2018 Year in Review
Kuhlmeyer worked way up to MB chief
Former Manhattan Beach Police Chief Harry Kuhlmeyer passed away Jan. 12 at his home in Santa Monica, at age 94. Kuhlmeyer joined the Manhattan Beach Police Department in 1953 and rose through ranks to become chief in 1980.
Three years later, in August 1983, the frank talking, low profile chief was confronted with the McMartin Preschool case. Therapists and medical doctors identified hundreds of McMartin preschool children as sexual abuse victims. Despite intense community pressure, Kuhlmeyer refused to take primary suspect Raymond Buckey into custody because his detectives could find no corroborating evidence.
“Why hadn’t any of the suspects copped a plea, why no mea culpas, no suicides? No one got drunk and bared his soul. If everything the kids said happened, it looked like the perfect crime,” he said. Kuhlmeyer’s unpopular stance was vindicated seven years and $15 million in court costs later when two McMartin trials ended with Buckey and his mother Peggy Buckey found not guilty.
Silverman kept eye On MB community
Manhattan Beach optometrist and longtime community activist Lester Silverman died Jan. 22 while on vacation in Jamaica. He was caught in a rip current while swimming and drowned.
“Les was a man of great passion, devoted to his family and his community,” former Manhattan Beach Mayor Mark Burton wrote in a letter to fellow Rotarians. “Les will be greatly missed by many.”
Silverman operated Look! Optometry Center in Metlox Plaza.
Legendary filmmaker Miller left legacy of stoke
Hermosa Beach ski filmmaker Warren Miller passed away on Jan. 24 of natural causes at age 93. Before there were extreme sports and GoPro and drone cameras, there was Warren Miller racing down black diamond runs alongside the world’s best skiers with his Bell and Howell 8mm film camera. His annual fall screenings at the Redondo Union High auditorium, and similar theaters around the world, signaled the start of the ski season for five decades.
“If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do,” he said many times over the years, at the end of his films.
Mendoza led Panthers
Peninsula High School lost Panther freshman baseball coach Brett Mendoza, of Redondo Beach, to injuries resulting from a car accident on March 4. While a senior at Peninsula in 2005, Mendoza led the Bay League with a .485 batting average. He was a four-year letterman and a three-time All-Bay League selection.
Following high school, Mendoza played baseball for Loyola Marymount University and then was asked to help the Peninsula program by varsity head coach Brian Bowles.
“He was tough on our kids. He challenged them to work hard and do better, but he was also like a big brother to them,” said Bowles.
Barbee a Sea Hawk star
Vince Barbee, 15, died Mar. 5 following a fall from the third-story balcony of his family’s Redondo Beach home. Barbee, the youngest son of former Redondo Councilwoman Martha Barbee, was a freshman at Redondo Union High School and a member of the school’s freshman-sophomore baseball team. He was also an LA County Junior Lifeguard, and a recent appointee to Redondo Beach Youth Commission.
“He was the kind of person who wouldn’t do anything he didn’t want to do. But when he did something, he would see it through,” said longtime friend Vincent D’Ambrosio.
Katz was bike advocate
Hermosa Beach bicycling advocate Julian Katz passed away in June due to complications from prostate cancer. He was 88. After he retired from a career as an engineer designing landing gear for aircraft, Katz poured himself into public service. He served two terms on the Hermosa Beach Public Works Commission, and was president of the Hermosa Beach Lawn Bowling Club.
But it was as an advocate for cycling infrastructure that Katz truly shined. He was a constant presence at meetings in cities across the South Bay, and an essential voice in securing approval for the bicycle master plan, which seven cities adopted by 2011.
McMillan a ‘Bamfield girl’
Former Manhattan Beach activist Jean McMillan passed away on June 8, at home, surrounded by her five children, and her husband of nearly 65 years, Jim.
McMillan held countless titles over the years — city clerk (when it was still an elected position), PTA president (both at American Martyrs and Mira Costa), co-founder of the Cancer Support Community, board member for the South Bay Hospital District (now Beach Cities Health District) and Loyola Marymount University, and “Grand Dame” of Manhattan Beach’s Centennial celebrations in 2012. But in her heart, McMillan always remained a “Bamfield girl” from a remote fishing village in British Columbia.
MB councilman Nordeck led tank farm development
Former Manhattan Beach school board member and City Councilman Steve Nordeck passed away in July at his home in San Juan Capistrano, at age 76, from cancer. Nordeck served on the council from 1972 until 1980. During this period, the council embarked on challenging negotiations with Chevron El Segundo for rights to the refinery’s extensive tank farm. That property now includes the Manhattan Village homes on Marine Avenue, the Manhattan Village shopping center on Sepulveda Boulevard and the Manhattan Country Club and Westdrift (formerly Marriott) Hotel.
In 1984,Nordeck moved to Coto de Caza in Orange County and bought the landmark Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse and in 1983 the landmark Swallows Inn in San Juan Capistrano. Last year he served as Grand Marshall of the San Juan Capistrano Swallows Day Parade.
Gillis worked magic
The height of magician Brian Gillis’ fame came during the late 1980s and early 1990s when he earned billing as “Johnny Carson’s favorite magician.” Gillis died July 2, of health complications following quadruple bypass surgery. He was 71 years old.
Gillis was a fixture at Hermosa Beach’s Comedy & Magic Club and Hollywood’s famed Magic Castle. He performed privately for the likes of Johnny Depp, Muhammad Ali and Paul McCartney. “Whether he was doing card tricks at someone’s table or on stage doing his act, he was a magician who could entertain a hundred people, 10,000 people, or just two people. We lost a special friend,” said Magic Castle founder Milt Larsen.
Beloved broker El Sawy
Hana El Sawy, a long-time South Bay real estate broker (most recently with Vista Sotheby’s and previously with South Bay Brokers), and a 35-year resident of Manhattan Beach, passed away on June 24 from lymphoma cancer at the age of 60.
Sea Hawk star Ellison
Former Redondo Union High and San Diego Chargers football player Kevin Ellison died in October at age 31, after years of struggling with mental health problems. The family said Ellison’s brain will be donated to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, which conducts research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy and other long-term consequences of repetitive brain trauma in athletes.
Ellison was a star running back and linebacker for the Redondo Sea Hawks, earning the Bay League MVP award and being named to the All-CIF Division III team.
“While Kevin dominated on the field he always remained respectful and humble. He was the most dominant player ever to play in a Sea Hawk uniform,” former Redondo Athletic Director Les Congeliere said.
“One of my favorite Kevin stories,” recalled his Sea Hawk football coach Gene Simon, “happened at a Thursday pre-practice chalk talk. Normally a shorts and tee-shirt day, senior and team-captain Kevin came in and sat through the 30-minute meeting with his helmet on and buckled, mouthpiece in, signaling to the team he was ready to go, and that we were going to play a great game tomorrow. He rushed for 318 yards on 18 carries that game.”
At USC, Ellison was a member of three Rose Bowl championship teams (2005-08) and was a first team All-Pac-10 member twice.
Ellison was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft, and played in 13 games as a rookie (starting in nine) with 50 tackles.
Proud mom Kay Conrad
Barbara Kay King Conrad was known worldwide as the wife of Paul Conrad, the acerbic, three-time Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times. But to Kay, her husband’s fame was relatively inconsequential.
“Kay and Paul raised four wonderful children. I remember one time Kay said, ‘Bob, I’d rather have four kids than three Pulitzers,’” said illustrator and editorial cartoonist Bob Staake on learning of Kay Conrad’s death. She passed away Aug. 2, after a long illness, at age 90.
Kay King was a reporter at the Denver Post when she wed Paul Conrad, the paper’s editorial cartoonist. They moved to Palos Verdes in 1963 when her husband became the Los Angeles Times’ editorial cartoonist.
Builder, philanthropist Elliott
Home builder and philanthropist Julian Elliott passed away in August, at age 87. Elliott was the first builder to convert Manhattan apartments to condominiums. Following that success, he converted a large apartment complex in Lomita to condominiums.
“People thought he was crazy and even he wasn’t confident that condo conversions would sell. When the Lomita complex sold out within 24 hours he was mad at himself for underpricing them,” recalled his wife Carolyn. Julian Elliott Construction grew to become one of the most respected residential builders in Southern California.
Realtor, activist McEwan
Longtime South Bay Realtor Michele Ann McEwan passed away Aug. 15, at her Redondo Beach home surrounded by her family. McEwan sold real estate locally for over 35 years, first with Century 21, then Re/Max Beach Cities and then Shorewood Realtors. Her community activities included serving as president of the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary.
Cooper tended Mustangs’ physical, mental health
Mira Costa athletic director Tim Cooper passed away in October, following a long fight with cancer. Cooper joined the Mira Costa athletic department in 1988 and quickly established himself as a specialist in strength training and sports psychology, in addition to diagnosing injuries and helping thousands of students through rehab.
“He didn’t just work on you. He got to know you as a person. Everyone you talk to, who knew him even a little, will tell you that he was their close friend,” Principal Ben Dales said.
“His training ideas were state of the art and many great athletes sought him out for his expertise, said Mira Costa head football coach Don Morrow. He treated everyone with respect and consideration. He was there for our alumni, our staff and our administration, as well. He was a true Mustang, an original.”
Felder lays down bike for final time at 83
Like he did almost every weekend since he got a Matchless 500 motorcycle at age 14, Mick Felder went on a motorcycle ride on Veterans Day Sunday. “Mick must not have seen the curve coming and was going too fast to get through it. So he locked up his brakes and laid down his bike to slow up before he hit the guardrail,” Felder’s nephew Dave Smith speculated.
When friends heard he was hospitalized, the reaction was a combination of admonishment and admiration. Felder was 83. When he died three days later of pneumonia the reaction was admiration with a touch of envy, especially among his contemporaries, who long ago gave up riding.
Every day since 1968 when he opened Felder’s Body shop at 210 Pacific Coast Highway, he walked to his shop from his home across the street and worked or rode one of his dozen vintage motorcycles.
Every week, from 1980 when he joined the Hermosa Rotary Club, until the week of his death, he and fellow rotarian Bob Peterson delivered Meals on Wheels for the Salvation Army. “Mick always drove,” said Peterson, who is 97.
“Every holiday he’d help the Salvation Army raise money by ringing a bell in front of the Von’s market. He wouldn’t yell. He’d just ring the bell. He was very modest and didn’t like drawing attention to himself,” Smith said.
Felder was twice named Hermosa Beach Man of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce and twice served as Rotary Club president.
Parker, Casey among Harvest Fest victims
Rachael Parker was the first person most people saw when they walked into the Manhattan Beach Police Department, the first voice they heard when they called. Parker was an MBPD records technician, but she was also part of the fabric of the department. At the police station’s front desk, she was an irrepressibly joyful presence, a smile always on her face, a joke never far from her lips.
Sandy Casey was a young woman fully in love. She loved her fiance, Christopher Willemse, and the adventure their lives together had become, backpacking, attending country music concerts, running a half-marathon through the Grand Canyon, or just giggling at the beach. She loved the hundreds of students who passed through her classroom in her nine years as a special education teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School.
Parker, 33, and Casey, 35, were among the 59 victims of the mass shooting that occurred Oct. 1 at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.
Stewart was ‘Blue Crew’ chief for four decades at Hermosa schools
Longtime Hermosa Beach teacher Jan Stewart passed away in November, at age 76. When she left her “Blue Crew,” the second grade class she taught in Room 2 at Hermosa View at the end of the 2010 school year, it was reluctantly. Then superintendent Bruce Newlin told her the district needed to cut costs and could afford “a couple of teaching positions” with the savings from her salary.
“It’s sad, and it’s my loss. It’s been my whole life, and my love,” she said. “I’ve played with young folks so long, I don’t want to go play with the old folks.” The then 69-year-old Stewart had taught in Hermosa schools since 1965.