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Volunteer celebrates 90th birthday with friends

September 01, 2007|By Jessie Brunner

Earl Fusselman has lived a life of service, and on the cusp of his 90th birthday, the Newport Beach resident shows no signs of slowing down.

For four years, he served his country as a captain in the U.S. Army.

“I was a smart guy. I went in the National Guard one year before Pearl Harbor to get my year in so I could start a job in South America with Standard Oil,” Fusselman said. “My year was up on the 17th and we got bombed on the seventh.”

For seven decades, the two-time Rotarian of the Year has served his community as a member of the Rotary Club, later joining the American Legion and signing up as a Meals on Wheels volunteer and member of the Newport Beach Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy.

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“He is the patriarch of the volunteer program,” said crime prevention specialist Kathy Lowe, who Fusselman lovingly calls “Chief.” “He has become an icon around the police department and everyone respects him and looks up to him for inspiration.”

And for a lifetime, Fusselman has served his family as a dedicated father, grandfather to four and great-grandfather to nine, and though his wife Gigi passed away in 1988, he continues to wear his wedding band.

“Every Monday of our daughters’ lives, he came to the house with a surprise for them in his pocket, whether it be cookies or toys, and when they started school, he picked them up every Monday until junior high and took them to Golden Spoon,” said Fusselman’s grandson Jay Carnahan, describing the birthday boy’s relationship with college-age great-granddaughters Ashley and Courtney.

On Friday, 171 of Fusselman’s closest friends were invited for a birthday celebration at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, including current and former Newport Beach Police chiefs John Klein and Bob McDonell.

“He’s got a lot of friends,” said daughter Jaye Benson. “He’s just an amazing man.”

Numerous members of the police force expressed their appreciation for Fusselman, who was named Volunteer of the Year in 2002 and continues to devote 30 hours a month to writing the volunteer newsletter, supervising recruit testing and ticketing drivers who park illegally in handicapped spaces.

“He has devoted his lifetime to service and we all respect that about him so much,” Lowe said. “He has given so much and he still continues to give and that is just so admirable.”

Adding humility to a long list of admirable traits, Fusselman said he simply has “nothing else to do.”

“I just enjoy doing it,” he said. “And I love making new friends.”

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