Mesa’s Ross Farnsworth spent several decades as chairman and CEO of various Farnsworth Companies developing land and real estate projects, driven by his desire to help people and the community he loved.
He never retired, but worked until his health failed him. His last day in the office was Feb. 13.
On March 2, surrounded by many of his family members, Farnsworth died at age 81.
“My dad never wanted recognition for his service. He had a big heart and he served because he loved people,” said Jill Farnsworth Geigle, the youngest of Ross and Anita Farnsworth’s 12 children.
Farnsworth was born in Mesa in 1931 when the city’s population was 5,000. He attended Mesa schools before going on to BYU and ASU. He served on the governing board of the Maricopa County Community College District, was a member of the Mesa City Council in the 1980s and served on the board of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce.
And while he spent much of the last 50 years developing communities around the East Valley — including Dreamland Villa and various Sunland Village projects — Farnsworth’s heart was in serving others, Geigle said.
“My dad loved Mesa. He was born in Mesa and lived there his whole life. He loved the people and the city and he did as much good as he possibly could for the people of Mesa because they’re so good,” she said.
One project that was “dear to his heart and our heart as a family” was Mesa’s La
Mesita Family Homeless Shelter. It was created in 1991. Construction started in December on the 80-unit La Mesita Apartments.
“He was the founder of that and on the board for years. As a family, when it started, he organized a pancake breakfast for fundraisers. We would go down there and cook breakfast and have a fun event for families to come. We would earn money for the shelter, but also participate with the families down there who lived there,” Geigle said. “Family was such a big part of his life. It was his love and motivation in a lot of ways. And so to have a homeless shelter specifically that would help families get back on their feet in a good, meaningful way, he loved that. He thought that was such great thing.”
His service also reached the Mesa United Way, where he was president and drive chairman, as well as a member of the board of directors for more than 20 years.
Ross and his wife, Anita, were honorary co-chairs for the Mesa Arts Alliance. One of the theaters at the Mesa Arts Center is named after Anita Cox Farnsworth.
Ross Farnsworth was active in his church, where his roles in the Mesa Cornerstone Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, included bishop and being a member of the Mesa North Stake Presidency.
Farnsworth was a former partner in the ownership of the Phoenix Suns. He was chairman of the capital development campaign for a new Mesa YMCA. It was named the Farnsworth-East Valley YMCA when it opened a few years ago.
Mayor Scott Smith wrote of Farnsworth’s death on his Twitter account Monday.
“So sad to hear of passing of Ross Farnsworth, #Mesa icon, fmr City Council member, Suns part owner, and close friend. He will be missed,” Smith wrote.
A viewing will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Mesa North Stake Center, 933 E. Brown Road. A visitation will be held 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Red Mountain Institute, 7126 E. McKellips Road, Mesa. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Saturday at the same location.
Farnsworth is survived by his wife of 59 years, Anita; their 12 children, 63 grandchildren and 67 great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Mesa United Way , 137 E University Drive, or the Church of Jesus Christ Missionary Fund at 15 E. S. Temple, 2nd Floor East, Salt Lake City, UT 84150.
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