DOWNTOWN — Ken Schonlau, a longtime Santa Monica resident who helped found the CLARE Foundation and the Sober Living Network, helping legions kick their addictions, passed away Jan. 22 at Saint John’s Health Center from acute respiratory arrest. He was 79.
Schonlau, a resident of The Shores, was born on March 22, 1929 in Chicago, the son of an accountant.
While serving in aviation in the U.S. Navy from 1948 to 1952, Schonlau was stationed in Panama. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and joined Hughes Aircraft as an aeronautical engineer, where he was known for his ability to diagnose structural and mechanical problems in developing aircraft prototypes.
After marrying Maria Doordan in 1969, Schonlau turned his attention to helping others in the Santa Monica community. The two started the Felicity House, the first recovery home for women on the Westside, and he became the founder and executive director of the CLARE Foundation Community Recovery Program for 17 years and founding president and executive director of the California Association of Recovery Homes.
The CLARE Foundation began with a group of community-minded individuals who distributed food and literature to the homeless and indigent alcoholics gathering on the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice. In 1970, Schonlau and his partners rented a small storefront on a quiet stretch of Pico Boulevard, where they began providing education, resources, referrals and a place to detox.
In 1971, they were joined by Dr. Jokichi Takamine, who provided public health services.
“It is impossible to calculate how many human lives Ken Schonlau has touched in a positive way,” Takamine said.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice, said, “The CLARE Foundation stands as a living memorial that will shine for many years to come.”
Schonlau was one of the founding board members of the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing; founder and project director of the Sober Living Network; member of the Association of Halfway House Addiction Programs; founder of the L.A. County Sober Living Coalition; recent founder of the Venice Recovery Center; and a commissioner on the county Commission of Alcoholism. He also served on Santa Monica’s Housing Commission.
The Sober Living Network provides information, training, technical assistance, and advocacy for over 500 sober living homes in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Diego Counties.
While living at The Shores, Schonlau served as treasurer of the residents’ association for roughly 12 years. The association is unique in that it was formed by residents for the benefit of all tenants who do not own their units, said Arleen Hendler, president of the association.
“Ken’s contribution has been invaluable and he will be sorely missed by all,” Hendler said.
Schonlau is survived by his niece, Jennifer Hennen of Elmhurst, Ill., and his nephew, Frederick Meng of Capitola, Calif.
The family has requested that donations, rather than flowers, be sent to The Sober Living Network, P.O. Box 5235, Santa Monica, 90409. A memorial service will be held in late February. For more information visit: www.soberhousing.net.