SAN BERNARDINO - Many described him as the "hardest working attorney" they had ever known.

He was a legend in redevelopment law, they said, and he astounded others in his total recall of events that happened many years ago.

Timothy J. Sabo, who was the legal architect for the redevelopment of the former Norton Air Force Base, died Wednesday after a lengthy battle with cancer.

He was 65.

He was a brilliant lawyer, said Redlands Attorney John Mirau. He started out as a bond counsel. But he was also an expert in redevelopment, Mirau said.

"He had been a key legal advisor to the city of San Bernardino long before the closing of the base," said Mirau, who knew Sabo for 25 years both as an opposing counsel and a co-counsel.

"He was key to negotiations with the Air Force and in additional to legal knowledge, was very savvy about how to get things done," Mirau said.

San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris also praised Sabo for his leadership.

"He led us through the twists and turns of the development of the airport," Morris said.

The resulting logistics center that is there "is a tribute to his drafting talents as a lawyer ... . His passing saddens me deeply," Morris said. "This is a great loss to the community, the city and the Inland Valley Development Agency."

Sabo could recall circumstances and events that go back decades, Morris said.

He kept to himself about his fight with cancer, Morris said.


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In the final days, he continued his legal work from the hospital bed "like he was in his legal chair."

Don Rogers, longtime head of the IVDA and the airport, said that Sabo's skill resulted in the contract making Hillwood the master developer for a large portion of the former Norton Air Force Base.

That skill also helped bring the Stater Bros. distribution facility, the Kohl's facilities, Mattel and other large company's to the former Norton campus.

"He had a good sense of humor and was pleasant to work with as a co-counsel or on the other side," Mirau said.

Both Morris and Mirau noted that Sabo was tremendously responsive to his client's needs and if called with an emergency late Friday, would work throughout the weekend to produce the legal solution.

Sabo, a Thousand Oaks resident, is survived by his wife, Judith Ann, and their children, Aaron, Alexis, Mitchell and Meghan.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Sabo's memory be sent to the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, 1661 Haight Ave., Bronx, NY 10461, Attention: Sister Francesca.


Reach Jim via email, call him at 909-386-3855, or find him on Twitter @JSteinbergsRoad.