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Laguna Beach

 Volume 13, Issue 75  |  September 17, 2021

PMMC invites the community to celebrate the life of co-founder John Cunningham on Saturday

Pacific Marine Mammal Center invites the community to join together on Saturday, Sept 18 to celebrate the life of PMMC co-founder John Cunningham during a special day of remembrance.

The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Picnic Beach at Heisler Park. Attendees are welcome to join a group that will be paddling out into the ocean to spread John’s ashes. Afterwards, there will be a picnic, great company, and a sharing of wonderful memories.

“Like many fledgling groups, we were unsure of what would happen or what was really needed to make the center a reality. Our foremost goal was to save marine animals that had been hurt from natural causes or had run afoul of the 20th century,” said Cunningham, a marine biology teacher at Laguna Beach High School, during an interview about the nonprofit published in the LA Times in 1988.

“We wanted to rehabilitate, then release, our patients back to the sea in a healthy, playful condition. These are wild animals, not pets, and part of the natural resources that contribute to the beauty of Orange County,” he added.

PMMC invites John Cunningham

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of PMMC

John cleans up during the early days

John, who co-founded the nonprofit with Jim Stauffer, continued to be intimately involved with the organization. He was honored at the PMMC “Call of the Sea” Gala in September of 2019. The fundraiser served as an opportunity to reflect on his contributions to the organization and the greater community over the years. The event kicked off with a tribute video and as reported, there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd as they gave him a standing ovation.

On PMMC’s 50th anniversary in February 2021, John said, “In 1971, Jim Stauffer, Dr. Rose Ekeberg, and I started a small group known as the Friends of the Sea Lions. With the help of a handful of Laguna Beach high school students, our mission was to rescue, rehabilitate, and release sick and injured seals and sea lions along the Orange County coast. Today, 50 years later, I am so proud to still be a part of what’s become a world-class nonprofit now known as the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.”

PMMC invites John and Stephanie

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Courtesy of PMMC

John and his wife Stephanie in 2019 at Aliso Creek Beach

“John was such an inspiration,” says PMMC Chief Executive Officer Peter Chang. “He made an overwhelming and lasting impression with everyone that he touched. He was always so thankful to the entire Pacific Marine Mammal Center family for carrying on something that he was so extremely passionate about. He left an incredible legacy. In fact, a great deal of what we do today is a result of what John instilled into the fabric of our culture and operations. Although he’s moved on, he will never be forgotten. He is someone that will be missed dearly.”


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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