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Memories by Candlelight

South Coast Plaza's AnQi hosts 40th Anniversary Candlelight Concert Honoree Luncheon.

A private dining room at AnQi restaurant in South Coast Plaza set up for a special luncheon to honor all of the past chairwomen during the 40th Anniversary Candlelight Concert Honoree Luncheon

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts' Candlelight Concert on Friday, December 6 isn't just a gala that gets their love and support. Over the years, it has become a touchstone in the lives of its dedicated chairwomen.

Weeks ago, they gathered to celebrate its 40th anniversary and recalled how it intersected with their lives. The year one took charge of the invitations – “they were the best ever!” The first years belonged to Ruth Ding. Two other chairwomen realized that after losing loved ones they jumped in and worked on Candlelight despite their grief.

Sad times were set aside as guests reminisced during an exotic lunch of contemporary Asian cuisine provided by Elizabeth An in a private dining room at AnQi in South Coast Plaza – with chopsticks at every place setting and an ethereal elderflower parfait in a dessert duo with a bite of tres leches cake. Guests toasted each other with Champagne cocktails, posed for pictures and had a few laughs as they looked forward to this year's celebration with music by the Beach Boys.

“I love the Beach Boys,” said Dee Higby of Newport Beach. So does her husband, Larry Higby, chairman of the center's board of directors. “He was born in Pomona and grew up in Southern California, and we met at Disneyland. Orange County is very special to us, and you think of the Beach Boys when you think of Orange County,” she said.

Dee will co-chair the event this year with Betty Huang, who wore a red dress and a swingy gold Piaget necklace, loaned by this year's sponsor, which gave each lady a long-stemmed red rose. Many had the color on their minds as they planned for Candlelight's ruby anniversary. “It's red,” said Higby of the dress she's wearing. “I put it on and said, ‘That's Candlelight!'”

“They're telling us red but I'm still looking for mine,” said 2007 chairwoman Pat Poss of Fullerton. “Mine's not red, so I thought I'd get a red purse,” said Linda Yellin of Newport Coast. One woman was having her dress specially designed and refused to spoil the surprise with any details. “I'm not telling,” she teased.

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