John Feltman and his wife, Cele, filled their retirement years by immersing themselves in a variety of community organizations and projects at Leisure World and UC Irvine.
She became an adept bridge player. He organized off-campus lectures by UC Irvine professors, helped raise millions of dollars for the university and was planning to run for a directorship on the retirement community’s board.
They were driving home Tuesday night when, in an apparent state of confusion, Feltman drove his 1985 Mercury Marquis on the wrong side of a darkened portion of Irvine Center Drive, and crashed head-on into a 1987 Chevrolet Camaro, Irvine Police Sgt. Al Murray said.
Feltman, 75, his 73-year-old wife and the driver of the Camaro, Beth A. Ward, 26, of Irvine, were killed instantly in the 10:08 p.m. collision. The driver of a third car suffered minor injuries, Murray said.
Ward, who was a financial administrative assistant for Pizza Hut Corp., was a granddaughter of Jay Ward, creator of the cartoon series “Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
She celebrated her 26th birthday on Friday, and a stack of birthday presents and cards cluttered the doorway to the dining room of her apartment.
“Everybody loved her,” said Ward’s roommate, Barbara Johnson. “She was always smiling. She could make anybody feel good.”
As news of the Feltmans’ death reached UCI and Leisure World on Wednesday, friends and colleagues mourned their deaths and wondered how the man they knew to be an extremely careful person and a nondrinker ended up on the wrong side of a divided roadway.
“He was a sharpy, I tell you,” said next-door neighbor Perce Dent. “Everyone is going to miss him.”
Feltman was a former president of the now-defunct UCI Business and Industrial Associates--an organization that promoted cooperation between the university and local corporations, said John Miltner, a UCI vice chancellor.
As head of the group, he helped raise more than $5 million in contributions, and was awarded the university alumni association’s top honor, the Extraordinarius, in 1986, Miltner said.
“He had a strong idea about returning to the community what skills and talents he had to offer,” Miltner said. “They both worked very hard at that.”
Police said that Feltman appeared to have been driving about 55 m.p.h. when the accident occurred.
After Feltman’s car slammed into the front of Ward’s Camaro it became airborne, then struck a 1986 Ford Bronco II driven by Jeffrey Snyder, 32, a computer programmer from Laguna Hills.
The Feltmans’ car then landed upside down, Murray said, and skidded to the side of the road.
The Camaro landed on the center divider. The Bronco spun 180 degrees and ended up facing oncoming traffic.
Murray said that Feltman appeared to be in good health, with no restrictions on his driver’s license to indicate he suffered from eye or other health problems.
The Orange County coroner’s office took blood tests to determine Feltman’s blood-alcohol level. But Murray said he did not believe alcohol played a part in the accident.