Ex-school official and Newport Citizen of the Year Norman Loats, 94, dies; he survived WWII ship sinking

Norman Loats, a former Newport-Mesa Unified School District official who in 2009 was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, died Friday of congestive heart failure, according to his wife, Sally.

The Corona del Mar resident was 94.

Loats served as interim superintendent when the newly established Newport-Mesa district — a product of three school systems that combined in July 1966 — was interviewing for a superintendent, his family said. He later became the district's deputy superintendent.

Before that, he was assistant superintendent for instruction in the Newport Harbor Union High School District — one of the systems that merged into Newport-Mesa — starting in 1961. After four years in that role, he became superintendent of Newport Harbor Union for a short time, his family said.

"What a wonderful, caring person he was … not only about me but about his children and his community," Sally Loats said.

Norman Loats spent decades raising money for the Newport-Mesa Schools Foundation.

The auditorium at Newport Harbor High School is named in his honor.

He also was involved in the Chamber of Commerce Commodores Club — a group that encourages business investment in Newport Beach — and helped found the 552 Club supporting Hoag Hospital in 1966.

Loats was a World War II veteran, serving in the Navy as a storekeeper and gunner aboard the USS Gambier Bay.

He was on the escort carrier when it sunk Oct. 25, 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, one of the largest naval battles in history.

Loats is survived by his wife; daughter Rhonda Evans; sons Jeffery Loats and Tim Loats; stepdaughter Laura Miller and stepson Rick Miller.

A memorial service is being planned.

Loats was the second former Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year to die this month. Ralph Rodheim, the 2010 honoree, died Feb. 5 at age 72 of complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

alexandra.chan@latimes.com

Twitter: @AlexandraChan10

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