Several hundred people gathered at Kehillat Israel Synagogue Wednesday, May 1 to remember the life of local legend Arnie Wishnick. Born September 7, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, Wishnick passed away at his home on April 27. After college, Wishnick began an illustrious career in banking in Beverly Hills, followed by jobs in downtown Los Angeles and Gardena before ultimately settling with his family in Pacific Palisades. He served as Vice President of two former Pacific Palisades saving and loan associations, Southern California Savings — now the site of US Bank — and Gibraltar Savings (now the site of CitiBank) and was also past president of the Optimist Club of Pacific Palisades and the Palisades Americanism Parade Association.
Wishnick also served for 30 years on the Village Green Committee and on the committee for the Palisadian-Post Teen Talent Contest. He was beloved for his film reviews at the newspaper, to which he contributed for over 12 years. One of the six speakers at Wishnick’s ceremony fellow Optimist Club Member John Prough recalled when Wishnick told Quentin Tarantino he had given his movie “5 Palm Trees”—the paper’s highest honor.
In 1993, Wishnick became the executive director of the Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce, a position he held for 25 years. A sign hung on the door of the Chamber of Commerce on the day of the ceremony read: “Your Community is Brokenhearted. Rest in Peace, Arnie.”
A tall, smartly-dressed figure with a beaming smile, Wishnick was instantly recognizable around town, never missing a big band dance at the American Legion or an event with his Kehillat Israel Havurah group. “I’ve known Arnie for 33 years,” Rabbi Emeritus Steven Carr Reuben told the Palisadian-Post at the reception. “Arnie was not only the light of the Palisades, but of our own Jewish community. He was one of our spark-plugs. He brought everybody joy and light and music and celebration. He was like a blessing and a gift to everybody he met.”
“I’ve known Arnie since I was a teenager,” Sam Lagana, who spoke at the ceremony, told the Post. “He’s always been a wonderful friend to me—advocating for me, including me, encouraging me and that’s one of the things he did not just for me but for others.”
“I think the message that I try to convey is that Arnie was a gentle giant. He brought people together from different traditions, different cultures, different experiences—Arnie brought people together. And he cared about people and he knew what was important to each of them and they knew what was important to Arnie. That relationship made him a person that made great moments for others.”
Mourners laughed and cried exchanging stories about Wishnick, remembering him for his infectious smile, sense of humor, and the comfort he gave others.
“Arnie Wishnick was the best thing to happen to Pacific Palisades since Will Rogers,” said fellow Optimist Billy Snyder, who spoke at the ceremony. “He had such an infectious smile that captured us all, and a genuine interest in everybody he knew.”
The recipient of many community service awards, including Pacific Palisades Lion Club Citizen of the Year (1984), Sparkplug of the Year (1980) and Pride of the Palisades (2018), Wishnick earlier this year received the Mort Farberow Award—a special recognition, as the two had been good friends for many years.Flowers were also left outside of the Palisades Library, where a small stone at the intersection of North Swarthmore Avenue and La Cruz Drive bears Wishnick’s name with a simple message: “In Honor of Arnie Wishnick, for His Dedication to the Community.”
Wishnick is survived by his wife Jackie, stepdaughter Wendy, stepson Daniel and their daughter Bella and also by his sister Audrey, nephew Josh, niece Kristy and their children Ella and William Benjamin.