October 29, 1932 - October 14, 2020 John R. Stahr, lawyer, leader and philanthropist, died in his sleep in Costa Mesa, California, on October 14, 2020. He was born on October 29, 1932, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. His father, Dr. Roland Stahr, was a pediatrician, and his mother, Dudley Casteel Stahr, was a homemaker. John and his parents moved to Reno, Nevada, in late 1939, where Roland was one of the first pediatricians in the state. The family moved to northern Virginia in 1942, where Roland served in the Army Medical Corps during World War II, then returned to Reno at the end of the war. For high school, John Stahr attended the Phillips Exeter Academy; for college, he attended Stanford University, on a Naval ROTC scholarship. While at Stanford, he was a member of the Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity and served as the student manager, the paid supervisor of all the student clubs. He graduated from Stanford as a member of Phi Beta Kappa in June 1954 and immediately joined the Navy, based in California and serving as a supply officer in the Pacific. He married his college girlfriend, Elizabeth Burgess Dempster, in the Stanford Chapel in January 1955. After completing his naval service, in 1957, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating from there with honors in 1960. Upon graduation, he joined what was at the time a small Los Angeles law firm, Latham & Watkins, and settled with his young family in Arcadia, California. His legal work was mainly corporate: he helped many small companies navigate mergers, acquisitions and initial public offerings. In 1972, John Stahr and another young Latham partner opened the firm's first office outside of Los Angeles, in Orange County. John and his family moved to Newport Beach, where the children attended local schools and John and Elizabeth were active in local charities. After his retirement, in 1996, John was even more active in charities, including the Pacific Symphony, South Coast Repertory, Pacific Chorale, University of California Irvine and Arts Orange County. He served more than thirty years on the board of the Pacific Symphony and for one critical year (the year of the symphony's first European tour) was chairman of the board. He and Elizabeth were honored with the UCI Medal in 2003 and with the Newport Beach "Citizen of the Year" award in 2016. National charities in which he served on the board included the Hoover Institution and the Defense Orientation Conference Association. He loved to travel, especially in Latin America, where he could use his excellent Spanish. John is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Stahr, his four children, Walter Stahr (Masami), Fritz Stahr (Erin), Gretchen Stahr Breunig (Christopher) and Karen Stahr, and his five grandchildren, Clancey Stahr, Adam Breunig, Lydia Stahr, Ellis Breunig and Altay Dilari. A memorial service will be held at St. James Episcopal Church on a date to be announced. Donations in John's name may be made to the Pacific Symphony.
Published in Los Angeles Times on Oct. 16, 2020.