In Memoriam: Matt Lerner, SoCal marine industry veteran dies at 85
LONG BEACH — Matt Lerner, a distinguished yacht broker who was well versed in satisfying a wide spectrum of boat buyers, has died. He was 85.
Lerner passed away on Monday, July 7 in Long Beach when his heart stopped after undergoing lung surgery.
He was an active boater in Southern California where he raced in five Transpac races and owned 11 boats throughout his lifetime. He planned to name his 12th boat, The Dirty Dozen. Comical and intelligent, Lerner was known for his dry wit, sense of humor and knowledge of boats among the community.
Born July 15, 1928 in New York, Lerner arrived in Long Beach with his mother and father in 1933 – just in time to feel the jolt of the Long Beach earthquake. He went on to attend USC where he was a drummer in the Trojan Marching Band, had a radio show on campus and served as manager of the tennis team.
Lerner graduated from USC with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and went on to work in his parents’ drapery business for several years before working for another company that provided drapery for big hotel chains. He spent time in Michigan helping a man who built the containers for Yoplait Yogurt, and helped to obtain the patent.
In 1973 he received his Boating Salesman License and quickly became a yacht broker. He operated Naples Yacht Sales in Long Beach from 1973 to 2006 before selling the company to Heritage Yacht Sales where he continued to work as a yacht broker until he decided to step out on his own in October 2013.
“I never want to do anything else, “Lerner reported to The Log in a Nov. 8-21, 2013 article. “I love this business.”
He continued to serve customers from his hometown and place of work in the Naples area until the business was closed by his wife following Matt’s death.
Aside from his work as a yacht broker, Lerner was a boat aficionado. His first boat was an Islander, followed by a Columbia 36, a 30 foot Riviera and several other power and sailboats. He also worked for Islander where he helped to design the Freeport 41 and purchased hull number five. He lived aboard that boat for awhile before moving back on land.
Lerner met his second wife, Kathy Lerner, after putting out an ad in the local newspaper that showed both his interest and his humor.
“The ad read that he was looking for a nice Jewish girl who didn’t live in the valley because he hated the valley,” she recalled. “I thought it was funny and called him and we chatted on the phone for a long time, we met and it was instant.”
Married for 18 years, the couple spent time playing tennis and golf. He also enjoyed flying.
Matt Lerner is survived by his wife, Kathy, three children from his first marriage and four grandchildren.
A burial at sea and celebration of life will be held on Matt’s birthday, Tuesday, July 15.