Married for 51 years, Susan and Tim Strader feel it was Divine Providence that led them to each other.
The year was 1962 and Susan Wright, a sophomore at UCLA, was attending a Halloween party at the Newman Club, a Catholic center on campus. Tim Strader, a third-year law student at the university, appeared with some of his buddies, and as he remembers.
“I walked in and saw this beautiful redhead in a red plaid skirt, and I was smitten.”
The response for both was immediate but it was a few years before they married as Susan had two more years of college and Tim had to finish law school, pass the bar and honor his two-year ROTC commitment.
Susan and Tim share many similarities in their upbringing with both of them raised in Catholic families and both losing their fathers at an early age.
Susan was born in Oak Park, Illinois and moved to Los Angeles at the age of six with her parents, two sisters and a brother. At Marymount High School she was a cheerleader, choir member and was on the speech and debate team. Her father died when she was twelve and her mother kept the family afloat with part time jobs. Susan worked throughout high school and college to help out. She graduated from UCLA and secured her first job as an elementary school teacher.
Tim, an Ohio native and the last of six children, played football in high school and was valedictorian of his class. His father died when he was a freshman at John Carroll University in Cleveland and Tim worked his way through college with a variety of jobs and enjoyed singing in the glee club and in barbershop quartets.
Tim’s older brother was a lawyer and a war crimes judge at the Nuremberg trials, which prompted Tim’s interest in law.
“I played ‘lawyer’ at his desk growing up,” Tim says.
In 1960 Tim was admitted to the School of Law at UCLA and he and his mother moved to Santa Monica, supporting themselves by managing their apartment building while Tim clerked for a law firm.
The Proposal and Wedding
Graduating from UCLA Law School in 1963, seven months after meeting Susan, Tim knew she was the one.
“I wanted to spend my life’s journey with her,” he says.
Honoring his ROTC commitment to the U.S. Army Tim trained at Fort Eustis, Virginia and was then transferred to the Presidio of San Francisco. When Susan came to visit, after showing her the sights, he took her to St. Mary’s Church where he proposed to her at the altar. Susan said an immediate “yes.”
“I just knew it was right,” she says.
After that, Tim spent two years in the Army, with a year in Pusan, Korea, before Susan graduated and the two were married November 27, 1965.
The Next Chapter
The couple settled in Pacific Palisades where Susan taught school and Tim was a Deputy County Counsel of Los Angeles. In 1967, recognizing the opportunities he had learned while clerking for a lawyer, James E. West, who represented the O’Neill family in Orange County, they were among the first 200 people to move to Mission Viejo, a brand new community, with their newborn son, Timothy, Jr. Their daughter Stephanie arrived the following November.
After working as a Deputy County Counsel for the County of Orange for two years, Tim joined the prestigious law firm of Duryea, Carpenter & Barnes in Newport Beach and a year later moved the family to Newport.
The couple found their passion in voluntarism and philanthropic activities. In the early years they supported CHOC, Children’s Home Society, Junior League of Orange County, the University of California and always the Catholic Church. Finding ways to use her teaching skills Susan was a religious education teacher and led adult faith groups.
It was during Tim’s years with the Koll Company as partner and general counsel that the couple began supporting the Orange County Performing Arts Center (now Segerstrom Center for the Arts). Tim joined the board in 1979, served as the president/CEO who opened Segerstrom Hall in 1986 and is the longest serving board member. Susan was on the steering committee that formed three of the earliest support chapters. She is an original member and past president of the Angels of the Arts. She has served on the committee of nearly all of the Center’s Candlelight Concerts, the premiere fundraiser where the ten adult Straders share a table each year.
In 1971 then-Governor Ronald Reagan appointed Tim to the Orange County Fair Board where he served as president. That same year he was the attorney who helped incorporate the City of Irvine, and, in 1972 he helped found an organization which became the Orange County Business Council.
During this time the Straders had a “second” family, as Patrick and Megan were born in 1976 and 1979, respectively.
On a Roll
When Tim left Koll to start The Legacy Company in 1984 (now called Starpointe Ventures, a real estate development consulting firm), the giving really kicked in. Their support includes (keep in mind they usually head the organization at some point) Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County, Casa Teresa, Irvine Health Foundation, Marymount High School, UCI Foundation, Santa Margarita Catholic High School, the UCI Graduate School of Management and the University of Notre Dame. Their Catholic service includes Catholic Charities of Orange County, Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta, Equestrian Order of The Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Legatus of Orange County, Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish, and last, but certainly not least, Christ Cathedral. And, may I say, the honors abound and are too many to mention here.
Christ Cathedral is near and dear to the Straders’ hearts, as is their love of God.
“The message of Christianity is love. That’s what Jesus Christ preached,” Tim says. And, Susan adds, “We’ve always loved the arts, education and our church.”
To that end, Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange, appointed the Straders last September to lead the final $20 million fundraising effort for the cathedral’s sanctuary renovation ($7 million is already raised).
“My view is that Christ Cathedral will become as important as St. Patrick’s in New York as a symbol of Christianity in the country,” Tim says.
The Love Story Continues
“We fell in love when we met and we’re still in love,” Tim says.
That love extends to their four children, spouses and 11 grandchildren. Susan and Tim frequently hold family meetings (including grandkids), where a subject is discussed at length by everyone.
“It’s a great way to share ideas and instill family values,” Susan says.
Tim and Susan believe that God guided them to find each other at the Newman Club all those years ago. And, from the way they finish each other’s sentences, it is apparent they were meant for each other.
Susan sums it up.
“I thank God for our health and the strength to help others. I thank Him for the privilege to live in America and in the community where we have our home. It is a full, fruitful and enjoyable life with the man I love!”