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Our Laguna: Family, friends turn out for Hano's 90th

A couple hundred of Bonnie and Arnold Hano's nearest and dearest celebrated Arnold's 90th birthday Saturday at Tivoli Terrace.

The nonagenarian requested no gifts for himself, but gifts to the Laguna Beach Community Clinic or Village Laguna were acceptable. Verbal bouquets were presented in abundance, beginning with the invitation, which read: "Friendship, wine and Arnold Hano improve with time."

"I am honored just to be here," said Barbara Painter.

John Monahan said he was also honored to be selected as master of ceremonies.

"I was Bonnie's first choice, not Arnold's," Monahan said. "However, Jennifer Lopez was not available."

Accolades began with Hano's son, Stephen.

He said the first birthday he remembers was his father's 30th.

"I was 8, and Bonnie brought out this chocolate cake. I had never seen so many candles," Stephen said. "He blew them all out and commented. 'Gee, the 20s went by so fast. Do you think the 30s will go as fast?'

"Yes, the 30s did. As did the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

"If there is any justice in this world, in 2022, we will be celebrating your 100th birthday."

Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger spoke next.

"Her connection to Arnold goes back to the 1970s," said Monahan. "He described her as a young chick getting her first taste of politics and never looked back."

Of course, Monahan was referring to the successful drive to limit building heights in Laguna and Rollinger's six terms as city clerk and, after a few years in retirement, her election to the City Council.

"I came to Laguna in 1970," Rollinger said. "In 1971, I was asked to help Phyllis Sweeney open an 'initiative office.' I hadn't been involved in anything like that, and I got to meet all these movers and shakers. And Village Laguna was formed.

"In 1972, I got a call from Arnold asking if I would be president of Village Laguna. I said I had never even attended a meeting. 'In that case,' he said, 'Would you be secretary?'"

When Rollinger ran for office in 1976, her brochure was written by Hano.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman followed Rollinger to the rostrum. She said her history with Hano was not without bumps.

Iseman spoke of one incident when he was vehemently opposed to a project she supported.

"He said I was supporting [the project] because the applicant was so handsome," Iseman said. "I was so offended. He wasn't my type."

Michael Phillips said as a young journalist he learned a lot about writing from Hano.

Phillips had submitted a feature story he thought was a prize winner to the Orange County Fair, which used to have contests for writers.

But the prize went to Hano.

"You won't believe this," Phillips said. "He wrote a feature about his hernia operation. His second hernia operation.

"Some stories write themselves. Others require talent and skill. Reading his story, I knew no one else had a chance at the prize."

Hano is the author of 36 books and countless articles — a lot of them related to baseball. His family lived across the street from the Polo Grounds in New York, and Hano grew up a Giants fan.

His 160-page book, "A Day in the Bleachers," about the first game of the 1954 World Series, is considered a baseball classic and is still for sale online.

The Rev. Colin Henderson said when you are in your 90s, it never a bad idea to have a man of God in your corner.

"Arnold is the kind of person who cares for the less fortunate," said Henderson, and that puts him in Hano's corner.

Hano is on the board of the Laguna Relief and Resource Center, which provides services to the homeless community of Laguna.

The Hanos, who have been together for 60 years, served in the Peace Corps.

They have been honored as Laguna Legends by the Laguna Canyon Conservancy and as Villagers of the Year by Village Laguna.


Carolyn Wood honored

Environmental activist Carolyn Wood was honored at the March 20 council meeting with a proclamation recognizing her contributions to the city.

Wood's retirement from her longtime seat on the Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee prompted the proclamation.

"You are one of the reasons Laguna Beach is what it is today," said Mayor Jane Egly before presenting the proclamation.

Wood was a member for 11 years. Her efforts to improve circulation and parking downtown were unflagging and backed up by documents. Her records are legendary. It has been said that her home is an archive.

Whenever there has been a threat to the natural beauty of the canyon or an opportunity to enhance it, Wood has been a vanguard, armed with facts.

She was among the first, and certainly most vocal, to call the 73 Toll Road a money pit that simply did not pencil out.

The proclamation's "whereases" began with Wood's co-founding of the Laguna Canyon Conservancy and serving as its president for 24 years.

During that time, Wood worked closely with the Laguna Canyon Foundation, of which she was secretary, to ensure the preservation and enhancement of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, including a herculean effort to save the canyon from Irvine Co.'s county-approved 3,200-home development, according to the proclamation.

Other accolades included Wood's efforts to get voter approval of Proposition 70, which brought $10 million to Laguna to buy open space, and working to stop development that would have extended Alta Laguna Boulevard down the hillside to Canyon Acres and replacing it with city-purchased open space. For that endeavor, the highest knoll in Laguna was named for her.

Wood also helped convince the California Coastal Commission to deny a proposal to lop off the oceanside hill at Big Bend in order to straighten and widen Laguna Canyon Road.

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

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