“You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in your own eyes.” – Walter M. Schirra
REGION — As Father’s Day approaches many will be spending time with their dads, but not Miles Himmel.
However, that doesn’t mean the 26-year-old son of the late Larry Himmel, a popular San Diego news anchor, won’t be thinking about his dad on June 17. After all, there’s a well-known foundation created in his dad’s name: The Larry Himmel Foundation. It was founded in 2015, a year after he died at age 65 from pancreatic cancer.
“My dad was a gifted humorist and storyteller who had a special connection with the San Diego community,” said Miles Himmel, who works at KFMB Radio and TV based in Kearney Mesa as a producer and on-air host for AM 760, the same place where Larry started his career on the radio 30 years ago.
“It’s the same building, the same hallways, a place where I grew up,” Miles Himmel said. “They named the newsroom after him which was great. I can really feel his presence when I am there, and I feel at peace there.”
The Larry Himmel Foundation Begins
Speaking of the foundation, its mission is to provide support and resources to deserving organizations and individuals in the spirit of Larry Himmel’s connection with the communities and people of San Diego. The older Himmel had his own evening news show in the 1980s in San Diego when it was a “sleepy beach town.”
According to Miles Himmel: “Larry loved everyone, and everyone loved Larry! Larry may have summarized his legacy best when he said, “My purpose is to make people feel better about the place they call home.”
In life, his father had an enormous impact on the people throughout the community and in his memory, the Larry Himmel Neighborhood Foundation allows his impact to grow even stronger, Miles Himmel said.
He remembers his dad with great fondness, as well as sadness: “Everyone got to see my dad’s humor on display every night during the news, but the thing I remember most about him was how he was always there for me. Despite his busy schedule, he never missed a sporting event I played in. He was always there for me and that meant so much.
“I think what made him so special to San Diego, was that he was able to connect with everyone. He cared about people who felt like the news didn’t care about them. He wanted to share people’s stories from Jamul to Julian and everywhere else,” he said.
The foundation started when one of the board members who worked with Larry Himmel said something needed to be done to remember him.
“I had no clue what we could do, but then we came up with the idea for the charity,” Miles Himmel said.
But the Larry Himmel Foundation is not your typical foundation, it’s a little different and stands out from the rest.
“I think what makes our foundation so unique is the different groups and individuals we help. People will ask us, ‘Well what does your group focus on?’ and we tell them, ‘Everyone.’ Our motto is what Larry’s motto was, ‘To make people feel better about the place they call home.’ We then go out and help people from all different walks of life. We are able to have great flexibility with who we help,” he said.
The foundation does various events during the year, but Miles Himmel has his favorites.
“My two favorite events that we do every year are the, ‘back-to-school’ haircut drive where we invite kids from all over the county to the California Barber & Beauty College,” he said. “They get free haircuts and a bunch of school supplies including backpacks, binders and other necessities. The Padres donate tickets along with the local theme parks and it makes it a truly wonderful event.
“Last year, over 250 kids got their haircut in a four-hour period. The other event is our Christmas event at Interfaith Community Services. It’s a two-week event where the first week, Santa goes up and meets with the kids’ part of the homeless shelter in Escondido. They sit on his lap and tell them what they want for Christmas. The following week Santa comes back with gifts and the kids get to open them. It’s truly a great way to end the year!”
While the foundation has many volunteers and a board, Miles Himmel pays close attention to what’s going on with it.
“I’m an only child, but my girlfriend of five years helps out a lot and my mom volunteers her time,” he said. “A lot of our board worked with Larry as well, so it truly is a family affair.”
Recently, the foundation was at Jerabek Elementary School in Scripps Ranch. A parent reached out and told the Foundation that the teachers’ lounge at Jerabek was in pretty bad shape. So, it partnered with Jerome’s Furniture to help upgrade the lounge for Teachers Appreciation Day.
“We had about 100 kids come in and thank their teachers as they were given two new dining room tables, a couch, refrigerator, microwave and other appliances,” he said. “The thing we like to do with the foundation is get hands on. My dad was out there helping people and that’s what we like to do. We aren’t huge on giving a check and just letting the money go wherever. We want to help out.”
As for what lies ahead for the Larry Himmel Foundation, Miles Himmel said the two big events — the haircut event and Santa event — are already in the planning stages, but he has additional plans.
“My biggest goal with the foundation is I want to help someone who’s never heard of my dad, then go look him up and say, ‘Man that Larry Himmel seemed like a good guy.’ My goal selfishly is to keep his memory here in San Diego for many many years,” he said. “When I hear people I don’t know talk about my dad, it’s really moving, and it makes me happy.”
A newer aspect brought to the foundation is giving out the “Larry Himmel Good Neighbor Award.”
“Everyone in San Diego is part of Larry Himmel’s Neighborhood,” Miles Himmel said. “We ask the community to nominate someone who’s been a good neighbor. We had an event recently on Saturday in Pacific Beach and one in Escondido in June.”
Regardless of the events and the foundation itself, it all comes down to his dad. And when Miles Himmel thinks about him, he said the thing he remembers most is his smile.
“He was able to walk into a room, immediately make people feel better and want to hang out with him,” he said.
And what would Larry Himmel have to say about a foundation in his name?
“I wonder about this often,” Miles Himmel said. “He would probably think that it shouldn’t be done, that he was just a regular guy. The last few months of his life as he suffered from pancreatic cancer, the outpouring of people coming to see him was amazing. I think at the end he realized how beloved he really was here in San Diego. Our home turned into a hotel with everyone wanting to come visit and pay their respects.”
Putting it all in perspective, Miles Himmel said he also remembers when the family lost their Del Sur home in the 2008 due to the wildfires. Devastating yes, but the house and the things that went up in flames can be replaced, he said. People like Larry Himmel, he said, can’t be.
“I’ve had two tragedies on my life, and remember the fire and my dad being there,” he said. “I never really think about it, but I do think about the last few days of my dad’s life and his suffering and when he took his last breath. I think about him every day and I miss him every day.”