2016-LA-Irv participating in YHRI event
Irving Sarnoff
  • 86 years old
  • Date of birth: May 25, 1930
  • Place of birth:
    New York, New York, United States
  • Date of passing: Aug 20, 2016
  • Place of passing:
    Pasadena, California, United States
May the memory of Irv inspire us,and motivate us to take action to improve our world.

It is with both tremendous sadness and a great sense of pride that we say farewell to our husband, our dad, our grampy, our great-grampy, our friend, our dance partner, and our mentor.  Irv lived such a long life, one full of meaning and purpose, and meant so much to so many different people, that it’s impossible to summarize his life in a few paragraphs.  

Although Irv spent 28 years working as a railroad mechanic and inspector, his passion in life was political activism. There were many movements that he was involved with along the way, and in many cases as a leader or founder of an organization. From the civil rights era, to the anti-Vietnam War movement, to the anti-nuclear movement, to his unwavering support of the United Nations – Irv was always fighting for (or against) something, and always on the side of peace, justice and equality for all the peoples of the world. Irv truly lived and breathed his commitment to serving humanity and to making a positive difference on our world.

And while this website is a memorial to Irv’s life, we feel it is critical to note that so much of what Irv accomplished was done with the amazing support of Ruth as his wife, his comrade, his partner, and his friend. While they lived apart for many years, they always took care of each other, and neither ever missed a Sarnoff family Thanksgiving.  Over the last decade, they once again lived together, continuing to care for each other as they had always done, and continuing to ‘debate’ politics — right up until his very last day.

We know that many of you reading this tribute were Irv and Ruth’s partners in these efforts, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you have done to make our world better, and for your support of our family along the way.

For the past 40 years, Irv was never happier, or more at peace, than spending time with his second family: the passionate tribes of dancers in Santa Monica, Culver City and Pasadena.  He loved his kindred-spirits — sharing a playful and nurturing space that energized him and touched his soul. This ever-growing circle of friends over time became a central source of connection and inspiration for this eternal optimist.

In this website, we have provided video links, photos, and a timeline of Irv’s life achievements and defining moments. If there are important events we missed, please send us a note and let us know! It is only with your collective help that we can fill in those important moments that we have forgotten…..or perhaps never knew about in the first place!  

Also, we know Irv worked with and touched many people, and that many of you have great Irv stories to share.  We invite you to share them in the STORIES section of this website.  And if you have any videos or pictures you would like to post, please do so. This is a celebration of his life and a way to memorialize these stories so that Irv’s spirit might live on.

We think Irv lived a pretty full life, and that the world is much better off because of his leadership and dedication to the causes of peace, justice and equality for all people. We hope that reading through Irv’s achievements, and listening to his words, will help to inspire you to follow your own passion, and to commit yourself to that higher purpose of making our world a better place.  Nothing would honor Irv’s legacy more than continuing to inspire others to action!

We love you Grandpa!


Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Alicia Quaini on 8th December 2016

"Irv was one of the biggest gifts in my life. I thanks him for a big amount of learning and also for giving me one of the most valuable opportunities in my life: Be part of the big force that placed 260 million people active, the same day around the globe for an action of PEACE"

This tribute was added by David Bean on 17th November 2016

"I had the honor of working with Irv at the Friends of the United Nations offices in Santa Monica over a year or two around the early 90's. I attended functions at the U.N. with him on behalf of the Environment Programme, where I met Richie Havens. Irv was the contact for many peace seekers world-wide. On the weekends he would dance. Literally. It was around that time that Irv was involved with the Peace Poles. There is a Peace Pole here in Monterey that I see nearly every day and think of Irv everytime I see it. Irv was an inspiration. PEACE!"

This tribute was added by Allis drufel on 12th November 2016

"Irv was a real shining light for all who encountered him. I was lucky to live close to Irv and Ruth for three years just recently and came to think of them as very loving and wise advisors. They both inspired so many through the decades by their action for a better world. I loved seeing the pictures of this wonderful man as he and Ruth fought for justice on many fronts, founded organizations, and influenced - in a positive way - people in a number of ways. Irv and I had some very deep discussions about  hopes and dreams for a better world and best strategies to make that happen. Especially in this new political era (as of November 8, 2016) I know that people working for a just and sustainable future will continue to be inspired by his untiring dedication to the common good. I know I will. Many blessings to Irv, Ruth and their wonderful family!"

This tribute was added by Nasonia Mitchell on 9th November 2016

"My son and I were "fans" of Irv.  He was a loving part of our family.  We loved to listen to his life stories and applauded his achievements.  He had a great sense of humor too.  Not to mention his dance moves!  Wow!  Our lives were blessed by our friendship with Irv and yes, we do miss him.  But his legacy and life will continue always and forever."

This tribute was added by Sherry Moore on 9th November 2016

"Hey Irv. I missed out on having that cup of coffee. I want to thank you for your constant support of my efforts to use art to develop a Memorial to those who fought and died in the Iraq and Afganistan wars: The Portraits of the Fallen Memorial. Since those first days years ago we now have over 200 painted portraits and they have been on display in several  locations including USC Hillel and the Nixon Library. Peace to you and love and light to your loved ones."

This tribute was added by Julie LEVINE on 8th November 2016

"Irv was an inspiration to so many of us.  He worked with the Topanga Peace Alliance to insure that we had a local program for UN International Peace Day.  He always had energy, compassion and determination. He never gave up.  He will be missed!"

This tribute was added by Michael Benner on 8th November 2016

"Oh, I am so sorry to learn that we have lost Irv. He & I go back to the late 70's and the Alliance for Survival. Irv was a frequent guest on my radio talk shows on KLOS-FM, KABC-AM and KPFK-FM. There is no doubt that his eloquence and sincerity in those interviews brought countless people into the peace & social justice movement. He certainly inspired me ... a lovely man with a warm & wonderful heart. See you on the other side, Irv."

This tribute was added by Diani Lee on 8th November 2016

"I met Mr Sarnoff in 2008 at his Santa Monica home after getting in touch with him through his email that I had found on the web while researching for my college assignemnt on UN Peacekeeping works. He was so generous in sharing his knowledge and had a genuine spark when he spoke. Even though it was a brief encounter, his kind, warm soul that I had the pleasure of meeting remains as a fond memory from my college days that I hold dearly. - Diani, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia."

This tribute was added by Deborah Moldow on 8th November 2016

"Irv was a beautiful soul and a dedicated peacemaker. We deeply appreciated the heartfelt support he offered to The World Peace Prayer Society. He ran Friends of the United Nations tirelessly with Noel Brown, offering his sweetness and his conviction in equal measure, an inspiration to us all. Well done, Irv!"

This tribute was added by Tri NGUYEN on 8th November 2016

"I was introduced to Irv by a closed friend Pat Sumi late summer 1972. I visited Irv's home at the time there was a bomb threat. I noticed Irv and Ruth lived in a very peaceful and loving family with herbert my favorite. Ruth joked I was his big brother. I could not understand why someone would harm such a peaceful family. Irv as the center of everything. He was both forceful and peaceful, a slow speaker but fast action, a true leader of the peace movement. After the first meeting my previous bias about Irv as circulated among the left as a pro-Soviet pro CP USA disappears. Irv recently told me the CP USA was a joke. I now befriend with a very humble but forceful peace activist who is very reasonable dealing with every situation. In Irv anyone loves Abe lincoln, malcom X, MLK, can see the combined characters of the left activism in him. 35 years later I met Irv again in Calif before Obama was elected. Unlike other leftist like Tom Hadden, Irv's activism and commitment to the oppressed people was unchanged. Irv talked about elevating the role of the UN via Friends of the UN. Worried about US militarism, and the wars. He never gave up fighting for peace in the world. He was talking about the prospect of meeting peace activists in vn, about helping young peace activists in Vietnam to get better education overseas. Everything Irv worried was for every one else, not for him, even he told me he has just had a mild stroke. He was a truly the lover for the under privilleged, the people fighter. His departure was a great loss to the peace loving people in the world. He will be greatly missed. It will be a long time before the world could find an activist like Irv. I truly missed him and pray God to grant him ever lasting peace."

This tribute was added by Jerry Rubin on 8th November 2016

"Irv was a true activist and leader! His creation of the Alliance for Survival's historic Peace Sunday concert at the Rose Bowl on June 6,1982 stands out as a tribute to his dedication, organizing skills and dream of world peace.
I'll always remember Irv fondly and lovingly as we continue our ongoing activist work.
Peace and love to his family and many friends!
RIP Irv!"

This tribute was added by Gregg Heacock on 8th November 2016

"When I returned from traveling to Europe, where I was impressed by how openly people discussed such matters as communism and anarchy as being part of the whole fabric of political thought relevant to people who wished to address the times they lived in, I was fortunate to run into Irv at a spiritual gathering in Pasadena where people danced together openly, without particular partners, just as I had experienced when I lived in Amsterdam. Then came the politics. Irv—and, later, Ruth—grounded me in the reality of a political life, which I have tried to live ever since. Today, as we elect our next president and important state and local offices, I will be taking it to the streets. When Irv and Ruth left the Westside for Highland Park, I attended Ruth's birthday party, where I felt welcomed into the Sarnoff family. Thank you for reaching out to me at this time so that I might be part of your tribute to Irv."


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This memorial is administered by:

Herb Sarnoff

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