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Former Newport Beach Citizen of the Year Ralph Rodheim dies

Ralph Rodheim is pictured in 2010 as he was named Citizen of the Year by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. Rodheim died Sunday of complications related to ALS.
(File photo | Daily Pilot)

Ralph Rodheim, a longtime Newport Beach resident and businessman who was honored as Citizen of the Year in 2010, has died.

Rodheim died Sunday at his Balboa Island home of complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 72.

“To his credit, Ralph didn’t let [his disease] stop him from being an active part of the community, and Ralph partook in chamber and civic activities up until the end,” Steve Rosansky, president and chief executive of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, which issued the Citizen of the Year award, said in a statement. “Ralph was generous not only with his money but, more importantly, with his time.”

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Rosansky said Rodheim was very active in Balboa Village and served on the Balboa Village Merchants Assn.

Rodheim and his wife, Penny, owned Balboa Boat Rentals in the Fun Zone for more than 25 years. He also founded Rodheim Marketing Group.

Rodheim, a graduate of Newport Harbor High School and Chapman University, was an organizer of the Newport to Ensenada boat race, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and the Balboa Yacht Club’s annual Wooden Boat Festival, which he helped found in 2014.

Rodheim also served as chairman of the California Boating and Waterways Commission.


In a surprise ceremony in March 2010, Rodheim learned he was receiving the chamber’s Citizen of the Year award. He went to the Newport Harbor Yacht Club thinking he was going to give a presentation about restoring wooden boats.

“Newport Beach is a very special place, and that’s because people have been actively involved in their community for so many years, and Ralph exemplifies that involvement,” Richard Luehrs, then-chamber president and chief executive, said during the event.

“Life has been very good to me, so I’ve always wanted to give back to my community,” Rodheim said.

In 2014, a few months after he was diagnosed with ALS, Rodheim participated in an ice bucket challenge that raised money for the ALS Assn.

Outside the Newport Beach Athletic Club, Rodheim was doused with chilly water dumped on him from a bucket.

Rodheim said during the event that he was thankful for his wife helping him with daily tasks.

But, he added, “it’s not about me — it’s about finding a cure and raising awareness.”

Details about Rodheim’s surviving family members or a memorial service for him were not immediately available Monday.


Twitter: @BradleyZint