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Philanthropist Richard ‘Dick’ Pickup dies at 90; remembered as private, loving

Richard and Donna Pickup attend the Father's Day Car Show held at the Balboa Bay Club in 2021.
Richard and Donna Pickup attend the Father’s Day Car Show held at the Balboa Bay Club on June 6, 2021. Dick Pickup died at the age of 90 on April 25 after suffering a stroke the day before.
(Courtesy of Ann Chatillon)
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Richard “Dick” Pickup was a man of habit.

Early every morning, he’d rise and make his way to the Newport Beach Country Club, where he’d take a look at the stock market. He would have breakfast there, then make his way to his office at Eagle Four Partners on Newport Center Drive. By afternoon, he would be out on the golf course or doing some kind of exercise. Around 5:30 p.m. you could expect to see him at an early dinner.

John Huffman, who met Pickup in the early 1980s, said he knew where his friend was and what he was doing at just about any hour of the day.

Pickup’s son and son-in-law, Todd Pickup and Kevin Martin, told Gary Sherwin, Newport Beach & Co. president and chief executive, that they felt his routine served him well, as most people were often being pulled in all directions. The elder Pickup, by comparison, was steadfast and continued to fix his attention straight ahead of him.

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“He would say, ‘This is what we’re going to do. This is how we’re going to do it,’ and then [he] would quietly and politely continue to pursue it day in and day out, year after year until he was successful,” Sherwin said.

Pickup was partway through his daily morning routine when he suffered a stroke on April 24 and died on April 25. He was 90.

Pickup was born and raised in Whittier, but he would eventually make his way to Newport Beach, settling there in the 1960s. Pickup and his first wife, Carole, raised their children in Newport.

Pickup made his fortune as a stockbroker and private investor in businesses and came into philanthropy later in life, according to Huffman. As recently as November, Pickup made a $50-million gift to Hoag to establish the Richard H. Pickup Center for Brain Health.

Prior to that, Pickup made a $15-million gift in 2017 to Hoag for what would eventually be named the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute.

In a statement Wednesday, Robert Braithwaite, Hoag’s president and chief executive said, “Hoag and our entire community owe so much to Dick for his transformational contributions that have shaped the course of healthcare, particularly through the neurosciences institute that bears his name.

“Years ago, he impacted Hoag’s trajectory when he generously made a commitment that named the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute. His support and friendship with institute leaders fueled the growth of the institute and delivered life-changing programs and care to countless people.

“Last year, he made another gift that will establish the Richard H. Pickup Center for Brain Health and help us provide crucial support for people in need of memory and cognitive care resources.

“Orange County’s healthcare landscape is better because of Dick Pickup, and for that, we are truly grateful.”

Pickup was involved in other nonprofits and, according to Newport Beach resident Bruce Cook, who got to know him well by the poolside at the Balboa Bay Club, instilled a sense of “noblesse oblige” in both of his children. His daughter, Devon Martin, is on the board of directors for Hoag and is involved in other nonprofit work.

Friends and colleagues described Pickup as deliberate and careful in business dealings, which he largely kept to his family and a handful of other business partners.

Huffman said he met Pickup through golf after a mutual friend of theirs, Bill Davenport, connected the two at a charity tournament they were both playing in. As the two played together, Huffman said he got to know the man not only for the depth of his understanding of business but his interest in people.

“He loved people, but he was quiet. He would never take the initiative in conversation,” Huffman recalled, with a laugh. “We had dinner almost every Tuesday night, and it’d always be this free-floating conversation. He’d always be asking questions. He was more of an asker than he was a teller. If you asked for information or advice, he’d give it, but he carried on conversations like interrogations.”

Huffman said Pickup was generous to his small circle of close friends. Pickup donated $10 million to pay off the debts of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, where Huffman was a pastor until 2010, after they completed a major facility project.

Cook, who covers galas and other social events for the Daily Pilot, said he very rarely saw Pickup attending one. When he did, Cook said, Pickup always flew under the radar.

Cook remembered Pickup loving to spend time in the sun and, if he wasn’t in the pool, was busy “voraciously” consuming any and all information he could get his hands on. He said Pickup was often reading newspapers, magazines and online news articles to get a sense of not only what was happening in the economy but in the world around him and how that would impact his own life in turn.

Over the last two decades, Pickup and his family invested money in the local tourism scene, acquiring the Balboa Bay Club and Resort in 2012.

Sherwin said he was present at the time when club ownership changed hands. Members had been upset and anxious about the changes, but Sherwin said Pickup and his family listened and said they would invest in the club and resort. The Balboa Bay Club celebrated its 75th anniverary last September.

“I think, for [the Pickup family], it was a matter of civic duty. They could do something that would restore the Balboa Bay Club and Resort back to its glory days. They were willing and able to put in a sizable investment ... they didn’t just take it as an asset but as a responsibility,” said Sherwin. “They’ve acquired a number of other hotel assets over the years, [including VEA Newport Beach and Pendry Newport Beach,] but this one they felt was important to do because it was in the community in which they lived.”

Pickup is survived by his wife, Donna; his children, Devon Martin and her husband, Kevin; Todd Pickup and his wife, Natalie; their mother, Carole; and his grandchildren, Makena Martin, Maddie Martin, Ryan Martin, Max Pickup and Neil Pickup.

A memorial fund has been set up in Pickup’s name at Hoag. Those interested in donating can do so at hoaghospitalfoundation.org/richard-pickup-tribute.html.

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