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Letters to the Editor

Laguna Beach High School students working on solving water issues on the other side of the world

Last week, Denny Freidenrich and I met with a dozen Laguna Beach High School students working to bring clean water to villages in Africa and Asia where women and children must walk miles each day for this basic necessity of life.

As part of “Walking for Water,” a nonprofit founded by Laguna resident Susan Hough, these young activists’ mantra is “If they have to walk for water, so can we.”

Denny and I were so impressed with these students’ commitment to help others. Last year this group raised $100,000, which paid for wells, a school in a Tibetan refugee camp in rural India and tuition for kids in Africa who otherwise would be unable to further their education. To date, the nonprofit has built 37 wells in West Africa and India and paid 4,174 kids’ tuition in sync with their mission statement: “Water is Life. Knowledge is power.” Their goal on March 26 is to match or exceed $100,000 this year. 

Thanks to Hough and her nonprofit, Laguna Beach High School students are learning early that by expanding their circle of caring beyond themselves, they can make positive changes in individuals’ lives, making the world a more connected and better place for all of us. We invite you to meet and sponsor these teens next month at their high school walk-a-thon and auction. 

To find out more about the group’s goals and how you can help, please click on

Robin Pierson

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

What will this year’s Pageant bring?

I hope this year’s Pageant of the Masters will be a Pageant of Real Masters as it was for the past 80 years, and not just some postcards from around the world sent by a Ship Master and some unknown dancing from other countries with no master directing them.

Bob Couse

Laguna Beach

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Ruth Willette

January 3, 1934 – February 15, 2023

Obituary Ruth Willette portrait

Submitted photo

Ruth Willette

Ruth Alpha Kinsman Willette was born to Frank Kinsman and Eusebia Maria Davis on January 3, 1934 in Panama City, Panama. She passed away peacefully at 89 on February 15, 2023 at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, following a short illness.

When she was 8 years old, she moved to Los Angeles with her family and attended high school at Flintridge Sacred Heart. At 22, she married Edward Willette and they lived in Rosemead, where they began their family. They moved to their forever home in Laguna Beach in 1973, and owned liquor stores in Dana Point and San Clemente. 

Ruth loved gardening, swimming in her pool and going to the movies. In her later years, she enjoyed various recreation department classes such as water aerobics, memoir writing, guitar and French. She enjoyed talking with friends, painting birdhouses and stepping stones, and playing with her grandkids.

She was preceded in death by her parents, husband Ed, brothers Maurice and Walter, and sister Liz.

She is survived by two daughters and sons-in-law, Karyn and Tom Raymer of Griffin, Georgia and Raquelle and Alaín Basto of Laguna Beach, and son and daughter-in-law John and Virginia Willette of Laguna Beach; two sisters, Alice Kinsman of Laguna Beach and Margo Kinsman of San Marino; seven grandchildren – Victoria, Chloe, Cosette, Giselle, Claudette, Dominique and Eduardo; and two great grandchildren, Levi and Gavin. She touched many lives and will be remembered with love by all who knew her. 

Ruth’s memorial service will be held Saturday, Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. at Pacific View Mortuary, 3500 Pacific View Drive, Corona de Mar.

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Letters to the Editor

What happened at the City Manager’s home

Emil Monda was right to condemn the vandalism at the City Manager’s home (Stu News Letters, Feb. 14). Hopefully, police investigators will find DNA at the scene and quickly match it to the perpetrator or a relative. If not, then I urge the City Council to offer a $5,000 reward to the person whose tip leads to the arrest and conviction of said perpetrator. Surely, that person told someone what his or her plan was or bragged about it afterwards. 

As Monda pointed out, “This cannot stand.” I agree 100%.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Laguna Beach Republicans condemn vandalism to City Manager’s home

The Laguna Beach Republicans condemn in the strongest terms the vandalism that was done to our City Manager’s home (last week). There is now an ongoing investigation by the Laguna Beach Police Department to identify the culprit(s). We look forward to whomever is responsible being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This cannot stand.

Emil Monda, President

Laguna Beach Republicans

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Guest Letter

Rick Reiff

Editor at Large

Orange County Business Journal

Remembering to remember the past

Guest letter Rick Reiff rock with plaque

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Rick Reiff

Plague honoring Thomas A. Cummings is mostly hidden and obscure these days under a growing lemonade berry bush

(The following is an open letter to the OC Parks and Laguna Beach County Water District.)

I assume Laguna Beach never intended Thomas A. Cummings to be forgotten. Not when he was honored with an impressive boulder-mounted bronze plaque at the trailhead of the Laguna Beach Wilderness Park on October 8, 2000.

Cummings was long gone by then, but he’d been a big deal back in the day. In 1927, he became newly incorporated Laguna Beach’s first mayor, a job he held on and off through 1942. He was a founding director of the water district, serving it from 1925 until 1944, most of the time as president, and earning, as the plaque attests, the sobriquet “Father of the District.” He’s the most prominent official in photos of the 1926 Coast Highway dedication, bespectacled and in a three-piece suit, standing between Hollywood royalty Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. 

Guest letter Rick Reiff old group

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

Thomas Cummings (with glasses) stands between Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford (in white)

All of which is to say, it’s a shame that the thousands of hikers who pass his plaque each year have no idea he even existed. That’s because since that 2000 park dedication, a lemonade berry bush has grown up next to the boulder, almost completely blocking it from view. You have to stray from the walking path to discover the plaque with its stunning coastal backdrop. 

Now, far be it from me to suggest the district cut down a lovely shrub, although if I had to choose between it and old Cummings’ memory…well, never mind.

But here’s an idea. To be honest, not my idea, but the brainchild of my neighbor, fellow walker and another former Laguna mayor, Jane Egly, who joins me in this bipartisan request:

Move the boulder! Surely the water and/or park district has the wherewithal to relocate the rock a mere few feet to an unencumbered roadside spot. Placing the plaque a little closer to the nearby “dos and don’ts” signposts might even encourage more visitors to read them.

History respected, nature preserved, a trailhead enhanced. A win-win-win. I’m guessing Mr. Cummings would approve. 

Rick Reiff is Editor at Large of the Orange County Business Journal and lives in north Laguna Beach.

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Michael John Mammone

June 5, 1964 – February 1, 2023

Obituary Michael John Mammone

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of the Providence Mission Hospital

Michael John Mammone

It is with the utmost sadness that we announce the loss of Dr. Michael John Mammone on February 1st. His family as well as the entire community are devastated by the tragic event that took place.

Michael was a loving husband and father who absolutely adored his wife and family. At home he was known for his infectious joyful energy and his silly jokes. He would often bring the family together to enjoy his homemade pizzas, perfected guacamole recipes and signature cocktails.

Michael was passionate about scuba diving, surfing with his children and snorkeling. Although he loved exploring his local beaches, he traveled the world in pursuit of beautiful places and adventures that he could share with his family. Some of his favorite stories to tell were of his volunteering in Papua New Guinea, bathing elephants in Thailand, diving in Belize, safaris in South Africa and historic sightseeing in Italy.

Michael always had a gift for taking care of others. He took a job as a lifeguard with Los Angeles County when he was 18 while he pursued a bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego and his medical degree from USC. He completed his residency at Loma Linda Medical Center with an emphasis on Emergency Medicine. In 1996, Michael was Medical Board Certified and accepted a position at San Antonio Regional Hospital in Upland, Calif., where he worked for the next 20 years.

Outside of the hospital, he served as the Medical Director for the Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department from 2002-2008. Michael and Julie loved visiting Laguna Beach ever since the start of their relationship in 1992, and in 2010 he accepted a position at Providence Mission Hospital, Laguna Beach. 

Michael was known by his colleagues and patients to be a doctor that humbly took the time to listen to and care for each individual and their needs.

Michael’s family will forever cherish the beautiful memories they share with him and will continue to celebrate and honor his wonderful life and legacy.

Please visit for further details.

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Letters to the Editor

Caution is urged when crossing busy traffic

I used to live here and feel Laguna is being filled with many unaccountable people, many lawsuits happening due to blame! 

I have very sad feelings for the woman crossing the highway, the fact it could have easily been avoided. I read in the article that she was NOT in a crosswalk which is very unfortunate; sadly, this is exactly where she should have crossed and maybe she would be alive today and not so many lives would have been affected. It seems we all need to be more accountable for our actions and think of safety for ourselves first. Getting to the other side of a busy highway is not to be taken lightly and requires utilizing every safety measure available to us i.e., crosswalk, under or over pass. 

Be very cautious of fast-moving vehicles, they will kill you!

Stay Alert, Stay Accountable, Think Safety First!

Daiva Friedrich


I blame Caltrans for the deaths on Coast Highway

Shame, shame on Caltrans. Two Laguna Beach pedestrians dead in 2023 so far. How many more pedestrians need to be killed before the speed limit is dropped to 30 miles or less while traveling through Laguna? 

30 means 35 to most California drivers and running orange lights means “Speed Up” – it’s insane! 

If I had a Caltrans telephone number, I would call their department. Perhaps Stu News will print an address for the public. I’m sure there are hundreds as outraged as I am!

Lucetta Kallis 

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Sadness hits the community following loss of doctor in alleged murder

I read with great sadness about the alleged murder of Dr. Michael Mammone a few days ago while he was riding his bike on Pacific Coast Highway. I had the occasion to be his patient in the ER of Mission Hospital a year and a half ago. Happily, there were no long-term consequences of this visit. But it was scary at the time, and Dr. Mammone could not have been more thorough, more compassionate and more reassuring. What a terrible loss not only for his family, but also for our community.

Glenna Matthews

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Council decision more than a bump in the road for many Laguna Beach residents

If a speed hump can get approved on the only road entering a box canyon, on a critical evacuation route, where more than 500 residents live, then it can be approved just about anywhere in Laguna Beach.

Case in point, the city manager chose to add a request for a speed hump on the 800 block of Bluebird Canyon Drive to the January 24th City Council agenda. This item had been raised in the past and denied when all facts became understood. 

This time, residents in the impacted neighborhood were not given notice until days before the meeting and many never saw the notice. The two vociferous neighbors wanting the hump were informed weeks earlier by a city councilmember who was championing the idea. They took that advantage and lobbied hard to our city councilmembers while the other side didn’t even know it was up for discussion.

Unfortunately for the 500 plus impacted residents whose voices were not heard, it worked. 

Also alarming was the fact city councilmembers disregarded comments from the Fire Chief, Police Sergeant, PTC and Public Works who were not supportive of adding any speed impediment to this particular road. The city’s own speed hump guidelines were also largely ignored.

As it stands now, residents in the impacted area feel the process was very unfair and plan to fight the installation as this decision would impact their lives in the event of an emergency.

Craig McKessar 

Laguna Beach

Laguna supports Ukraine

It’s hard to believe Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine began a year ago this month. Since then, millions of Ukrainians have left their homeland, hundreds of thousands have been wounded or killed and yet, despite all their military disadvantages, Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces have been relentless in their fight for freedom. 

Here in Laguna, many people quickly stepped up last year to voice their opposition to the war in Ukraine. First, there was a gathering adjacent to city hall. Second, there was a vigil on Main Beach. And third, there was a fundraiser at the museum. Each event had an impact on friends and neighbors in town.         

Now that the war is heading into the second year, the issue is this: How much longer will the fighting last? No one really knows, but this much is clear: Americans coast to coast support Ukraine’s desire for peace and democracy. I’m glad so many people in Laguna agree.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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