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Marjorie Claire Tavares

1915 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
Marjorie Claire Tavares Obituary
Tavares, Marjorie Claire 1915 to 2014 LA JOLLA -- The last of the great La Jolla Socialites dies at age 99. Marjorie Claire Tavares, the last of the great mid-century San Diego pioneers and patron of the arts, has died in her Muirlands home on June 10. Mrs. Tavares was born in 1915 in Coffeeville, Kansas and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, the daughter of Harry and Hazel Layman. She moved to San Diego in 1939, and later settled in La Jolla, California in 1943, after she married Carlos Jose Tavares, an internationally renowned civil engineer who immigrated to California from Shanghai. Mr. Tavares died in 1975. Claire Tavares, known for her statuesque brunette beauty, was fully engaged in all facets of "life". "Socialites in Claire's era in the '50s, '60s and '70s were not the 'socialites' we know today, where a check and a designer gown can get you renown", according to the late Legler Benbough, himself a noted San Diego philanthropist. "Yes, you had to have that combination of style, money and a spirit to voIunteer." Claire Tavares was a founding member of Las Patronas and the annual Jewel Ball which has raised millions of dollars over the years for local charities. Because of her life-long love of music, she and her husband helped bring opera, symphony and ballet to San Diego. One of her finest artistic creations in La Jolla was the famed and extraordinary house on the 300-acre hilltop, just below the controversial Mount Soledad cross, that still is in legal battle today. Designed by Mr. and Mrs. Tavares, their house was filled with their collections and treasures from their worldwide travels. "Claire's sense of style was impeccable. She thrived on drama and seemed to harbor some exotic secret. For a young woman from Coffeeville, Kansas, she made a determined and successful impact on La Jolla in its growing years," according to legendary long-time columnist Neil Morgan, later editor of the San Diego Evening Tribune, who is now pursuing the front wave of electronic journalism. "She was early in attempting to point out the provinciality of San Diego. With a small corps of friends, she undertook social and educational projects intended to heighten the sophistication of the town, which was not an easy task just after World War II. The swirling addition of immigrants to San Diego made this an aspiring goal, not a finished product," the recently former San Diego Union Tribune columnist noted with fondness. Mrs. Tavares's time and efforts also extended to education and supporting The University of San Diego and the Religious of the Sacred Heart, a worldwide French order. She and her husband built the Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in San Diego. After her husband closed his shipyard in San Diego at the end of WWII, he created the much needed housing in an area in San Diego he called "Clairemont", named for his wife. Mr. Tavares helped design the English Channel Tunnel. Intrepid travelers, Mr. and Mrs. Tavares toured the world, both for Mr. Tavares's engineering projects and for knowledge and pleasure. Their last project was to develop 3,000 acres overlooking the remaining three miles of untouched beach in the Algarve, Portugal; unfortunately the project was halted by the Portuguese Revolution in 1974, and the government took over the property. Their long-time friends ranged from artist Fleur Cowles (founder and editor of "Flair" magazine) to the exiled father of the present King of Spain. "I remember, long after Daddy's death, that he sponsored Carol Burnett and helped launch her career as a major Broadway star, in Once upon a Mattress;" recalls Carla Berman. "Burnett had been invited to perform for the San Diego Opera Guild while a student at UCLA and impressed Mother and Daddy by her performance. After the show they asked about her career plans and subsequently secretly sponsored her trip to New York. The story is in her book." As indeed Mr. Benbough said, Mrs. Tavares was the last of the great socialites. Her intelligence, wit, interest in all facets of life, commitment to her causes, religion and philanthropy, she retained until her death. She provided an example of so much that is grand about being a successful woman-civic philanthropy, aid to the poor, and most importantly, a go-doer. "I am grateful to all the people in my life, beginning with my parents and teachers," she told her daughter, Carla. What she cared about most was making the world a better place. Mrs. Tavares is survived by her three children: Claire Irwin of La Jolla; Carla Berman of Sausalito; and Carlos Tavares Jr. of Utah; by three sisters, Geraldine Howell; Doris Black; and Lois Laningham of Kansas. She is survived by seven grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and three cats. A private memorial is planned. Memorial donations may be made in memory of Claire Tavares to the Religious of the Sacred Heart Oakwood, 140 Valparaiso Avenue, Atherton, CA 94027.
Published in The San Diego Union Tribune on June 15, 2014
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