Longtime Laguna Beach resident, founder of Stu News Laguna, community stalwart, baseball fanatic, and 2016 Citizen of the Year Stu Staffer, brother to Claudia Young of Middleburg, passed away May 20 after surgery to ease his long battle with lung disease.
Born in 1942 in Washington, D.C., Stu spent his early years in Middleburg. His father, the town’s doctor, was known for forgiving the debts of those in the community who could not pay for healthcare. These were the values that guided Stu throughout his life: kindness, loyalty, and the importance of giving back to the community. A relative once told Stu that he was “just like his dad and his brother.”
A gifted hitter, Stu won a baseball scholarship to the University of Virginia, but due to family circumstances, was unable to accept the offer. Instead, Stu studied radio broadcasting and advertising sales at night at what is now George Mason University, and by day, to support his wife and young child, delivered the U.S. mail and coached baseball at a junior college.
Over the years, his passion for journalism grew. However, fate continued to intervene and Stu went to work for his older brother as a semiconductor sales engineer in California rather than work for the Houston Chronicle. Stu attended law school, passing the California Bar, and later, founded a successful mortgage brokerage, Churchill Financial.
Stu hosted a sports radio show in Orange County, CA, where he was able to show off his encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, and for many years coached little league teams. He was Laguna Little League commissioner from 1995-1996 and received the Rhoads Martin Award in 1999.
In 1998, Stu became a beat reporter for Laguna’s Coastline News and in 2002 he started a local paper, The Independent. Six years later, after The Indy was sold, Stu created a local online newspaper, Stu News Laguna. With his business partner and good friend, Shaena Stabler, Stu News Laguna became the voice of the town. Stu’s policy of not taking sides, editorializing, publishing puffery, or censoring letters except for those that are outright personal attacks made Stu News Laguna an essential read. In 2016, Stu and Mrs. Stabler expanded their news model to Newport Beach, with partners, founded Stu News Newport.
Stu’s dearest hope was that through his colleagues, many friends, and readers, his dedication to providing the community with timely news would continue and prosper through Stu News.
The quintessential Stu: that appreciation of everyone’s worth, that emphasis on valuing and cheering everyone’s individuality and talent, that understanding that we are all different but important to each other and the community, that sense that we are all in this challenging world together and it’s best to be kind to each other.
Stu leaves behind his daughter, Jackie Miller, of Naples, California, and her sons J.R., 19, Charlie, 16, John 14, and Peter, 14; Brandon Leahy, of San Francisco, with whom he had a close father-son like relationship; his daughter, Laura Law, of Atlanta, Georgia, and her children Katherine Law, 28, and Will Law, 25; as well as his sister, Claudia Young, of Middleburg, Virginia; and grandsons Ryan Lipert, 33, and Michael Lipert, 28, from his pre-deceased daughter. He was pre-deceased by his two brothers, Tom and Thornton “Doc” Saffer, and his daughter, Liz Lipert, of Capistrano Beach, California.
Donations may be made to the Laguna Beach Little League or Friendship Shelter, two of Stu’s favorite non-profits, or any non-profit of your choice.
Among the many tributes
My dear friend and business partner was a Great Tree in our community…he had a way of making each person in his life feel special and worthy, and empowered to be the best versions of themselves…Stu News Laguna will continue on. –Shaena Stabler
His casual approach was disarming and helped him gracefully dig for the story. He created dedicated readers…started conversations and created memories…Stu changed Laguna. –Laguna Mayor Toni Iseman
Truly a special man, and I’m a better person for having known him. –Mark Christy
We shared a twisted sense of humor…he narrated Lagunatics…his dulcet tones were the perfect vehicle for the hilarious introduction to our parodies. Oh…and he made killer gumbo. –Bree Burgess Rosen
He succeeded by taking those chances others would lack the courage to try. –Ray McAfoose
He was a weaver too. Stu News Laguna was his tapestry; our village, his masterpiece. His humor and love were healing to many. –Meghan Sickner
I will continue to meet your high standards. –Scott Brashier, photographer
I learned a lot from Stu…always be kind and thoughtful to those around you…that was Stu, above all, a man with a big heart. –Bob Whalen, Laguna Council Member
Stu’s unwavering love and commitment to kindness, integrity and values, which he shared with Brandon, helped me become a better mom. –Margo Morgenlander
He was so very giving to everyone and especially the struggling non-profits, and so humble. –Sande St. John
He was a person worth knowing.