Ruth Ann Moriarty, older sister of Henry Segerstrom and last of her generation, dies at 99

Ruth Ann Moriarty with Rayell Segerstrom, right, and Aiden Segerstrom during a 2017 exhibition at South Coast Plaza.
Ruth Ann Moriarty with Rayell Segerstrom, right, and Aiden Segerstrom during a June 13, 2017, exhibition at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Moriarty died Jan. 4 at her home in Santa Ana.
(Drew Kelley)

Ruth Ann Moriarty — older sister of renowned Orange County real estate developer and arts philanthropist Henry Segerstrom and a well-known benefactress of several local charitable organizations in her own right — has died.

Moriarty passed away Jan. 4 at her home in Santa Ana at the age of 99, according to an announcement Friday by officials from South Coast Plaza, still run by the family-owned C.J. Segerstrom & Sons founded by Moriarty’s grandfather, Charles John Segerstrom, in 1906.

Born on Jan. 18, 1922, to Anton and Nellie Ruth Segerstrom, Moriarty never played a prominent role in the family’s agricultural or real estate enterprises but remained close to her parents and siblings throughout her life.

She graduated from Santa Ana High School and attended Scripps College, Stanford University and the University of Southern California, where she trained as a World War II cadet nurse and earned her bachelor’s degree and nursing credentials. It was also there she would meet future husband, Eugene Hayworth Moriarty.

The extended Segerstrom family at a June 2017 exhibit at South Coast Plaza "Pioneering Spirit: An American Dream."
The extended Segerstrom family celebrated its legacy during a June 2017 exhibit at South Coast Plaza “Pioneering Spirit: An American Dream.”
(Courtesy of Lauren Hillary)

Shortly after marrying in 1946, the couple purchased a home one block over from the family manse on Victoria Street. It was where they raised their three children and where Moriarty continued to reside after her husband’s death in 2011.

“They bought the house next door, too, and wanted to have two adjacent houses,” recalled Daily Pilot society columnist B.W. Cook, who knew Moriarty for more than 30 years. “They wanted a large yard for the kids.”

Known as the family historian, Moriarty often regaled others with tales of her forebears, who immigrated from Sweden in 1882 and landed in Orange County near the turn of the 20th century, working on and acquiring rich acreage that, years later, would be gifted to civic entities.

A June 2017 exhibition at South Coast Plaza featured photos on the Segerstrom family from Ruth Ann Moriarty's collection.
A June 2017 photo exhibition at South Coast Plaza’s Jewel Court featured photos on the Segerstrom family from Ruth Ann Moriarty’s personal collection.
(Drew Kelley)

Her painstaking collection and preservation of photographs and documents laid the foundation for the 2017 photography exhibit “Segerstrom Pioneering Spirit: An American Dream,” held at South Coast Plaza in honor of the center’s 50th anniversary.

Members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and Costa Mesa city officials recognized Moriarty at the exhibit’s premier for her contributions in documenting and preserving the historical records of the Segerstrom family, Costa Mesa, and Orange County.

Moriarty dutifully carried on her family’s philanthropic efforts, contributing to numerous local organizations, including the Assistance League of Santa Ana, the Ebell Society of the Santa Ana Valley and the Salvation Army of Orange County, where she served as an advisory board member and, in 1999, was declared a lifetime member.

Ruth Ann Moriarty, Segerstrom family matriarch and archivist, at an exhibition at South Coast Plaza in 2017.
Ruth Ann Moriarty, Segerstrom family matriarch and archivist, at an exhibition at South Coast Plaza in 2017.
(Courtesy of Lauren Hillary)

“She has been a very strong and consistent giver and had a huge heart for what we do, especially in the homeless space,” Justin Coleman, development director for the Orange County Salvation Army, said Tuesday.

“Her philanthropy goes back, easily, over 50 years,” he continued. “She really used her background and her affiliation and connections in Orange County to help Salvation Army continue to do the most good.”

In December 2019, the organization honored Moriarty for her efforts in an annual Night for Others gala, Coleman recalled.

Cook, commissioned by Henry Segerstrom in the early 2000s to record an on-camera interview with Moriarty about her life and recollections, recalled his subject as an amiable socialite who grew more beautiful with age but remained steadfast in her family’s adherence to practicality above all else.

He recalled her Victoria Street residence as a stately domicile, furnished at the time of its purchase and left remarkably preserved.

Richard and Marilyn Moriarty, Ruth Ann Moriarty celebrating at a goat birthday party at Newport Beach Winery in July 2021.
(Courtesy of Ann Chatillon)

“She made a nice life for her family, joined all the civic organizations in Orange County and was very much a first lady of the community,” he said Tuesday. “It was a life very well lived and a proud legacy of an era gone but not forgotten — we should all be so lucky.”

Moriarty is survived by daughter Jeanne, son Richard and wife Marilyn, son Donald and wife Lacey, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. In a statement provided to South Coast Plaza, Moriarty’s children mourned their loss.

“We are deeply saddened that our mother, Ruth Ann, is no longer with us, but are very grateful to have been part of the long and vibrant life that she shared with us and others,” they said in a joint statement. “We will always treasure her incomparable legacy of service to communities in need.”

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