Steve was born in Paterson, New Jersey on May 19, 1943 to Steve Sr. and Evelyn Karo; his brother, Robert and sister, Joan, live in San Diego. In 1959 his family moved to San Diego where he spent his senior year at Lincoln High School.
He attended San Diego State as a music major and joined Phi Mu Alpha, the music fraternity. Many of the young men stay in touch and get together at least once a year.
I enrolled in a chamber music class at SDSU in the summer of 1965 and Steve said he decided right then that he was going to marry me. That became reality in January 1969.
Steve began his career as a drummer but studied marimba and eventually played everything he could hit! He practiced for hours with our Bassett Hound singing under the instrument and our cockatiel mimicking everything he played. Felix even learned the xylophone solo to “Porgy and Bess.” Steve played multiple percussion for Starlight Opera (San Diego Civic Light Opera) from the 60’s to the mid 80’s and for years it seemed that wherever one went to see a musical, Steve was in the pit. I was working for the San Diego Gilbert & Sullivan Co. which became San Diego Lyric Opera and he became a member of the orchestra.
His love for the marimba became a passion for antique percussion instruments; I urged him to write a book with photos and details of each one and he’d say, “sure, one of these days…”
I think his greatest accomplishment was starting the movement to save the Balboa Theatre from becoming another retail space in Horton Plaza. During the early 70’s he played the musicals at the “OLD” Lyceum Theatre (previously the Hollywood Burlesque) and watched as the city tore it down to make room for a parking lot for Horton Plaza. In 1984, the “Union Tribune” published an article by Welton Jones about the Balboa Theatre in Horton Plaza and it peaked his curiosity; he took a flashlight and went to a movie! He wandered through the building and saw the large orchestra pit and fly loft. When he came home he told me, “the city probably doesn’t realize what a gem this is so I’m going to make some calls.” It turned into a 25-year battle against some of the most wealthy and powerful entities in San Diego but Steve was determined to save this theatre. He spent countless hours on the phone with theatre owners and managers all over the country, he appeared at City Council meetings, did a debate on the radio, wrote articles, cleaned debris from the basement and swept pigeon droppings off the stage. After a few years, he saw the need to put the building on the National Register of Historic Places so he founded the Balboa Theatre Foundation and made it happen. Finally, the city’s interest in destroying the theatre waned, it paid for the restoration and now the Balboa Theatre is the jewel of San Diego. He was honored by the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle at the Craig Noel Awards Ceremony in 2008 as the “Champion of the Balboa Theatre.”
Recently Steve was elected Chairperson of Save Starlight’s board of directors, dedicated to the restoration of Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park.
Steve will be remembered most for his sense of humor, his love of music, his compassion for people less fortunate than he, his love of animals and his sense of justice.
Steve died of complications from multiple myeloma.
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation in his name to The Elizabeth Hospice or Save Starlight.
Tax ID 95-3275679
Tax ID 81-3430648
9590 Chesapeake Dr.
San Diego, CA 92123
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