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'Mr. Laguna' Harry Lawrence dies at 98

March 28, 2012|By Barbara Diamond
(Don Leach )

Laguna Beach lost an icon Sunday when Harry James Lawrence died, with his wife, Zahide, holding his hand. He was 98 and in ill health for several years.

"It was time," said Zahide, who Harry married in 1996.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Laguna Presbyterian Church to celebrate the life of the man dubbed "Mr. Laguna" in honor of his contributions to the city.

The Patriots Day Parade Committee named him grand marshal in 2008, referring to him in the program as one of Laguna's most distinguished residents. He had previously been named in 1981 as the Citizen of the Year.

In 2001, Harry received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chamber of Commerce and a Person of the Year Award, which was subsequently named for him and presented annually at the chamber's Spirit of Laguna awards. He was also the recipient of the chamber's Mermaid Beautification Award.

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"Business in Laguna Beach stands on the broad shoulders of Harry Lawrence," said Michael Kinsman, 2012 chamber president. "His contributions to the community are legion, and we are proud that the chamber's Citizen of the Year Award bears his name.

"He will be missed."

Harry was the consummate volunteer. His fingerprints are all over some of the town's most cherished institutions.

In a one-on-one interview, released this week, with family friend and former Chamber of Commerce Director Rose Hancock, Harry was quoted as saying, "Things needed to be done, and I do my best to help. I have great joy being surrounded by good people, unselfish people with good objectives. You'd be surprised. God has always looked out for me in impossible situations. I know if I do the right thing, all will be well."

The city recognized his accomplishments in 2009, declaring Oct. 1 "Harry Lawrence Day," which was celebrated each year thereafter on Main Beach, his most enduring legacy to the city.

However, the "Window to the Sea" was neither Harry's first nor his last major achievement on behalf of Laguna since moving here with his first wife, Maxine, and their daughter, Susan, in 1947.

Shortly after arriving here, Harry became secretary and then president of the Laguna Playhouse and decided the theater needed a new venue and helped raise the funds for it, as recorded by Jack Smith in a decade-by-decade resume of Harry for the presentation of the Exchange Club's Book of Golden Deeds.

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