Sunset group finds use for memorial fund after 24 years

Community association plans to turn Orange County Fire Station No. 3 into a community center, which will serve many of the same functions as before — minus the fire engines.

April 13, 2011|By Michael Miller,
  • The Sunset Beach Community Assn. bought Orange County Fire Station No. 3 in Sunset Beach and plans to renovate the building and turn it into a community center.
The Sunset Beach Community Assn. bought Orange County… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

It was the $1,200 that stayed in the bank through the end of the Cold War, the Clinton impeachment, 9/11 and more than one hair-raising recession.

Month after month, when the Sunset Beach Community Assn. gave its treasurer's report, the Peter Duval Fund took up one line of it. And month after month, the board adjourned without having found a use for the money.

"It was reported on, but no one really had a place for it," said association member Greg Griffin. "It just kind of sat there."

Now, after more than two decades, the community that gathered $1,200 in tribute to a deceased friend finally plans to spend it.

Last fall, the Orange County Fire Authority dissolved Sunset Beach's volunteer fire crew and put the station up for sale. The community association went into escrow in March on the building, where Peter Duval once served as a fire captain, and hopes to transform it into a community center by fall.


Among the renovations planned is a bronze plaque honoring the men and women who staffed the volunteer squad. The association expects the Peter Duval Fund, which grew to more than $1,500 as it accrued interest, to cover the cost.

Whether or not Duval's name appears on the plaque — a committee is still working on the design — his neighbors consider it a more substantial tribute than a recurring line on the budget.


'A community character'

Mike Van Voorhis, the community association president and a former fire volunteer, remembers Duval as a local celebrity in his day.

For years, he owned Mother's Tavern, a dive bar that still operates on Pacific Coast Highway. He once served as community association president. And he was always quick to volunteer, whether it was for the fire squad or another community group.

"He was a community character," Van Voorhis said. "He had personality and then some."

Duval had served on the fire squad for nearly a decade before he contracted pneumonia and other illnesses, Van Voorhis said.

After he died in 1987, his neighbors held a service at the community lot and gathered money for his parents, who lived in Philadelphia.

However, Duval's parents quickly returned the money, saying it should go to the fire program where their son donated so much of his time.

The problem, Van Voorhis said, was that the association could find nothing to spend it on. Sunset Beach already hosted a firemen's ball every year to raise funds, and the fire authority took care of maintaining the station.

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