maintained humility, another quality that drew so many people to the event, and reminded so many why he had such a positive impact on an estimated 123,000 children in a variety of sports, mainly basketball.

That number was announced during the presentation that featured a short video, a story of Harlan through the years.

During his time, he also sometimes had duties that including being a plumber, locksmith, roofer, electrician and gym-floor carpenter.

And he was also a coach, teaching children many values, including teamwork.

For some, he simply helped them score a basket. For the smaller child who couldn’t reach the hoop, Harlan, at 6-feet-5, put the kid on his shoulders for the assist.

Steve Mensinger, the Costa Mesa mayor, called Harlan, “a gentle giant.”

At 64, Harlan will soon be a retired giant.

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Thursday night wasn’t really a going-away party. Harlan still has a tournament to organize in February. He also always enjoys the chili cook-off.

There will sure to be more thanks to Harlan at those events.

There were plenty on Thursday night.

When Bruce and Ellen Miller walked in to the gym, Harlan immediately began to tear up again.

Harlan coached the two Miller boys, Ari and Danny. They are sharing an apartment in New York, their parents told Harlan, and they play basketball all the time.

“Two great kids,” Harlan said.

There were so many at that Boys & Girls Club.

“He ran a really great program,” Bruce Miller said of Harlan. “I think everyone is going to miss him. He’s really great. They’re going to have a hard time replacing him.”

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Harlan received plenty of thanks and gifts Thursday night. He received a new golf bag and full set of clubs. That’s perfect for Harlan.


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