Henry T. Segerstrom, a California developer and arts patron who transformed his family’s lima bean farm into Orange County’s booming cultural and commercial downtown, died on Feb. 20 at his home in Newport Beach. He was 91.
His death, after what was described as a brief illness resulting from war injuries, was announced by Debra Gunn Downing, a spokeswoman forSouth Coast Plaza, the shopping center in Costa Mesa, Calif., that his family gambled on building in a sleepy bedroom community in the 1960s and parlayed into what it calls the nation’s highest-grossing planned retail center.
Mr. Segerstrom founded the Orange County Performing Arts Center, which was renamed for his family in 2011, and was a trustee of Carnegie Hall, which awarded him its Medal of Excellence in 2010. In partnership with the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Carnegie Hall delivered its live festival programming to audiences beyond New York City in 2009 for the first time.
Henry Thomas Segerstrom was born on April 5, 1923, in Santa Ana to Anton Segerstrom and the former Nellie Ruth Thomas. His father was a tenant farmer on a 20-acre orange grove that his grandparents, Swedish immigrants, leased in 1898. His mother also worked in the family business.
By the 1940s, the family owned 2,000 acres in what is now Costa Mesa and had become the biggest independent grower of lima beans in the country.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Mr. Segerstrom interrupted his studies at Stanford University to enlist in the Army. Serving with the 103rd Infantry Division near the Rhine, he was wounded, almost mortally, by artillery fire that killed an injured comrade he was carrying. He underwent multiple surgeries, lost a finger and learned to sign his name left-handed. He was discharged as a captain.
After graduating from Stanford with a master’s degree in business, he joined the family-owned agricultural concern when he was 25.
In 1950, he married Yvonne de Chavigny Perry. They had three children, Toren and Anton Segerstrom and Andrea Grant, who survive him. The couple divorced in 1981.
Renee De Troyes, whom he married in 1982, died in 2000. Later that year, he married Elizabeth Swiecicka, a clinical psychologist, who also survives him, along with six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Mr. Segerstrom met his third wife while they were seated at separate tables at a New York restaurant, according to The Los Angeles Times. He said later that he had introduced himself modestly as a farmer. (The company’s headquarters is still the farmhouse built by his grandfather a century ago.) But the former farm boy saw more potential above ground than below it.
C. J. Segerstrom & Sons developed the county’s first air-conditioned office tower and opened South Coast Plaza in 1967. A complex of department stores and luxury retailers embellished with sculptures commissioned from major artists, the shopping center became a tourist destination. It is still family-owned.
In 1976, the family’s gift of five acres to arts organizations was the beginning of an expanding commitment. Now called the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the complex occupies a 14-acre campus that includes a new concert hall financed by Mr. Segerstrom with $51 million. It is also home to the South Coast Repertory and the future site of the Orange County Museum of Art.
In addition to serving on Carnegie Hall’s board of trustees since 2009, he was also a founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and a board member of the White Nights Foundation of America and the American Friends of Versailles.