Southern Californians remembers what Queen Elizabeth meant to them – San Bernardino Sun

While world leaders offered condolences in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, British expats and fans of the monarch in Southern California found unique ways to commemorate the life of an adored queen who spent 70 years on the throne en route to becoming one of the most renowned figures in modern history.

The palace announced Thursday, Sept. 8, that Elizabeth died at Balmoral Castle, her summer residence in Scotland, where members of the royal family had rushed to her side after her health took a turn for the worse.

Shortly after, the BBC played the national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” over a portrait of Elizabeth in full regalia, and the flag over Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-staff as the second Elizabethan age came to a close.

A mourner leaves flowers outside the British Embassy following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, in Washington. Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and a rock of stability across much of a turbulent century, died Thursday after 70 years on the throne. She was 96. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

An ocean away in the Inland Empire, rock and alternative music blasted from the speakers at the Royal Falconer Pub & Restaurant, a 23-year-old English pub in Redlands. Its manager, Sam Fox, has family ties to England and learned of the queen’s death from his mother who lives in Wales.

“It’s a sad day to see her go,” said Fox, a Redlands resident. “The people really admired her.”

Given the queen’s age, people knew her death was coming, but the news was still shocking, he said.

“My condolences to the family,” Fox added, remembering her kindness and grace. “She was a good queen.”

Many agreed, including Sam Wilmore, whose wife owns Oh Fancy That, a retail store that sells British gifts, food and more in Tarzana.

“I would imagine that my thoughts are much the same as everyone else, the shock of it all,” Wilmore said. “She was an excellent representative of the UK and associated countries for 70 years – without putting a foot wrong.”

That’s an expression, according to Wilmore, “meaning she didn’t make any mistakes.”

Andrew W. Gregson, president of the North OC Chamber of Commerce and a decorated former member of the 1st Battalion Scots Guard, found himself at The Olde Ship, a family-owned and operated British pub in Fullerton, struggling to take it all in.

The Olde Ship in Fullerton on Sept. 8, 2022. (Photo by Malina Mendez, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The Olde Ship in Fullerton on Sept. 8, 2022. (Photo by Malina Mendez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“It sort of only dawned on me this morning,” Gregson said. “It’s the end of an era.”

Gregson, who was born in northwest England, served in the British army for seven years from August 1987 to September 1994. Part of his job was guarding Buckingham Palace.

And though Gregson immigrated to the United States 20 years ago, he said the loss of the queen still hits hard. Despite the physical distance, “you’re still there, it doesn’t leave you,” he said.

The queen’s death isn’t just about Prince Charles’ accession, he added, but a fundamental tear in the fabric of British life. Coins and stamps will no longer be sealed with her image, and the familiar lyrics of “God Save the Queen” will be switched out for the new patriarch.

“You grew up on all that, and suddenly, it’s gone,” Gregson said.

“Her majesty is and was everything British,” he said. “And that, like many things in our world today, will be lost, adding to the grief and loss of an excellent, inspiring leader.”

Celia Gerry, an Encino resident who migrated from England to the United States decades ago, noted Thursday she wasn’t always a fan of the queen. But even she became emotional when she heard the news of Elizabeth’s passing.

“I’ve surprised myself,” Gerry said. “I feel sad she died, this considering I was an anti-monarchist for a short period in my youth. I’d say I really respected the queen. She shouldered a heavy burden at a young age. She took her responsibilities very seriously and worked hard for her people and her country. I think most people loved and appreciated her.”

Edmund Fry, or “Sir Edmund,” as guests of The Rose Tree Cottage in Pasadena, certainly did.

Just this summer, Fry and his wife, Mary, were happy to see a smiling Queen Elizabeth chatting with the country’s beloved Paddington Bear as part of a video celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee. However, Fry found himself placing a portrait Thursday of Queen Elizabeth in the front yard of The Rose Tree Cottage where he and his wife have served tea for decades amid rooms and a patio adorned with all things British.

Edmund Fry, or “Sir Edmund,” as his guests often call him, found himself placing a portrait Thursday of Queen Elizabeth in the front yard of The Rose Tree Cottage in Pasadena, where he and his wife have served tea for decades.(Photo by Ryan Carter/SCNG)

“We’ve gone from the joy of celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee to this,” said Fry, donning black tails, a silky vest and white carnation on his lapel. “But her reign was magnificent. She was the longest reigning queen in the history of the world. She was regaled all around the world. But if there was ever a time someone was going to heaven, she’s in heaven now.”

Fry and his wife described themselves as ambassadors of sorts at their cottage, serving their special brand of tea to visitors from all over the world, with the ubiquitous Union Jack displayed on tables and walls.

In honor of the Queen, Fry had set up a special table with a Paddington Bear ready for tea and a cardboard cut out of the Queen smiling, her purse atop the table with two pieces of toast inside – a nod to the Jubillee video and the curiosity of what she carried in the bag.

Pamela Bennett, owner of The British Connection grocery store in Torrance, recalled watching as Elizabeth morph from a young princess into the powerhouse figure she’s remembered as today.

In childhood in the United Kingdom, Bennett watched the queen wave from a car. Later in life, she said the family oftentimes made her feel as if she herself was part of the bunch.

Everyone Bennett talked to Thursday were devastated and came into the store crying, she said

Bennett, who opened The British Connection 20 years ago, was selling plenty of British flags Thursday, as well as souvenirs, like plates, from the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June, which celebrated her 70 years of service.

Bennett expected to soon run out of items relating to the queen, and said she hopes to order King Charles III merchandise as soon as it’s available.

At the British Emporium in Riverside, which sells imported food and gifts, owner June Miller said she has hope for Prince Charles, who is next in line and will be known as King Charles III.

“I thought she was a beautiful queen and she was a beautiful woman,” said Miller, a 65-year-old English native, who grew up watching the queen at work.

Back at Fry’s tea room, customers flowed in Thursday simply to offer support.

“We can’t jump on a jet so this was the very best next thing,” said Anna Sanchez, of Los Angeles. “I feel sadness but also gratitude for what she gave both countries. She gave hope and comfort. I think she was an ambassador of goodwill.”

Fry echoed Sanchez, noting that the endearing value of Elizabeth was her steadiness on the throne for decades. He note that Elizabeth’s son, the new king, nor his son, Prince William, will see that kind of longevity.

“The queen is dead,” he said. “Long live the king.”

In a statement Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said “California joins the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and people around the world in mourning the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”

Elizabeth had an extraordinary impact throughout her momentous life and work, Newsom said, noting she never expected to become queen but nevertheless embraced her duty to serve, “providing an unwavering source of leadership, inspiration and stability through times of great social change and uncertainty while serving as matriarch to her own family.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted similar thoughts and lauded Elizabeth as “an incarnation of her country and its values.”

“The queen’s spirit of adventure, discovery and devotion to her people will live on,” Garcetti said.

L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer commented on Elizabeth’s “singularly extraordinary life of dedication, dignity and service.”

“We join mourners in the United Kingdom and around the world in paying our respect to Queen Elizabeth II,” Feuer said, adding that she reigned from “Winston Churchill to Liz Truss, Harry Truman to Joe Biden. 117 countries visited.”

The Nixon Presidential Library & Museum is collecting condolence messages in a book that will be sent to the Royal Family.

As of now, messages will be accepted until Sep. 28, but that date could change depending on funeral arrangements and other timeline details, Nixon Foundation spokesman Joe Lopez said.

Surrounding the message book are photographs of the queen, some of which show President Richard Nixon beside her.

The two leaders crossed paths several times, including in 1957, when then Vice President Nixon escorted the late matriarch during her first visit to the U.S. as queen. In the following years, Nixon hosted Queen Elizabeth at a Thanksgiving dinner at the American ambassador’s residence in London, visited her and Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace and spent time with her at Chequers, the official country residence of the British prime minister.

According to Lopez, several library visitors already added messages to the book and expressed their reverence for the queen.

“It really is amazement at the reign that she had – seven decades as queen,” he said. “And she was on the world stage for so many important events in our own country’s history as well.”

The Nixon Library’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 moon landing showcased a message delivered to the team on the queen’s behalf.

“On behalf of the British people I salute the skill and courage which have brought man to the moon. May this endeavor increase the knowledge and well-being of mankind,” she wrote.

City News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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