Longtime arts advocate Dave Iorns was ‘voice of Nevada City’ | TheUnion.com

Longtime arts advocate Dave Iorns was ‘voice of Nevada City’

Dave Iorns, owner of Nevada City Crystal & Glass and advocate for numerous Nevada County institutions, died Wednesday.
Cory Fisher/Cory@theunion.com |

For many locals, Dave Iorns was the voice of Nevada City.

Iorns, owner of downtown’s Nevada City Crystal & Glass, was known for his “incredible voice and infectious laugh,” said wife Maryann. That voice, she said, “was heard by many for over 20 years during the Nevada City Little League championship games and at many parades that took place in downtown Nevada City — one of his favorites being the Nevada City Elementary Book Parade.”

The longtime community advocate and supporter of the arts died Wednesday.

Over the decades, Iorns was involved in a multitude of organizations, including the Center for the Arts, which he helped found, the Miners Foundry and the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. He also helped establish Nevada City’s Hot Summer Nights in 1991, his family said.

“He loved acting in many community plays, with his greatest performance in the role of Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,” wrote Maryann in an email. “His acting career also included Reader’s Theater, alongside his dear friend, Tim O’Connor.”

Honored citizen

Iorns was the recipient of the 2015 Elza Kilroy Award for outstanding community service, presented by the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce to a citizen whose efforts help make Nevada City a better community. He also received the Dr. Leland and Sally Lewis Performing Arts Award in 2011 and was recently presented with the Lifetime Achievement award. That award will now be called The Dave Iorns Lifetime Achievement Award and will be a perpetual award, said chamber director Cathy Whittlesey.

“He was such an advocate for Nevada City,” Whittlesey said. “He would do anything we needed. He announced for the parades, he emceed, whenever I needed someone on the microphone … He was just an all-around good guy. I’m going to miss him.”

Iorns, those who knew him all agreed, was kind and upbeat.

Whenever anyone entered Nevada City Crystal & Glass, Iorns’ family said, “they were greeted with the smells of Nevada City spiced tea and a smiling man that made you feel as if he has known you all his life.”

Julie Baker, who recently stepped down as executive director for the Center for the Arts, at one time owned an art gallery across from Iorns’ store.

“He would come out with a smile to water the plants — he was always in a very positive space,” she said. “He was a gentle soul.”

Center for the Arts

Baker worked with Iorns briefly during their overlapping tenures at the center, she said.

“He was actually the first president,” Julie Baker said. “He helped get the center into existence.”

Richard Baker also worked with Iorns at Center for the Arts, serving on the board with him for a number of years.

“I came on not really knowing much about the center,” Richard Baker said. “He had the institutional knowledge … and I looked to him for mentorship, on how to represent the efforts of the organization to the community. He was extremely smart and articulate … He had a real, selfless vision of what the organization could and should do for the community. He not only invested his personal time and effort, but also invested financially to help it stay afloat.”

In 1999, when Iorns was on the board for the Center for the Arts, he helped preserve the organization when it ran into financial trouble. Fellow board member Jon Blinder eventually bought the building in 2001 and donated it back to the center.

Richard Baker describes those years as a “period of extreme ups and downs … It was by the skin of our teeth on a monthly basis.”

But Iorns’ commitment never wavered, he said.

Blinder said he was invited by Iorns to join the board in 1999.

“I worked with him for eight or nine years, tirelessly trying to figure out the right path forward for the center,” Blinder said. “It couldn’t have been done without him. He was an instrumental leader in calling attention to the mission, trying to deliver arts to the community in a way that hadn’t been done (before).”

Iorns was instrumental in formulating the mission statement for the Center for the Arts, Blinder said, adding that he believes that vision is still very much aligned with what the center has become.

“We really had a lot of fun,” he said. “All of us who gave our blood, sweat and tears … we felt like we really contributed something to the community.”

All about the kids

Richard Baker and Blinder both highlighted the monthly teen dances that at one time were hosted by the center as something special that came about as a result of Iorns’ leadership.

“The kids could come and listen to music and socialize,” Richard Baker said. “We would turn kids away, we would have so many there. Dave was at every single one of those. He treated all those kids with so much respect; they felt like he had their backs — things would go down and the kids would go straight to Dave. He was very focused on benefiting the kids in our community, and he had a deep respect for them as individuals.”

Baker was initially concerned about the events, but Iorns helped him see the benefit to the youth of the community.

“Dave was probably pretty exhausted by it — but if it was still going on, he would still be there,” he said.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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