Huell Howser, the folksy Tennessee transplant who chronicled California history, people, places and culture for over two decades with his PBS TV shows such as "Visiting ..." and "California's Gold," has died after a long undisclosed illness.
His assistant, Ryan Morris, told radio station KPCC that the longtime host died at home of natural causes. He was believed to have been seriously ill, and in November, he announced his retirement and donated his large library of shows, as well as his Palm Springs-area home, to Champan University in Orange.
Tribute messages are pouring in to Howser's Facebook page.
His shows continue to air on PBS station KCET. The station released this statement:
"We are deeply saddened by the news of Huell's passing. This is a tremendous personal and professional loss to his friends and colleagues, as well as his legions of fans. Huell elevated the simple joys and undiscovered nuggets of living in our great state. He made the magnificence and power of nature seem accessible by bringing it into our living rooms. Most importantly, he reminded us to find the magic and wonderment in our lives every day. Huell was able to brilliantly capture the wonder in obscurity. From pastrami sandwiches and artwork woven from lint to the exoticism of cactus gardens and the splendor of Yosemite — he brought us the magic, the humor and poignancy of our region. We will miss him very much."
Howser was 67 years old.
Howser clips abound on the Internet, but we could only find one Laguna Beach-specific spot, a brief one shot at West Street Beach, where Huell introduces the world to skimboarding. Click the video icon above for the clip.
Howser did shoot an entire show on Laguna Beach in 2008, though, in which he spotlighted Las Brisas, the Nix Nature Center, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, the Main Beach lifeguard tower, the Orange Inn and the Laguna Art Museum, among others.
Do you have a favorite Huell Howser moment? Did you ever meet him in person? Tell us your story in the comments below ...