A year ago today, people throughout California mourned the loss of a person they'd never met but whom they felt like they knew. To longtime viewers of "California's Gold" and his other shows, Huell Howser was an educator, an entertainer, an ambassador to the Golden State, and an inspiration to find the amazing in the commonplace. And it was this love for the longtime public TV host that drew a band of fans to Griffith Park today, to say goodbye once again and to remember the work he did.
Just as last year's Huell Howser memorial had been, this event was organized by L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. "We're going to do what Huell would have wanted us to do," LaBonge declared, "We're going to look at the beautiful California gold of that sunset," at which point the crowd of around 100 took a moment to observe how beautiful California can be.
But whereas last year's memorial mostly consisted of speeches from officials of one sort or another, LaBonge made this memorial different by encouraging extemporaneous testimony from anyone and everyone who had showed up. In true Huell Howser fashion, the emphasis was placed on ordinary people.
Perhaps the most moving speech came from Sylmar resident Lupe Carrisosa, a fan who just happened to be at the observatory when the memorial began. Slightly choked up, she explained why she admired Huell Howser: "This is just such a treat because he would make you feel excited about finding a shell at the ocean -- anything. ... I'm just moved with emotion because he was such a lovely man, and he just made you love California."
Beaumont resident Melanee Dark echoed the sentiments. "One of the things that was cool was that when you saw Huell [somewhere] that you were connected to. It made it really special. He took the time to really delve into it. Even though I'd lived only a mile or so away, I learned stuff," she said. "He was genuinely interested, and he delved so deeply into the details that I ended up loving it even more -- and I had known about it longer than he had."
Mark Pine, deputy director at the Griffith Observatory, explained in his address that the setting was an appropriate one to remember Huell for many reasons -- among them the various lines laid out in the cement platform on which the crowd was standing. Each one represents a point on the horizon where the sun sets at various points throughout the year, with LaBonge even running over to the Winter Solstice line, in an energetically Huellish fashion. "Huell liked details like that because he wanted to get people to do what the observatory does, which is observe the world around them," Pine explained. "And he was always trying to mine out the details so that people would look beyond the very simple and see something that was very profound."
LaBonge, who pledged to the crowd that he wanted a Huell Howser memorial tree planted at the observatory -- because Huell had deep roots here, of course concluded the ceremony by encouraging the group to shout Huell's catchphrase, "That's amazing!"
To listen, hover mouse over top left area of video and click on the audio icon.
And the sunset was amazing, but the cheer could have easily been about Huell's legacy, which one year later still has people marveling at how much they care -- about learning, about California and about the man who made it possible.
If you'd like to remember Huell in your own words, leaving a comment on KCET's memorial page.