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June 10, 1952 to June 9, 2020
William Donald Brown, AKA Bill Brown, decided to paddle off in search of the perfect wave on June 9, 2020. Bill was born to Don and Wilma Brown in Santa Ana on June 10, 1952. He graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 1970, and he loved sports. Starting at a very young age he learned to swim and surf. As he grew older he excelled in surfing, volleyball, sailing, and paddling outrigger canoes. He won the Brooks Street surfing contest in 1976, and won several outrigger canoe races in California and Hawaii where he paddled for Lorrin Harrison usually in the “Stroke Position” at the front of the canoe. As a youngster he became a Sea Cub and a Junior Lifeguard, which led to a position as a full time Lifeguard for Laguna Beach. Like his Dad, he loved the ocean and boating, and enjoyed setting off to Catalina on the AHSO to go skin diving and fishing. They would often drive down to Baja California to find a surf spot where they could camp, fish, and surf.
In 1995 Bill and his wife Kristi decided they wanted to try something new and moved with their son Jake to Bend, Oregon. They all turned to the mountains and lakes, and enjoyed snow skiing and snowboarding on Mt. Bachelor, where Bill worked for eighteen years as a lift operator. As a family they also enjoyed water skiing, hiking, tennis and more. Always seeking fun in the great outdoors, they shared that love with their son, and like Don and Bill, Jake, who now lives in Southern California, is hooked on the ocean too, embodying three generations of ocean lovers from the Brown Family.
Bill was a charismatic, loving person. He was outgoing, and on his travels if he didn’t run into a friend, he always made new ones. He loved helping people, and some never forgot! Bill is survived by his wife Kristi of 34 years, his son Jake, and his sister and brother-in-law Wendy Brown and Kevin Barry. As Didi Westgaard Pike so aptly wrote, “There will be a big luau in heaven tonight to welcome him.” Aloha!
IN FOND MEMORY
BY HIS SISTER WENDY BROWN-BARRY
SEPTEMBER 19, 2020
Billy, BB, and BB King
Are nicknames that friends gave to Bill
His passing left a void in all of our hearts
That place will be hard to fill
Fond memories of Bill come flooding back
And I’m here to tell you a few
Of good times that were had and accomplishments
That are shared by the friends that he knew
Bill was a champion athlete
A waterman, lifeguard, and friend
The feats he accomplished throughout his life
Raised the bar and set a new trend
Like the time the Laguna Beach Lifeguards
Kicked the ass of the guards from L.A.
In a paddleboard race, they won first place
That event is recalled to this day
An article in our local news
Praised our boys for their athletic feat
Their training and teamwork had all paid off
‘Cause L.A. had never been beat.
The Dana Point Outrigger Club
Was one of the best around
Bill was their leader and paddled in stroke
Better teamwork couldn’t be found
They earned Champion status and won many a race
With Billy cheering them on
He’d call out each name, and “stay with me now”
And they created a special bond
Surfing was a favorite sport
He won Brooks Street in ‘76
Expeditions were many with family and friends
And camping was part of the mix
They surfed all the good breaks along the coast
From Cabo to Santa Cruz
When the surf was up, they’d throw boards in the truck
As soon as they got the news
There are newspaper clippings of volleyball
Where Bill was the star of the game
With John setting up, and Bill’s “Rooster Strut”
They made for themselves quite a name
Softball was another sport
That Bill is remembered for
He was the star pitcher on the Lifeguard team
And he helped them achieve high scores
Charlie and John still remember
The water polo games that they won
They said his good passes sure made the goals easy
They competed and had lots of fun
Dale Ghere has lots of fond memories
Of my brother when he was young
From Sea Cub to Rookie, then on up to Guard
Now its time to pass on the baton
A high point in his life was to marry his wife
She loved him with all of her heart
Bill and Kristi decided to try something new
In Oregon they made a new start
With their son Jake, they traded ocean for lakes
The mountains, and rivers, and snow
There was snow boarding and skiing, boating and more
It was a good place to watch their son grow
Now Jake has returned to the ocean
Back to the place it began
That makes three generations of surfers
Bill and Dad would be proud of this man!
Strong friendships were made with the guys he called bros
They remember his good nature and smile
His good sense of humor, and the parties they had
Bill’s “La Bamba” always made ‘em worthwhile
So let’s bid farewell to our brother and friend
He leaves a space that will be hard to fill
So hold glasses high for a real special guy
And toast to my Brother Bill!
Please say it isn’t so. Please. Quite simply Bill was the best. I'm having trouble seeing through the tears. When we meet again on the other side, we'll have a "Pickle Pooch and a Regular" at the old Orange Julius! RIP. One of my fondest memories of the truly wonderful Bill Brown is his drunken performances (yes plural) of the band Honk's Pipeline Sequence with a broom as a guitar. You must have seen it. If not you truly have never lived! To have it on video would be epic, but alas we had no cell phones back then. And we are probably better for it!
Friends For Life
Nanette Trentini (Vergote)
We were playmates before junior high. He lived two Laguna blocks from my sister and I and we had wheels on refrigerator boxes that we’d use to speed down Seaview St.
No brakes of course. You were just in for wherever the box on wheels took you.
He was a great buddy.
Bill was a wonderful friend for so many years; especially during Thurston, high school and the years directly thereafter. Don, Wilma, Wendy and Bill were instrumental in keeping the stoke alive for me when my mom passed away. So many nights and mornings around their stunningly crafted kitchen table that Don built. I'm extremely grateful that Bill integrated me into his family at that point of time.
So many Billy Brown stories to think of. Bill and I met in the early summer of 1965 when we moved to Laguna from Tustin. I really didn’t get to know too many locals that Summer until we started 8th grade in the Fall at Thurston, but joining Laguna Jr. Guards, introduced me to a few I ended hanging with for a long time. John Slowsky, Bill and I just seemed to connect as we honed our waterman skills and took complete advantage of Laguna’s abundant recreational fun. Bill had grown up in Laguna and his surfing and all around ocean talents were the ones I needed to watch and learn.
When we entered 9th grade at LBHS we naturally joined the Water Polo and Swim teams and that sport along with all the ocean had to offer, was our bond. Bill, with his long stretch and accurate passes, fed me easy shots on goal over the four years we played together. He was tough in the water and could battle with any opponent. His athletic prowess didn’t end in the water. His long, strong stork like legs made him quite a runner and volleyball player. I saw him take on one of Laguna’s premier beach runners in a community beach run and go neck and neck all the way to the end. Beach volleyball and indoor as well, was his to command as his leg strength and keen timing made him a top notch player in many a tournament.
But where he was a master was paddle board competitions. He gained a reputation as one of the best in the state as we competed in Lifeguard completions up and down the coast. Back then, there was no stand up method. It was belly or the more effective and more exhausting, knee paddle position. Those who could stay paddling in that position the longest usually won the race. Bill was one of a hand full of athletes that could do it the furthest and we would all marvel how he kept that up for so long. Stroke after long stroke. Maxing out each stroke to pull a head. He and Jack Lincke were the best in that sport and lead our paddle teams to unprecedented wins against perennial, larger Lifeguard Dept. teams. I was fortune to be a team member to learn their dedication and trail blazing techniques.
One spring in 1972, Bill convince me to join The Dana Point Outrigger Club he had help to build with Loren Harrison. The two of them decided to recruit a team made up of ocean waterman that could pull twice their weight thru the water. Bill was our leader and lead paddler. He pushed us hard at every workout to give it our all. After a few weeks working out as a team our first race was in Newport Beach. A sprint race of just 3 miles. Through the harbor, out to the harbor entrance, around a buoy and back to a beach finish deep into the harbor. Newport’s Imua team had never lost this race for many years and the dozen or so outrigger teams from all over couldn’t keep up with Imua’s seasoned paddlers. Bill new their home water advantage and strategized the best pace to set and course to follow as he sat in the lead seat of our boat. It was our first race in a sport we had little knowledge and Bill sat us down and provide each of us how he wanted us to run the race. As Bill had planned, we stuck on Imua’s tail most of the race at a steady fast pace.
With about a thousand yards to the finish, Bill screamed out to each one of our names to pick it up and “ just stay with me”. Somehow we all did and we nosed out one of California’s superstars in the sport. At the award BBQ that afternoon, they gave us our award and dubbed us “Those Skinny Kids from Dana“ moniker. Bill, helped build a championship team that did well in several more races to come.
One more Bill Brown, Superstar athlete story, there are more I know. But as I mentioned he was a premier paddle board competitor and he, along with Jack Linke, formed two, LBLG four man paddle board teams. We competed, for many summers, in Lifeguard Competitions in Calif. One of the biggest was LA County Ocean Festival. The four man paddle board relay was a signature event and the LA teams had dominated the event from its inception. After all, they had hundreds of lifeguards to draw from to form the best teams. In the early 1970S, Bill and Jack choose eight of us to travel up to Manhattan Beach at night to take on some twenty other teams to paddle against the best relay teams in the lifeguard paddling world. Bill anchored our #1 team and Jack lead it off to give us a strong start. I was on our #2 team and we had just hoped to finish in the top ten. When it was over our #1 team with Bill crossing his team first, nosing out LA. Our #2 team somehow finished in third. Little Laguna, with a life guarding force back then of less 50, had defeated The Goliaths of LA County Lifeguards. We all were recognized in a Laguna Beach City Council meeting as accomplishing a great athletic feat.
There are more Bill Brown (Billy, BB, BBKing,) stories that could fill a book. He gave us the La Bamba parities that are legionary. He was air guitar, with his broom stick, before it was a fad and subsequent competition. He was my best man at my wedding and growing up in Laguna with Bill was an honor and help shape my life. Bill knew how to make it fun for all and his fun loving spirit, broad smile, good nature along with his great friendship to many will always be forefront in my memories. He was a good man. A champion athlete and waterman. Excellent lifeguard and friend. A devoted husband, father and struggled hard to find his place in the world. Even though we lost touch these past years, he filled my thoughts with good times and an appreciation for the guy we all knew as BB. A one of kind. He will be missed. Rest In Peace, old buddy. And Thanks.
Bill at Hollister
I think if we had a “best smile” pick it would be Bill. He was a good natured guy and a master waterman.
I actually got to know Bill best when we were all playing water polo at High School. That is when I decided to show up! But I remember Bill as being the guy who kept our Spirits up and was always full of fun and ready to have a good time. He and I did develop a special friendship that carried itself to the beach when I'd run into him usually at Thalia St. when there were waves to be caught.
It is with great sadness that I heard of Bill's passing today. Although it has been 30 years since I have seen Bill, I have fond memories of Bill, and all of the swimmers and water polo players from our time at LBHS.
Bill was very competitive, a great swimmer and a gentleman to all. Although he was a better swimmer and polo player than I was, he always treated me in a manner to make me feel like my contributions to the team were important.
We shared a lot of classes together and although we all caused our share of mischief in the classroom, Bill was always one of the brightest students. Although I don't know anything of his post high school education and career or family, I do remember him cruising the beach as a lifeguard trying to keep me out of trouble at my favorite beach, Sleepy Hollow on my home made belly board before the 5 pm time allowed. I left Laguna Beach in 1972 permanently, and have had little contact with classmates, but I do have very fond memories of my time there and swimming with Bill and the team, with coach Jack and Carey. Aloha to Bill and rest in peace brother!
How tragic, I’m so sorry to hear this. Bill was the kindest, nicest, sweetest guy.
I'm sadly disappointed on Bill's passing away. I was just an acquaintance but really liked him. Please give my condolences to his family.
This is sad news. We were friends early on, maybe into middle school? I remember him as tall, handsome, smart and with a good sense of humor. One thing I do remember is that his dad was the Marlboro Man (the first one?). They had long boards hanging from the ceiling in the garage or breezeway.
That's terrible news. He was a great guy. My prayers and thoughts go out to his family and friends.
I am Billy Brown's cousin and 4 years his senior, a year younger than his sister Wendy. We were constant surfing companions from 1960 to 1968 including family trips to Maui during those years. On one family trip to Maui during Christmas break in 1964, after a full day of surfing the Lahaina breakwater, we broke from our respective parents and dined at our favorite restaurant, the Chinese Dragon. We were so hungry that we ordered the family combination dinner for 4. All of the other patrons were amazed when Bill, aged 12, and I, aged 16, consumed the entire meal leaving only some of the huge bowl of fried rice. Being a goofy foot and able to drive when he was still too young, I dragged him to many a left break in Southern CA and Maui. I guess the practice did help years later when he competed successfully in the Brook St. contest.
Bill and I were dear friends in the 70’s and 80’s. We spent time lifeguarding together, traveled up and down the west coast and surfed waves from Santa Cruz to Cabo San Lucas. Bill was a natural athlete. He was very determined which resulted in success as a collegiate volleyball player, a paddleboard racer and in outrigger canoe racing. Billy was also an excellent surfer. He was very confident in large and challenging conditions.
One of his more unique talents was as the star pitcher for our lifeguard summer softball team. We competed in the local Laguna recreation slow pitch league and were sponsored by Broadway Liquor, who provided team tee shirts and a cooler full of ice-cold beer after each game.
We won almost every game one year and the secret to our success was our pitcher, Billy Brown. We would take our positions in the field for the first inning of each game and with a slight delay for dramatic effect, Bill would stride out of the dugout, take the mound wearing white tennis shoes and a speedo as his uniform always with a serious determined look on his face. The crowd in the stands would go crazy and the opposing team would be distracted just enough to give our team the advantage. Bill also displayed the ability to pitch the ball high into the air and land it right on the plate with regular occurrence. Game victories led to celebratory parties after each win which developed Great Spirit and camaraderie among the lifeguard staff. At the center of it all was Bill, he loved the attention and the competitive spirit displayed by all the guards that participated.
Those were wonderful times with many great memories all centered around Laguna Beach Lifeguards. Billy Brown was an important part of that history and is remembered fondly by his many friends for the times we all spent together. R. I P. B. B.
Your Old Friend Dave Kerr
Bill was my best friend growing up. But, I think he was best friends with at least 5 other guys and Nanette Vergote. That was the kind of kid he was. He made you feel special to him. I had the best time ever with Bill. We met in 2nd grade when my family moved to Laguna and we lived walking distance from each other. Kids in the 60's wandered everywhere around town but especially along the beach. I think we were either 9 or 10 years old when we began to explore other beaches in Laguna. We didn't want to discover them all at once, so we decided to only discover a new beach every day. We thought of ourselves as explorers and seeking the correct trail to get around the rocks and navigate the tides until we discovered a new beach. We thought we were so cool. That summer we went as far North as Emerald Bay, and South until we had reached 3 Arch Bay. When you discover life together, you build a bond don’t you think?
I wanted to play Little League and at the tryouts, Billy told the coach that I was worthy of joining the team. I was always the lead-off batter, and Billy always batted 3rd to bring me home. We went on to play for the All-Stars team. I played second base, Billy was our pitcher. In junior high, bullies would make fun of Bill and me, calling us Poky and Gumby. Because Bill was among the tallest in the class, and I was the smallest. In 8th grade we began to play volleyball on the playground which was really competitive in our school. Doubles together we had a winning record of 64-4 (wining 64 times, losing only 4). I know this for a fact because I wrote the record into my 8th grade yearbook from Thruston.
Bill taught me how to surf when I was 11 years old. The first time I ever got ‘tubed’, Billy was paddling out and I was staring at him through the opening. He started screaming, sharing my stoke (Salt Creek). There was many a summer evening where Billy and I would meet AFTER dinner and return to the beach to bodysurf, skimboard, raft-surf or board surf till dark.
Bill and I walked to school nearly every morning from 8th – 12th grade. That is a lot of days. I loved his Mom, I loved his Dad. They were very kind to me. We were members of the first Rookies for Laguna Beach Lifeguards. During our first year in college, we both played on a Volleyball club team for Long Beach State… and took 3rd in the Nationals. Bill was an outside hitter, I was the setter.
When I swam the 3.5 miles from Victoria Beach to Crescent Bay… Billy was my paddler that led me the whole way (I have a cool photo from this day). Anyways… I just wanted to acknowledge a wonderful life shared. He was a good friend. I am grateful to have known him and I want to thank him for his love of me. I will miss him and never forget him.
Your friend, John
Bill at Jackson Hole
My name is Dale Ghere. I guarded Laguna from 1960 to 1974. I have known Bill since he was just a gremlin on the beach at Thalia and St Ann’s. When Bill was about 8 or 9 he became a Sea Cub and started his lifeguard training with John Cunningham and Paul Golfos. Even as a little guy the ocean was a big part of his life because of the influence of his dad. In 1964, when Bill was 12, he moved up from the Sea Cub program to the Junior Lifeguard program on Main Beach. Bill repeated the lifeguard training program with me every summer until he was 15.
All through those years Bill repeatedly demonstrated his strength, willingness and ability to be a lifeguard. I hired him to be in the first group of Rookie Lifeguards. He was part of a new group of young boys who were allowed to become lifeguards when they were only 16 years old. Before the Rookies all lifeguards had to be at least 18. During Bill's time as a Laguna Beach Lifeguard every guard was awed by his abilities and competitive spirit. Bill's paddling skills are legendary among those who competed against him.
Because of the quality of performance from Bill and the other Rookies that first year a standard was set for all other first year lifeguards to follow. 51 years later and the Rookie Program is still used to train first year guards how to be beach lifeguards in Laguna. The threshold for performance, dedication and skill was set by the likes of Bill. Because of him and his friends who were part of that first group of Rookies the tradition of “Once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard” has remained. Many of the names of those who were first have been lost with time, but the standards they achieved and passed on to the following generations will never be forgotten.
Thanks Bill for all you did to help pass the lifeguard baton to all of the following generation of lifeguards in Laguna Beach.
Bill Brown was simply one of the most charismatic people I have ever had the good fortune of knowing.
Bill and I traveled together from Santa Cruz to Mexico and from Mexico to Hawaii during the 1960’s and 70’s. Everywhere we went the magnetism of Billy Brown was apparent. Bill WAS that surfer on any given day at any given break that caught “the wave of the day” leaving the crowd in awe. Bill would be on a beach in Baja and the next thing you know every young kid on the beach is following Bill around laughing their heads off at his antics. Billy Brown would walk out on a pier for a surf check and not leave for an hour because a couple of the old fisherman were engaged in a conversation with him.
Bill played college volleyball at Cal Poly Pomona and I saw him ignite the Cal Poly gym with his brash hits, blocks and defense. The crowd would go crazy screaming and applauding when Bill would do what his friends called his “Rooster Strut” after a great play.
There are so many fond memories to share of Bill’s love of the ocean, his many competitive paddling and lifeguarding accomplishments and on and on but I will stop here and just say that I will always be grateful to have known Billy Brown.
Thank You Bill Billy BB King Brown!!
Bill and I met for the first time in December, 1995 at Mt. Bachelor ski area. We had both just recently moved to Bend. It was mid-day and I was operating the upper lift shack of the Sunshine Accelerator when he exited the lift and mentioned that I was to show him how to work the top. A lot of conversation ensued. We immediately had a great rapport. Enthusiastic to say the least. Ernest. Fun. Honest. We worked through the end of the ski season, which ended July 4th, and continued through Labor Day during the sightseeing season. It was fun. He was fun to be around and he was great with the other employees, skiers, and summer visitors. Always a smile. Following that time, Bill and I played golf quite a few times together, mostly at a small course close to his home. We always seemed to yuck it up during those times over so many trivial things, mostly bad shots. Bill really was pretty good golfer. And, periodically we would have breakfast together. Those were really enjoyable times for me. I think it was 1997 that I needed some help putting flooring down in our living room. I asked Bill for some help as he had some experience in construction. For 3 days we labored trying to put the “Pergo-like” flooring together. Something just didn’t seem right. We finally figured out that the boards were warped ever so slightly lengthwise. We never did any more work like that again.
In June of 2000 I went to work with the US Forest Service and in January 2001 we had grandchildren come to be with us on a full time basis. We continued golf for maybe another year but just a couple of times. My life got busy, he was busy, and I had legitimate excuses to decline the fun things that we had previously done. We always talked about having a barbecue but that never materialized. I only saw him a very few times during the ensuing years. Mostly a quick call on his and my birthday of June 10 and through my great tax person, Kristi. I had been in touch with Kristi regarding Bill’s health. It was sometime during the first week of June that Kristi informed Linda (my wife) and me that Bill had been admitted to Hospice House. We visited three times. The second visit on June 7th I made some comments to a CAN that Bill and I used to play golf and that he was much better than me and couple of other things. He opened his eyes and Kristi mentioned that Linda and I were there. He kept looking at me and slowly raised his right arm and hand over his belly so that could grasp that hand and arm. I feel so grateful that we were able to communicate one last time. Thank you Bill for being my friend. What I have learned recently is how very important it is to not let our lives get in the way of friendships. Life slips away all too quickly. Friendships are precious.
I am Bill’s sister, and I want to thank all of his friends, who he referred to as his “bros, for taking the time to write their memories of my brother. Because we were born five years apart, I missed so much of what he was accomplishing in his life. Much of this occurred after I’d graduated from LBHS and was off to college at San Diego State. After college, when I realized that Southern California was to become too crowded with no place left to ride my horse, I moved to Mariposa to teach elementary school. This took me even further away from Bill, but Mom and Dad kept me abreast of his activities from afar. So your stories have filled a void in our lives and I am grateful.
So here are my fond memories of my brother Bill, (Billy) Brown. We were so lucky to live in Laguna Beach when we did, growing up on Thalia Street just a few blocks from the ocean. And we couldn’t ask for a better Dad who taught us to swim, body surf, and board surf at a very young age. Like Dad, we learned to dog paddle in the little tide pool down at the Blow Hole, on Diamond Street. As we grew older we both developed a love for the ocean and all of the adventures that it provided. We used to all pile into the back of Dad’s pick-up with the surf boards and head for Dana, Doheney, or Nofre for a day of surfing. Our group usually consisted of cousins, and several friends, and I was there at Dana Point when Dad pushed Bill off on his first wave.
When we were still in elementary school Dad built our family a twenty four foot cabin cruiser with a flying bridge. He named it the AHSO, and we started taking trips to Catalina Island to fish and skin dive. We took along a small dory for Bill and me to row around the coves in. Dad made us look boxes to see below. The water was crystal clear and we loved seeing all of the beautiful fish and sea life out there. Bill also loved the flying bridge and Dad would let him drive sometimes.
Then there were those trips to Hawaii when I was in high school. Dad was the first Marlboro Man. He made commercials that aired on T.V., and every time one would show he got paid a commission. He saved the money and was able to take our family to Hawaii every Christmas for four years and beyond. We started out on Oahu surfing Waikiki, and then moved on to Maui where Dad had spent time in the Navy. We were usually joined by other friends and family on these adventures.
We always took our surfboards, and had lots of fun sharing the waves with our cousins. One of the best times ever was the day Dad, Bill, Cousin Bruce, and I drove out to Honolua Bay to surf. It hadn’t really been discovered by the surf crowd back then. We were the only ones out in perfect glassy five to six foot waves. We were stoked and never forgot that day.
After Bill married his wife Kristi in 1986, my husband Kevin and I began to reconnect, and had some very fun get togethers at the folks’ house in Laguna, and their place in Dana Point. We also got to see a couple of Bill’s performances with the broom. He knew every word of La Bamba. I had no idea that my brother had such a good voice and was so entertaining. Then when their son Jake was born, we enjoyed spending time with them and our new nephew.
My brother was a charismatic, loving person. He was outgoing and made many friends who will remember and miss him. His skills as a lifeguard and his athletic abilities both in and out of the water set a standard that future generations will be challenged to match. I cherish the times we had together, and will never forget my brother Bill (Billy) Brown. Aloha, and Rest in Peace my “bro.”
I have many fond memories of spending part of my younger days with Bill Brown - lifeguarding, surfing, competing, traveling and partying. “BB” - BB King! - was a close friend during a special period of time when things mainly revolved around playing in the ocean and having fun. And Bill was a master of both.
I first got to know Bill through the Laguna Beach lifeguard 5-man paddle board relay team. Our team did well in competition in large measure due to Bill’s competitive spirit and talent as our anchor man. I remember him screaming encouragement to each of us as we paddled our leg of the races and being so amped when he crossed the finish line first! One night at the Hermosa Beach paddle relay event, we were far behind when Billy started his anchor leg. After paddling into the darkness and turning the buoy, he caught a huge outside wave, surfed the 11-foot board perfectly to shore and then sprinted with it under his arm across the finish line first, saving the day for our team! This happened more than once by the way. We competed together for many years on relay teams and in individual races up and down the coast.
BB was a great surfer and surf buddy, too. Mixed in with lifeguarding and competitions were dozens of surf trips to SanO, Mex, and Central Cal. Billy’s favorite surfer and idol had to be Barry Kanaiaupuni, and he looked like BK when he surfed - arms out wide, with a drive-down-the-line style. He could surf any water craft from a 6-foot fish to a 10-foot long board and look stylish. We were surfing a big day at Hazards near Pismo Beach one winter when we spotted sharks near the line up. DK (Dave Kerr) and I immediately paddled for shore, but Billy kept his cool, waited for the next set to arrive, and then rode a monster wave all the way to the beach, stepping off his board onto the sand. Maybe he knew, as we found out later, they were basking sharks and not much to worry about.
BB was as intense having fun at parties as he was paddling and surfing in the water. For a generation of lifeguards, Billy’s lead rendition of La Bamba was the climax to beer soaked ragers. He was a showman, warming up the crowd and teasing them with a “story of a little Juanita” before busting into the main lines of the song with the music and volume surging. Anytime I hear that song now I think of BB singing (yelling really) nonsensical Spanish into the microphone over the encouraging screams of the party crew. And who can forget BB’s classic air guitar performances of Honk’s Pipeline Sequence! That was another show stopper with BB center stage. No matter how rowdy the party or how late it went, BIlly was able to kick ass on our paddle workouts the next day.
BB also had a talent few people fully appreciated. It was the ability to come up with catchy nicknames for people. I can’t remember when Billy started calling me “Redtits”, then shortened it to just “tits”. When my younger sister Ellen started lifeguarding, he unfortunately dubbed her “mini-tits”. He also liked to call me “Oscar Padilla,” after the Mexican insurance we’d get for crossing the border (my middle name is Oscar). A few other nicknames I can remember him assigning to guys are “Snowball” (Mark Klosterman), Chucko (Charlie Ware), Deek (Dave Kerr) and “Bun Aipa” (Doug Bunting). Bill also had a great sense of humor. The protocol for a lifeguard answering the tower phone was to state their last name and the beach they were working, and so BB loved it when he worked Rock Pile and could answer the phone “Brown Pile!”.
I learned a lot from Bill about the ocean and competing in it. We had many years of fun lifeguarding together. We had adventures that I will always remember with a smile.
I appreciate that I was fortunate to know and share part of my life with Bill Brown - BB King.
Gina Hart (Reay)
Billy was my friend from birth, a friendship that lasted a lifetime. Our families had a close relationship, as the Browns were our neighbors. Daddy Don & Wilma were like my second parents, and I considered Billy my brother since I only had sisters much older than me. My Mother often spoke of how Billy would come to our door before he could really talk, trying to put his words together, which finally turned into, “Yoo-hoo, can the baby play?” We shared my first 16 years of life, until my family moved to Hawai’i in 1969. The memories are a plenty, yet I’ll share a few that stand out:
• Taking apart our roller skates and putting the wheels on 2x4’s to make skateboards.
• Playing hit the bat.
• Making butter and cinnamon sugar sandwiches.
• Playing “drop the nail” from 2nd story of their house during construction.
• Cheering with Wilma at his little league games.
• Collecting eggs from his grandparent’s egg farm and looking at them under the light to see if they were fertilized.
• Saying I was going to go play outside with him but actually watching Saturday morning cartoons and Sky King because my parents didn’t allow me to.
• Going on the AHSO to Catalina Island, mesmerized as we looked through the look boxes Daddy Don had made when a seal popped up right next to us!
• Going to the dump in San Clemente, and the two of us standing up in the back of the truck the whole way home.
• His smile and laugh.
• Sharing friends.
• Birthday parties.
• When he started getting off the school bus a stop before because his friends teased him about walking home with me.
• How much he too loved my Grammy who lived across the street.
• How happy he was when I brought my 1-year old son to visit Laguna.
• His visit with us on O’ahu.
• In later years, being counselled by him just as a big brother would.
He was a such a beautiful soul! I’ve missed him. We hadn’t seen each other in many years, but phone calls every few years kept us current. I regret never visiting him in Oregon and getting to go boarding with him at Mt. Bachelor. He will forever be in my heart as the only brother I ever had.
Me ke aloha pumehana dear Billy.
Paddle-out Celebration for Bill on Saturday, September 19th
Brooks Street Beach, Laguna Beach, 10am
Paddle-out in Byron Bay, Australia as well
A DAY TO REMEMBER
by WENDY BROWN-BARRY
On September 17, 2020 Kevin and I drove through the smoke filled air of the California fires to my home town of Laguna Beach. I have so many memories of this special town that I was fortunate enough to grow up in, back in the 1950’s, and we were there to make more. It would be for my Brother Bill’s Celebration of Life, and I will always remember that day.
The morning of Saturday, September 19th dawned bright and beautiful. As we drank our coffee on Kristi’s beach house deck on Mystic Way, we looked out on the view of the Main Beach with Bird Rock to the North and the Hotel Laguna to the South. Kristi’s son Jake and his fiancée Pam joined us for a light breakfast. Then Kristi, Kevin, and I headed to the Dana Point Harbor to meet with friends and family and a Kahuna from the San Onofre Surf Club. Kalani Akui was going to perform a traditional Hawaiian ceremony and prayer for Bill on the boat we would be taking to the Second Reef off of Brooks Street in Laguna. We thank Jeff Quam, who put us in touch with Kalani. His ceremony blended perfectly with our Hawaiian theme for the day.
Our Captain was Bob Noterman, who graciously provided his boat for our ceremony. A special thanks goes out to Charlie and Susan Ware who made the special arrangements with Bob. Those on board were, Kristi and I, Charlie and Susan, Tracy Sizemore, Kalani, my husband Kevin, and his brother and wife, Dennis and Shannon Barry. In the meantime Jake and Pam went to the beach with their surfboards to join the paddlers who would be meeting us out at the Second Reef. Brooks Street was washed out and full of rocks due to the high tide, so Mark Klosterman made the decision to move the paddle out to Cress Street. This was a much better choice, although there was a difficult shore break to paddle through. These paddlers were lifeguards, and many of Bill’s long time friends from days gone by.
In the meantime our boat was heading out of Dana Point Harbor into the open sea. There was an amazing view of the coastline that many don’t have the opportunity to see. The colors of the ocean constantly changed as we headed north, pointing out various landmarks and beaches that we remembered along the way. On this day the sea was not smooth and glassy. There were some pretty substantial ground swells that kept us rocking and rolling and sometimes holding on. But, we were smiling. This wasn’t going to be your usual funeral. It was going to be a celebration for Bill!
Kristi looked beautiful that day! She wore blue that set off her eyes. Her long flowing harem pants were belted and topped with a short sleeve top that showed off her beach tan. And we both wore blown glass pendants that reflected all of the blue green colors of the ocean. Kristi had them specially made for us and they had a few of Bill’s ashes contained inside. All this was accented with Hawaiian leis for everyone, sent to us by our long time Laguna friends Gina Hart and Cindy Reay. They took special care to see that Kristi, Jake, Kalani, and I had special ones. Kristi wore a beautiful woven flower head band or “haku lei.” And Jake and Kalanie were given cigar leis or “kikas.” Kikas are intricately woven with very small flowers that are shaped like little cigars. They are the symbol of respect and affection. It was a day of vibrant colors surrounding friends and family who were meeting between the sea and sky.
When we arrived at the Second Reef we dropped the anchor and watched as twenty paddlers came out to meet us. As they approached we had La Bamba by Richie Valens blaring through the speakers on the boat. Interestingly, there was exactly the right amount of purple orchid leis for all of the paddlers. Kristi tossed them out to everyone. We were also joined by Kai Bond and Michael Chapman from the Laguna Beach Lifeguards. Kai was one of paddlers, and Michael was in a Wave Runner. We didn’t know it at the time, but we would require Michael’s help later. Then Charlie surprised us with an ice chest of Coors, not Coors Lite. This was Bill’s favorite beer. He then tossed them out for everyone who wanted one.
The Ceremony began with Kalani giving a Hawaiian blessing. His kika went perfectly with his orange Hawaiian sarong, and he wore a woven leaf head band. He had brought salt from the Island of Kauai, which he added to a wooden bowel of water for good Mana, and he carried a long leaf in the other hand. After the blessing he led a prayer in Hawaiian which is such a beautiful language, and then translated it into English for us.
Then it was my turn. I had written a poem for Bill to share with everyone. I will never forget the smiling faces of all of those paddlers looking up at us. It gave me the courage to launch into the heartfelt stories that we all remember about Bill. When it came to the last verse, everyone had a Coors to “hold high to a real special guy, and toast to our brother Bill.”
After that Charlie and Tracy joined Kristi and I on the stern of the boat with Bill’s ashes. This added much moral support for what we were about to do, which was to let our beloved husband and brother go. Tracy hit the water in wet suit, fins, and a water proof camera and took pictures while Charlie kept his arm around Kristi, as she released Bill’s ashes onto the Second Reef. Bill now rests in peace with our Mom and Dad, Don and Wilma Brown.
Then came a bit of a surprise. As the paddlers returned to shore and we prepared to return to Dana Point, the winch that was to pull up the anchor made a loud grinding noise and then we blew a fuse. We were stuck at the Second Reef. So we all figured that Bill just didn’t want us to leave quite yet and was playing a little joke on us. I’ve been told by Jack Lincke that Bill was a bit of a trickster at times. “Hey guys, the party’s not over yet!” So this was a fitting end to our ceremony. We rocked and rolled in the ground swells for maybe an hour trying to figure out what to do. Should Bob just cut the anchor loose, mark the spot with something, and come back for it later? As it turned out, Michael in the Wave Runner free dove thirty feet down to discover the anchor chain had wrapped around a rock. That was probably due to the boat moving around so much in the swells while at anchor. Or was it Bill? Michael was able to get it free. However the winch was toast, so Charlie and Kevin’s brother Dennis had to pull up the anchor by hand, which was no easy task. I could hear my brother saying, “Buck up guys! We’re Iron Men remember!”
The day concluded with a small gathering at the Mystic Way house with Bill’s favorite food, MEXICAN! It was a day to remember, and was done in true Laguna Beach tradition. I thank everyone who helped and took part in this Celebration for Bill and Kristi. The whole Brown Family is grateful to all of you.