The Community Cornerstones We Lost in 2021…
The arts, entertainment, sports, and philanthropic worlds were hit hard along the South Coast this year, losing the likes of philanthropist Lee Luria, musician Peter Clark, beloved polo club icon Charles Ward, and the Metropolitan Theatres’ owner Bruce Corwin.
It was a tough year, but also a reflective one that allowed us all to appreciate the impact that each had on our community.
Here are excerpts from our remembrance pieces that celebrated their lives:
On June 10, 2021, Lee passed away at the age of 93, leaving the music, arts, education, her beloved Boston Red Sox, and philanthropy communities without one of its cornerstones, instead showing the world that a pay-it-forward spirit can make a difference.
She started on her philanthropic journey alongside her longtime husband, Eli Luria, a renowned South Coast real estate developer. She was his yin to her yang, perfect partners until his passing in 2006.
“They complemented each other perfectly; he would provide the big vision and she would find a way to make sure it was executed,” said Scott Reed, the president and CEO of the Music Academy of the West.
With a penchant for the arts — look no further than her sporty red Lexus that gave away her vibrant personality before ever talking to her — the community of Santa Barbara benefitted from Lee’s commitment to paying it forward.
“Her generosity is so spread out that it not only speaks to what she cared about personally, but also speaks to what she cared about civically,” said Jill Seltzer, the managing director at Ensemble Theatre Company. “She was known for something she always said: ‘What are you waiting for?’
“She just had a way to always move things forward.”
— Nick Masuda
While his home was a treasure trove of albums of all genres — “We couldn’t go anywhere without him jumping into a record store to buy five or six albums,” Lee Hartley recalled — and his personal artwork, his activity within the community stood out considering his fame.
He was a member of the Montecito Mafia, a social group that formed by utilizing private tennis courts to set up epic battles, the matches arranged only days prior, with participants simply told to show up at a location, with little more information.
It was good tennis, but even better camaraderie.
Steve Lew became fast friends with Peter on those courts, first marveling at his “very strong forehand,” but eventually won over by an infectious personality.
“He loved being here, and it showed,” Lew said. “He was friendly to everyone. He had a grand smile; you just couldn’t ignore it.”
Through the Mafia and its extended social circle, Peter found an extended family in Montecito, key with his daughter, Jackie, and twin sister, Wendy, both living in New Zealand.
“We were always welcome in Peter’s world,” Lew said.
— Nick Masuda
Charles, who was also an accomplished triathlete, worked for the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club for 18 years and his was the first company to bring private jet travel to polo in the U.S., generating millions for the Santa Barbara and other polo clubs, with lucrative partnerships with Bombardier, Gulfstream, Maserati, Ferrari, and Silver Air to name a few.
Flags at the club’s hallowed Holden Field were flown at half-staff in his memory and on August 15, the first match of the Pacific Coast Open season was renamed the Charles Ward Polo Classic; the club’s annual hat contest was always one of Charles’s favorite occasions.
For Charles, every day presented an opportunity to live the good life, and he left this world having savored every minute of his.
— Richard Mineards
What can you say about a human being who embodied all the qualities for which there seems to be such a dearth these days – humanity, humility, grace, generosity, goodness, loyalty, optimism? A man who left every room he entered better than he found it; who always did more than his share, in everything and with everyone. A man who showed up for any good cause, often lending the use of one of his theatres (the Arlington or a Metropolitan Theatre). Bruce loved supporting good causes and he did so early, often, and generously. He lent his time, his wisdom, and his resources at a moment’s notice for anyone he called a friend. Bruce had a lot of friends. And when he decided he believed in someone or something, he was all in.
Bruce was always a force for good and wrote a leadership playbook that put people first. I think his greatest joy was boosting leadership skills in others. He used that playbook to help his close friend Tom Bradley get elected, the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city; building theatres in Watts after the riots; and building the Discovery Cube Science Museum and the Martin Luther King Community Hospital in Los Angeles.
— Gwyn Lurie
Also leaving us in 2021 were: The Unity Shoppe’s Barbara Tellefson, wine pioneer Jim Clendenen (see Gabe Saglie’s tribute on page 42), philanthropist and film producer Anne Douglas, Noozhawk social columnist Rochelle Rose, philanthropist Charlie Alva, Santa Barbara High football legend Sam “Bam” Cunningham, inventor Ron Popeil, Kellam de Forest, and community leaders Alfred Nicholas “Nick” Katzenstein, Bob Short, and Dan Eidelson.