“All Together Now”

Grand Marshal
the 2013 Laguna Beach Parade
Capt. Jason Ehret, U.S. Navy Seals

Parade Grand Marshal Jason Ehret

Capt. Jason Ehret, U.S. Navy Seals

Until the dramatic bringing to justice of Osama bin Laden last year, not many Americans were familiar with the small number of Naval Special Warfare personnel who are called SEALS, an abbreviation for Sea, Air, Land Teams. For good reason, most of the operations of these rigorously trained teams remain classified. Many SEALS wear decorations for gallantry in combat although often the specifics of their citations are also secret. This year, one of their number retires after a distinguished and valorous career. We are honored to have Captain Jason Ehret USN as our Grand Marshal.

He was born in Glendale in 1964 and grew up in Laguna Beach where he began school at the old Aliso Elementary School and participated in earlier Patriots Day Parades. Proximity to the ocean would be a big factor in his future. He was captain of the Laguna Beach High School water polo team, and for eleven summers, he served as a Laguna Beach lifeguard eventually rising to supervisor. After graduating from LBHS in 1983, he attended Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, graduating with a degree in industrial engineering in 1988.

Inspired by Marine jets that flew over his home, he decided to pursue a career in naval aviation and underwent Aviation Officer Candidate training at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. There he won a commission and the wings of a Naval Flight Officer. His first fleet assignment was as a navigator and Tactical Combat Control Officer flying in P-3C Orion aircraft out of Adak, far out in the Aleutian Islands, tracking Soviet submarines. He was in the crew that would track the last Akula-class ballistic missile submarine to sortie out of Vladivostok at the end of the Cold War. With that mission winding down, then Lieutenant Ehret volunteered at the comparatively old age of thirty to undergo the grueling Basic Underwater Demolition (BUD/S) training that is the first step to becoming a SEAL. Drop-out rates in this course traditionally are very high, usually in the range of seventy to eighty per cent.

As a fully qualified SEAL officer authorized to wear the coveted gold trident SEAL badge, Jason Ehret would command units from platoons to special boat teams. He has been operationally deployed to the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other locations. His personal decorations include three Bronze Star Medals for valor and nine Navy Commendation Medals including one for valor. Captain Ehret is a graduate of the prestigious Naval War College, and his staff assignments have included tours both with the joint U.S. Special Operations Command and the Naval Special Warfare Command at Coronado where he currently is serving as Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Resources, Requirements, and Acquisitions.

In the course of his earlier aviation duties at Naval Air Station Moffett, he met Jeanine Noser of Huntington Beach, a Naval Academy graduate who was then serving as an aviation intelligence officer. Now a retired commander herself, she and Jason are proud parents of Jake and Jessie. The Patriots Day Parade Association salutes our Grand Marshal for his gallant service to the nation and wishes him and his family godspeed and all success in the future.

The 2013 Laguna Beach Parade
Honored Patriot of the Year

Captain Joseph A. Pursch, U.S. Navy Medical Corps (Retired)

Honored Patriot Captain Joseph A. Pursch

Captain Joseph A. Pursch, U.S. Navy Medical Corps (Retired)

Many heroes of our Armed Forces are often unsung, even those responsible for saving many lives. Doctor Joe Pursch is one of them. Born in Chicago in 1929, his parents brought him as a toddler to their hometown in Yugoslavia in the valley of the Danube River near Belgrade. There he grew up speaking German, Serbian, and Romanian. In 1944 at the age of fifteen, Nazi Germany conscripted him along with fellow schoolmates as laborers to clear bomb debris in Vienna and other cities in central Europe. His parents had the foresight to give him his American birth certificate, which he hid in the sole of one of shoes. At the end of the Second World War, it was reported to him--incorrectly as it turned out--that his parents had been killed. He then walked hundreds of miles to the American zone of occupation in southern Germany where he came to the attention of soldiers of the Ninth Army. The local U.S. consulate contacted his godfather who sponsored his repatriation to America where he arrived by a returning troop ship in 1947. He had only $2.73 in his pocket and not a word of English. Undaunted by language or poverty, he got work as a window washer on high-rise buildings in Detroit. The work was dangerous but perhaps not as hazardous as being under falling bombs. And it paid well. Within months, he had become not only fluent in English but "founder, owner, and sole employee" of a window washing business equipped with a 1936 Chevy with a deep trunk for his equipment. He soon even had enough money to buy a small Luscombe airplane and learned to fly. He jokes that his "new life began by looking up." He never looked back.

Joe enlisted as a medic in the 425th Infantry Regiment of the Michigan National Guard thus gaining much practical knowledge of medicine. Then, urged by his officers, he won admission as a pre-med student to Wayne State University, graduating in only three years. In the meantime, he met and married Irene Hagedorn, daughter of Iowa Lutheran preacher. The couple would eventually have four children. Medical training followed at the University of Indiana School of Medicine, and Doctor Pursch later became board-certified in his specialty of neuropsychiatry. In 1960, he was commissioned in the U.S. Navy and trained as a flight surgeon, which included soloing propeller and jet aircraft as well as landing on aircraft carriers. He served on a new super-carrier, USS Forrestal (CV-59), responsible for not only the health of naval aviators flying high performance aircraft from the ship but many of its 4,500 sailors as well. It was on the Forrestal that he first became aware that the high stress of carrier operations often resulted in acting out and alcohol abuse ashore.

Subsequent tours took him through a combined psychiatry residency at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed; teaching and research at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute; and service as Chief of Psychiatry at naval hospitals in Pensacola, Washington, and Naples, Italy. Now quite familiar with the strains of aviation and combat service as they manifested themselves in the forms of alcohol and drug abuse, he looked for solutions. It was in the field of substance abuse that he would make his greatest contribution to the service by creating effective rehabilitation treatment programs that returned afflicted personnel to full duty status. Over the years, his reputation grew, and ever higher ranking military patients as well as civilian members of government came to him. In his last seven years of service in the Navy while stationed at Long Beach as director of the Alcohol Rehabilitation Service, he not only treated a number of prominent patients like Betty Ford, Buzz Aldrin, and Billy Carter, he began teaching other physicians the art of substance abuse treatment that have become a standard in the field. In recognition, he was awarded the naval service's highest meritorious decoration, the Distinguished Service Medal.

Following retirement from the Navy, Dr. Pursch took his hard-won healing skills into other arenas including professional sports, federal agencies, industry, and the airlines. He has served at a number of hospitals and institutions in southern California including the then South Coast Medical Center in Laguna Beach. He is now in private practice. With success has come a certain amount of fame, and he has appeared on national television, been featured in seventeen educational films, and written weekly columns for the Los Angeles Times. His 1985 book, Dear Doc: The Noted Authority Answers Your Questions on Drinking and Drugs, is still in print. Still active as a physician with a deep commitment to saving lives, he travels throughout the world, treating, lecturing, and training other health care professionals.

The 2013 Laguna Beach Parade
Honored Citizens of the Year

Arnold and Bonnie Hano

Citizens of the Year Arnold and Bonnie Hano

Bonnie and Arnold Hano

Many Lagunans take pride and pleasure in the quality of life in our community without pausing to reflect why that might be so. For example, consider Laguna Beach's physical setting: there are no high-rise buildings. A natural wilderness greenbelt surrounds the town. Homes and businesses blend together in a pleasant seaside ambience. Unlike newer developments, the town has a center and distinct neighborhoods. All this did not happen by chance but rather through the efforts of dedicated individuals like our Citizens of the Year, Arnold and Bonnie Hano. Both have been actively and continuously involved in the civic affairs of the town since they arrived in 1955.

They came from New York City where in 1922 Arnold was born and grew up. After graduating from high school at only fifteen, he attended Long Island University where he became sports editor and then editor-in-chief of the college newspaper as well as playing three sports as a walk-on. It was there that his ambition changed from becoming a doctor to that of a writer. Indeed Arnold's public persona outside of Laguna resides in his reputation as a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Of his twenty-seven books, he is perhaps best known for one of the classic books of sports literature, A Day in the Bleachers, in which he recounts the opening game of the 1954 World Series. It is still in print after nearly sixty years.

Writing as a profession had grown out of a combination of passions: reading from age three thanks to his older brother, Alfred, teaching him how; sports in a city where three major league baseball teams were separated only by a subway ride; plus editing newspapers and paperbacks. This was interrupted by the Second World War while Arnold served in an artillery battalion of the Seventh Infantry Division in the Pacific, making landings in the Aleutians and later in the first wave on Kwajalein Atoll. Days after that battle, Corporal Hano learned that Alfred was missing-in-action on a B-17 mission over Nazi Germany. Arnold then applied and won a commission as an infantry officer at Fort Benning with the idea of searching for his brother in the European Theater, but the war ended, and Alfred's remains were recovered before he had the chance.

Returning to civilian life in New York, Arnold went into publishing and soon became managing editor of Bantam Books. There he met an engaging woman named Bonnie Abraham from Sioux City, Iowa. She followed him when he founded Lion Books and became production manager of what became Marvel Comics and its lead artist-writer, Stan Lee. However, after the birth of their daughter, Laurel, Bonnie found the indoor life of Manhattan constricting for children. With the ever increasing success of Arnold's free-lance writing, they decided to go west. On a drive to San Diego, they passed through Laguna Beach, liked what they saw, and soon settled here.

Yet, not all in our town in the 1950s was the bucolic paradise that many today would like to believe. For one, there were racially restrictive codes and covenants on property deeds. No barber would cut a black man's hair. This troubled the couple from polyglot, multi-racial Manhattan, and so they helped form the Laguna Beach Inter-racial Committee that successfully changed minds and policies. Another issue was rampant development that threatened the eclectic character of the community. Arnold became a member of the first Design Review Committee with the aim of preserving the basic nature of Laguna Beach by harmonizing new development with existing ones. In the meantime, Bonnie returned to college at CSU Fullerton and qualified as a psychotherapist. She served as the city's representative during the formation of the first child guidance clinic in Orange County. She also played a role in the founding of the Laguna Beach Free Clinic, the predecessor of the LB Community Clinic. She now is a member of the city's Heritage Committee that works to preserve landmark structures.

As anyone in Laguna who has ever attended a city council meeting or read local letters-to-the-editor will attest, Arnold and Bonnie have been extraordinarily attentive to the issues that could affect the well-being of residents. They have been particularly concerned about the environment, resident-serving businesses, and the preservation of the community's uniquely diverse culture. For their indefatigable efforts on our behalf, we are proud to honor them as our Citizens of the Year.

The 2013 Laguna Beach Parade
Artists of the Year

The Staff of the Pageant of the Masters

Artist of the Year Pageant staff


The Staff of the Pageant of the Masters

Over the years since the 1890s, Laguna Beach has become known as the artists’ colony that gave rise to the California impressionistic style of painting known as plein air.   Early artists such as William Wendt, Joseph Kleitsch, Anna Hills, Frank Cuprien, William Griffith, and Edgar Payne helped make Laguna a popular destination soon after the automobile became common.  Many southern Californians undertook the trip to what was then a remote coastal town. 

It was perhaps inevitable that local artists might come together at a common site to display and sell their works.  About eighty years ago, Roy Ropp selected a picturesque setting in Laguna Canyon for what became the Festival of Arts.  At the same time, some town citizens began performing in tableaux vivants or “living pictures” of famous works of art.  For eighty years now, the Pageant of the Masters has been enthralling tens of thousands of visitors a year by re-creating masterworks of art in the magical setting of Irvine Bowl.  But the magic does not happen without the magicians. 

Almost unnoticed and unheralded are the staff who work behind the scenes under its longtime director, Dee Challis Davy, to design and build the sets to put on sixty flawless performances each summer.  They have become in effect our own “living treasures” who, in a very big way, have helped define both our artistic heritage and identity as a community.  We thank and honor them for their tireless efforts and creativity that has brought us so much wonder and enjoyment.

The 2013 Laguna Beach Parade
Athlete of the Year
Drake Martinez

Athlete of the Year Drake Martinez


The fans of Laguna Beach High School Breakers football are a loyal and patient bunch. But like their namesake, every now and then, a perfect set of waves comes along. Led by our Athlete of the Year, Drake Martinez, the best set of Breakers for half a century were those on the 2012 team, which went undefeated in league play and made it to the third round semi-final CIF playoffs. This was a remarkable achievement for a school of only 750 students that on a good night suits up only thirty players, some of whom of necessity have to exhaustingly play both offense and defense. Orange Coast League First Team honors have showered on Robert Clemons (also All-CIF), Nathan Lancaster, Larry Stewart, Adam Farsheed, Steven Harrison, and Joseph Casey. Player of the Year awards went to Blake Hester (Defense also All-CIF), Robbie McInerney (Special Teams and All-CIF), and Spencer Anderson (Lineman and also All-CIF). Drake Martinez was named not only the league's Most Valuable Player, he also was an All-CIF Offense Player. Along with his four teammates, they are only five of forty LBHS players ever to receive such a CIF honor in the school's nearly 80-year history. With his exciting and powerful form of play combined with an uncanny ability to rapidly read situations, Drake Martinez shattered the school record for rushing on offense. He was consistently the county's leading scorer week after week. Indeed, he was so versatile a player that newspaper writers often described his position as "all-around" or "ATH" for athlete. We could not agree more. Drake has recently committed to a scholarship offer from the University of Nebraska.

The 2013 Laguna Beach Parade
Junior Citizens of the Year

Laguna Beach High School Seniors
Michelle Brown and Brock Csira

Junior Citizens


The Junior Citizens of the Year are members of the Class of 2013 of Laguna Beach High School and were selected by the faculty and staff on the basis of their leadership, service, and academic achievements.

Michelle Elizabeth Brown was born in Mission Viejo and is president of the school’s National Honor Society.  Academically, she carries an outstanding 4.6 Grade Point Average while also devoting much of her free time to community service.  She is captain of Sunshine Readers for young children at the Laguna Beach Library; tutors Fourth and Fifth Graders in math; and also tutors English with the Juntos Program.  In 2012 she was a delegate to the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State held at Claremont McKenna College.  At school, she is president of Club ROC (Righteousness on Campus) and is a member of the Solar Club.  She participates in Lisa Jay’s dance program, which performs for the public twice a year. An avid reader of literature, she also likes to play guitar.  Michelle hopes to study pre-med at Georgetown or Duke and become a pediatrician.

Brock David Csira was born in Laguna Beach and is also a high academic achiever with a 4.6 GPA attained by taking advanced placement courses.  After playing football for two years, he now tutors fellow high school students in physics, math, and chemistry in addition to Thurston Middle Schoolers in math.  He is president of the Solar Club, which studies applications of alternate forms of energy.  The club is building a 16-foot solar powered boat that in April will compete with similar boats from 35 other schools over a course set out on a lake.  His interest in mechanical things has extended to replacing the clutch and overhauling the Cummins diesel engine on his aging Dodge truck.  He has been fortunate to make educational trips to Europe during summers.  Brock wants to become a mechanical engineer and hopes to attend UC Berkeley, MIT, Princeton, or Purdue.


COVER ARTIST:  Aspen Rocha,
Laguna Beach High School Class of 2016,
is a member of Mrs. Kerry Pellow’s Graphic Arts class.

Hannah Levinstein is a 6th grader
at Thurston Middle School and a member of
Ms. Sarah Schaeffer’s  Language Arts class

Essay winner

In Memoriam

In 2012 we lost several of our past honorees and members. 
We remember them with fondness and admiration.

Hal Werthe

Hal Werthe, husband of our longtime Treasurer
Sandi Werthe, was an Army veteran of the Korean War. 
He was both Citizen of the Year in 1993 and twice
president of the parade association.  He was also a member
of the Exchange Club and past commander of our local
American Legion Post 222, when both organizations played
leading roles in the formation of the parade association.

Harry Lawrence

Harry Lawrence, “Mr. Laguna,” commanded an amphibious
landing ship in the Second World War and made twenty-two
landings in the Pacific.  He founded the Laguna Beach
Beautification Council and was instrumental in getting
a hospital here, creating Main Beach Park, and
building the new Laguna Playhouse.  He was our
Grand Marshal in 2008.

John Rhodes was a transplanted Englishman
who for many years was our automobile judge.

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Last updated February 5, 2013