By Dave Schwab
High-profile La Jolla Shores architect Dale Naegle, who mentored many of his contemporaries while remaining active in community planning, succumbed to cancer at age 83 Monday, Nov. 14.
Characterizing Naegle as “one of the great architects in this town,” longtime friend Fritz Liebhardt said of him, “He was a man of vision with insight. He could see how architecture would affect the whole community: He had a bigger perspective.”
“Understated, subtle and very beautiful and functional,” is how Liebhardt characterized Naegle’s work.
Architect Mark Steele, who was mentored by Naegle, praised his work for its “human” quality.
“He always loved the idea of shopkeepers having a retail store and residence above, very Old World, and he built and lived in one,” he said, adding Naegle’s personality “went into his buildings.”
Joe LaCava, past president of La Jolla Community Planning Association said, “I was honored to have known him and been able to work with him. He was one of the very special things about La Jolla and made a contribution to our community. It’s a great loss. He will be greatly missed.”
Architectural colleague Ione Stiegler said Naegle had risen high in the ranks — and regards — of his peers.
“He was tremendously active in the architectural community,” she said. “He was a fellow in the American Institute of Architects, one of the highest personal honors that can be bestowed on an architect.”
Steele said his lifelong association with Naegle went beyond work.
“I dearly loved the guy — he changed my life, I met my wife there (working with him),” he said. “When it was time to go on my own, he helped me get started.”
Steele related his favorite story about Naegle.
“He was really an accomplished musician, a piano and trombone player with a Dixieland group,” he said. “He put an ad in an architectural journal to recruit a replacement for the band and the ad said, ‘Oh, by the way, five years experience as an architect required.’ “
Another Naegle story was related by La Jolla architect Laura DuCharme Conboy, whose first job in San Diego was working for him.
“I ran into Dale on the street a couple of years ago and he mentioned a new computer architectural program he was using with drafting which is sophisticated and not easy to use,” she said. “He teased me calling me a dinosaur because I still do drafting by hand. He was using the latest technology, and I was admiring his ability to learn at his age. I enjoyed his sense of humor.”
Other remarks by friends and associates memorializing Naegle:
“This man was a giant in this community; someone who deserves to be written about and honored,” said Vaughn Woods. “If not for Dale Naegle, the La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance and Design Manual would not include the protectionist and architecturally aesthetic voice that has protected La Jolla Shores from overdevelopment for so long.”
“He was ‘one- of-a-kind,’ never complained about the physical handicap he was dealt — it just did not exist, not only for him, but for all of us that loved him,” said Naegle’s friend of 45 years Fred Sattes.