Ernest “Ernie” Auerbach, successful businessman, thoroughbred rancher and founder of Ramona National Bank, died on Feb. 1 at age 93.
“He will always be remembered in Ramona,” said M. Elyse Kuhn, president of the Friends of Ramona Library.
The Auerbach Family Trust donated $500,000 to the Friends to go toward Ramona’s new library being built at 1349 Main St.
“I’m glad he made it to the library groundbreaking in November,” said Kuhn. “He was a joy to me and I feel so badly. I would have liked him to have seen the new library.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1916, he attended high school in Brooklyn. Moving to a farm in upstate New York during the Great Depression, he raised produce with his brothers to sell, and also acquired a lifelong love of horses. He then became a produce broker representing American Fruit Growers.
At the outbreak of World War II, Mr. Auerbach entered the U.S. Army and was placed in the U.S. Army Horse Cavalry, an elite element of the Army’s front line troops. He soon became an officer in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps and was discharged as a captain after extensive service in Europe.
Visiting California in 1946, Mr. Auerbach decided to stay there. Making Santa Monica his base, he started a small real estate company. On his second date with his future wife, he knew that she would soon become Mrs. Auerbach.
By 1987, he had built his company into the Ernest Auerbach Company, an integrated real estate company focusing on real estate construction, management and financing that had developed more than 10 million square feet of commercial and residential properties in California and other Southwest states.
In 1977, he purchased ranch land in San Diego County and developed EA Ranches, one of California’s premier thoroughbred breeding farms. EA Ranches has bred and trained many successful racehorses, including Belle’s Flag and Lottery Winner, a winner of the Santa Anita Goodwood Handicap.
In 2001, he fulfilled a long-held dream when he founded Ramona National Bank, which became First Business Bank, a successful community bank based in San Diego.
A tireless, brilliant and understated businessman, Ernest was also a tender husband and a devoted family man who, according to family members, “always brought his briefcase home but rarely opened it.” A daily swimmer with boundless stamina, he remained fully active in his business interests until the last weeks of his life.
Despite his success in business and in life, Ernest remained mindful of how lucky he was and sought throughout his life to share his good fortune with a wider world. An active philanthropist with his wife, he was a benefactor of Ramona’s new library, the City of Hope, the American Youth Symphony, the Los Angeles Music Center (of which he was a Founder), St. John’s Hospital, the Santa Monica YMCA, the University of Judaism and the Jewish Community of Pacific Palisades, as well as its later embodiment, Kehillat Israel synagogue, American Jewish University, the Jewish Federation, the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Home for the Aging.
He served on the boards of the Jewish Federation Council, Santa Monica City College, the Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center Foundation, Del Amo Mental Health Hospital, City of Hope and American Jewish University. He also served on the Dean’s Council of the UCLA School of Architecture and Urban Planning, as president of the Jewish Community of Pacific Palisades, and as president of the Sportsman’s Club and the Diamond Circle of the City of Hope. He was also a member of the Brentwood Country Club Board.
Kuhn described him as “a delightful down-to-earth person and a gentleman,” adding, “You couldn’t say anything bad about Ramona. ‘I love Ramona,’ he would say.”
He always had a twinkle in his eye, said Kuhn.
“The library’s huge community room area, which can seat up to hundreds of people and can be used for concerts and weddings and you name it, will be named after the Auerbachs,” said Kuhn. “They will not be forgotten because Ernie is gone.”
He was the beloved husband of Lisa D. Auerbach for 63 years. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughters Lorna and her husband Larry Wheat and Heidi and her husband John Farkash and three grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions in his name to the Jewish Healing and Hospice Center of Los Angeles, 10537 West Pico Boulevard, Suite 850, Los Angeles CA 90064 (www.jhcla.org) or American Jewish World Service (www.ajws.org).