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William "Bill" Van Hart Laggren


William "Bill" Van Hart Laggren was born in Philadelphia when horse carriages still parked at the curb. Within days of his second birthday, he succumbed to double pneumonia prompting the attending physician to write his death certificate. Bill's father and an uncle removed the blue-tinged toddler from his stuffy room and took him outside into the December sleet where he started breathing again. To keep their little boy healthy his family relocated to Beachwood, New Jersey, on the Toms River where the pine trees and nearby bay and ocean breezes kept the air clean.

Bill's academic achievements were hard won due to severe dyslexia that went undiagnosed. He developed a stubborn, persistent streak that coupled with hard work pulled him through tough and challenging times in his life. During his high school years, Bill excelled in high school track and field sports. In World War II, 19-year-old Bill got as close as he could to the airplanes he loved by enlisting in the U.S. Navy. He was assigned to the USS Wake Island, which was part of the Pacific fleet and had operations in the Philippines campaign, the invasion of Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa. After the war, Bill attended Southwestern College. Just as he was in the process of transferring to Rutgers College in New Jersey on a track scholarship, Bill had to return home to work for the family business, Laggren Awning Company.

In 1949 Bill met a Northern New Jersey girl named Dorothy Jeanne Stone. They married in 1950 and had one child, Elizabeth Janine. Their life in Toms River (NJ) included many family yachting excursions. Bill worked long days at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, and still sold and installed awnings. Later he added real estate and yacht sales to his resume. In 1965 he moved his family to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to sell yachts for Pacemaker, Hatteras and Chris Craft. In a short amount of time Bill became the company's top salesman nationwide.

After his wife died in September 1991 Bill reconnected with a high school friend who lived in Santa Barbara. Bill and Elizabeth married and traveled the world. They enjoyed life in Santa Barbara until Elizabeth developed Alzheimer's disease and later died in 2013.

Bill updated his estate plan during his final years of life. This included a generous donation to further the mission of COTA while honoring his military service and the three decade partnership between COTA and The American Legion Family. If you would like information about how to make an estate gift to further COTA's mission like Bill did, please contact Rick Lofgren, COTA's President at [email protected] or call him at 800.366.2682