Irene M. Sarver, a longtime Jewish community and civic leader, died July 6, 2015. She was 95.
Mrs. Sarver served on the boards and was a member of countless organizations, including Jewish Family & Children’s Services, Hadassah, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, Congregation Anshei Israel, Temple Emanu-El and the Brewster Center for Victims of Family Violence. She served on the first board of the University of Arizona Cancer Center. She was also a founding member of the Desert Caucus with her late husband, Jack Sarver.
“The phrase ‘the greatest generation’ seems apt when reflecting upon the role that Irene Sarver and her beloved husband Jack played in our community. Whether it was in the arenas of business, politics or philanthropy, they defined what it means to be leaders. Even in her later years, Irene was always a presence, fulfilling her role as a matriarch of our Jewish community. One always noticed how immaculate she looked — I always viewed the way she took care to look good as a metaphor for how careful she was to do the right thing in all aspects of her life. Clearly, her passion for taking care of our community inspired not only those of us who knew her — but also was transmitted to the remarkable generations of Sarvers who have followed her,” says Stuart Mellan, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.
“I have always told people that my grandma is my rabbi — my teacher,” says Rabbi Jennifer E. Krause. “My grandma taught me that being religious isn’t about piety, but about living in service of our people and all people. She taught me to speak out when necessary, but above all to let your acts of loving kindness speak for themselves.”
Mrs. 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 Flint public school system and religious school at her local synagogue, Temple Beth El. She also ran Flint’s USO offices during World War II. Mrs. Sarver and her husband of 32 years, the late Jack J. Sarver, met on a blind date in 1948 and were married on Jan. 11 of the same year.
Mrs. Sarver and her husband moved to Tucson in 1960. Together they built the Aztec Inn, Howard Johnson and the Plaza International Hotel.
When Mr. Sarver died in 1980, Mrs. Sarver continued working to make their shared vision of building a better community and a just world a reality.
She was preceded in death by her son, Gary, in 1952. Survivors include her children, Betty Anne Sarver of Tucson, Ellen (David) Dolgen of Coronado, Calif., and Robert (Penny) Sarver of Phoenix; brother, Jack Magidsohn of Michigan; seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Services will be held on Wednesday, July 8, at 10 a.m. at Temple Emanu-El, with Rabbi Jennifer E. Krause officiating, followed by a graveside service at Evergreen Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Jewish Family & Children’s Services Jack J. & Gary I. Sarver Counseling Center, 4301 E. 5th Street, Tucson, AZ 85711 or the Sarver Heart Center, 1501 N. Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ 85724.