Patriots Day Parade’s Citizen of the Year shares what he loves about Laguna.
By Sharon Stello
Those who watched the Patriots Day Parade wind its way through town on March 4 likely noticed the honorees, including Citizen of the Year Ken Aubuchon, who was recognized by this 56th annual event with the aptly chosen theme “Volunteer Heroes.”
Aubuchon, a Laguna Beach resident for more than 50 years, is involved with the Fête de la Musique, presented by the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association, as well as the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center.
So, how did he feel about being honored in the parade? Aubuchon was a bit “embarrassed” by the attention. “I am pretty sure that there are some other people in Laguna who are more deserving than me,” he says humbly. However, Aubuchon enjoys giving back to the community because he loves this city.
“I feel so fortunate to live in Laguna Beach,” he says. “Over the years, I have met so many amazing people here. This is, indeed, a unique town. … It is the right size to know a lot of people, and I am continually impressed at the number of truly amazing people who live here.”
As part of the Sister Cities Association, Aubuchon helps to organize the performers and locations for the local edition of Fête de la Musique—a worldwide annual music festival planned June 17 this year.
“I first stumbled onto the Fête de la Musique while it was occurring in 2012,” Aubuchon says. “I loved what I saw, and then found out that Laguna Beach has a sister city in Menton, France—a city that I had visited twice and loved. So I immediately signed up as a member of the Sister Cities organization.”
He’s also active with the Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center, which is led by Rick Conkey and presents everything from concerts and film screenings to dance classes, music lessons, art exhibits and more.
“I really appreciate what Rick has created in what was previously the BC Space Gallery on Forest Avenue,” Aubuchon says. “… Rick’s knowledge about local musicians and his ability to identify the best performers … [has] inspired me.”
Retired since 1995 from the aerospace industry, Aubuchon worked for 29 years as a scientist for Hughes Aircraft Co., developing integrated circuit technology. Growing up in a small town south of St. Louis, he had his sights set on moving out West.
“When I was in high school, I devoured the annual issue of Look—or was it Life?—magazine devoted to California, and decided that it was the place for me,” he says. “A few years later, I was able to transfer from the University of Missouri—football, fraternities and beer drinking—to UC Berkeley, and that opened me up to a whole new world. I discovered foreign films and a world of intellectual ferment.”
After graduating with a physics degree, he attended a graduate program at UCLA, then began working for Hughes Aircraft’s research facility in Newport Beach after a two-month trip around Europe with his wife. “That trip started me on a quest to see as much of the world as possible,” he says.
Eventually, they bought a house at Top of the World in Laguna for the grand sum of $35,000 (in 1971). Aubuchon currently lives in Laguna with his life partner, Mari Bouchard, and has two grown sons, David and John.
Laguna Beach Magazine: What do you like about living in Laguna Beach?
Ken Aubuchon: The proximity to the ocean, with all the beautiful coves and beaches, the steep topography that provides such amazing views and the large population of artists who bring their unique inspiration. For me, this is the perfect place to live.
Do you have a go-to place in town?
KA: I love exploring or just sitting in the many beautiful coves along the coast, especially Wood’s Cove, and I love to hike the trail from Alta Laguna Park down to the oak grove and Dripping Cave, where I can just sit and be at one with the natural environment.
Do you have any hobbies?
KA: [I enjoy] hiking in the Sierra [Nevada]; travel, especially in Europe and Asia; reading poetry; watching movies, especially indie, art and foreign films; and listening to music at the Sawdust [Art] Festival.
What’s the last book that you enjoyed?
KA: “A Thousand Steps” by T. Jefferson Parker, because it re-creates what Laguna was like in 1968. But I normally prefer nonfiction books that address the connection between technology and quality of life, such as “Abundance” by [Peter] Diamandis and [Steven] Kotler.
What kind of music do you like?
KA: My favorite is folk music, where every song tells a story. I also like classic country and 1960s-’80s pop rock. I most enjoy the songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, where the words are pure poetry.