Pete McKellar-a piece of Malibu lost


I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of longtime resident Pete McKellar. In our tiny La Costa community, his Country Liquor Store on Pacific Coast Highway was the closest thing we had to a small town general store.

Neighborhood folks would stop by to pick up a bottle of milk, a roll of toilet paper or firewood on a chilly night. Kids could count on finding an ice cream bar in the summer and famished construction workers could grab a snack and a six-pack after a long day on the job.

But a lot of us would just stop by just to see Pete, eager to glean his insight about local issues, politics or current affairs. He was an avid reader of the New York Times and his small TV set was always tuned to CSPAN. Over the years, we’d share our opinions on everyone from Bill Clinton to Bush to Obama. If you were local, you were family. If you came in without cash, you’d just return and pay the next day.

Whether it was feeding firefighters during an inferno or staying open late for someone who needed NyQuil, Pete was always there. If you got stuck at the airport, he’d probably go across the street and feed your cat. Along with his loyal fixtures, Jose and Mark, Pete kept the community connected. He made us feel special. He made us feel like someone cared.

Pete McKellar was like a father to me and I loved him as a friend. His relevance to the community is hard to put into words, but to get an idea, here is an excerpt from an article I wrote for The Malibu Times while covering the 2007 fire.

“Pete McKellar was at his Country Liquor Store in the La Costa Beach neighborhood on Sunday morning when the fire broke. Just as he did in 1993 when another massive inferno tore through the area, McKellar kept his business in operation. Even without electricity, he continued to provide water and soft drinks for thirsty firefighters and snacks for sheriff’s deputies working overtime.”

Malibu is changing faster than anyone would like to admit. The character of the community is becoming more and more corporate. Pete epitomized the Malibu of days gone by. His brand of neighborliness and goodwill is the reason why many of us moved here. La Costa old timers feel a tremendous loss. There is a void and we know the city will never be the same.

When Pete McKellar died, a little bit of Malibu died too.

Kim Devore