A Legacy of Love and Generosity

July 01, 2013


Jan Tarble has continued her parents' legacy of giving.
One of the first things people notice in the Tarble Atrium of Saint John's Health Center is the light. Soft sunlight fills the space, which welcomes thousands of patients and visitors to the hospital each year. The beams cast a glow on the smooth maple walls, communicating serenity and warmth.

Those qualities can also be used to describe the benefactors of this gorgeous space – Newt and Pat Tarble, for whom the atrium was named. Newt and Pat were long-time supporters of Saint John's, and the Tarble Foundation has made numerous charitable donations to the hospital for more than 50 years.

Although the couple is now deceased – Newt passed away in 1976 at age 88 and Pat died in 2003 at age 101 – the family's connection with the hospital lives on in gifts from the Tarble Foundation and in the presence of their daughter, Jan. Last year, the hospital presented the Spirit of Saint John's Award to the Tarble Foundation in recognition of the family's ongoing generosity.

"The Tarble Atrium is the hub of health and healing at Saint John's," says Bob Klein, vice president of Foundation and Health Center Relations. "This beautiful atrium we're enjoying now is because of the Tarble Foundation. Their history of giving has meant so much, as well as their friendship. Newt and Pat would, no doubt, take great joy in the hospital's new buildings and features.”

Newt and Pat Tarble
Newt and Pat Tarble
The 1925 blind date in Chicago that brought Newt and Pat together must have been fated. The combination of Newt's intellect and Pat's sparkling personality led to many auspicious events and influenced the destinies of a great many people over the course of their marriage. It all began in the 1920s, when Newt, a farm boy from Illinois who had graduated from Swarthmore, was casting about for a good business idea. Already an accomplished athlete who attended college on a baseball scholarship, Newt also performed distinguished military service in Europe, serving as first lieutenant of infantry in France after the Battle of Verdun. He was so highly regarded that he was one of the first officers asked to carry diplomatic mail into Berlin.

Newt was a born salesman with acute marketing instincts. In 1920, he put an ad in the Chicago Daily News, looking for “an opportunity of merit.” He was contacted by Stanton Palmer, who was representing a small, newly formed company called Snap-on, which made innovative sockets and wrenches.

The business was launched in a garage. Yet Newt and Stanton Palmer, together with Joseph Johnson and William Seidemann, created a company that is today listed by S&P 500 with annual revenues exceeding $3 billion.

The business was beginning to grow in 1925 when Newt, a popular, attractive man-about- town, met Pat. Newt's ex-girlfriend, who saw no future in his enterprise of sockets and wrenches, introduced the pair.

Pat had recently left home and was living in a boarding house on the outskirts of Chicago, working at her first job in a publishing house. Within a year of their first date, they were married, just as his business career was soaring.

Pat's parents emigrated from Austria in the late 1800s. Her father had been a decorated sergeant in the army of Franz Josef. A lady down to her fingertips, Pat had a practicality about her, too. And she knew when it was necessary to turn on the charm. During the height of the Depression, she donned her most elegant hat and gloves and paid a visit to a bank manager in Chicago, persuading him to advance credit to Snap-on. By 1931, the company had gone global, and today Snap-on provides jobs for more than 11,500 people around the world.

The Tarbles' daughter, Jan, was born in Chicago in 1928. Although Newt later retired from Snap-on, he remained on the board of directors throughout his life.

The three Tarbles were passionate travelers. They loved golf and were long-standing members of the Bel-Air Country Club.

Pat enjoyed nature, gardening and wildlife and bequeathed many of these passions to her daughter. Pat was known as being devoted to her friends and special causes.

"My mother was an extremely loyal friend," says Jan. "She didn't have many casual acquaintances. She made friends, and she kept them."

The Tarbles’ first contact with Saint John’s was in the 1950s, after Newt met Dr. John McDonald, a staff physician. In the 1960s, Newt donated 100 shares of Snap-on stock to the hospital.

With the gift, he attached a note to Sister Mary David, SCL, the hospital's administrator at the time: "To help you, Sister, in keeping Saint John's Hospital the finest and most beautifully operated in Los Angeles." That first gift spawned decades – and millions of dollars – of support from the Tarble Foundation.

Jan Tarble, who studied art at Stanford and UCLA and ran her own business for a time creating and selling an elegant line of dinnerware, has maintained her parents' wishes to support superior health care for patients at Saint John's. Today, she enjoys seeing the portraits of her dear parents in the Tarble Atrium of the hospital and remembers their extraordinary grace and spirit.

"They were a remarkable couple," said Jan the evening she accepted the Spirit of Saint John's award on behalf of the Tarble Foundation. "I'm managing the Tarble Foundation, and everything that it's made of is what they earned. I cannot imagine a better place to spend it than on Saint John's."