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Fair Game


Jean Watt finds a spot on my Newport Beach version of Mt. Rushmore…how about yours?

TJ headshot AugMost people know I love golf. I’ve played, not always well, since I was a kid. Recently I saw a question on social media asking golfers who would make the Mt. Rushmore of golf?

Most would agree on three; I personally think Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer would be absolutes on mine. The question to most would be who is the fourth. Hogan or Snead, never saw them play…Nelson, the same…Jones probably should be in the conversation.

It’s an interesting game to play on your favorite subject or interest and always leads to great debate.

It got me thinking, with Jean Watt’s passing last weekend, what women in Newport Beach’s history would make our Mt. Rushmore?

They would have to be women that made an incredible imprint on Newport Beach.

I’ll throw out four: Jean Watt, Marian Bergeson, Evelyn Hart and, perhaps, Nancy Gardner. It’s hard to start chiseling Nancy’s bust because she’s still alive and well and accomplishing more and more with each passing day (and I figure when Nancy hears about me “chiseling her bust” it’s sure to bring a chuckle).

Fair Game three women SNN 4.21

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Robyn Grant

The great ones – (L-R) Evelyn Hart, Jean Watt and Marian Bergeson

Still, I’d be interested in what readers think. Who would you put on our Newport Beach Mt. Rushmore for women?

Send any thoughts to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

• • •

Speaking of Jean, with her passing I reached out to get other leaders’ thoughts on what she meant to our town.

From Jon Langford, planning commissioner and chair of Friends of New Beach Animal Shelter:

“Jean was a dedicated soul who gave all of herself to others. (We were) lucky to have this shining example of community-oriented, compassionate and selfless engagement. Her tireless efforts to improve the lives of animals and people alike is the rare ideal of active citizenship.

“The Newport Beach Animal Shelter would not have been built if it weren’t for Jean.

“She leaves behind a remarkable legacy that will continue to inspire us for lifetimes.”

Charles Klobe, president of SPON:

“Jean, at 96, was still one of our most active members (SPON). When the Newport Beach Housing Trust is fully formed and benefits begin to become tangible, I believe that will have been one of the greatest positive effects on our city. And it was Jean’s idea!”

Former City Manager Homer Bludau:

“Jean was going to make sure that anything being proposed or taking place that had environmental impacts, had to be seriously addressed without fail. She was the spokeswoman for the Newport Beach environmental community and she was the one who had to be dealt with and satisfied. 

“She had major impacts on so many huge issues that (we) faced over the years, but I think her strong advocacy for limiting the negative impacts (noise, pollution and size) of the John Wayne Airport is a great lasting community contribution that will continue to benefit our quality of life for many, many years to come.”

Former Mayor Nancy Gardner:

“She had an amazing ability to persevere, to not get discouraged by setbacks or lack of huge progress but to keep making the effort, and as a result we are a much “greener” city than we would have been without her presence. 

“She motivated so many and helped them find strengths and talents they didn’t always know they had. Anybody involved in local activities should use her as a guiding light. She serves as a model for civic involvement.”

Dennis Baker, activist in the Wetland’s Recovery Project, The Newport Beach Conservancy, SPON and much more:

“Jean was modest, encouraging, nonjudgmental, tenacious, organized and respectful. I believe it is fair to say she was the Grande Dame of Newport Beach.

“For many who have worked with her, she will be remembered for her guidance and her willingness to follow as well as lead.” 

City Councilmember Robyn Grant

“Newport Beach would not have the environment, infrastructure, or sense of community it has without Jean’s influence over the past 70 years. Jean had big ideas and the ability to pull them off. She didn’t pay attention to naysayers or doubters, she forged ahead and made everyone a partner.”

Former Mayor and current Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill

“Jean’s commitment to preservation of Newport’s natural resources will forever be in the city’s DNA. She had courage to run for public office to advance her positions and be part of the process rather than sit on the sidelines throwing rocks.”

Sue Dvorak, Citizens Against Airport Noise & Pollution:

“Newport Beach would be a different place without Jean Watt. (She) played a key role in cleaning up the Back Bay, preventing investors from developing the area into a tourist attraction and ensuring it was designated as a wildlife preserve. 

“Without Jean Watt, we would not have the landmark Airport Settlement Agreement today which protects residents from some of the negative impacts from John Wayne Airport.”

Steve Rosansky, Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President & CEO and former Newport Beach Mayor:

“Jean Watt epitomized what it meant to be a Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year. Newport Beach was her home and every day she committed to making the future better. Her fight to protect the Upper Bay, Harbor and Beaches is a legacy we all benefit from.”

Assemblywoman and former Mayor Diane Dixon

“Jean tirelessly gave back to our community through sensible, pragmatic and thoughtful planning leadership with quiet yet singularly forceful advocacy. A force for good in all she touched.

“Too many (significant impacts) to select just one – but one of her most recent endeavors of significance was the creation of the Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter.”

Quite a legacy.

• • •

If you were thinking that this is the year you’re going to register your boat and join in on the 75th Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race, too late. Registration is now closed.

That being said, anticipation is ramping up for the Friday, April 28 start on our Peninsula.

Newport Ocean Sailing Association will welcome a 137 entries on the two courses.

Two highly decorated multihulls figure to face off for top spot. Last year’s NOSA Staff Commodore Bills Gibbs and crew sailed away with five top trophies for the best time of Wahoo, his Schionning 1400 catamaran. 

Two years ago the big winner was Jerry Fiat’s Farrier 32 SRX Taniwha, also taking home five trophies for best overall honors. Unfortunately, Taniwha sat out last year’s race

But, now it’s back!

Festivities kick into high gear on Thursday, April 27 with a pre-race night VIP Buffet for skippers and their crew at BCYC. It will be preceded earlier in the day when dignitaries from Mexico and the city welcome the participants.

• • •

A friend of mine said to me this week on the announcement of Gordon Bowley’s passing that it’s certainly eye-opening when our contemporaries are the ones dying around us. I feel that with Gordo’s loss. We were great friends, traveled together, shared stories and became involved in similar community organizations. I will miss him dearly.

Although a Costa Mesa resident, Gordon, who was 85, transcended the border of Newport Beach/Costa Mesa by being very involved on this side of town, too, over the years, including with Hoag Hospital, his love for youth sports, his exceptional emcee abilities and his sterling sense of humor. 

Gordon was from Winnipeg and commonly referred to those around him endearingly as, “you hockey puck!” 

I guess that game was in his blood.

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