Our Laguna: Honoring those for their skills, service

February 17, 2011|By Barbara Diamond
  • The grand marshals of the 45th Laguna Beach Patriots Day Parade are Ken Jillison and Al Roberts.
The grand marshals of the 45th Laguna Beach Patriots Day… (Courtesy Charlie…)

I read Monday in the L.A. Times that Gino Cimoli had died.

Gino was the first major league player to bat on the West Coast when the Dodgers and Giants moved to California from New York in 1958. He wasn't the Dodgers usual lead-off batter, but Manager Walter Alston gave him the nod because he grew up in San Francisco, where the game was played.

I was at the game. I sat in the stands watching the teams warm up in Seal Stadium, where minor league games had been played. Gino was standing in the outfield, twirling his hand over his head and someone asked what he was doing. I said, "I think he is explaining how the winds blow out there."

In my heart of hearts, I was rooting for the Dodgers that day because of Gino. I had gone to Galileo High School with him, where he played basketball as well, if not better, than he played baseball — good enough to be offered a scholarship to Stanford.


I will always remember him as a tall sandy-blond, blue-eyed boy who opted to sign with the Dodgers and married the girl I wanted to be when I grew up. They had two beautiful daughters, who used to babysit for me when we all lived in Tiburon.

I also remember his kindness to my baseball-loving eldest son, to whom he showed the uniforms of the teams on which played in his 10 years in the "Bigs."

Gino retired from baseball 46 years ago, but it was his first at-bat that got the headlines in the obituaries marking his death Feb. 12.


Honored Patriots

All this is to say "hats off" to the Patriots Day Parade Committee, which honors the contribution of folks who enrich the social fabric of our lives and our community before it becomes their obituary.

Past Patriot of the Year, retired U.S. Marine Corps pilot Charles Quilter, prepared the biographies of the parade honorees and presented them at the annual brunch, held at Tivoli Terrace

2011 Grand Marshals Al Roberts and Ken Jillson are being honored for the 25 years they have spent raising money to assist people living with HIV/AIDS.

They met on the beach in Laguna in 1970 and formed a personal and professional partnership.

In the mid-1980s, Laguna's gay community was savaged by a mysterious and fatal illness. It came out of the closet when actor Rock Hudson died in 1985 of AIDS. His death hit home for Jillson and Roberts — Hudson had been a shareholder in their company.

So Roberts was open to the pleas of Laguna Beach physician Don Hagan to use his business-honed skills to help cope with the epidemic.

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