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Obituary

Richard J. Schwarzstein

July 6, 1934 – May 29, 2022

Obituary Richard J. Schwarzstein

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Richard J. Schwarzstein

Richard Joseph Schwarzstein, a Laguna Beach resident since 1974, passed away on Sunday, May 29, 2022. Richard had expressed to his family on several occasions that he hoped to live to 100. After considering all of his achievements and adventures, his daughters are confident that this humble and hardworking man accomplished a 100 years’ worth of living in just 87 years.

Richard was born July 6, 1934, to Jack and Beatrice Schwarzstein, in Yonkers, NY. One of Richard’s earliest jobs was working on the Yonkers Ferry, which his father and uncle owned and operated on the Hudson River before the Tappan Zee Bridge was built. Richard graduated from Columbia University and earned his law degree at Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, he met Sande, a student at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. They married on September 19, 1959, in Denver, Colorado. Richard and Sande had three daughters, Cindy, Alisa and Amy. 

Richard began his law career with a prestigious firm in New York City. In 1963, he was instrumental in the conviction of Anthony “Tino” De Angelis after the Great Salad Oil Swindle, a major corporate scandal. In 1974, Richard became the first member of his family to leave the East Coast when he, Sande, and their daughters, moved to Laguna Beach and he built his own law practice in Newport Beach.

Richard retired in February 2022. In his nearly 63-year career, he specialized in corporate law, securities, mergers and acquisitions, trademark law, international law and nonprofit law. He received the highest rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, was named one of the top international attorneys in California by Los Angeles Bar Journal, and was recognized in Who’s Who in America Law, Who’s Who in the West, and Who’s Who in the World.

Richard held leadership roles in many professional organizations, including the World Trade Center Association of Orange County, the International Law Section of the Orange County Bar Association, Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association and the Harvard Club of New York City, for which he was the Southern California delegate. Business clients and colleagues often referred to him as a kind and cerebral man. Throughout his life, he remained curious, reading and studying voraciously to stay abreast of the vast changes in technology and world affairs.

Richard was also active in the community outside of work and his family inspired him to develop a variety of interests. Through Sande, he became passionate about supporting arts and cultural organizations. The Schwarzstein family maintained a home in Jacmel, Haiti, and operated Renaissance 2, a gallery specializing in the first generation of Haitian artists, which was a magnet for art in the region. Richard and Sande built an impressive collection of Haitian art and were instrumental in supporting the Haitian art and cultural community. 

Richard served on the board of directors of the Laguna Art Museum and the Orange County Philharmonic Society. He was a trustee with the Laguna College of Art + Design and the Hutchins Consort. Richard provided many of the nonprofit organizations which he was involved with pro bono legal services and was known to be very generous with his time.

Richard encouraged his daughters from childhood throughout their careers. When his oldest daughter, Cindy, built a successful business at the intersection of art, hospitality and event planning, he worked with her to get the company name, Cartwheel Art, trademarked. Through Cindy, Richard became interested in graffiti and street art. Richard was also instrumental in supporting Cindy in navigating the Special Education legal process for her son, who has special needs. 

When his daughter Alisa began surfing competitively as part of the National Scholastic Surfing Association, and later with the Association of Surfing Professionals, now known as the World Surf League, Richard embraced the sport, incorporating both as 501(c)(3) nonprofits. He also served for many years on their boards, while taking the family to Alisa’s international competitions, traveling everywhere from Australia to Peru. He followed surfing for the rest of his life.

Richard was also involved with sports in other ways, including volunteering and working pro bono with various organizations such as the Aventura Sailing Association, Association of Professional Towsurfers, International Skateboard Association, United States of America Snowboarders Association, U.S. Surfing and others.

His youngest daughter Amy, who shares her father’s interest in world affairs, studied abroad and lived in France for more than 30 years. As an international lawyer who loved to travel, Richard took every opportunity to visit Amy and her family during his business trips to Europe. The two often discussed social justice and politics. As a labor of love, he was instrumental in obtaining U.S. citizenship for his great grandson.

Richard’s deep love for history led him to spend countless hours researching his family tree. He was devoted to his family and is survived by his wife of 62 years, Sande, daughters Cindy, Alisa and Amy, son-in-law Ian, grandchildren Capucine (Ben), Fantine (Jack), Solene, Spencer, Ethan, Richard and great grandson, Lucas. His sister Suzanne passed away in 2012, but he is survived by his nephew Charles (Arlene) and niece Karen (David). He is also survived by his sister-in-law Mona (Bert), nephews Brian (Carol), David (Cindy) and niece Karen, as well as many cousins. 

Shortly before his passing, Richard reflected on his life with his wife and daughters. He was not one to brag, but thinking back on his accomplishments, he noted, “Not too bad for a kid from Yonkers.”