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Albert Yorba; Member of Pioneer Family

September 24, 1993|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Albert John Yorba, fourth-generation scion of the pioneering Orange County Yorba family, has died in Placentia at age 91.

He died Tuesday at Placentia Linda Hospital.

A lifelong resident of Orange County, Yorba raised citrus and walnuts and served on the board of directors of the Placentia Mutual Orange Growers and Packers Assn.

The Yorba Cemetery in Yorba Linda, designated an official Orange County Historic Site in 1976, was given to the Catholic Church by Yorba's great-grandfather, Don Bernardo Yorba, in 1858. The church later gave it to the county, which has restored the 400 or so gravestones bearing such historic names as Sepulveda, Castillo, Peralta and De Los Reyes.

Now surrounded by homes and long closed to additional burials, it is the oldest private cemetery in Orange County and one of the oldest in California.

"This is a big day for all of us," Yorba said, speaking for his family when the cemetery was designated a historic site. Orange County supervisors praised him for recovering headstones stolen by vandals and for working to preserve the acre of history.

Yorba is descended from Jose Antonio Yorba, who arrived in Orange County with Father Junipero Serra in 1769. Along with another soldier, Juan Peralta, Jose Yorba received a vast Spanish land grant of 62,000 acres. The resulting Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana covered what is now the cities of Santa Ana, Tustin, Orange, Olive, Villa Park and Costa Mesa.

Jose Yorba's son and Yorba's great-grandfather, Don Bernardo Yorba, received his own Mexican land grant of 13,000 acres north of the Santa Ana River in 1834 and built a sprawling 50-room, two-story adobe hacienda, La Casa de San Antonio, considered one of the finest in the state. Yorbas occupied the hacienda until the 1890s. It later fell into ruin and was razed in 1927.

Yorba grew up in Santa Ana Canyon.

"I used to hunt rabbits, doves and quail down there," he told The Times when he was in his mid-70s, pointing to the teeming Riverside Freeway. "I'd like to see things like they were, but it's impossible."

Yorba is survived by a daughter, Marilyn Lasker of Brea; two sisters, Ethel del Giorgio of Anaheim Hills and Alma Cier of Fullerton; 13 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Matilda, and two other daughters.

Visitation is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the McAulay & Wallace Mortuary, 18311 Lemon Drive, Yorba Linda. Funeral Mass will be Monday at 11 a.m. at St. Martin's Catholic Church, Yorba Linda, with burial at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange.

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