Ira Sachs, Sr., was not an artist, but he produced a creative masterpiece with his life. A man of many contradictions, he spoke little (living by the mantra “Be more, appear less”), but built countless warm friendships using very few words. Greetings of “Hey, Ira!” followed him through his days. He was an avid skier and businessman (in that order) and adopted cellphone technology in the 1980s so that he could make an “office” out of the slopes. He loved travel, especially to Bali, San Francisco, and Burning Man’s Black Rock City. Though he claimed a fear of heights, he always preferred the trails that took him to the edge of cliffs. Ira was a Jew who loved Eastern philosophy and practiced Transcendental Meditation. He valued moderation, and sometimes ate only watermelon, but he usually chose grilled cheese over salad and chocolate mousse over plates of fruit. In the 1970s, he became a vegetarian, though he ate caviar whenever he got the chance. He failed at marriage, (twice) but built kind and respectful divorces. He was an only child who fathered nine children. They were the greatest joy of his life.
Ira was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on October 26, 1936. His parents, Rose Gold and Harry Richman, divorced when he was very young. His stepfather, Mortimer Sachs, later adopted him. He graduated from Palm Beach High School in Florida, then enrolled in the University of Florida, where he focused on social life over academics, organizing dance parties and making money as a sports bookie. These choices led to a few disciplinary problems but helped refine his business talents and created bonds with his TEP fraternity brothers that endured for six decades. After managing to graduate from college, he returned to Memphis and became a real estate developer. Among many other successful projects, he teamed up with Belz Enterprises to establish Holiday Inn hotels throughout the northeast. He first went to Park City, Utah, in 1972, parking his Winnebago behind the Utah Coal and Lumber Restaurant and staying to ski for the whole winter. In 1983, he moved to town permanently, going on to develop the Yarrow Hotel (now the Double Tree), found the event venue Rose Sachs Gardens (now Louland Falls), and install the first cell tower in the area. A devoted follower of current events and The New York Times (he kept the front section in his back pocket), Ira made an early shift from Republican to Democrat and never looked back, even running once for the Tennessee House of Representatives under the slogan “Vote the Rascals Out.” He passionately advocated for civil liberties through his devotion to the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood and for human dignity by providing toys to the Shop with a Cop Program and sleeping bags to people without homes. A supporter of law enforcement, he was made an honorary colonel in the Utah Highway Patrol.
The chapters of Ira’s life were marked, in many ways, by his relationships with women—so many that it’s not possible to count. Six became the mothers of his children—Diane Sachs, Diana Lee, JoAnn Evans, Mallory Chaffin, Mary Buchwald, and Afton Sleight—and though these love affairs were unsurprisingly problematic, the friendships and goodwill lasted longer than anyone might have imagined. Two of the “Moms” were at his bedside at his death. Other than these six, two women played extraordinary roles in Ira’s life. His mother, Rose ushered him into the world and was, other than his children, the most significant person to him. For her, he would cut his hair, trim his moustache, and put on a suit and tie, though never happily. He loved her and rebelled against her until the day she died, in 2015, at the age of 103. Later, at the end of Ira’s life, he developed the rare and hateful disease of progressive supranuclear palsy. When he needed support, Avaaliimanaiagalua Amssos stepped into his world and became his caregiver, companion, and devoted friend for his final 18 months. She was a blessing to him for which his family will be forever grateful.
Over the years, this man of few words plastered the walls of his bedroom in Park City with hundreds of photos, artworks, and published quotations, creating an astonishing record of the people and things he valued most. This tribute includes homages to his many, many devoted friends, but it is mostly a testament to his love for and pride in his family. He leaves behind his children Lynne Sachs, Dana Sachs, Ira Sachs Jr., Beth Van Fossen, Evan Sachs, Adam Sachs, Annabelle Sachs, Julia Sachs, and Madison Sleight; his grandchildren Maya and Noa Street-Sachs, Jesse and Samuel Berliner-Sachs, Harley Van Fossen, Felix and Viva Torres, Weston and River Geist, and a baby girl due to arrive in early 2023. When the Covid Pandemic began in February 2020, Ira’s family launched weekly Sunday meetings over Zoom, a ritual that not only kept his children connected to him but also cemented their relationships with each other. That was his last great gift to his family. The final Zoom call took place four days before his death on October 19, 2022, one week before his 86th birthday. Losing him breaks our hearts.
Ira’s children will host a Celebration of Life on Saturday, November 26, from 1:30 to 4:00 PM at Windy Ridge Café, 1250 Iron Horse Dr., in Park City, Utah. All are invited.
Ira was a long-term supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and Planned Parenthood of Utah and their causes. The family has requested that those wishing to honor his memory consider donating to these organizations.
Planned Parenthood of Utah:
Checks can be made out to Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, and mailed to 654 South 900 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84102. To donate online you can go to www.ppau.org, click the donate button, be sure your gift is going to Utah. Select "this gift is in memory of".
American Civil Liberties Union of Utah:
There is a direct link for a fund in Ira Sachs’s name here: https://action.aclu.org/give/ira-sachs-tribute-acluut
He sure lived an interesting life. I first met him in the early 90's when Park West held concerts in the summer. He ended giving me an extra ticket that was up front to a show there. I will never forget because he also got me into the bar that was up front off to the side.