Philanthropist and Citizen of the Year John Stahr Dies at 87

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John and Elizabeth Stahr at a Pacific Chorale concert in 2017 / file photo

Newport Beach Philanthropist and 2016 Newport Beach Citizen of the Year John Stahr passed away in his sleep on Wednesday, Oct. 14. He was 87.

John and his wife Elizabeth lived in Corona del Mar for more than 50 years, and have been involved in myriad charitable causes, including Newport Beach Public Library, Girl Scouts, South Coast Repertory, Pacific Symphony, Orange County Museum of Art and many others.

“John was a generous man with his time and his resources and as the 2016 Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, John exemplified the spirit of volunteerism in our community,” said Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rosansky when he heard of Stahr’s passing.

When John and his wife Elizabeth were named Citizens of the year, Rosansky noted that “it’s only the second time a couple has been named, but it’s hard to separate John and Elizabeth. They’ve been a terrific team in Newport Beach for a lot of different philanthropic events. We could not honor one without the other.”

Steve Rosansky talks with Elizabeth and John Stahr when they were named Citizens of the Year in 2016 / photo by Chris Trela

Richard Stein, President and CEO of Arts Orange County, called Stahr “one of the most important OC arts patrons and volunteer leaders. He was the founding Board President of Arts Orange County and also served as Board President at South Coast Repertory and Pacific Symphony. He and his wife Elizabeth were extraordinarily generous with their time and money, and were passionate lovers of the arts.”

On the Pacific Symphony blog, Symphony President John Forsyte wrote a heartfelt tribute to Stahr, noting that “with Elizabeth, there are very few couples who have had an equal impact on the Symphony. His marriage to Elizabeth lasted nearly 70 years and what a life they have enjoyed together! John was a very devoted father of four amazing children who are extremely accomplished.”

Forsyte wrote that Music Director Carl St.Clair and John had a close, trusting relationship. Forsyte said that St.Clair told him “John was a man of great character who had no fear in standing up for his beliefs. He did so with intense passion and tireless dedication. His spirit and convictions will remain etched into the heart of the Pacific Symphony forever. As a friend, I will miss him dearly.”

Stahr had a very distinguished legal career, and was founder of the Orange County office of Latham and Watkins, where he practiced for 30 years.

“It was in his philanthropy, however, that John truly established a phenomenal reputation,” wrote Forsyte. “It’s impossible to give proper due to this man who influenced so many good things in our community.”

Forsyte cited a number of Stahr’s accomplishments, including Chairman of the Pacific Symphony Board, endowing the Principal Second Violin Chair, leading fundraisers to build the Newport Beach Library, and Chairman of Arts OC.

“Everyone who had the good fortune to know John would likely characterize him as a meteor, a force of nature, and someone who lived his life on his own terms,” wrote Forsyte. “He pushed through many physical challenges these past years, attending meetings, concerts and gatherings of all varieties while struggling with a great deal of pain. He NEVER complained. Life was too important, and he had incredible passion for his friends, family, learning and, of course, music. I spoke to him last week and he told me how much he missed live performances and being together with the Symphony family, the musicians and Carl. He loved attending rehearsals and going backstage to see the musicians he loved. The musicians loved him right back.”

Forsyte added that Elizabeth Stahr has asked that those wishing to do so may make donations to the Pacific Symphony to support the Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles program about which John and Elizabeth deeply cared.

Donations can be sent to:

John Stahr Memorial Fund

Pacific Symphony

Charlie and Ling Zhang Center for Musical Arts and Education

17620 Fitch, Suite 100

Irvine, CA 92614

At the Newport Beach Central Library’s 25th anniversary celebration event in June, 2019: (left to right) Board of Library Trustees Chair Janet Ray, Library Services Director Tim Hetherton, Newport Beach Public Library Foundation co-founder Elizabeth Stahr, NBPLF CEO Meg Linton, and NBPLF co-founder John Stahr.
— Photo by Charles Weinberg ©



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