HomeObituariesRobert De Kruif Passes Away at 96

Robert De Kruif Passes Away at 96

Robert “Bob” Malcolm De Kruif, for years a fixture in San Marino, passed away in the early evening of Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. He was 96.

A memorial service will be conducted by the Reverend Canon George F. Woodward III at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church in San Marino on Saturday, Jan. 9 beginning at 11a.m., followed by an internment service at Forest Lawn in Glendale. In lieu of gifts of flowers, donations may be made in Bob’s name to Ability First in Pasadena.

Described as a man of legendary generosity, De Kruif was one of the few remaining patriarchs of what was once the thriving savings and loan industry. He was the institutional memory of the H.F. Ahmanson Company, Home Savings & Loan Association and later, the Ahmanson Foundation.

De Kruif was born in Des Moines, Iowa to Dr. Roy De Kruif and Elizabeth Boale.

At six months of age, he, his divorced mother and his older sister Betty arrived in Los Angeles where his mother became a school and music teacher. Bob graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1937 and matriculated to the University of Southern California where he proudly graduated in 1941. While at USC, Bob worked as an usher at a local theater where he was introduced by his sister, to a Mr. Howard Ahmanson. On the spot, Ahmanson offered Bob a job upon graduation and so commenced a lifelong passion for both the insurance and savings and loan businesses that lasted until Bob’s passing – a career spanning over seven decades.

In 1945, Bob and Dorothy Swegles married and they had two daughters, Ginny and Debby.

In 1956, with the retirement of Gould Eddy, a longtime associate of Howard Ahmanson, Bob assumed the Presidency of the H.F. Ahmanson Company with Howard being Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

On February 1, 1961, Bob and Jeanne Goushá Peterson were married which resulted in an epic love affair. Jeanne brought to the new family Bob and Debbie Peterson. Bob and Jeanne began a fabulous joint career of entertaining, persuading and promoting the objectives of the H.F. Ahmanson Company to great heights.

Upon the untimely death of Howard Ahmanson at age 61 in June, 1968, Bob was elected to the Ahmanson Foundation, where he worked until the day he died. In 1972, the H.F. Ahmanson Company “went public” on Wall Street compliments of the investment-banking firm Goldman Sachs. Upon completion of the underwriting for the sale of stock on the New York Stock Exchange, there was a celebration. Each banker announced where they had gone to school: Harvard School of Business, Wharton School of Finance, etc. Bob De Kruif’s reply was “The University of Howard Ahmanson!” The statement reflects the deep-seated association that existed between both men. Howard Ahmanson was a financial genius, a sales and marketing guru and a great teacher by example. Howard often said Bob was the ultimate in the art of persuasion and he of course had a secret weapon – Jeanne.

In 1998, the H.F. Ahmanson Company was sold to Washington Mutual, which subsequently was purchased by J.P. Morgan Chase in New York. Thus, Bob’s career came to a close in insurance, banking, and the massive real estate development throughout Southern California. He then devoted himself full-time to The Ahmanson Foundation, which began in 1952. They annually disburse monies to support both public and private schools, cultural institutions, healthcare and city and county government infrastructures.

Howard always said, “ I made my fortune in Southern California, and I intend to give it back in the form of supporting local education, culture and hospitals.”

Bob is survived by Ginny De Kruif Merchant, Debby De Kruif Seesemann (David), Bob Peterson (Kathy) and Debbie Peterson.

He is also survived by his 18 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. His beloved wife Jeanne passed away on September 25, 2015. In addition, he leaves many nieces, nephews, friends and acquaintances.

“He was a true pioneer in the savings and loan business,” said a friend of De Kruif. “The ultimate people person.”

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