Henry Segerstrom, Orange County Developer and Philanthropist, Dies at 91

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Developer and philanthropist Henry Segerstrom, seen here in 2011, died at his Newport Beach home on Feb. 20, 2015. He was 91. (Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Henry T. Segerstrom, the courtly real estate developer and arts philanthropist who was instrumental in transforming Orange County from a provincial bedroom community into a nexus of culture and commerce, has died. He was 91.

Segerstrom died Friday at his home in Newport Beach after a brief illness, according to Debra Gunn Downing, a spokeswoman for South Coast Plaza.

Born into a family of Swedish immigrant farmers, Segerstrom replaced lima bean fields in Costa Mesa with the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, South Coast Repertory, high-rise office towers and South Coast Plaza, one of the world’s largest shopping centers.

A hands-on developer, Segerstrom personally recruited Nordstrom to open its first Southern California store in Orange County at South Coast Plaza. Wanting to add more art to a business complex, he charmed a reluctant Isamu Noguchi, a world-renowned Japanese artist, to create a 1.5-acre sculpture garden by promising him creative freedom.

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