Long Beach musician, dentist and philanthropist dies

Frank Blair was a Long Beach dentist by trade and a Catalina musician at heart.

Among his many gifts was playing his saxophone as the workday wound down from his hillside home in Catalina. The music would trickle over the canyon walls above the tiny town.

“I used to hear him play almost every day in the summer, playing from his porch. He would always start with the song ‘Avalon” and then I would call him up and make requests,” said Catalina historian Chuck Liddell.

“It added a fantastic dimension to the atmosphere of the town. Many people may not even have known it was Dr. Blair playing this beautiful music,” he said.

Blair also blew his horns in Long Beach for various symphonies and was a regular at Christmas and other parades in the Long Beach neighborhood.

Liddell and many others were saddened to learn that Blair had died Monday, Jan. 10. He was 92.

In addition to his music Blair was remembered this week for his and his wife Ruth’s generous but quiet philanthropy to the youth of Avalon and his service with various groups around Long Beach. For years the Blairs have made significant donation to the Avalon schools music programs. They are also known for donating a customized watch and $100 in cash to each graduating member of the Avalon High School senior class.

Blair’s health had begun to seriously decline in June of last year and he was disappointed that he could not make it to Avalon’s Fourth of July celebrations this year. He had been a regular participant in the parades for years.

According to family members, Blair set an example of someone who put others first, cheerfully shared his hard-earned money and always tried to leave folks with a smile. He encouraged people to nurture their inner child, just as he seemed to nurture his.

“There was a certain part of my Dad that never grew up,” his daughter Nancy Blair said. “He loved roller coasters, fireworks, parades, the Olympics, USC football, Angels baseball, playing circus music and the USC Band. He lived life to the fullest every day. He just had a zest for life.”

Frank Blair first came to Catalina as a boy of about 8 years old. It was the start of a great love affair between Blair and “The Island of Romance.”

“When my dad first came to the Island as a kid he stayed in the “Tent City,” his daughter said.

Music became a part of Frank Blair’s life early on.

“He remembered seeing John Phillips Sousa play as he sat on the edge of the bandstand,” Nancy Blair said.

“His favorite song was always ‘Stars and Stripes Forever,’ (considered Sousa’s magnum patriotic opus).”

By age 13, Blair had put together his own dance band. Music ultimately helped Blair pay is way through college. He then became a Navy Dentist, but not before he met the love of his life.

“We met when he was in Navy dental school,” Ruth Blair said. “We would have been married for 66 years next week on Jan. 20.”

“She was the girl next door,” he said.

The “Blairs shared a love of giving back to the community. In Avalon they donated the Veterans Memorial seen by thousands each week as they walk from the Mole to the downtown area.

After his time in the Navy, Blair opened what became a very successful private dentistry practice in Long Beach, where the family also owned its main home.

The Blairs also donated and participated in their Long Beach community.  Frank Blair played music with the Long Beach Symphony, taught dentistry classes at USC (which is part of his having been a fan of Trojans sports).

Frank Blair was a Wilson High School booster clubs. The Blairs were also involved in the Boy Scouts and Campfire Girls.

“He even organized sports teams when my brothers were younger,” Nancy Blair said. “He squeezed every minute out of life.”

However the family spent its golden time together on Catalina.

“My Dad thought that a good education could open up a world of opportunity to any child,” Nancy Blair said.

He would tell his children:  ” You can always grow old, but you can never grow young again!”

“He said it was his job to work hard so my brothers and I could enjoy our summers,” his daughter said. “It was our job, while in school, to do the best we could … so we could do fun things during our summer vacations and just be kids. He said, ‘Someday you’ll grow up and have to work for a living.’ He wanted us to have happy memories.  We spent weekends all summer long on our boat at the Isthmus, trips around the Island or in Avalon bay. Catalina has been and remains an important part of all of our lives.”

“Music opens up so many doors,” Blair said in a 2008 interview with the Catalina Islander. “One of the most wonderful experiences I have had is going up to the hospital here and playing for the patients.”

Blair seemed to the secret of happiness and peace in this life. The more he gave, the more he received.

There will be a viewing of Frank Blair from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 20, at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 607 E. Third Street, Long Beach. A memorial service will be held at noon on Friday, Jan. 21 at the same location.

Frank Blair is survived by his wife, Ruth Blair and children Frank C. Blair, III and his wife Wanda, Nancy Blair, Peter Blair and his wife Donna, Robert Blair and is wife Karen;Grandchildren: Christina B. Keene and her husband David, Tim Blair, Cara Blair, Scott Blair and his wife Genni, Jonathan Blair, Travis Blair, Casey Blair, Lindsay Pedersen, Kyle Blair, Heidi Blair and  Great-grandchildren:, Jackson Keene and Thomas Blair, who was born this week, after his great grandfather had died.