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Huell Howser popular host of the public-television travel show “California’s Gold,” died Sunday of natural causes, television station KCET announced Monday. The news came suddenly, only two months after Howser announced his retirement from broadcasting his popular series depicting the often quirky side of California.
“We are deeply saddened by the news of Huell’s passing. This is a tremendous personal and professional loss to his friends and colleagues, as well as his legions of fans,” a spokeswoman for KCET told TheWrap in a statement. “Huell elevated the simple joys and undiscovered nuggets of living in our great state. He made the magnificence and power of nature seem accessible by bringing it into our living rooms. Most importantly, he reminded us to find the magic and wonderment in our lives every day. Huell was able to brilliantly capture the wonder in obscurity. From pastrami sandwiches and artwork woven from lint to the exoticism of cactus gardens and the splendor of Yosemite–he brought us the magic, the humor and poignancy of our region. We will miss him very much.”
Howser was no stranger to Arcadia and Sierra Madre. He visited the area frequently and participated in many local events including Arcadia’s Centennial celebration in 2003.
During Howser’s visit to Arcadia and the Centennial Celebration dinner where Howser was the keynote speaker, the easygoing host of the popular show took time out to talk not only with this reporter but his mother in law who is arguably one of Howser’s biggest fans.
At the time of Arcadia’s Centennial, this reporter’s mother-in-law lived in Los Osos with her husband Gordon. When Howser learned that my in-laws lived in Los Osos and were big fans of California’s Gold, Howser insisted that I …“Get her ( my mother-in-law ) on the phone.”
I did just that and told her I had someone special on the phone who wanted to speak to her.
When she heard Howser’s distinct voice, she was flabbergasted. Howser spent a good five to six minutes talking with her about her family and life in Los Osos that evening.
He was very generous with his time.
A few days later, I sent him copies of the photos I made that night and included the one you see in this story along with a copy of the newspaper. In that photo Huell Howser was speaking to my mother-in-law…and he mailed back this print with a personal greeting to my wonderful in-laws. They were thrilled.
Howser called the office a few days after receiving the photos to discuss the possibility of doing a story, presumably, on Los Osos. Sadly, we never connected on that story.
The autographed photo, proudly displayed in my mother in law’s bedroom, serves as a constant reminder of the big, genuinely kind heart Howser had.
Mel Rogers, president and CEO of PBS SoCal, said “It’s a sad day for public broadcasting in California.”
-Photo and Story by Terry Miller