At Home With Neil & Clarice Hokanson
“This is like a portrait that changes hourly,” says Clarice Hokanson. She’s referring to the ever-shifting coastal vistas framed by floor-to-ceiling windows in the Cardiff beach house she shares with her husband, Neil. After buying the property in 2008, the couple made extensive renovations, opening up the walls and adding expanses of glass to bring the outdoors in. Now nearly every room, including the laundry, has an ocean view. “We love seeing life happen right in front of us,” says Clarice. Indeed, they can watch a steady stream of bikers, runners, and surfers passing by their door. “There’s a lot of energy,” adds Neil. “People are doing things. It’s entertaining, but it’s also energizing.”
Neil, co-founder of a wealth management firm that has since merged with Aspiriant, is past Chairman of the Board of the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, which focuses on “impactful philanthropy,” giving to organizations that are the most effective in executing their missions to help others. A longtime member of the Encinitas Coastal Rotary Club, he’s especially interested in Rotary programs geared to eradicate polio in developing nations. A nature lover, he’s a member and former Chair of the President’s Council of the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, and he’s also a succulent and herb gardener who has served on the board of the San Diego Botanic Garden.
Clarice, a licensed registered nurse for more than 35 years, is passionate about health and access to medical facilities. “I think that without health,” she says, “nothing else matters.” For instance, she helped to raise funds for the new Leichtag Foundation Critical Care Pavilion at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, including an emergency department and in-patient rooms. Clarice is on the hospital’s “Kitchen Cabinet,” a group that hopes to raise $10 million for state-of-the-art surgical suites and a ten-bay pre-operative unit. The group is planning a “Board Sport” fundraiser in October, auctioning off signed surfboards and other items displayed in the hospital’s long hallway, known as the “bowling alley.”
The couple, who met at UC Irvine in 1975, reconnected ten years ago on a blind date after each had raised three children. “In college, we talked about dating, but I was about to go travel and work my way around the world,” he recalled. “And I knew if I dated her, I wouldn’t go.” Neil spent the next three years working on farms in South America, a sheep station in Australia, and in pre-revolutionary Iran, where he taught basic helicopter mechanics to Iranian Air Force cadets. He didn’t make a profit (“I left with $1,500 and I came back with $1,500,” he recalls), but his adventures proved to be priceless.
The Hokansons chose Cardiff as their home not only because it’s close to the coast, but it’s an easy walk to markets and restaurants, whether for drinks and appetizers at Pacific Coast Grill, the “Kitchen Sink” salad at The 3rd Corner, the arugula and prosciutto pizza at Trattoria Positano, or the lobster ravioli at Trattoria I Trulli. Encinitas Ale House has an “amazing selection” of draft and bottle beers, says Neil, and game burgers of wild boar, buffalo, and alligator, which, he insists, “tastes like chicken.”
Although they are empty nesters, Neil jokes that “when you have a nest on the beach, the birds show up.” Clarice cooks for big family gatherings — their dining table can seat 18 — but Neil insists he’s the chef in the family. “I cook for therapy,” he says. “It’s relaxing.” The couple prefers fresh fish, salads, and veggies, for the most part, although Neil occasionally concocts curry or Thai dishes.
Clarice stays in shape with walks on the beach, and Neil, who has a black belt in the martial arts, took up beach volleyball in middle age for exercise and camaraderie. Cardiff has proven to be the perfect place for this active couple. And as the sun sinks slowly in the West, right over their beachfront deck, you just can’t beat the view. Andrea Naversen