Former Balboa Bay Club President Richard Stevens dies

Richard S. Stevens — co-owner and president of the Balboa Bay Club in the 1960s and 1970s, a commissioner for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and developer of resorts and clubs throughout the world — died at home early Thursday morning in his sleep. He was 80.

Stevens was born July 4, 1930, in Long Beach to Margaret Virginia and Merrill Emerson Stevens. He attended high school in South Pasadena and studied at UC Berkeley, where he also was a running back on the football team and a player in the Rose Bowl three times. He had football and track scholarships.

After graduating in 1951, Stevens served in the U.S. Army in Japan and Korea in the early 1950s. Later he returned to Southern California and became a businessman with a flair for the resort industry.

"He was just that person who loves the deal," said his daughter, Sandra Stevens Weston. "He had an incredible way of putting people together. It was fun to work with him. He always had irons in the fire."

During his tenure as Balboa Bay Club president, Stevens grew its membership from 800 to more than 3,500, all while pioneering the concept of year-round living in a resort environment. During that time, he also developed the Hamilton Cove project on Santa Catalina Island.

Stevens was co-founder of the Bellport Group, which operated marinas throughout the world.

He was president of Wrather Hotels, which included the Disneyland Hotel. He supervised a team that developed Marina Costa Baja in Mexico. He was also involved in managing and creating projects that include Westworld in Scottsdale, Ariz.; the Monterra Ranch in Monterey, Calif.; Cabin Bar Ranch in Olancha, Calif.; and the Fisher Island Resort in Florida's Miami Beach.

He was president and CEO of the Disneyland Hotel from 1977 to 1982, and in 1985 he was president and CEO of the Los Angeles Express, a U.S. Football League franchise.

Of all his accomplishments and projects, Stevens was most proud of opening two Long Beach tourist attractions: the "Spruce Goose" — the Howard Hughes-designed H-4 Hercules aircraft — and the retired ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary.

"He had a thing about Howard Hughes," his daughter Sandra said. "He really admired him."

For the past three decades, Stevens faced health issues including heart attacks, colon cancer and a heart transplant. It lead friends to remark that he had had 14 lives. He and his wife co-wrote a book in 2009 called "Never Give Up! The Six Secret Steps You Must Take To Protect Your Own Life."

Stevens was preceded in death by his first wife, Joyce Whistler Stevens. He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Joan Stevens; his daughter Sandra and her husband Peter Weston; his son Chris and his wife, Jae-Eun Stevens; stepchildren Lisa and Brad Levine; and last but not least, his beloved dog, Charlie.

Services will take place at the chapel at Mariners Church at 5001 Newport Coast Drive in Irvine. Details are pending.

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