Hansen: Living up to a family legacy

January 30, 2014|By David Hansen
  • The family of Susan and Joe Jahraus date back more than 110 years in Laguna Beach. Despite challenges, Joe has carried on the family legacy.
The family of Susan and Joe Jahraus date back more than… (David Hansen, Coastline…)

He just wanted to be a surfer but family got in the way.

And not just any family, but one of the early, prominent families of Laguna Beach.

Joseph Richard Jahraus III, 65, is an oldest son and not surprisingly felt the legacy of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather — all Laguna icons.

No pressure or anything.

His great-grandfather, Elmer, arrived in 1902, when there were only 11 families in town. He was the first Realtor and saved Heisler Park from development.

His grandfather, Joseph "Joe" Richard I, opened Laguna Lumber, which almost single-handedly started the real growth of the area. He also helped create the Laguna Beach County Water District and was instrumental in the city's incorporation, among many other civic contributions.

His father, Joseph "Dick" Richard II, 88, continued running the water district and served on several boards, including the Festival of Arts and Boys and Girls Club (before there were girls). He still lives in the house he grew up in on Cliff Drive.


But like all multi-generational families, there comes a reckoning: Pursue personal dreams or continue the family tradition.

"In retrospect, I wish I would have went to Hawaii and went surfing my whole life," said a smiling Jahraus, sitting comfortably in his Woods Cove home, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and surrounded by surf art.

Jahraus was only half kidding. A part of him remembers friends in high school who went on to surf professionally and travel the world.

But then another part remembers when his dad sent him to military school in New Mexico because he was surfing too much. Jahraus had started at Orange Coast College but spent more time in the water than studying.

"My dad sent me over there to straighten my ass out, and it did real quick," Jahraus said.

Recall the timing. Jahraus came of age during the Vietnam War. Young men either fought or fled, burdened with a duty that was not their own. Jahraus was spared, but many concocted elaborate schemes to avoid the draft.

So it was not only the discipline of the military school that affected him. It was the exposure to other students from across the country.

Learning to appreciate Laguna

"What I really learned is Laguna allowed a lot of different people — gays, weird artists, black people," he said. "When I went to New Mexico, it really woke me up. Laguna has had everything and tolerated it. That made me appreciate Laguna."

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