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Balboa Beacon bids adieu

After 17 years, the editor is packing it in — and packing up all her memorabilia to give to the Newport Beach Historical Society.

December 17, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Gay Wassall-Kelly, longtime editor of the Balboa Beacon newsletter, looks at a binder of past editions of the newsletter in her home office surrounded by Balboa Island memorabilia.
Gay Wassall-Kelly, longtime editor of the Balboa Beacon… (Don Leach, Daily…)

"Get your shovel," Gay Wassall-Kelly deadpans upon opening the door to her home on the Balboa Peninsula.

Coming before a hello, the words serve as a quick introduction to a house that looks to be in the process of emptying itself out. The couch is piled with memorabilia about the boat Wassall-Kelly and her husband are looking to sell. The office down the hall boasts VHS tapes, paper supplies and assorted remnants of the newsletter that she churned out here for 17 years.

Wassall-Kelly, longtime editor of the Balboa Beacon, has clearance on her mind, and it takes a nimble pair of feet to slip around some of the artifacts that line her living space. In some cases, the items she's unearthed are news even to her. Picking up and studying a poster advertising a 1988 wooden boat festival, she confesses that she can't recall the event.

Soon, this material may make its way to storage, courtesy of the Newport Beach Historical Society. In March, with doctors' orders not to sit too long after a back injury, Wassall-Kelly put out the last issue of the Beacon. Asked if she'd revive it, she answers no, but then works in a joke about women always changing their minds.

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There's a lot of material in this tiny room, and little of it began as Wassall-Kelly's. Much of it was given to her by residents: photos, posters, books, bits of family histories.

"What it is is the excitement of getting it together, getting another story that nobody's heard," says the 74-year-old, dressed in a red long-sleeved shirt and black slacks with a seashell-shaped necklace. "Then I get the feedback of people calling and, you know, they love it. And [they say], 'What are you doing next week?' or 'I've got something' or 'We're having a family reunion — could you come and take a picture? If not, we'll send you an email.'

"I feel like I was part of everybody's family that was reading it."

*

"Blab Sold."

Those blunt monosyllables, printed at the top of page one of the Balboa Blab on Feb. 8, 1996, preserve for posterity the beginning of Wassall-Kelly's journey as a town chronicler.

In a "surprise move," the brief story begins, Wassall-Kelly took up editor Jim Fournier on his offer to sell the Blab to anyone for 2 cents. "When asked if he felt hoodwinked by the sale, Fournier replied, 'Hell no. I'm laughing all the way to the bank.'"

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