The Saturday morning was filled with friends and family who had come to pay their respects and honor the life of “Mr. Laguna,” Harry J. Lawrence, who passed away nearly a week ealier at the age of 98.
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As everyone was seated, a visual prelude of Harry's life was presented, accompanied by the song "Sentimental Journey.” Reverend Jerry Tankersley opened the service with prayer, followed by the VFW post 5868 leading everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance, and hymns sung by students Chandler Davis and Haley Castuera.
Reverend Tankersley spoke passionately as he gave the eulogy for his long-time friend.
"Life is a journey in search of oneself, others' love, and doing purposeful, meaningful work. And when you have all these things at the deepest level, it's a journey in search of God. Now Harry's journey is complete."
Reverend Tankersley continued to share stories about Harry's journey.
“Harry's father recognized early on that he had wanderlust, and so he gave him a railroad pass to visit all 48 states. Harry had even greater ambitions, though. He wanted to see the world. In doing so, he saw many things that reminded him not only of the beauty of the earth, but the potential of life.”
After Harry's service in World War II, he came back to the states determined to make the world a better place. He finally settled in Laguna Beach, along with his first wife, Maxine. When he first arrived to Laguna, he found it to be run-down and felt that he needed to help bring the town to its fullest potential. He did just that.
"You can walk around practically any place in Laguna and find something here that Harry is responsible for," said his daughter Lily. "Some people will accumulate all of this wealth and all of this fortune or fame, and they never give back. Harry gave back everything. He gave back in time, creativity, effort, and financially. He was an inspiration, and he had a beautiful heart."
"He was one in a billion,” added Alan Adam, Lawrence’s step-son.
His many acts certainly didn't go unnoticed, as many came forward in the service to recognize his tremendous contributions to the town of Laguna Beach.
On behalf of Senator Tom Harman, representative Emanuel Patrascu presented the state flag that had been flown over the Capitol in memory of Lawrence, to his wife of the past 15 years, Zahide. He also presented the Senate Resolution Bill from Senator Harman, and a Memoriam Certificate from Assemblyman Don Wagner.
Sergio Prince came to represent OC Supervisor Patricia Bates. He spoke about a time in which Laguna Beach was declaring Harry Lawrence Day on his birthday, October 1.
"Supervisor Bates had me write up a proclamation for that occasion," said Prince. "I asked Rose Hancock to send me over some information about Harry. I received so much on what he had done that there was no way I could fit it all on this rather large document. I would have to put it in 2.5 font, and you'd need a magnifying glass to read it ... Harry and I became fast friends, and Laguna Beach became my favorite town. I soon realized that a great deal of the reason for this is because of Harry's efforts. This town is known as an artist colony, and Harry certainly had a fondness for art and culture. He was an artist in his own right. We see many paintings and photographs of Laguna Beach. I now realize that they would probably look very different today had it not been for Harry's efforts. For that, we all owe Harry Lawrence a great debt of thanks."
Arnold Silverman, Senior Vice Commander of the VFW post, spoke next.
"Harry was indeed a war hero. I thought I'd say just a few words about him, but then I thought, how do you pay respect in just a few words to that giant of a man?"
Silverman then read a poem he had written entitled "The Passing Parade." The last stanza read, "We stand resolved to remember all, like Harry who answered when country called."
Another fellow veteran and past member of the American Legion Post, Dave Connell, paid tribute to Harry.
"We veterans are especially proud that Harry was a veteran among us, a man among men. As a servant of his country, he never stopped serving. Harry continued to serve throughout his entire life. We are so very proud to call him one of us."
Zahide Lawrence ended the memorial by saying, "Harry would have been very touched to have each of you here to celebrate his life. Thank you for being here to honor my Harry. It has been my privilege to be his wife, and become a part of the Laguna family.”
Zahide held back tears as she paid tribute to her husband.
"A page in our book of memories, I gently turn today. The tears in my eyes I can wipe away. The ache in my heart will always stay."
Condolences were given to the family, then the guests exited the church as Harry's hymn, "My Way," played. Many onlookers watched as the hearse took Harry Lawrence on his last ride through the streets of Laguna Beach, a town that he was so proud of. A trolley filled with loved ones followed behind.
Lawrence spent his last days with family, friends, and his caretaker, Atike King. In his lifetime, he visited some 155 countries. He once said that out of any place in the entire world, he would choose to live in Laguna Beach.
“This is where he chose to live, and this is where he chose to die," Zahide remarked. When asked if a memorial were to be built in Harry’s honor, where in Laguna should it be located, Zahide replied, “I’d like to see his memorial at , with him looking out at the window to the sea."
Harry J. Lawrence was laid to rest at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar. He was buried with honors, and the American flag placed upon his chest, as witness to his love for his country. He was surrounded by the love of family and friends.
A reception followed at the beautiful Laguna Beach home of Harry and Zahide—a home with many windows to the sea.