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H.L. 'Buck' Ayres, 89; Lido Shipyard Founder

January 09, 2002|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

H.L. "Buck" Ayres was standing on a sea wall in Ensenada, Mexico, watching a sailboat race in 1949 when a chance encounter changed his life.

A man standing next to him noticed that Ayres, who was working for an oil company in the San Fernando Valley, seemed to know all there was to know about the boats.

The man told him he had property that would be perfect for a shipyard.

The next weekend, the two visited the site, and soon Ayres founded the Lido Shipyard. Over the next 36 years, it became one of the largest private yacht-repair facilities in Southern California, and Ayres became a well-known figure in local yachting circles.

Ayres died Thursday of natural causes in the Newport Beach townhome where he had lived since 1986. He was 89.

Born the son of a grocery store owner in Riverside on May 8, 1912, Ayres attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School, where he was a star guard on the football team that won the Southern California championship in 1930. Barred from military service during World War II because of football injuries, Ayres worked for Douglas Aircraft Co. and, later, Standard Oil.

Then came the meeting at the sea wall, during which he revealed the love of boating he had had as a weekend sailor since his youth. Ayres immediately moved to Newport Beach with his new wife, Helen. For nearly the next four decades, he reported for work at the 77,000-square-foot facility he leased at 900 Lido Park Drive.

"He was one of the nicest guys you ever knew; never got mad, got along well with people, and I don't recall us ever having a fight," said Harold Steck, 85, who worked at the shipyard for 30 years.

Ayres' son, Patrick, 51, who became the shipyard's president, agreed. "At 6-[foot]-4 and 200 pounds, Dad was an imposing figure, but he was just a big teddy bear. He was very gentle and caring."

Ayres was a member of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, served on the board of governors of the Balboa Bay Club and was active in the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, the Los Angeles Yacht Club, the Avalon Tuna Club and the St. Francis Yacht Club of San Francisco.

The closing of the Lido Shipyard in 1985 because of a dramatic rent increase marked the passing of one of the last great yards known for its intricate craftsmanship in the building and repair of wooden yachts.

In retirement, Ayres and his wife divided their time between their home in Newport Beach and a stage coach inn they had converted to a second home on the Klamath River in Northern California.

"If he didn't have something to do, he'd dream up a project," Patrick Ayres said. "In my entire life, I never saw my family hire a plumber or a carpenter or a painter."

Helen Ayres died in 1998.

Until the end, Patrick recalled, his father remained mentally sharp and active.

"He could tell you about boats he'd sailed on in the 1930s and '40s," the son said. "He was quite a storyteller. He made me want to be a better person, to live up to the kind of person he was. He stood for honesty, gentleness, friendship and generosity."

In addition to his son, Ayres is survived by a sister, Doris Ritchie of Fullerton, and two grandchildren.

A graveside service will be private, but a memorial service is scheduled for Jan. 19 at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. For more information, call Patrick Ayres at (714) 751-0285.

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