The Loss of a Legend: Mary Beth Gustafson

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Absolutely tragic news in our community with the sudden loss of Mary Beth Gustafson, who passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, November 29. Gustafson, the daughter of Alice Gustafson, was renowned in Huntington Beach for the cinnamon rolls she used to make from scratch at the family restaurant, Alice’s in the Park. Mary Beth, just 58, leaves behind three children and a loving family that represents a cornerstone here in the city.

This was a piece I wrote on the family back in 2010 when a group of us were trying to help save the restaurant in the park. Once Alice’s closed, the main question on everyone’s lips was, “Where will we be able to find Mary Beth’s cinnamon rolls?” And she continued baking. That was her heart and soul. Her life and love. And what a master she was. The photo above was one I took at the restaurant just before it closed.That’s Mary Beth’s daughter Kerstin along with she and Alice; three generations of Gustafson women, strong, proud and beautiful.

I spoke with Alice this morning and of course there is no making sense of a loss like this. For those of us that knew and admired Mary Beth, we are numb this morning with this news. But we are all here I know, collectively, to do whatever we can for the Gustafsons. Arrangements have not been set but please keep this fine family in your thoughts and prayers. For decades they have represented the best of Huntington Beach and a loss this profound will no doubt resonate through many corners.

As well, add comments here as you see fit and I’ll make sure that Alice and the family get to see them.

Rest in Peace, Mary Beth. And may God watch over you and your family in this hour of need.

Categories: Uncategorized | 36 Comments

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36 thoughts on “The Loss of a Legend: Mary Beth Gustafson

  1. David Lessard

    Prayers for peace, strength and comfort to the entire Gustafson Family, as we all have so much respect and fond memories of what you’ve all contributed to our hometown. Thanks Chris for such a wonderful and informative tribute…


    • Richard Reinbolt

      Alice got to finish the job that was so important to her, that lovely retreat by the Lake. She found meaning by giving nourishment and comfort to thousands. She did save a little time for herself, but not enough. She walks with the Angels.


  2. My thoughts and prayers are with the Gustafson family. I have been away from HB for many years now, but I remember those cinnamon rolls so well. Rest in Peace, Mary Beth.


    • Richard Reinbolt

      She got to finish the job she had started that was very important to her at her Lakeside retreat. She found meaning by providing nourishment and peace to thousands. She saved a little time for herself, but not enough for those who loved her. She now walks with the Angels.


  3. Anne B

    My condolences to the entire family. What a contribution she made at Alice’s Restaurant, which we all miss! Thoughts and prayers go out to the family.


  4. Lyn Scott

    I, too, am devastated over the loss of Mary Beth. I feel so badly for her family and for the loss to our community. She and her family were an icon to our community. Her cinnamon rolls were a legend. I haven’t had a better cinnamon roll than hers. Hugs to her family in this sad time. My prayers for all of them.


  5. So sorry for your loss.
    God Bless your sweet family.
    Marybeth will be missed.


  6. Neil Swaigler

    John, I have no idea how you kept your composure when we we talking about such mundane topics yesterday. Obviously, I didn’t know of your loss. May you find comfort in the love that comes your way during this time of the Gustafson family’s sorrow. May your sister rest in peace.


  7. Ken Hagan

    Very sad news, no words can comfort here. I had more BIP’s than I can remember. I no longer live in HB, but Mom still does and she was a regular at the park; as I was a regular with my ’68 VW bus at Gustafson Brother’ Auto repair. Prayers to the whole Gustafson Family.


  8. AurorA T-Z

    Thoughts and prayers for the Gustafson family. I knew Mary in high school. Rest in Peace.


  9. Barbara

    I knew Mary Beth from High School. Sorry for your loss. RIP


  10. Jim Berg - Chandler, Arizona

    Very sad news indeed….My deepest sympathy to Alice and the Gustafson family. I was just at “Alice’s” last Friday after many years of absence. Of course my mind went back to the days when my Friends and I would make Alice’s our morning stop while mountain biking the area. Coffee and Mary Beth’s cinnamon rolls were always on the agenda. Mary Beth was very sweet and always at the ready with something funny. The Gustafson’s are legend in HB….and Mary Beth’s legend will live on in all that were touched by her


  11. Dan Dumas

    Many fond memories of Mary Beth from Edison High days. I always had a crush on her..oh well I guess we’ll have to meet up in Heaven!! Praying for the family during this most difficult time.


  12. Lena Johansson

    Mary Beth was such a lovely woman, kind fun and helpful.May she rest in peace and prayers to the whole family.
    Lena Johansson


  13. Karen Jackle

    I loved her baking & appreciate knowing Gustavsons cares for my car
    This is a big loss for our community


  14. Cheech Pittner

    My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are being sent your way. So so sad. R.I.P. Mary. XOXO


  15. Mary Beth was only in my life but for a few years when I married her Uncle Don. She, along with the rest of the family, embraced me with unconditional love, caring and the true Gustafson family spirit. MB was not only a beautiful woman, inside and out, but truly a compassionate human being. Her smile is indelible in my heart. Much love to Alice, John and Kathy, Kirsten and all.


  16. Starla

    I knew Mary as a young Teen. She was friends with the Thomas family that owned the surf Theater. Zerada and I were younger but she always made us laugh. What wonderful memories I have of her as a youth at the pier!! Rest in peace. See you in Heavan Mary!!!


  17. Reading this beautiful article and incredibly kind comments for my sister, Mary Beth. I hope she can feel your love and admiration. It would mean so much to her. I like to think she is with my dad, John Gustafson, who owned “The End Cafe” at the end of the Huntington Beach pier. He also passed away at 59. Mary Beth missed him terribly … so here’s hoping they can be together again.


    • Jennifer Woods

      Condolences for your loss. I worked at the End Cafe back in 87 and have happy memories of your dad. He was such a kind hearted man. I too loved those cinnamon rolls and was actually telling my daughter about them the other day ❤️ My thoughts go out to your family
      Jennifer from Denmark


  18. Another piece of many of our lives gone as well, Kristen. I am so sorry your mother passed. Your family is amazing and by far the best restaurant. Best cinnamon rolls, best everything. I use to bring the dog and have her outside. I loved the decor as I felt at home always. Such an unconventional iconic restaurant. I will always miss your family and what you all contributed to this community. I just was talking about you because we can never find any place like that to eat, and I MEAN ever! It was an honor to be a patron in your restaurant and I will never forget her! I was so angry about HB and signed the petition. I couldn’t understand why Coach’s got to stay and Alice’s didn’t. SO SO sorry to you and your family.


  19. jerilyn K.

    I knew Marybeth from middle school. I remember hanging out in the surfside condo’s. Mary Beth was always such a sparkle in life. It was so wonderful following her success with the restaurant. It is so sad to hear this news. I was blessed to have known her and her family.


  20. Shirley Darling

    You have my prayers and thoughts! She was a special person, I always loved seeing her smiley face!
    Shirley Darling, I have walked in the park since 1966!.


  21. Linda Reiley Hickey

    I worked with Mary Beth in my first job at Breakfast in the Park from 1982-1985. It was at this restaurant and the people working within it like Mary Beth that taught me work ethic and what it means to be proud of hard work that gives to others. I started washing dishes at 15 and will say I always dreaded Mary Beth’s baking sheets and individual cinnamon roll cylinder circles. Each we washed by hand. After all that work I always requested to either eat one or take one home they were so good! I remember Mary Beth being a mom and working hard at the same time, sometimes bringing her babies to work and baking at the same time. I ended up working my way to cook and then waitress at BIP. I haven’t stopped working hard to serve people and am currently an elementary school principal. Although I’ve moved away from the”Beach” I will always have fond memories if Mary Beth and am thankful she made a difference in my life. Rest in Peace Mary Beth and may peace be with you Alice during this time of loss.


  22. Joshua York

    I grew up with Clint and Ryan Downey, her two sons and they are two of my closest friends to this day. I was fortunate to be like a part of the family (I call Alice “Mormor” which her family affectionately calls her, it’s Swedish for grandma). Last year before I moved up north I was fortunate to spend a great deal of time with Mary Beth, we would sit for hours, just talking. She always saw the good in everyone and every thing, in the 20+ years I knew her she never said an unkind word or did an unkind deed, she was one in a billion and my life will never be the same without her. If you read this Mormor, I love you and I am so sorry for you and the rest of the family, I’m completely devastated.


  23. Steve Reehl

    She was truly an Angel, after High school, my big crush, introduced her to my room mate Brad, and ended up being in there wedding .she was one of the kindest persons on earth.


  24. Bonnie Knight

    I want to send my prayers to the entier Gustafson family for the loss of Mary Beth so young and suddenly. The Gustafson family bring back many years of fond memories. I know Mary Beth will be remembered and missed by all who knew and loved her. RIP my friend.


  25. quickdraw59

    My extreme condolences to the entire Gustafson family on their loss of their beloved Mary Beth–a truly warm and wonderful person. Also to everyone who knew and loved her, a truly wonderful lady. RIP


  26. Sandi Sturdy

    A Beautiful Genuine Being! My Condolence to The Gustafson family on the loss of Mary Beth!💛🙏🏻


  27. Carol Barreras

    Marybeth was such a sweet girl. I knew her and her brothers Frank and John when I lived in the Surfside condos and went to Edison also. I was lucky enough to reconnect many many years later on Facebook. So grateful for that reconnection. My thoughts and prayers go out to her whole family. May she rest in peace and hope it’s some comfort to the family to see how much she was loved and by how many lives she touched!


  28. Dave herrera

    We feel your pain and offer our support and love


  29. Teresa Craft Malta

    I am so sorry to hear about Mary Beths passing
    She was sweet, kind, fun and light hearted
    We had fun in gymnastics
    Love to all….
    She is now an angel up high!!!


  30. Jane Delahoyde

    I went to Dwyer and Edison for a couple years with Mary before being uprooted again. I think I still have a stash of letters from her…making her way through high school, and speaking the language we had invented at the time. I was a new kid in town, and she absolutely saved my life with her kindness and sense of fun and adventure. We became best friends, bouncing and practically living on that trampoline in the Gustafson’s back yard, riding the double bikes to the pier daily, taking our friends on surf trips to Salt Creek, baking cookies for her brothers, pushing and jump starting her “pickle” – little sprite sports car and driving around town, working at the Surf Theater – putting extra butter on mean girls’ popcorn so it would drip on their bunny fur sweaters… We had a blast together. Her entire family was wonderful and a God send to me at the time. I tried looking Mary up a couple times at the Cafe in the Park; but my timing was bad and she didn’t have time to visit. She has remained in my heart all along, and I’m so sad she’s gone. My heart goes out to her entire family.


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