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Hundreds Gather to Remember Huell Howser at Griffith Observatory

The memorial comes on the same day that it is revealed that Howser died of prostate cancer.

It was chilly Tuesday afternoon at the Griffith Observatory even as the sun shone brightly.

But memories of a legendary broadcaster warmed a crowd of several hundred as they waited for 5:07 p.m. and the sunset salute that would honor KCET's "California Gold's" Huell Howser.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge kicked off the tribute from the steps of the Observatory just after 4 p.m.

It occurred the same afternoon TMZ and other media first reported that Howser's official death certificate showed his official cause of death as "prostate cancer."

The tribute emphasized Howser's significance as an educator and a community builder--as well as his impact on the small businesses and locations he profiled, including several locations in Glendora.

Al Jerome, CEO of KCET, the public television station that co-produced much of Howser's programming,  said it would be hard to replace Howser. He also joked that he had been asked many times already about it.

Jerome also recalled the time he saw Howser completely disarm a 55-year-old man at Echo Park Lake distraught over job loss.

"He immediately recognized what was going on and brought his tone down," said Jerome.  "He was such a professional. One in a million can do that on camera and not have to edit."

"He didn't really report on stories, " added Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, who first met Howser as he prepared a segment on the Watts Towers.  "His way of telling the stories was to ask questions and react to the answers."

LaBonge, perhaps jokingly, called for a high school named in Howser's honor, with mascots dubbed "the Historians."

He also emphasized that Howser's legacy will live on in the materials he had donated to Chapman College in Orange County.

Others who spoke about Howser from the podium included historian Charles Phoenix and Capri Maddox, a commissioner for the Los Angeles Department of Public Works.

After the speakers concluded, LaBonge led the crowd in a sing-a-long of "California Here I Come."

Then guests lingered for about 20 minutes waiting for the sun to duck below the horizon in what LaBonge dubbed a "California Sunset."

Those who braved the cold and parking issues included a contingent from the Los Angeles Conservancy's "Moderns."

Regina O'Brien, a television art director and Silver Lake resident who heads the group, said Howser was a frequent guest at the group's events, and showed a unique ability to engage with all kinds of people.

Howser's family had said they did not want a public or private event to honor Howser.

Howser's official death certificate shows that his remains were cremated and scattered off the coast of California, which he loved dearly.

Howser lived in council district 4, where Griffith Observatory is located.

A group is now circulating a petition that would honor Howser with a statue at the Observatory.

We'll be adding video clips from the memorial, so check back here later.

And add your own memories of Huell Howser in the comments below.

Bill Birdsill January 16, 2013 at 11:27 PM
My wife Karen and I attended this gathering to honor Huell ... a very nice tribute to him. Although he requested that no memorial service be held, I think that Huell would be pleased that his body of work and accomplishments are recognized and appreciated by Californians in all walks of life. Thanks to Councilman LaBonge for make this observance possible

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