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Laguna Beach


Darwin Francis Black 

April 21,1929 - December 20, 2020

Darwin Black closeup

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Darwin Francis Black

Dar always remembered his Midwestern roots. Even after he moved to California in the 60s, for many years he drove back to Iowa to visit for a few months in the summer. He also visited England to see relatives and a castle owned by his ancestors.

He lived a full life to the end, sharing his time between his home in Laguna Beach and a place in Palm Springs. He was very sociable and had a large circle of friends who will always have fond memories and really miss him.

Like Johnny Carson, you can take the boy out of the Midwest, but you cannot take the Midwest out of the boy.

Darwin Black cigarette

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Darwin Black in his younger days

In memory of Darwin, loved ones will be gathering on what would have been his 92nd birthday, Wednesday, April 21, 2021.

Join together on the corner of Beach and Ocean in Laguna Beach anytime between 8-10 a.m. Pick up a coffee and join together in remembering our friend. If you’re still distancing, drive by and give a honk. 

Come join and celebrate what would have been Darwin Black’s 92nd Birthday. Loved ones are meeting at the corner of Beach and Ocean from 8-10 a.m. on Wednesday April 21, 2021.

Plant Man Column

“I’ve never met a tomato I didn’t like.” –Pete “Will Rogers” Kawaratani

What’s the biggest plant rage every year, from April until the fall? Simply red, it’s the ubiquitous tomato. With names like Early Girl, Super 100, and La Roma, tomatoes give amateur growers an opportunity to outdo the farmers. And we can!

Most gardeners start tomatoes with transplants, which are available at your local nursery. Best Laguna varieties include Early Girl and Celebrity. If you are growing in containers, select Patio. If you want large tomatoes, Super Steak and Better Boy are good choices, and Super 100 is a fine cherry tomato. 

Buy plants that are bushy, not leggy. Resist bringing home plants already in bloom or bearing fruit, as they may not transplant well. Set tomatoes deep, as roots will develop where the soil touches the stem; this makes for a bushier, stronger plant. Finally, choose a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight, and pinch off excess leaves, reserving a minimum of three pair at the top.

To prepare the soil, begin by using plenty of composted material to ensure good drainage and add a few ounces of starter fertilizer per plant. This initial fertilizer application will be sufficient for the plant until it sets fruit, and then it is time to fertilizer again. Feed once a month while the fruit develops and then discontinue once they near maturity.

Tomatoes require regular watering after the fruit has set, about two inches a week. One can stimulate earlier fruit production by placing the plant under a little water stress early, however, be careful not to overdo it. As harvest time approaches, cut back on watering, to get less watery fruit and increase flavor.

Letter Kawaratani 1

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Caged tomoato

Left to its own design, a tomato would prefer to sprawl, and there is no doubt the yield is heavier when so grown. Most home growers prefer to save space by staking their tomatoes or to plant them in cages, allowing them to sprawl upright over the structure. Count on a yield of 20-40 tomatoes per plant, depending on conditions and care.

Letter Kawaratani 2

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BT and Horticultural Oil

Most of the diseases and problems with tomatoes are in the past, thanks to the introduction of disease resistant tomatoes. Hornworms may be removed by hand picking, and eliminated by BT, Bacillus thuringiensis. Aphids are easily controlled using a horticultural oil.

Not maintaining uniform soil moisture after fruit has set, and/or a deficiency in calcium, can bring on sunken black areas at the flower end of the fruit. Similarly, a white scald on the cheek of the fruit indicates sunburn and is prevented through good cultural practices.

Letter Kawaratani 3

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Catharine’s finest kind tomato

It is true, that one of life’s great pleasures is the tomato; and only homegrown tomatoes can be enjoyed within moments of harvest. I dream about Catharine’s vine-ripened tomatoes during the winter, their bright red color and perfect taste. You can’t find tomatoes like hers at the finest restaurants or even the Farmer’s Market. So what are you waiting for? See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani has been a local guy for nearly seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja peninsula. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 494-5141.

Steve Kawaratani

Laguna Beach

Committee on racism

I believe the reader of an opinion piece is entitled to know the background of the author to ascertain credibility.

I have my doctorate from USC in Curriculum and Instruction with very few specializing in this area. I was a leader of History/Social Science curriculum writing throughout the state. I served on state textbook selection process for History/Social Science K-12. My experience in these areas gives me the insight required to analyze the situation. Therefore, I will dive directly into the district’s committee on “Institutional Racism.” The first step in proceeding with a topic is to formulate a hypothesis: Is the hypothesis for this project, “There is institutional Racism in America?” If so, where is the proof?

There was a time in America where systemic racism was real, a very ugly and heinous time in our history. But with the civil rights movement change was in the air. According to Carol Swain, a black college professor, “I was blessed in one crucial way. I was born in America, a true land of opportunity for anyone of any color or background. In this country, where you start in life does not determine where you end up. Your attitude is far more important than your race, gender, or social class in determining what you will accomplish.”

She continues by rejecting “Systematic Racism” as nonsense. It can be dangerous to propagate such an idea because it can push untold members of black youth into a dead-end of self-pity and despair. Instead of seizing the amazing opportunities America has to offer, they often use race as an excuse for why they are not performing.

I believe Carol Swain has a very interesting perspective based on her experience as a black woman. As such, I believe there should be a scholarly approach to this project by inviting speakers representing various points of view. Students should read and debate their findings.

Discussion and debate would energize this project. This should encourage critical thinking, debate, and fact finding. No place for propaganda and glittering generalities.

Dr. Debby Bowes
Laguna Beach

Remembering Jette Rae Anderson, Laguna resident

Jette and I met in December 2018, when she emailed regarding our annual Adopt-A-Family holiday event. She inquired about “adopting” one of the local needy families on our list, to provide presents and a holiday meal for them. I quickly learned that Jette was no stranger to the world of nonprofit! She had read an article in Stu News Laguna about our little grassroots organization, Tony’s Treehouse. Our story touched her, and she signed up for our Adopt program. That was just the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Jette, me, and the Treehouse. 

Over the next few months, we set a lunch date to meet up at one of her favorite spots in Laguna Niguel. When Sue and I met Jette face to face, we instantly felt like we’d known each other all our lives. Jette listened intently when we told her all about our small foundation. I was blessed with the opportunity to hear about her experience and receive kind words of wisdom. I loved it! That was just the first of many opportunities I had to see first-hand Jette’s Love and Light.

My deepest gratitude Jette, for your strong and steady influence. Your loving presence will be dearly missed by all who were blessed to be a part of your beautiful Life.

Becky Martinez

Laguna Beach

You gotta love baseball

From Riddle Field to Dodger Stadium, this season’s Opening Day of baseball is one for the record books, especially in this reopening year after COVID-19. I want to hear “Play ball” as much as anyone, but I want to hear “Get vaccinated” even more.

So here’s to a great season, on the field and off. Clearly, the players and fans deserve both.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Plant Man Column

“…We call this Friday good.” –T. S. Eliot

My earliest recollections of Easter are images of fellow, freshly scrubbed boys squirming in church, foil-wrapped chocolate bunnies (possibly pagan images of the Eveready bunny’s cousin), and of course, hunting for brightly colored, hard-boiled eggs, amidst the lawn and dog poop. Gardening was the last thing on my mind, after all, it’s still the fifties, and I haven’t progressed beyond raking bougainvillea bracts.

Letter Kawaratani 1

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April stirs a gardener’s soul with a host of gardening opportunities in Laguna – the largest selection of flowers, vegetables, shrubs, and trees are available this month. Your favorite garden center is literally overflowing with tempting spring bloomers, vying for attention with Easter holiday plants. Read on, and let’s get back to the garden with the Plant Man.

Q. When was Easter Island discovered?

A. Easter Island was discovered Easter Sunday, 1722, 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile by the Dutch explorer Roggeveen.

Q. Mr. Plant Man, how do I get rid of scale on my indoor palm?

A. Scale is an insidious problem; I generally recommend moving the plant outdoors and using a highly refined oil spray. If it is impossible to move the plant, repeated usage of an indoor plant granule insecticide may eventually work. Don’t let this one get out of control and remember to spray the underside of the palm fronds.

Q. Hi Plant Man. Will Daylight Savings have an effect on my plants?

A. Only that your plants will have more attention from you, because you’ll have an additional hour of daylight for evening gardening!

Q. What’s the best annual color now?

A. I would recommend planting ranunculus, primroses, pansy, viola, snapdragon, cyclamen, phlox, and bedding begonias for brilliant color in April.

Q. Is it time to plant vegetables?

A. Vegetable planting is well underway. Seeds of most kinds may be sown now, such as beets, carrots, corn, lettuce, peas, and radishes. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant may be found from starters.

Letter Kawaratani 2

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Catharine’s fuchsia

 Q. Mr. Plant Man, should I prune my fuchsia?

A. Catharine has not pruned her fuchsia, as it has never stopped blooming during the past year and kept a good form. If yours appears woody and has no blossoms, prune it to make them bushier this month and to stimulate new foliage and flowers.

Q. I forgot to fertilize last month. Am I too late?

A. Absolutely not. But the sooner you do so, the quicker your plants will benefit. 

Letter Kawaratani 3

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My chocolate Easter Bunny

Although I call every Friday good (because it marks the beginning of the weekend), it means I will soon be “opening” my Easter basket. Nestled amidst the artificial grass will be brightly colored, hard-boiled eggs – and the foil-wrapped chocolate Easter bunny. See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani has been a local guy for nearly seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja peninsula. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 494-5141.

Steve Kawaratani

Laguna Beach

LBUSD race justice or white privilege?

For the same reasons I became a civil rights lawyer in 1977, my concerns now run deep about what in my experience constitutes denial of equal opportunity for people of color in our public school workforce. Not to mention the numerical facts that in my opinion prove our School Board has presided over decimation by the current Superintendent of once strong representation for women educators in LBUSD senior leadership.

By way of background, as young student activists at LBHS my friends and I answered Martin Luther King’s call to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by joining non-violent protests against racial segregation. We went with classmates to see the popular anti-racist play A Glass House Shattered at the old Laguna Playhouse. We marched downtown with Caesar Chavez to protest corporate exploitation of Hispanic farm workers. Didn’t see anyone on our current School Board on the front lines in our town back then.

Unlike many on the far right, I’m not distracted by arguments that far left ideological extremists misappropriated the “Black Lives Matter” brand for profit or propaganda. My wife and I support BLM not as a special interest organization but as a national movement of Americans who understand that in 2021 black citizens are denied equal opportunity by the lingering legacy of legally institutionalized racial segregation lasting in the U.S. until 1967.

Instead of defunding cops, for two decades I advocated increased budgets for community policing education. We proposed better police training later pursued by LBPD Chief Farinella, whose recruitment I actively supported.

As a Peace Corps lawyer in Micronesia, Navy JAG lawyer at the White House, and General Counsel of a U.S. State Department agency with an $11 billion annual budget operating in over 100 countries, I confronted misogynist and racist discrimination in the federal workplace, personally recruiting the first women and black Americans into previously all white male senior State Department management positions.   

That experience informs my concerns about the politicized public relations campaign funded with education dollars to tout misleadingly, in my opinion, the LBUSD Superintendent’s so-called “Anti-Racist Education” initiative. As I forewarned last year, in the view of many it’s another misinformed mockery of serious historical inquiry or educational pedagogy, not to mention a glaring study in white privilege.

The good people recruited for the LBUSD race education project are no doubt well-intentioned. But let’s take an honest look at the objective, factual reality of what we see as white power and white privilege in LBUSD. 

The current white male Superintendent just promoted three white men to the top three professional Assistant Superintendent posts. What do they have in common besides being white males? As we see it each is getting paid top salary stepping up into critical district wide positions without prior equivalent professional experience, after proving themselves obedient subordinates of the current white male Superintendent, it would seem.

A majority of the LBUSD senior staff with district wide responsibilities were women before the Board over-delegated both hiring and policy powers to the current Superintendent. The Board has seemingly allowed the Superintendent to derail recruitment of gender and racially diverse academic leadership from outside the hothouse political culture of LBUSD.

The current pattern of promotion to top posts only from within follows what seemingly was the School Board’s refusal to promote from within in the case of Dr. Joanne Culverhouse, who served with what many regarded as unparalleled success as principal at elementary, middle, and high school levels in LBUSD.

A pioneer academic leader, philosopher athlete, who connected as a mentor with kids of all ages, the widely beloved Culverhouse reportedly was passed over for promotion to Assistant Superintendent twice. Apparently forcing her to advance her career in a nearby district, where she became among the most successful Superintendents statewide.

In contrast, one current white male Assistant Superintendent went from mid-level facilities manager to budget director to suddenly jump to become what many see as an arguably over-compliant Assistant Superintendent. Was there any outreach for more qualified candidates, including professionally excellent women or persons of color?

Meanwhile, another current white male Assistant Superintendent now in charge of curriculum replaced a woman who seemingly was accessible and respected by teachers and parents, also bringing perspectives of a cross cultural and blended race family to our district. The circumstances of her departure, which may be sealed by a possible NDA, pose further and more disturbing questions yet. 

We often hear the current School Board President claim extensive “management” experience in executive hiring, and now she seemingly claims leadership of LBUSD’s racial justice mission. But her record of hiring seemingly gives preference to under-qualified white male education bureaucrats, while claiming to “proactively identify and disrupt biases…remove institutional barriers…in our schools and our community.”

Or is all this really just to rehabilitate the Superintendent’s image so he can get a job somewhere else, after being found by a court to have violated state law in a case of alleged racial bias that many believe the Superintendent and School Board bungled badly? 

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

To me, Willie Mays was the greatest

With the 2021 season underway now, I can’t help but think about all those great baseball rookies, like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, who played in their first MLB games 70 years ago. 

Seven years later, when the New York-based Giants and Dodgers moved west, I became a devoted Mays fan. Had I lived in Laguna at the time, I’m guessing I would have followed someone like Duke Snider, but I was a product of Palo Alto. As a very young boy, I loved going to the Stanford baseball games with my dad. But once I got a taste of big league ball, I was hooked. Especially with No. 24, the Say Hey Kid.

Virtually everyone I grew up with talked about Willie’s basket catches in center field, his blinding speed on the base paths, or his incredibly powerful bat. All that was true, but what impressed me the most was the way he’d run out of the dugout on his way to the outfield. He made a habit of tapping second base with his foot as he ran by. To me, it signaled Willie was ready to play. To his opponents, I imagine they were hoping he would trip and hurt himself. 

Mays never did. Despite going 0-12 in his first few games, Willie’s first hit was a home run. He went on to hit 659 more during his career (four of which came in one game in 1961 against the old Milwaukee Braves). 

To this day, whenever I listen to sportscasters talk about baseball greats, I wonder when they will get around to mentioning No. 24. Sometimes they refer back to the 1951 standouts Willie played with or against. Other times, he’s mentioned in the same breath as legendary ball players like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Jackie Robinson. No matter when it happens, I know Willie Mays will forever be known as one of the greatest to play the game.

Seventy years takes a toll on anyone, and Mays is no exception. But to me, he always will remain the exuberant Say Hey Kid of my youth. If I was a betting man, I’d say Willie can’t wait to hear the umpire shout “Play Ball” now. I know I can’t. 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


Jayne Berberian

March 25, 2021

Obituary Jayne Berberian

Submitted photo

Jayne Berberian

Longtime Laguna Beach resident Jayne Berberian passed away March 25 peacefully in her Laguna Beach home at the age of 81. Jayne was born and raised in Hacienda Heights, Calif., where she grew up on a ranch in the hills outside of Los Angeles. She graduated from La Puente High School and then went on to college, graduating from Cal State Fullerton and then later earning graduate degrees from both San Francisco State and UC Irvine. 

Jayne moved to Orange County in the late 60s and has lived in Laguna for the past 50 years on Rounsevel Terrace, where she met her husband of 49 years, Harry. She taught kindergarten for many years to ESL kids in Santa Ana until she had her first son Brad followed two years later by her second son Brian. She raised both boys here in Laguna and they both graduated from LBHS in the early 90s. 

Jayne was known to all around town, as her infectious personality captivated all who knew her. She was a second mom to all the kids in town and was always the team mom for her sons’ sports teams. She was also the de facto taxi for all of her sons’ friends, driving many around town in her “cool” van that was always full of snacks. When the boys would come home for the summer, her house was turned into a bed and breakfast for all of her sons’ friends who would constantly come through Laguna to stay with them. 

Jayne was also incredibly generous with her time, volunteering for pretty much everything she could. She was a 45-year breast cancer survivor who dedicated countless hours to the American Cancer Society, both counseling women with breast cancer and sitting on boards that worked to fund cutting-edge cancer treatments. 

She was the president of the El Morro PTA, on the Board of the Laguna Art Museum, on the Board of AYSO, room mother many times, and most recently was a local volunteer for CERT. She will be missed by many and she touched many lives in her 81 years. She is survived by her husband Harry, sons Brad and Brian, and her five grandchildren (Brooke, Ella, Luke, Kate, and Riley). Go with God now Jayne and forever Rest In Peace!

Laguna’s GOP and their COVID shots

A variety of media sources, including CNN, Forbes, and NPR-PBS, recently have begun reporting a disturbing trend: Despite the current surge in the number of people coast to coast being vaccinated, as many as 40 percent of Republicans nationwide report they are either reluctant or unwilling to get a COVID shot now.

It may not be fair to say Laguna’s Republicans follow this national trend; still, if a handful do, that’s a potential problem. I wonder what it will take to convince them to join the war on the deadly coronavirus?

One solution is to ask the Republican National Committee to air public service ads debunking myths about the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson shots. A version of this message could easily be tweaked and delivered by county GOP officials to rank and file supporters from Three Arch Bay to Crescent Bay.

Another solution would be to offer Republicans a $500 credit when they file their tax returns next year. Some say that would not be enough to change people’s minds. Others say it’s too much. Either way, I’m happy to leave it up to the IRS or California Franchise Tax Board to decide.

Other solutions include the water district giving GOP customers 90-day discounts on their monthly bills or banks in town doing something similar vis-à-vis their monthly charges. Maybe my cousin Shari, the county treasurer-tax collector, could figure out a way to offer Laguna’s Republicans limited discounts on their property taxes next year.

The list of possibilities is endless, but not so when it comes to time. It is the finite factor in the race to inoculate 300 million Americans by summer.

The clock is ticking, so I urge Laguna’s Republicans to listen to former Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump. They both say it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get vaccinated.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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