THE plaque reads, “Arnie Wishnick – A Remarkable Man and a Treasure to Our Community.” Long-time Village Green Board member Joan Graves suggested the wording, and board members agreed it was perfect.
And so on Tuesday afternoon this week, about 100 people gathered under the trees on the Green to remember Arnie and celebrate the dedication of his plaque, which is located below one of the benches.
Arnie, who died this spring after retiring as the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, was a dedicated member of the non-profit Village Green Board. He also volunteered for decades with the Palisades Americanism Parade Association and Palisades PRIDE, was a member of the Optimist Club and Kehillat Israel, and produced four musicals at Theatre Palisades.
At Tuesday’s ceremony, each of Arnie’s organizations had representatives, along with firefighters from Station 69 and several LAPD officers, including Senior Lead Officer Michael Moore, who enjoyed having lunch with Arnie on a regular basis.
Village Green Board President Marge Gold welcomed everybody and told the audience that “Arnie was a member forever. We thanked him for 30 years of service – and that was six or seven years ago. He was the person we turned to when we wanted to know something about the community. It was ‘Ask Arnie.’ He was our goodwill ambassador and he represented us well. We miss him every day.”
Bill Bruns, the former 20-year editor of the Palisadian-Post and now a contributor to Circling the News, joked: “I know I speak for all of Arnie Wishnick’s friends, how happy we are that SOMEBODY has finally got around to honoring Arnie.
“I’m kidding, of course. Our dear friend has received more local awards than anybody in town history, including President Reagan who lived here for decades,” said Bruns, who praised Wishnick as “the town’s ambassador of good will and optimism.”
The editor recalled that about 25 years ago, the Friends of the Library honored Arnie by planting a tree in his honor out in front of the library, along with a large inscribed rock.
“When they built the new library, the tree was moved and the rock disappeared—until a couple of years later when a friend told me, ‘Bill, I saw Arnie’s rock. It’s a doorstop at the library!’”
Bruns said that Arnie would be pleased with the plaque that has a place of honor at the Village Green, “the heart and soul of Pacific Palisades.”
He pointed across the street to the Business Block building and noted that “the person who played the most important role in saving that historic building is here with us today–Joan Graves. In 1982, she led the ‘Don’t Mall the Palisades!’ campaign, which featured a rally right here on Swarthmore, protesting a developer who wanted to build a three-story, glass-and-brick structure.”
The second speaker was Adam Glazer, the 2015 Chamber of Commerce president. A senior agent with Liberty Mutual Insurance, Glazer said he spent his Fridays in the Chamber office, working on his laptop and strategizing with Arnie about ways to improve the Chamber.
Every Friday, the two men went on a “Yogurt adventure” to one of the town’s yogurt shops, but “we stopped and talked with everyone along the way. . .because Arnie was, as I always referred to him, the Godfather of the Palisades,” Glazer said.
Once they arrived, they’d always guess how much the yogurt would cost. “I think I may have guessed close about two or three times,” Glazer said. “Arnie had multiple streaks where he’d be within the penny, or even guess perfectly. One time he did it six weeks in a row, which was ridiculous because he definitely had more toppings some weeks than others.”
Glazer, who was a die-hard Yankees baseball fan from the East Coast, recalled that in June 2017, he asked Arnie to go to Anaheim with him to watch his team play the Angels.
“I stopped in Gelson’s to get two of Arnie’s favorite black-and-white cookies, one for him, and one for me,” Glazer said. When he reached the Chamber office, he told Arnie he had a treat for the long drive to the ballpark. Arnie laughed and he said he had a treat for the long ride home: two black-and-white cookies from Gelson’s.
“Arnie would probably say that he was lucky to have known all of us because he never would want it to be about him,” Glazer said, “but the truth is, we were the lucky ones to have had Arnie Wishnick in our lives.”
The next speaker was the 2007 Chamber president Brad Lusk. “Years from now as people stroll by Arnie’s plaque in the Village Green, maybe one of those people will be a teacher in one of our schools and will look up his life and discuss what a true community leader represents.
“Arnie always had a kind word for everyone. He would patiently listen to complaints about things of which he had no power to control and offer his best suggestions,” Lusk said. “He made the Chamber office available to community organizations for meetings, even when the group wasn’t a Chamber member.”
Everyone knew that Arnie loved a good slice of pie, Lusk added, but “I discovered another of his secret pleasures — two greasy tacos for 99 cents from Jack in the Box.”
A special surprise speaker was former honorary mayor Steve Guttenberg, who held that “office” from 2002 through 2006.
Guttenberg, who is currently filming “Roe v. Wade” playing Lewis Powell, Jr., was scheduled to be on location and sent his remarks to be read. At the last minute, he and his wife Emily Smith were able to attend the celebration.
Circling the News once asked Wishnick how he managed to get Guttenberg, who is always working in film and in television (most recently three episodes of “The Goldbergs”), to agree to become “mayor.” Wishnick said he spoke to Guttenberg’s mom, and that did the trick.
This was the start of a special friendship between the two men, with Wishnick being invited to watch Guttenberg receive his Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2011.
Guttenberg was a frequent, exuberant guest in the Chamber office and thoroughly enjoyed his mayoral role in the community.
He said on Tuesday, “Our Arnie was the light of the Palisades. Every sidewalk, every lantern, every store, every citizen of our town owes a warm debt to Arnie for his generosity in building our beloved Palisades.
“Arnie inspired me every time we spoke,” Guttenberg continued. “He encouraged me to stay on a road of integrity and kindness. He showed me that nice guys do win.”