New Zealand Updated
Jul 3, 2021 07:14 AM3 minutes to read
Yevrah Ornstein with his trusty golden retriever, Breeze. Photo / Mountain Scene
A Queensowner who died of cancer last week leaves millions of dollars to environmental, animal welfare and children charities.
Former American Yevrah Ornstein, who was 70, has negotiated the sale of his Lakeside Estates solar home — thought to be worth about $6 million — and other investments will go to four international charities, along with New Zealand’s KidsCan and Save. the Children NZ.
Donations from invested funds will be made annually forever.
Ornstein has established a foundation for the US-based charities – the environment-based Nature Resources Defense Council and Rocky Mountain Institute, Animal Welfare Institute and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – and a charity for Kiwi’s two charities, one of which is its purpose is “to serve and protect children in NZ”.
Neighbor Peter Thodey says that when Ornstein knew he was dying, “one day we were talking about what he wanted to do with his estate and I said, ‘Why not set up a trust?’ “
In notes he took before going to the hospital, he wrote: “Besides my passion [for] environmental issues was my ever-present reverence for education – whether it was educating people about the climate crisis, along with the protections we received for being stewards of the natural environment.
“The charities I’ve chosen do an excellent job of protecting and serving both children and nature.”
He notes that his life changed by volunteering for the Peace Corps in Ecuador in the 1970s.
After buying, renovating and selling houses, he moved from New York to California where he became active in the growing men’s movement.
He published a quarterly magazine called The Men’s Journal and wrote two books on male psychology and development.
Falling in love with NZ on frequent visits, he moved to Queenstown 20 years ago, where for a number of years he became manager and co-owner of the chic Matakauri Lodge.
In 2014, he opened a Mexican restaurant franchise, Zambrero, in The Landing complex – the chain had a charity initiative where each meal sold was donated a different one to people in impoverished countries.
In 2014, he opened a Mexican restaurant franchise, Zambrero, in The Landing complex – the chain had a charity initiative where each meal sold was donated a different one to people in impoverished countries. Photo / Facebook
His venture did not last long, however.
Ornstein successively lived in houses designed by the Christchurch eco-architect the late Roger Buck and built by local master craftsman Tony Baker – the former at Alpine Retreat and the latter at Lakeside Estates, the last house Buck ever designed.
Ornstein likened the second house to “a work of art”.
“I think we all have a role to play in the environment – this is my way of contributing,” he told Mountain Scene.
Friend Kris Lukaszewicz says he was “a pretty generous man – I know he’s supported a number of charities throughout his life”.
“He was working on alternative, renewable energy 20 years ago, he was way ahead of his time.”
Over the years, he owned five golden retrievers in succession.
His latest, Breeze, visited him twice a day in hospital and has now been adopted by a local couple.