The 2020 Parade Honorees are
Barbara Diamond Grand Marshal Arnold Silverman Honored Patriot Sande St. John Citizen of the Year Roxanna Ward Artist of the Year Jade Howson Athlete of the Year Alexis Yang and Cal Nielson 2019 Junior Citizens of the Year Cleo Washer 2019 Essay Winner Diego Lapayese-Calderon 2019 Cover Artist
The 2020 Laguna Beach Parade
Journalist Barbara F. Diamond
This year’s grand marshal needs no introduction to the people of our community. If a history of Laguna Beach is ever produced, it will rely on the reportage of the longtime doyenne of the Laguna Beach press corps, Barbara Diamond, for it is she who has been writing about us for close to four decades.
Barbara Frances Diamond was born in Grand Junction, Colorado in 1932. Her father died when she was an infant, and at age four, she moved to San Francisco with her stepfather, Robert McElroy and larger-than-life reporter-mother, Zella---known to all as “Pinkie.” She attended Galileo High School of Joe DiMaggio and O.J. Simpson notoriety, becoming editor of the school newspaper that would win recognition by the University of Missouri’s famed School of Journalism as one of the top three school papers in the nation. Graduating in 1950, she attended San Francisco City College for two years; however, imbued with a passion for journalism, she quit to take a job at the in the advertising department of the Examiner at the age of only nineteen.
There she would meet an ambitious colleague, a New Yorker named Jerry Diamond while on a date with his best friend. The attraction was immediate, but before they could marry, they had to get permission from their employer. This was an anachronistic policy of William Randolph Hearst, the owner of the Examiner and the paternalistic baron of news publishers. The irony of it was that Barbara was stuck in advertising, a field she found both boring and stressful. She left and soon was pregnant with the first of her three sons, Kevin Taylor, who was followed in short order by Kenneth Shepherd and Paul Dodge.
By the late 1950’s, sports car road-racing in California had become a major sport. Jerry handled the Examiner’s advertising accounts for the sport including its leading dealer, British Motor Cars. Jerry felt the paper was losing the coverage initiative to the rival Chronicle and so urged it to start a dedicated column. Jerry soon was writing the column himself, and then he decided to make a break by opening a small public relations firm with BMC as its sole client. In 1958, the family had bought their first house in San Bruno for $18,500, a sum that terrified Barbara at the time. However, Jerry’s career took off, and five years later, they moved to Tiburon in Marin County. At the time, it was economically possible for Barbara to be a stay-at-home mom, but that would not last.
The coming years would be a fortuitous time for the couple because women’s sports were gaining a lot of public appeal. This was particularly so in pro tennis with the rise of its star, Billy Jean King. Jerry became executive director of the Women’s Tennis Association whose main tournament sponsor was Virginia Slims with its now-famous slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” Barbara became editor of the sport’s official journal, Inside Women’s Tennis. Revenues soared to organizers and athletes alike. Reflecting today, she proudly notes that this was a leading part of a bigger movement that began with Title IX of the Civil Rights Act that mandated equal treatment by sex of state-supported activities including sports. Even as their enterprises were flourishing, sadly, Barbara and Jerry as a couple weren’t, and they decided to separate.
Barbara had visited Laguna Beach with her boys in the past and now thought it might be a good place to recuperate for a couple of fateful weeks at Shaw’s Cove over Christmas. To our good fortune, she extended her stay and never went back. In 1985, she bought an historic house here, thus becoming “The Diamond of Diamond Street.”
Feeling that she was too young to “play around in retirement,” the next stage of her career began by walking into the Laguna Art Museum to volunteer. She began writing PR pieces for it as well as the animal shelter in the Canyon and took them into the Laguna News-Post for publication. That led to a job there in 1985 answering the phone, sweeping floors, and writing a column called “Village Views” as well as others called “Dana Pointers” and “Niguel Nuggets” even though, as she now confesses, she didn’t know much about any of them back then. She started the Police Blotter section when she did an interview of an intellectually challenged rape victim that brought her to tears. Years of full-on reporting followed.
These were---and are---turbulent times for newspapers where digging out facts and reporting them is the objective. The Register bought the News Post shortly after Barbara was hired, and even though the job never paid well, Barbara didn’t relish being part of a conglomerate; she wanted to report locally. She “retired” in 2000 after getting a bad hand injury but then approached the late Stu Saffer to see if he might want a “mature reporter” at the competing Coastline. To her delight, Stu gave her leave to write whatever and whenever she chose, a blessing given her injury. In 2004, the Times acquired the Coastline renaming it the Coastline Pilot. Again came the question: Should she stay on? There was a chorus of locals who urged her to remain because by now it was widely recognized that no one knew the town better than Barbara Diamond.
In 2013, she received the kind of devastating news no mother wants to learn: son Paul had pancreatic cancer. She left work for Marin where Kevin and Ken plus seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren also lived. After caring for Paul until he died two and half years later, Barbara returned home to Laguna. Depressed and thinking no one would remember her, her doctor advised her: Go back to work!
Meanwhile, in yet another convulsion of local newspapers, Stu Saffer initiated a new---and more cost-effective---mode of producing trustworthy news, this time on-line as StuNews. Stu and his partner Shana Stabler welcomed Barbara back. Overcoming her notorious aversion to electronics, she happily settled into this new format. The doctor’s “prescription” worked, and Barbara today is in top form as a journalist, doing what she loves. With so many in these times relying on undisciplined social media for their news, Barbara Diamond resolutely says: “I believe legitimate newspapers are the first line of defense for transparency in government, not to mention democracy.” We agree and salute her unsung courage for giving us the straight news for all these years.
The 2020 Laguna Beach Parade
Korean War Veteran
This honor is awarded to those who have served the nation gallantly or meritoriously in time of war or national emergency. For many Americans of younger generations, the brutal conflict in Korea from 1950 to 1953 remains a “forgotten” war. Yet, over 38,000 Americans were killed in action there, nearly seven times the numbers lost in the much longer ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today we honor one of the unsung veterans of the Korean War, former Sergeant Arnie Silverman of the United States Army.
Arnold H. Silverman was born in Washington, DC in 1929 and grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey. After graduating in accounting from Rutgers University in 1951, he was immediately drafted into the army. This was less than a year after communist forces had invaded South Korea and taken an American peacetime defense establishment by surprise. After undergoing training in infantry heavy weapons, his level of education led to a specialist assignment with the Counter Intelligence Corps at Fort Holabird near Baltimore and then overseas to Tokyo, Japan. This comfortable billet ended within a week of his arrival in December of 1951 as Chinese and North Korean forces were attacking American lines around a strategically important area known as the Iron Triangle.
Fighting in bitter cold ensued in a series of seesaw battles that were aimed at securing the best positions for what ultimately became the present-day demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea. Because of his previous training, Arnie was ordered to the 35th Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division as a forward observer for 81-millimeter mortars and recoilless rifles. Being an F/O is one of the most dangerous roles involving infantry heavy weapons because it requires one to be out in front of friendly positions to locate the enemy and direct accurate fire. It is also one of the loudest, and gunfire would damage Arnie’s hearing so badly that he would eventually be awarded a small disability as a result.
After seven months of combat on the line, Arnie was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge and transferred to an island named Koje-do to guard prisoners-of-war and restore security to their overcrowded camp. Now a sergeant, he returned to combat a few months later northwest of Chorwon just west of the Iron Triangle as the warring sides attempted to work out a truce.
In March of 1953, he returned home and took a job as an accountant. After the constant adrenalin-fueled immediacy of combat, he found himself not well-suited to the often tedious minutiae of accounting. Several years later, he successfully switched to sales beginning with an early generation of copying machine while based in Manhattan. Over the next forty years, he would have a rewarding and fulfilling career selling and marketing software solutions and managing national sales forces for several mainframe computer companies.
Following the advice of a fellow racquetball player, he would meet Myrna Appel of Brooklyn on a blind date. The two married in 1956, and in June they will celebrate sixty-three years of marriage. In 1967, his company transferred Arnie to El Segundo, which would be the first extended stay in California for the family which included three children: Meryl who is now a marketing director; Robert, an anesthesiologist; and Donald, a pilot for Delta. A second stay, this time for good, came in 1978 as Arnie shifted into a new field of technology involving mini-computers.
Since retiring at age 70, Arnie has been very active in veterans’ affairs such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars including service as post commander as well as assisting the Wounded Warriors Battalion at Camp Pendleton, mentoring at the Orange County Combat Veterans Court in Santa Ana, and reading to kids in elementary school. Arnie Silverman is a living example of an everyday hero, and we are most proud to honor him this year.
The 2020 Laguna Beach Parade
Sande St. John
There are certain people in our community who seem to be everywhere when it comes to doing worthy but often thankless tasks. Indeed, they exemplify this year’s parade theme, “Everyday Heroes” like our Citizen of the Year, Sande St John. It is difficult to go to an event from a pancake breakfast to community theater that requires volunteers and not find Sande there, carrying out a multitude of good deeds.
Sandra Jean Marie St John was born the third of six children to Frank and Jean Tomcsik in Detroit where she would later attend Chadsey High School and Highland Park College. At one point, she interrupted her studies in business to visit her sister in Downey where she immediately liked the California experience, especially in comparison to Michigan’s winters. She returned home to marry, whereupon the young couple decided to move to Downey, later settling in Pasadena where Sande would give birth to two boys and a girl.
Sande began working as a men’s apparel sales representative based out of the huge California Mart complex in Los Angeles. Her lines included some of the largest houses like Christian Dior, Hathaway, Pringle, and Cross Creek. This was fortunate because her own circumstances soon radically changed; she now found herself raising three kids on her own. Brief respites came in the form of visits to Laguna Beach, where son Derek in particular liked the surfing. Sande too loved the beach life and was able to engineer a permanent move here in 1985. As her children grew up, Sande redirected her life to helping others in our community.
Long before the MeToo movement became part of the public conscience, Sande knew that safe places for abused women were vital. Along with Derek, she threw her efforts into Human Options that took the form of a safe and secure house in town. Another area of concern for Sande was older Lagunans from all walks who found themselves without support systems in a town that had gotten surprisingly affluent over the years. One answer was volunteering for Laguna Beach Seniors, which offered free lunches out of the lower level of Legion Hall. Another was putting on events with the TLC Feedback Foundation. From there, Sande participated in the creation of a permanent facility called the Susi Q that today offers a tremendous array of programs not only for seniors but for the entire community.
Many other organizations have benefitted from Sande’s indefatigable spirit. She was a founder board member of No Square Theatre; Music and Arts Commendations for Youth (the MACY Awards); the Women’s Club Resource Center; the Laguna Beach Film Society; and the Laguna Beach Relief and Resource Center that has helped victims of our various fires and floods. She has chaired innumerable events from Santa’s visits for twenty-five years; the American Legion’s Easter Egg Hunt; the Pancake Breakfast; fire, police, and lifeguard awards banquets; the Exchange Club’s Golden Deeds Awards; to the Laguna Beach Community Band. As a goodwill ambassador, Sande helped entering Laguna Beach into the World Kindness Movement, the first American city to become so involved. Along with her longtime pal, Sandy Thornton, she was even co-president of the parade association some years ago.
Last December, Sande was named by the Orange County Register as one of the county’s one hundred most influential persons. Her other awards are legion: She was recognized as the first Woman of the Year by the Women’s Club, St. Catherine’s, and the 74th Assembly District. She has received the AAUW Leadership Trailblazer Award; the Soroptimist Woman of Distinction Award; the Human Options Award; the Laguna Beach Seniors Lifetime Achievement Legacy Award; and the Harry Lawrence Person of the Year Award. She has also been honored with commendation resolutions at the school district, city, county, and state senate levels.
One cannot live by being a volunteer alone, of course, so Sande has also had a career in various jobs involving the community such as serving as a director of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce. She still represents several lines of men’s apparel. Closer to home, her especial pleasures involve being with her grandchildren: Todd (“TJ”) and Alina’s boys, Jack and Blake; Derek and Maria’s Dylan and Tyler; and Shanin and Wayne Ostrander’s daughters, Camryn, Katelyn and Kelsey. Today, we are proud to honor Sande St John for her decades of selfless service to the citizens of Laguna Beach.
The 2020 Laguna Beach Parade
Artist of the Year
In many respects, the profession of art is intended to bring wonderment, joy, and pleasure to the onlooker. In many different venues and in many versatile styles from classical to country to show tunes, no musician in this community does it better that this year’s artist, Roxanna Ward. You simply cannot come from one of her performances without a smile on your face.
So, how did this talent evolve? The story begins in the Central Valley. Roxanna was born in Modesto and grew up in a musical family in the small town of Ceres. Her father, Ivan, was a professional country pedal steel guitar player and her mother, Zelpha, was a talented singer. Surrounded by music, Roxanna took naturally to piano and accompanied both parents in their individual styles. She won a scholarship in classical piano to University of the Pacific. Although she was rigorously trained as a concert pianist, pursuing that as a career didn’t appeal to her.
A turning point came when her brother Steve, who had been wounded in Vietnam, took her to his new base at Fort Bragg. While back east, Roxanna met her future mentor, Bob Simpson, who would guide her onto Broadway for work as a rehearsal pianist and music arranger. Although Roxanna loved it, over time she came to miss California. That led her west to Manhattan Beach and a stint writing music for industries that used Broadway-like stage productions to introduce new products.
One day, Bob Simpson drove her down to Laguna where she immediately asked herself why she was in Manhattan Beach. She got a small studio here, and one Sunday, a friend took her for brunch at Laguna’s late and notorious bistro, the Little Shrimp. Someone asked her to play the piano, and Roxanna sat down to a gig that would last thirteen years. There she met Bree Burgess Rosen, the founder of No Square Theatre, which began another long association. Raising a son, Jake Smith, now at UCSB, required regular employment. That came with the school district in 2001, where she has been the musical backbone of its award-winning performing arts program. Full-time jobs for music professionals are rarer than unicorns, and Roxanna’s others have included being musical director of the Laguna Playhouse’s youth theater as well as working at the Orange County School of the Arts and on cruises for the Olivia Travel Company. Gratifyingly, one of her songs, “Remember Who You Are,” became a hit.
As everyone in this town knows, No Square is our community theater. Roxanna Ward has been “the music” in virtually all its modes from youth theater to musicals to its yearly irreverent send-up of all things sacred called “Lagunatics.” Most special are her solo shows where all her talents at the keyboard plus outrageously funny commentary are displayed. For her many years of entertaining us and generously bringing out the talents of others in our community, we salute Roxanna Ward today.
The 2020 Laguna Beach Parade
Athlete of the Year
Laguna Beach is world-famous for its pioneering champion athletes in various watersports beginning with surfing, beach volleyball, skimboarding, and water polo. Although standup paddleboarding dates back a few thousand years, by all accounts California has been the epicenter of its modern form that has recently---and rapidly---spread around the globe. We are happy and proud that our community has produced a world champion in the sport. She is Jade Howson,16-year old junior at Laguna Beach High School.
Born and raised in Laguna, Jade caught her first wave at age two thanks to her father, Robert, who owns a surf shop. One day when she was about seven, Jade observed her dad doing SUP, and after trying it herself, immediately took to it like a natural. The sport has several different modes of competition including ocean racing; channel crossing; sprints; as well as technical surf racing. Under the tutelage of her coach, Mike Eisert, Jade has gone on to win championships in all of them, which are held under the aegis of the International Surfing Association.
In the past year alone, her accomplishments were many: She was the first woman to finish the grueling 27-mile Maui-to-Molokai cross-channel race on a 14-foot board in a time of 4 hours 20 minutes. During the Pacific Paddle Games of 2018, she won the junior title for technical surf racing at Doheny State Beach, an event that was held in a series of heats like regular surfing contests. Last November, she took home a gold medal and the junior world title at the World SUP and Paddleboard Championship held at Wanning on China’s Hainan Island. Then for good measure, she won the bronze in the women’s 200-meter sprint competition. Despite all these accolades, Jade takes her studies seriously and hopes eventually to attend a university close to the ocean. We salute our young gold medalist.
The 2020 Laguna Beach Parade
Junior Citizens of the Year
Laila Cruz and Nathan Solomon
Our honorees have been chosen by the faculty and staff of Laguna Beach High School on the basis of their achievements in scholarship, leadership, athletics, and community service. They are members of the Class of 2020.
Alexis Yang was born in Dallas, Texas, and spent the early years of her childhood in South Korea. She has been a student in Laguna Beach schools since 3rd grade. A stellar student, she carries a grade point average of 4.6, one of the highest we have ever noted. Her service to the community is equally noteworthy: She has been a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club teaching 4th and 5th graders the art of programming digital devices and interactive objects using Arduino open source software as well as serving as a docent at the Discovery Center, the children’s science museum in Santa Ana. In athletics, she has been a four-year coxswain of a competitive youth rowing team out of the Newport Sea Base that last year went to US Rowing Youth Nationals held in Sacramento. Alexis is also an accomplished flutist, and played in the orchestra pit for various LBHS productions. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, and studying interior design and architecture. Alexis has been accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she will study computer science and engineering and row for the crew team.
Cal Patrick Nielson was born in Mesa, Arizona and also grew up in the Laguna Beach school system. He too is an academic all-star carrying a 4.4 grade point average while taking advance placement courses in research chemistry, calculus, Spanish literature, macroeconomics, English, and government while making the Superintendent’s Honor Roll all four years. Cal was junior class president and this year serves as president of the Associated Student Body and also was honored as the 2018 Homecoming King. Running is his sport of choice, and he is a four-year veteran of varsity cross-country and was on the team that won both CIF Southern Section and state championships last fall. In track he runs the 1,600- and 3,200-meter events. He is the three-year president of Club Give that serves hot meals to homeless people at the Alternative Sleeping Location in Laguna Canyon. Cal enjoys surfing and will attend Brigham Young University to study chemical engineering. He later intends to go on a mission on behalf of his church.
The 2020 Laguna Beach Parade
Essayist of the Year
The 2020 Laguna Beach Parade
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Last updated March 5, 2020