"Waves of Freedom"
The 2018 Parade Honorees are
Glori Fickling Grand Marshal George Ciampa Honored Patriot Heidi Miller Citizen of the Year Laguna Beach Art Museum Artist of the Year Laguna Beach Water Polo Foundation Athlete of the Year Joseph (Joey) Ravenna and Marisa Schatz 2018 Junior Citizens of the Year Alexandra Keyser 2018 Essay Winner Jackson Blake Pihl 2018 Cover Artist
The 2018 Laguna Beach Parade
Laguna Beach has long been known as an artist colony with a marvelous mix of painters, sculptors, and writers. Relatively few have had such an influence on popular culture as our grand marshal, Gloria Gautraud Fickling. As the co-author of the well-known Honey West series of detective novels, millions of her books have been published in multiple languages around the world. They later became the basis of a television series as well.
Gloria was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926 and grew up in St. Albans in what was then rural Long Island. As a teenager of fourteen, she contracted severe rheumatic fever, and on the advice of doctors, her parents sent her to live for a year with an aunt in southern California. Her health improved dramatically, and after returning home, she felt certain that her future would be here. As soon as she graduated from high school, she went west to Los Angeles with the aim of getting into the fashion industry as a journalist. She worked her way onto the field’s most influential newspaper, Women’s Wear Daily, and later as a fashion publicist for the May Company, which included arranging photo shoots for its ad campaigns. One of these led to her first visit to Laguna Beach in about 1948.
It was during a fateful weekend excursion to Catalina with her younger sister that she managed to lock herself into her room. Wearing only a two-piece bathing suit, she extricated herself out of a window onto a walkway where she immediately gained the attention of Forrest E. “Skip” Fickling, an advertising man who had survived a number of harrowing combat missions in B-17’s over Nazi Germany as a ball turret gunner. After fending off another man at a party, she turned to Skip and never looked back. The return voyage was so rough that most of the passengers became seasick, but undaunted, the love-struck pair danced all evening to the ship’s orchestra. Skip and Gloria married in 1949.
On something of a lark, Skip joined a Marine Corps Reserve unit at El Toro. As so many other Marines had discovered, the base was located conveniently to Laguna Beach. They began renting a series of houses here with the requirement that each have a sweeping view of the Pacific. Then, in July of 1950 following the communist invasion of South Korea, Skip was ordered to active duty at Camp Pendleton. Shortly afterwards, Gloria went into labor with their first child. There were complications, and unfortunately, the base hospital was ill-equipped for such emergencies. The baby, a boy, died three days later. Gloria was understandably devastated and went into a severe depression. Fortunately, the Marine Corps compassionately released Skip from active duty, leading them to the next stage of their lives that would bring them much fame as a couple as well as three more sons: Michael, Christopher, and Jeffry Evan.
Skip Fickling’s other passion was writing fiction, and Gloria often worked to support him so that he could write novels. She became a trade newspaper “stringer” often writing about Laguna. This gained our then isolated coastal community wider attention and won Gloria an award that happily also came with money. Skip’s early efforts never found a publisher, whereupon he then came up with the idea of a spunky female private detective whose personality matched that of his wife. Honey West was no prim Miss Marples. Rather, she was a young, bright, and self-assured blond with the body of Marilyn Monroe and skills that usually outmatched those men who underestimated her. What is certain, however, is there never had been a female sleuth like her before in fiction. The couple would eventually write eleven titles under the name, “G.G. Fickling,” using Gloria’s maiden name for the initials.
As Gloria would later describe it, Skip had the inspiration but not the organization, so Gloria used her talents as editor to pull the books together with plot devices (and a sure fashion sense). In the first of the series, Girl For Hire, Honey---“the nerviest, curviest P.I. in Los Angeles”---is packing a .32 and skimpy attire as bodies begin to pile up after her client is found dead. It was pretty racy stuff for the era, and the problem for the Ficklings was that no agent was interested in putting it out. Gloria tackled this personally by going to New York and, after a hard slog, found a paperback publisher. The rest is history. The couple’s stock rose when they engagingly appeared on Groucho Marx’s popular quiz show.
By the 1960’s, the books were selling in the millions and the Encyclopedia Britannica deemed Honey West as "the leading female fictional character in the world." In later years, Gloria was pleased to hear from many women for whom Honey West had been a role model of independence. A television series starring Anne Francis as Honey turned out to be disappointing, though, because they had been contractually prevented from writing scripts for it. Nonetheless, success allowed Gloria and Skip to finish their dream house here in Laguna. Skip died in 1998, but Gloria continues to write pieces for local journals and dreams of someday seeing a Honey West movie. Today, Gloria Fickling is no less spirited than her fictional creation, and we are proud to call our grand marshal as one of our own.
The 2018 Laguna Beach Parade
This award goes to those who have served the nation gallantly or meritoriously in time of war or national emergency. This year, we honor George Ciampa who was entrusted with one of the most solemn and challenging duties that a soldier can have: caring for the bodies of those who have fallen in combat. Serving on the front lines with the 1st U.S. Army from D-Day in Normandy to the end of the Second World War in Europe, George was part of a small and unheralded number of quartermaster graves registration units that ultimately cared for 75,000 men killed-in-action and established seventeen cemeteries in that theater.
Born in Boston in 1925, he was nine when his parents crammed George along with six brothers and sisters into the family’s 1932 Chevrolet and trekked west to Hawthorne, California at the height of the Great Depression. He graduated from Inglewood High School at age 17 shortly after America entered the war and immediately began working at Douglas Aircraft getting SBD dive bombers ready for test flights at El Segundo. He had hoped to fly himself, but was not accepted due to a slight vision defect. In 1943, he was drafted, but despite his experience with aircraft, after undergoing basic training, the army assigned him to a graves registration company based in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Family customs at the time about viewing---let alone handling---dead bodies filled George personally with dread, and when the Army Air Forces lowered its vision standards due to losses of pilots, he leaped at his chance only to be thwarted by his company commander.
In April 1944, George arrived in England with his unit to prepare for the invasion of France on D-Day. During a practice landing exercise, German torpedo boats attacked and sank several ships with the loss off nearly 800 men including an entire platoon of his unit. On June 6, George Ciampa—age only 18—carried his carbine and landed on Utah Beach at Normandy to begin the grim mission assigned to him. Over the next eleven months, he “worked like a robot” collecting and identifying shattered bodies of both American and German soldiers. Some of the latter he thought were no more than 14 years old. Often, the conditions were almost psychologically unbearable; there was the stench of decaying bodies in the summer heat of Normandy, and later in winter during the Battle of the Bulge, stacks of frozen ones. About sixty percent of the bodies of American soldiers were repatriated home after the war while the rest were exhumed, identified, and re-interred in major cemeteries in Belgium, France, and elsewhere.
Postwar, during the summer of 1945, George was assigned to the 233rd Salvage Collection Company out of Mannheim. There he became particularly aware of the plight of hungry German children that crowded around Americans wherever they went. This would become the subject of a documentary that he would make decades later. He was awarded five battle stars, the Meritorious Unit Commendation Wreath, and the French unit Croix de Guerre.
Returning home in January of 1946, George used his GI Bill for college while also working fulltime on TWA’s ramp at LAX. After studying trade and advertising at USC, he worked for a succession of newspapers, eventually putting in 26 years at the Los Angeles Times. A passionate skier, he met his future wife, Doris Baldwin, at a ski club. The couple married and had a daughter, Sandi, and then a son, Michael. Sadly, Doris died of cancer while their children were still small, and George would raise them alone. This he would later call his finest achievement. After his children were in college, George met Dottie Sturtevant in 1991 through his sister, and the couple recently celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary.
In 2006, with memories still vivid and persisting in his head, George Ciampa decided to form a non-profit foundation called “Let Freedom Ring” with the goal of producing a series of documentaries to educate new generations—especially high schoolers—about the high price of preserving freedom in terms of human lives. The films—five so far—are told through personal stories and cover subjects from the D-Day battles in Normandy; to the horrific losses of airmen of the 8th Air Force over Europe; to the Resistance in Belgium and the moving story of locals “adopting” fallen American soldiers by caring for their graves at the Henri-Chapelle and other permanent cemeteries. Critical support came from two actors known for their support of veterans, Jon Voight and Gary Sinise.
Today in his 92nd year, George pursues corporation support to continue his mission of telling these stories in film and in person at schools here and in Europe. In 2014, France awarded George Ciampa and other American D-Day veterans at Normandy its highest award for gallantry, the Legion d’Honneur. Now, in our own way, we are proud to call him our 2018 Honored Patriot.
The 2018 Laguna Beach Parade
The Citizen of the Year award is given to those who have given of themselves in a significant way to the people of our community. In the case of this year's honoree, Heidi Miller, that is literally true. A well-known resident of Laguna Beach for the past 37 years, her selfless and heroic donation of a kidney to a dying man last year gained her the boundless admiration of all Lagunans.
Heidi was born the second of five brothers and sisters in 1954 in Manistique on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Her father, Alan Miller, was a Presbyterian minister and educator there and later in New Orleans and Texas, eventually becoming a professor of bio-ethics at the University of California Berkeley and settling his family in San Rafael across San Pablo Bay. After graduating from Terra Linda High School, Heidi studied nursing for the next five years at Sacramento State University while competing in collegiate and later club-level gymnastics. That was to lead her into the world of sales of sporting goods and athletic apparel, a field she found just as exciting and far more lucrative. It was during a competition that she first visited Laguna Beach and immediately fell in love with its ambience of beach and homes on hills. Moving here became her dream.
To realize it, she combined her "terrible sweet tooth" with her knowledge of nutrition gained in nursing education plus what must be an innate business sense to establish Heidi's Frogen Yozurt, which would become a much-loved local stopping place in town. Her success here over the years would lead to some 120 stores across nine states. She sold the chain in 1989, but her energy and entrepreneurial spirit would not allow her to rest. Instead she moved into another arena of women's sports and fashion attire with the catchy store name of Tight Assets. It has now become another Laguna institution. Around the same time, she rescued the World News Stand in downtown with the simple motive of preserving another iconic Laguna landmark. She also is the longtime co-owner-publisher of the Laguna Beach Times newsletter. As a former national and international women's bodybuilding champion, it was a logical step to becoming an author of a book and video, Body Sculpting Step-by-Step. She even once acted in film as an extra in MGM's "The Ice Pirates."
Outside of her business activities, Heidi Miller has been active for many years in charitable organizations at high levels as a board member of the American Heart Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and City of Hope as well as more locally, the Laguna Playhouse and the Laguna Beach Historical Society. It was her passion for health and fitness that made her aware of the importance of being a donor to give others life by being a blood and platelet donor. In 1991, her friend, Terry Reisdorf, desperately needed a bone marrow transplant to live. Heidi found she was a match and underwent the procedure at Hoag Hospital that extended Terry's life another 23 years.
More recently in 2017, she had been unable to attend an awareness event for kidney disease put on by her friend Carol Pickup that included organ recipient, Rod Carew, the baseball player. The awareness aspect dealt with a Los Angeles Times writer named Bruce Cook who was suffering from genetic kidney failure. After seven years of undergoing dialysis and other treatments but without hope of a transplant, Bruce was nearing a painful end to his life. Heidi learned of this and asked a former employee, Cindy Alexander, about her experience of donating a kidney to a relative's wife and whether she would have done it again. Cindy's response was, "Absolutely!" Thus inspired, Heidi now set about finding out if she might be a donor match for Bruce. After rigorous and lengthy testing, she was found to be a perfect match.
On November 17, Heidi Miller was welcomed "like a VIP queen" to the surgery tower of Cedars of Sinai Hospital that had been largely funded by Lagunans Bill and Sue Gross who also called in. Heidi and Bruce Cook were side by side in the operating theater as the four and half hour procedure was carried out. Three days later, she walked out while Bruce got much better almost instantaneously. Within two weeks, the indefatigable Heidi was back at work. Statistically, Bruce Cook—instead of having a few painful months to live—is now looking forward to at least 23 more years of life. He plans to ask Heidi to his ninetieth birthday. Adulation has showered upon Heidi ever since including our own humble recognition. For her part, Heidi feels that saving another person's life is an extraordinary experience and wonders why—given that so many people are dying for lack of donor kidneys—more people don't do it. We can only say: It takes an extraordinary person to give of themselves in this way. We are proud to honor her sacrifice and heroism.
The 2018 Laguna Beach Parade
Artists of the Year
Laguna Beach's enduring heritage has been as an artist colony. No institution here has done more in this regard than our Laguna Art Museum. We are pleased and proud this year to honor the museum as our Artists of the Year—and indeed, generations of our artists as well—as it celebrates its centennial. It was originally founded as the Laguna Beach Art Association, which built the gallery on Cliff Drive that today is the core of the museum complex and is now under the leadership of its executive director, Dr. Malcolm Warner.
Artists began discovering the remote and picturesque coast in the late 1880's, and by the 1910's, many were living here. In 1918, Edgar Payne, one of the best-known of the community's plein air painters, opened a one-room gallery to showcase not only his works but others including Anna Hills and Frank Cuprien. Its success led to the formation of the association as a way of exposing an ever-increasing number of visitors to their work. That was the forerunner of today's Laguna Art Museum, which steadily over the years has attained world-wide prestige.
The museum holds a large collection of Laguna's pioneer artists, not only of Payne, Hills, and Cuprien but others such as Joseph Kleitsch and William Wendt. This has been expanded in recent decades to include many more of the California art movement. Today's Laguna Art Museum is devoted to California art of the mid-nineteenth century to the present and takes pride in presenting the works and history of so many artists that have made our community world-renown. The centennial exhibition—Art Colony: The Laguna Beach Art Association, 1918-1935—will open in late June. For the past one hundred years, the works of our artists have delighted so many, and now we salute the museum for preserving our unique cultural heritage by saying: Here's to another hundred years! !
The 2018 Laguna Beach Parade
Athlete of the Year
Laguna Beach Water Polo Foundation
Seated L-R: General Manager Rob Grayeli, Founding Coach Chad Beele
Laguna Beach has always been known for its ocean water sports, but in the past few decades, it has also steadily gained worldwide fame as a hotbed of the grueling sport of water polo. Today, we honor as our Athletes of the Year the Laguna Beach Water Polo Foundation, an organization that has not only succeeded brilliantly in competition but also has produced a number Olympic Gold Medal winners and, most recently, Gold Medal teams at the 2017 Junior Olympics for girls 14 and under, girls 12 and under, and girls 10 led respectively by their Most Valuable Players, Nicole Struss, Charlotte Riches, and Sofia Umeda.
The organization began over twenty years ago as a club under the leadership of long-time coach Chad Beeler whose local roots come from both life-guarding and coaching swimming at the high school. Today, it has over ninety players from six years old to high school age. Key to the success has been the foundation’s eleven coaches under the general manager, Robert Grayeli, who himself played championship water polo in high school and college as well as later coaching here and abroad. Rob has recently been named as the head coach for the Laguna Beach High School boys aquatics program.
In particular today, we recognize the coaches of the 2017 Junior Olympics Gold Medal Team. Kelcie Ferreira was the coach for girls 12 and under. She hails from Trinidad and Tobago where she competed on the national team and won many awards. She attended Cal State Northridge and has coached for Laguna Beach Water Polo Club since 2015. Rob Carver was the coach of the team for girls 14 and under. He has been playing and coaching water polo for 36 years including being NCAA All-Tournament First Team at USC. Albie Beeler is the brother of Chad Beeler and was the coach of the Gold Medal team for girls 10 and under. He was a high school and college player; a Laguna Beach Lifeguard and Junior Guards supervisor; and coached for the club and foundation from 2008 to 2017. He is now the city’s aquatics coordinator which includes managing the community and high school pool.
Finally, we mention with acclaim last year’s honorees, Aria and Makenzie Fischer, who were part of this program and were members of the United States Gold Medal-winning team at the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro. All of you make Laguna Beach proud.
The 2018 Laguna Beach Parade
Junior Citizens of the Year
The Junior Citizens of the Year are chosen by the faculty and staff of Laguna Beach High School on the basis of their achievements in academics, leadership, athletics, and service to the community. Both are members of the graduating Class of 2018.
Marisa Schatz was born in China and has grown up in the Laguna Beach Unified School District attending El Morro, Thurston Middle School, and Laguna Beach High. She has been involved in community service and has served in the Girl Scouts for the past twelve years rising to high leadership as well as caring for animals, particularly dogs and horses. She played varsity basketball for three years and is a scholar-athlete by taking advanced placement courses and maintaining a Grade Point Average above 4.0. More recently, she has been focusing on design graphics and photography with some of her work going to local businesses while also doing in-class tutoring. Marisa has also been participating in the school’s dance program and is currently studying Japanese at Irvine Community College. She hopes to study business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Santa Barbara, or UC San Diego.
Joey Ravenna has lived his whole life in Laguna Beach, attending the same schools as Marisa. He is currently senior class president, president of the National Honor Society, and secretary-general of the high school’s Model United Nations. Recently he won the Best Delegate Award at the International Model U.N. Conference held at the University of Chicago. An academic all-star, his GPA is a stellar 4.56 while, in athletics, he is a member of the varsity golf team. Last year, Laguna’s American Legion Post 222 chose him as a delegate to Boys State in Sacramento. He has won numerous Excellence Awards for being top student in his class as well as being named Rotary’s Student of the Month. Joey hopes to attend Harvard, Yale, or the University of Chicago to study quantitative political science and then attend law school with the eventual aim of getting involved in the legislative process.
The 2018 Laguna Beach Parade
The 2018 Laguna Beach Parade
Jackson Blake Pihl
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Last updated February 18, 2018