Community leader David Stiller dies at 78

Oct. 17, 1935 - March 9, 2014

He served on multiple city committees, including the senior center board of directors.

March 10, 2014|By Bradley Zint
  • David Stiller, seen here circa 2008 with son Eric, left, died at the age of 78 on Sunday. The longtime Costa Mesa resident and Navy veteran served on a variety of city committees, including one for the senior center and Fairview Park.
David Stiller, seen here circa 2008 with son Eric, left,… (Photo by JENNIFER…)

David Stiller, a longtime Costa Mesa resident known for his decades of service on a variety of city committees, has died.

Stiller had been having health troubles for several weeks and died of natural causes at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital about 1 a.m. Sunday, his family said. He was 78.

At the time of his death, Stiller had been serving on three city groups: the Finance Advisory and Fairview Park Citizens Advisory committees and the Costa Mesa Senior Center board of directors.

Those who worked alongside Stiller remembered him as a highly intelligent, respectful and thought-provoking colleague — even if they disagreed with him at times.

"He's probably one of the most articulate and intellectual guys I've never met, in business and my personal life," said Byron de Arakal, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, on which Stiller served from 1993 to 2001 and 2005 to 2007.


De Arakal said Stiller, who often managed to stay out of the "claptraps" of certain debates, had refined mannerisms — right down to how he'd leave his full name on a voice mail.

"He had this way of extending his arm and pointing his forefinger when he was talking to make a point," de Arakal said. "I usually had this visual of him being one of the Founding Fathers during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.... It spoke to his wisdom and how important he felt about how he held his positions."

Senior center Executive Director Aviva Goelman said Stiller was a big supporter of the center, both financially and through his service on the board since 2009.

She said they didn't always see eye to eye, but just before Stiller died, he told her he was always there for her.

"I never held it against him because his heart was in the right place," Goelman said. "He'll really be missed, and I will miss him terribly. I talked to him nearly every day."

Councilman Gary Monahan called Stiller one of Costa Mesa's "pioneers."

"We were able to debate any topic, and whether we agreed or not, we respected each other's points," Monahan said.

Stiller was born in Pittsburgh in 1935 and raised in the Cleveland area. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served as a commissioned officer from 1957 to 1965. During his service, he attained the rank of lieutenant and traveled the world. He kept in touch with his Navy colleagues through the years.

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