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Henry T. Segerstrom

Coast's Editor remembers a local icon

Henry T. Segerstrom at California Scenario, 2006.
Ethan Pines

Whenever I asked Henry T. Segerstrom about his legacy, he would politely but firmly move on to the next question. “I prefer to focus on the future,” he would say. Now that he’s gone at age 91, I’ll go against his wishes and speak of how I’ll remember him: as the most influential and inspiring person I had the good fortune to know. In my opinion (and I’ve considered this argument for some time), Henry Segerstrom is the most important person Orange County has ever known. For those who demur to this grand statement, I offer a more modest one and stand by it as unassailable: No Orange County native has done more to transform the place of their birth during their lifetime than Henry Segerstrom.
Inspired by Henry’s intelligence and vision, the Segerstrom famly took 2,000 acres of land they had farmed prosperously for two generations and transformed it into the cultural, fashion and retail heart of the region and one of the most powerful financial engines in California. The Segerstroms built South Coast Plaza shopping center where no one else saw the need, and today it’s a world leader in luxury retailing. Across the street is Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Its creation in just a few decades took a concerted community effort, but there is no doubt OC owes the fact that it’s here at all to the generosity and inspiration of Henry and the Segerstrom family.
There’s no one who gave more of himself to Orange County than Henry T. Segerstrom. He died, and I’ll miss him. I can’t claim to have known many truly great men, but I knew Henry. And for me, that’s enough.

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