Mesa Developer and Philanthropist, Ross N. Farnsworth, dies at 81

61Mesa native, land developer and philanthropist, Ross N. Farnsworth, Sr., died March 2.

In his 81 years, Farnsworth had a profound influence on the community he loved and on the state as a whole. Yet, in his years as a businessman and pioneering land developer who changed the very landscape of the Valley, Ross never lost sight of what he cared about most-his family and the many individuals he rubbed shoulders with and cared about.

In fact, his daughter, Beth Coons, of Mesa, speaking at his funeral, said, “My dad had a gift, a talent. Everyone thought they were his favorite one.”

Beth is the oldest of the 12 children born to Ross and Anita, his wife of 59 years. The couple has 63 grandchildren and 67 great-grandchildren.

Their youngest daughter, Jill Farnsworth Geigle, also of Mesa, said, “My dad never wanted recognition for his service. He had a big heart and he served because he loved people.”

Farnsworth never retired, but worked until just days before his death, in his company, Farnsworth Development, which he stated with his father, Joseph in the early 1950s.

“He worked hard, and he played hard,” Beth said. She noted that her father has always been willing to give as well.

“He had a generous heart, even when all he had was time and a few cents to give,” she said.

Born in Mesa in 1931, Farnsworth attended Mesa schools, then Brigham Young University and Arizona State University. He was involved for 50 years in developing communities around the East Valley-including Dreamland Villa and various Sunland Village projects; but he enjoyed most the opportunities to give back.

“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,” Jill said.

He was a former partner in the Phoenix Suns ownership and was chairman of the capital campaign for a new Mesa East Valley YMCA, which was named in his honor. He served on the governing board of the Maricopa County Community College District, was on the Mesa City Council in the 1980s, served on the board of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and on the Mesa United Way board for more than 20 years.

A member of the Mesa Arts Council, he was the key backer of the Mesa Arts Center, which has named one of its four theaters after his wife, Anita.

Farnsworth was founder and on the board of Mesa’s La Mesita Family Homeless Shelter and that was a project that was “dear to his heart,” Jill said. He donated to countless other charities as well.

Active in Church service, he was bishop of the Mesa Cornerstone Ward and a member of the Mesa North Stake Presidency.

“He was a great home teacher and never missed a month,” Beth said. “Most of all, he had a testimony of Jesus Christ. He shared that testimony formally and informally and we felt it.”

“He was a man of prayer,” she added. “We had morning and evening prayer with dad. He prayed over his food, prayed over his businesses.”

Daughter Janet Turk, who was serving a Church mission with her husband in Peru at the time of her father’s passing and returned to Mesa for the funeral, said, “Dad was as predictable as they come. …He chose to be consistent.”

She said, “His temple covenants meant everything to him,” and noted that his priorities were first, the Lord, Jesus Christ; second, his wife and children; third, Church service and fourth, civic duties.

She said, “He made every moment count with each one of us.”

Janet continued, “He taught me how to prioritize my life,” adding that he knew and taught “that what we do in this life will echo through eternities.”

Daughter, Sherri Gurr, said, “Dad was full of integrity,” noting that suppliers, subcontractors and others he worked and served with recognized his “steadiness of character.”

Area authority Jim Wright, in concluding remarks at the funeral, said, “I am grateful for the influence Ross and Anita have had in my life. …Ross rejoiced when others were

The Beehive

The Arizona Beehive is a complementary East Phoenix Valley LDS lifestyle and living publication, published six times a year, featuring content on people to meet, places to explore, events to attend and businesses to patronize.