Remembering Irene Sarver: She Followed the Path of her Heart

Remembering Irene Sarver:  She Followed the Path of Her Heart

Excerpted from BizTucson by Gabrielle Fimbres

As a devoted wife, mother, grand­mother, business partner and tireless community leader, Irene Sarver saw the good in everyone.

“She lived a life of absolute integ­rity from beginning to end,” said her daughter, Betty Anne Sarver. “She was authentic in every way. She had the C gene – character.”

Sarver, who made an immediate and lasting impact on Tucson after moving here in 1960 from Flint, Mich., with her husband, the late Jack Sarver, died July 6. She was 95.

“She was a show-up person,” Betty Anne said. “You could count on my mother in every way.”

From supporting family businesses to raising money for charities, being politi­cally active to rolling up her sleeves to share her talents with volunteer orga­nizations, Irene Sarver had boundless energy for good causes.

“My mom had a way about her,” said son Robert Sarver, a Phoenix business­man who is the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns. “She positively impacted everybody she came in contact with. She was a mentor to many women in the community who went on to do great things. “My mom really loved Tucson and the community loved her back.”

Sarver had a sharp business mind and was instrumental in the successes of her husband, who was a businessman, banker and hotel developer.

After her husband died in 1980, when her son was a young man, he worried he had lost his business mentor. “I had looked to my dad for business counseling and I thought of my mom as more a mother and caretaker – but the reality is my mom became my big­gest business mentor in teaching me the basics of honesty, integrity, work ethic, how to conduct yourself and how to make the right decisions,” he said. “She gave me confidence to take risks. She always believed in me.”

And she believed in the community. She was involved in many organi­zations, including Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Southern Ari­zona, Hadassah, the National Council of Jewish Women, Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, Congregation Anshei Israel, Temple Emanu-El and Brewster Center Domestic Violence Services.

She was on the first board of the Uni­versity of Arizona Cancer Center and was a founding member of The Desert Caucus, a single-issue political action committee focused on the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Not long after moving to Tucson, the Sarvers met Donald and Joan Diamond, and their friendship would last the ages. “The Sarvers were one of the best couples I have seen,” Donald Diamond said. “They came as a couple with commitment to people and the community. It was quite rare to see.”

At the celebration of her life, Robert told of his mom’s devotion to the West, a volunteer-run retail store at River and Craycroft roads that benefits the Brews­ter Center and other nonprofits. Irene Sarver was a dedicated volun­teer, and on days that business was slow, she worried there would be little money to help those in need. So she would start shopping, often be­ing the best customer that day.

Sarver was born in Flint, Mich. She attended the University of Michigan and Michigan State Normal School, where she earned a degree in early elementary education. She taught reading in the poorest neighborhoods in Flint, and would bring apples to her stu­dents who came to school hungry.

She met Jack Sarver in 1948 and after they married, they moved to Tucson in 1960. They were married 32 years be­fore Jack’s death from heart disease. In addition to Robert and Betty Anne, she is survived by daughter Ellen Dolgen as well as her grandchildren, great-children and her brother, Jack Magidsohn.

“She followed the path of her heart, and her heart was enormous,” Betty Anne said.