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Ann Quilter is the Laguna Beach Woman of the Year

The longtime Laguna Beach community organizer is honored by the Woman's Club Friday.

When the names its Woman of the Year, it means business.

Next year, for instance, the club turns 90, and in that time its members have supported hundreds of local and Orange County charitable organizations through donations and volunteer hours. In its first decade, the group contributed to making Laguna “the city beautiful” and helped a veterans group adopt “The Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem.

Ann Quilter, the Club’s 2011 Woman of the Year, has also managed to accomplish a few things during her 35 years in Laguna Beach.

Stephanie Skenderian moderated the 17th annual Woman of the Year luncheon Friday, which drew many prominent Laguna women, four seated members of the city council, a former mayor and city councilmember who is a prominent accountant, as well as a nearly endless table of Quilter family.

Daughter Emily congratulated mom and dad on 36 years of marriage and said her mom is called “Hurricane” Ann, or “One Woman Army,” for her overpowering style tackling problems. Emily pointed out that she and her mom are both Marine brats, and the army reference is sacrilege, especially since Dad is a former Marine pilot of Phantoms in Vietnam and other Marine aircraft in later conflicts.

A pilot herself when she worked for the U.S. State Department, Ann was born on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, and grew up on 10 bases where she learned service and work ethics.

Husband Charlie said, “If you need a wall repaired, she is the queen of drywall.” They met when she moved to Seattle as agent-in-charge for the State Department and Charlie piloted for American Airlines. Friends joked that their marriage was “incest” since they both came from roving Marine families.

Having come to Laguna Beach because her husband and brothers grew up here, she said it instantly became home. The Quilter couple raised two children here—Emily, 31, and C.J., 28—and acquired a third son, Bonaventure, during a -sponsored trip to Zimbabwe. Bonaventure’s parents both lost their lives in the Rwanda genocide.

“Nothing slows her down,” daughter Emily said. “Her normal bedtime is when the job is done or dad comes downstairs to get her at four in the morning. Emily also asked the audience if they’d heard the expression, “Run away to join the circus? My mom did,” Emily said.

Current Mayor Toni Iseman told the group of about 200 that Ann gives 140 percent to everything, and shows us what is possible. Iseman also said her influence permeates every corner of this town.

For instance, Quilter took on Decembe's flood and mudslide recovery by unofficially and effectively aiding the 120 families most impacted.

The event that triggered Ann to that work, according to Woman’s Club literature, was when she nearly lost her life during the 1998 flood to a “dark, fast and violent” avalanche of mud. After that, Ann said, “I knew intuitively what had to be done.”

Brother-in-law Chris said of the 1998 flood that there were six people in Ann’s home at the time, and one person was lost to the mudslide. A baby swept down from a house above was pulled out and saved, as all were ejected into the Laguna night.

Once at the podium, Ann thanked her family for all the support, putting up with late nights and missed meals. She also thanked the incredible women she first met and worked with—the League of Women Voters, the Methodist Church, the PTA, and others.

“When a town has been good to you, you have to give back,” Ann said.

Referring to her double-hands-on-experience with floods and mud in Laguna, Ann said, "The amazing part of this (recent flood) experience is seeing the community get up and running—a second time. Laguna is a formidable machine when it gets cranked up.”

In honor of her help in the flood recovery effort, Faye Chapman of the Resource Center presented Ann with a colorful set of rubber boots and kind words.

Councilmember Elizabeth Pearson, who nominated Ann for the award, told of meeting the Quilter couple in earlier years when they were sweeping out a building, along with the administrative work they also performed for the project. “That is the kind of people they are,” said Pearson.

Pearson also presented Ann an award signed by County Supervisor Pat Bates.

Assemblyman Don Wagner showed up with a certificate on behalf of the California Assembly and joked, “If we (the state) had any money, we could frame it.”

The Quilter men serenaded their Woman of the Year (and more, for them) with “Stand Up for Ann” sung to the tune of “Stand By Your Man.” The lyrics go, “Stand up for Ann/She helped the town recover/By giving all the love she can.”

Ann asked everyone to raise their hands at one point if they had ever served their community in various posts she named. She asked everyone to thank those at their tables for that service.

“Don’t worry if you didn’t raise your hands,” Ann said. “I can find something to volunteer you for.”

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