Chuck Estes, R.I.P.

This is Joel Beers on the Fox Fullerton theater crusader, who died after lapsing into a coma ...

The Fox Fullerton theater, which showed its last film in 1987, is still years—and several million dollars—away from reopening. But its unrestored marquee lit up bright again Sunday night in memory of Chuck Estes, the man most responsible for saving the 1925 movie palace from destruction. Estes, the co-founder of the Fullerton Historic Theater Foundation, died Sunday after a weeklong coma following his collapse in a grocery store. Estes, 59, was an award-winning sound designer and composer who worked on more than 150 Southern California theater productions during his career. But his greatest artistic accomplishment began with a letter he wrote to the Fullerton Observer in 2001. After overhearing a city official say he would not "shed a tear if the Fox burned to the ground," Estes, a Sunny Hills High School and Cal State Fullerton graduate, wrote the Observer about the importance of saving the faded jewel. His letter, of course, sparked a grassroots movement. A few months later, Estes launched the Fullerton Historical Theater Foundation with Jane Riefer and several other concerned Fullerton residents. The Foundation now owns the Fox. "Chuck was a man who loved the arts and this community, and without him the Fox would probably be apartment buildings or a vacant lot today," said Todd Huffman, the foundation's president. "He is living proof that one man can make a difference."

Estes is survived by his wife Nancy, three children and two grandchildren.


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