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Laguna mourns loss of Barbara Diamond, the doyenne of journalism, and honors her profound legacy

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

On Wednesday, the passing of journalist Barbara Diamond, 88, a cherished and revered figure in the community and iconic reporter with Stu News, left a void that can never be filled. Always the keen observer and discerning chronicler – of just the facts and only the facts – no one knew the town better than Barbara.

After separating from her husband in 1980, a visit to Shaw’s Cove with her three boys turned into a stay that graced and elevated our city for 41 years. When she purchased her historic home on Diamond Street in 1985, she became known as “The Diamond of Diamond Street.” 

Longtime friend Kris Thalman says, “Such sad news to hear about our legendary Barbara Diamond’s passing yesterday! She was the ultimate professional, a wonderful friend and confidant, as well as [the source of] a wealth of amazing life stories. She was kind, always dressed to the nines, and a generous soul. We love you, Barbara, and will miss you immensely! RIP my friend!”

As described by friends and colleagues, Barbara was an icon, a class act, a real gem, one-of-a-kind, and a treasure – who was always fashionably dressed and wore her signature red glasses with style.

A staple at City Council meetings, Barbara had a special place both literally and figuratively in the council chambers.

Laguna mourns notebook

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Barbara on the job

“We are heartbroken to have lost Barbara,” says Michael Kinsman, former president, Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and Cheryl Kinsman, former Mayor, Laguna Beach. “Even our two dogs – Barbara’s and ours – were from the same litter. Laguna Beach has lost an icon. Barbara Diamond, who sat in the front row of all important meetings in town and who understood what those meetings meant and what was going on in our town, will be missed by all who knew her, either in person or through her writing. Her stories in Stu News every week kept Lagunans in the know about what was happening in our town. She was a friend to all on all sides of issues, and loved Laguna.” 

Barbara’s dedication didn’t go unnoticed and she received official recognition from many sources.

In July of 2018, she received a proclamation stating, “NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that I, Kelly Boyd, Mayor of the City of Laguna Beach, California, do hereby proclaim that Barbara F. Diamond (BFD) is a highly-respected, trusted and talented Laguna Beach legend, resident and journalist.”

In 2019, she was named the Grand Marshal of the Patriots Day Parade, however, it was postponed until 2020 due to weather.

Former mayor Elizabeth Pearson says, “I am so disheartened by the loss of my dear friend. It’s hard to imagine Laguna without her wonderful storytelling, infectious laugh and, for me, her wonderful kindness and sage advice. My heart is broken.”

It seems the journalism bug was in the family – her mother was a reporter.

Barbara was born on November 2, 1932, in Grand Junction, Colorado. Her father died when she was an infant and at age four, she moved to San Francisco with her stepfather Robert McElroy and reporter-mother Zella – known as “Pinkie.” 

Barbara began her journalism career at Galileo High School where she was editor of the school newspaper which won honors as the top three school newspapers in the nation. After graduating in 1950, she studied at San Francisco City College for two years, but at age 19, her passion for journalism drove her to take a job in the advertising department of The Examiner.

Laguna mourns parade

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2019/20 Grand Marshal of the Patriots Day Parade

There she met her future husband Jerry Diamond, who handled The Examiner’s advertising accounts. Evidently, sparks flew; however, before they could get married, William Randolph Hearst, the owner of The Examiner, had to give his permission. Since Barbara wasn’t crazy about advertising, she left and she and Jerry started a family that eventually grew to three sons – Kevin, Kenneth, and Paul.

What began with writing a column on sports car road-racing (British Motor Cars) led her husband to start his own PR agency with BMC as their sole client.

As his career flourished, they moved from San Bruno to Tiburon in Marin County and Barbara became a stay-at-home mom.

With the rise of women’s sports, Jerry became executive director of the Women’s Tennis Association, and Barbara signed on as the editor of the sport’s official journal, Inside Women’s Tennis. However, the marriage didn’t survive.

Once Barbara moved to Laguna, her journalistic work became a fixture in the community. What started as writing PR pieces for the animal shelter led to a job at the Laguna News-Post writing columns such as “Village Views,” “Dana Pointers,” and “Niguel Nuggets.” She also initiated the Police Blotter section.

However, many changes were to come. The Orange County Register bought the Laguna News-Post and Barbara decided she wanted to report local news. She retired in 2000 after suffering a severe hand injury, but soon after contacted the late Stu Saffer at the Coastline News to see if he might want a “mature reporter.” He did, and she was given a wide berth to write what she wanted, when she wanted. 

Laguna mourns council meeting

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Barbara at her table at a Council meeting

In 2002, the LA Times acquired the Coastline News and it became the Coastline Pilot for which she wrote a column. (In 2016, the Coastline Pilot was absorbed into the Daily Pilot.)

Tragically, her son Paul was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013 and Barbara left for Marin to care for him.

By the time she returned three years later after Paul’s death, Stu Saffer had successfully developed a new mode of producing news – this time online as Stu News. Stu and his business partner Shaena Stabler welcomed her back and she resumed her career at age 83, continuing to cover the City Council meetings and all things Laguna. 

Shaena, owner, editor, and publisher of Stu News, says, “Our community is heartbroken over the loss of Barbara. A journalist of the utmost integrity, she dedicated her life to Laguna, and our community is better because of her. She brought us together as a town, story by story. Barbara was Laguna – how will we ever carry on without her? I will personally miss her so very much, as I know so many of us will. She touched so many people’s lives, in so many ways, across the aisles, across the generations. My heart goes out to her family – whom she loved and cherished deeply. May we honor Barbara forevermore through our lives and our actions.”

Her son Paul Diamond preceded her in death, as did her grandson Brian. She is survived by two sons: Kevin Diamond, of Sausalito and Kenny Diamond, of Corte Madero, and daughter-in-law Chris Diamond; grandchildren Julie, Scott Diamond, Kaitlyn Diamond, Kelsey Diamond, Lindsey Diamond, and Nicholas Diamond; and great-grandson Tyler.

She is also survived by nephews Jeff Hadlich, of Laguna Beach; John Hadlich of Redmond, Oregon; and Joel Hadlich of Huntington Beach; as well as niece Janine Conners of Dana Point; and sister-in-law Patsy Hadlich of Dana Point.

In an interview with the Daily Pilot in February of 2019 when she was due to ride as Grand Marshal in the Patriots Day Parade, which was canceled due to rain, Barbara said, “It doesn’t happen every day that you get to be a part of the history of the town.”

It could also be said that it doesn’t happen every day that a town has the privilege of having someone as rare as Barbara Diamond in its midst. 

Please send your remembrances of Barbara for our continuing tribute next week in the Tuesday and Friday editions. Send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For those wishing to donate to Barbara’s LBHS Scholarship Fund, details will follow in Tuesday’s edition.