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The Crowd: Viking spirit lives on in Newport

January 10, 2013|By B.W. Cook
  • Sean Jerding, Alan Wyffels and Steve Ingle participate in The Royal Vikings holiday food gifting.
Sean Jerding, Alan Wyffels and Steve Ingle participate… (Daily Pilot )

The holiday season still sparkles at Newport's Ritz Restaurant. Stopped in for lunch Tuesday to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary and found that the Christmas lights were still ablaze as Ritz restaurateur Ray Jacobi greeted the arriving crush, wishing his patrons a happy and healthy New Year.

As we settled in to our black, tufted-leather booth, surrounded by all the tradition we have come to know as familiar in a world where the old standards have vanished, I thought for a moment about the legacy of Ritz founder Hans Prager. It is interesting how one life can impact so many people, even in a relatively small community. Prager, a child of war-torn Europe in the early part of the 20th century whose family somehow made it to China, escaping persecution and certain death in Germany, would eventually create an amazing reputation in Southern California as one of the preeminent restaurateurs, first in Los Angeles and then in Newport Beach.

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In the early days, Prager's clients and friends formed an association known as the Noble Vikings, which originated in pre-Ritz days when Prager worked in Los Angeles at the legendary Scandia Restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. This group would band together over decades for both social and business connections with the underlying purpose of giving back to the community, which has afforded them the opportunity to prosper and flourish in their own lives.

Today, some years after Prager's passing, the Noble Vikings continue in the spirit of giving back and over the holidays produced their annual Christmas gift- and food-box drive, supplying nearly 1,500 50-pound boxes created by Viking volunteers. The boxes were then distributed by 14 participating charities in Orange County assisting needy people. It is estimated that each food box supplied holiday nourishment for approximately eight people, which means that nearly 12,000 people enjoyed Christmas dinner, thanks to the Noble Vikings.

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