It had to be Stu, wonderful Stu

Stu’s Celebration of Life took place last Saturday at Riddle Field, where Stu spent some of the happiest years of his life coaching Little League. One of the speakers, council member Bob Whalen, recalled a time when Stu did some umpiring also – but, being Stu, apparently he’d occasionally wander toward the bleachers to chat to the spectators or get caught up offering random coaching tips, so that he had to be reminded there was a game going on. 

Stu didn’t care as much about the rules as he did about the spirit of the game, much like his attitude toward journalism. “It’s about heart,” he’d say about both.

Because that was Stu – above all, a man with a big heart. 

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Brandon Leahy tells the crowd about his love of Stu

The words “kindness,” “warmth,” “mentor” and “humor” were repeated by almost all speakers during the remembrances. (Though Mayor Toni Iseman snuck in a “sneaky” also, by which she meant that as an inveterate newsman, Stu would put his interview subjects at ease, so much so that from time to time they’d forget they were talking to a journalist with the means to reveal their deepest secrets.)

But no one ever had to worry about that with Stu. As several speakers noted, Stu cared deeply about people and community. He loved journalism and news, not gossip, and never broke a confidence.

Another theme throughout the speeches was Stu’s tendency to talk, well, quite a lot. Several mentions of hours-long telephone conversations were made, with sadness that those conversations would no longer happen. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Speakers and FOS (friends of Stu) l-r: Brandon Leahy, Mark Christy, Shaena Stabler, Bob Whalen, Chris Keller, Dennis McTighe

Chris Keller told how he met Stu at his hotel one evening, an evening that became early morning as they talked nonstop about matters dear to each of their hearts – which we know would have included all things Laguna.

Speaker after speaker, including also Brandon Leahy, whom he regarded as a son, former Laguna mayor Elizabeth Pearson, Festival of the Arts’s Sharbie Higuchi, and Lynette Brasfield, now the editor of Stu News Laguna, spoke of his absolute confidence in the people he loved, and how inspiring it was to be so trusted by a man of such integrity.

Shaena Stabler, his business partner, said that Stu was “the best man she had ever known.” With tears in her eyes she shared: “He had a way of making each person in his life feel special and worthy and empowered to be the best versions of themselves that they could be. He gave freely and without limitation his time, his talent, and most importantly his beautiful heart...over and over again in this life.”

And to cap it all Mark Christy gave a speech that was funny, warm and generous, just like the man he was honoring. “I thought I knew more than most people about music, baseball and Laguna, but Stu had me beaten on all counts,” he said of their long and deep friendship.

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Mark Christy gave a speech that was funny, warm and generous

Christy added, “Stu loved baseball and understood the integrity of America’s game rested on a fair and unbiased pair of eyes calling ‘em as they see ‘em…When reporting on local events, Stu dug deeper than anyone else, listened intently to all sides, positioned himself in the best vantage point to observe the action, and… at the end of the day, called it as he saw it.”

Pastor Don Sciortino started the ceremony with a prayer, Chris Quilter summarized Stu’s life, and three songs were played, each a Stu favorite, highlighting facets of his personality: Let it Flow, by Elvin Bishop; A Lucky Life, by Vonda Shepard; and Ramblin’ Man, by the Allman Brothers. A poem by Maya Angelou, When Great Trees Fall, was read by Linda Morgenlander, Brandon Leahy’s aunt.

Stu News Laguna staff were out in force also to pay tribute to their boss, mentor and friend. Present were former associate editor Maggi Henrikson, Police Beat writer Alli Rael, columnists Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Suzie Harrison and Samantha Washer, writer Dianne Russell, photographers Scott Brashier and Mary Hurlbut, and of course Dennis McTighe, McWeather, who relished the sunshine. 

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Dennis McTighe, McWeather, made sure the sun shone

People seemed reluctant to leave, understandably. They had spent the last two hours eating great hamburgers and hot dogs at Riddle Field in true Stu fashion, listening to the music he loved, and sharing many a story of the great but humble newsman’s accomplishments – not to mention his wonderful quirks – and above all, his love of Laguna, and of Shaena, who has promised to keep Stu News Laguna flourishing as Stu had so dearly wished. 

It’s hard to bid farewell to such a man.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Lynette Brasfield is our Features Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Maggi Henrikson is our Contributing Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster.

Katie Ford is our Ad Designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Cameron Gillespie, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are the staff photographers.

Stacia Stabler is our Account & Instagram Manager.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

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