Shown in 2003, Bob Sharpe, left, talks with architect David Lefton about options for the new Sahuarita Town Hall that Sharpe proposed. Sharpe also founded the town’s Rancho Sahuarita subdivision.

Robert M. Sharpe, a Tucson land syndicator and real-estate developer who was the founder of Rancho Sahuarita, died Wednesday afternoon at his home in Snowmass Village, Colorado.

Sharpe, who was diagnosed in 2015 at age 62 with glioblastoma and since raised more than $1 million for brain cancer research, was surrounded by his wife and three children, said good friend Tom Murphy, the mayor of Sahuarita.

Sharpe was buried Friday in Red Butte Cemetery in Aspen, following a service at the Chabad Jewish Community Center.

Murphy said he met Sharpe, president of Sharpe & Associates, when he moved into the Rancho Sahuarita community in 2003. “I met him in the clubhouse the first weekend I was there, and I got to work with him as community liaison for Rancho Sahuarita for five years,” recalled Murphy.

“He put his whole heart and soul into that project. He paid attention to the smallest details and amenities and commercial developments,” said Murphy.

The development includes a 10-acre lake that is popular with boaters anglers.

“His pride was having the most highly amenitized, affordable community,” said Murphy. “It was one of the most successful master-planned communities in the United States in early 2000.”

David Godlewski, president of Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, said, “Bob was someone who had a vision and looked at the area of Sahuarita and made that vision a reality. As a result, thousands of homes were built by many builders that offered quality lifestyle for thousands of residents in his community.”

“He really focused on building a sense of place and that was what was unique about Rancho Sahuarita. That sense of community created tight friendships within the neighborhoods, parks, trails and community center,” Godlewski said.

Sharpe was born and raised in Minnesota. He began investing in real estate here in the early 1980s. He graduated from the University of Arizona with a law degree in 1982 after graduating from Arizona State University in the 1970s.

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Since his brain cancer diagnosis, Sharpe shared thoughts about his condition and fundraising projects to come up with a cure on the National Brain Tumor Society/Sharpe Brain Cancer Research Awards website.

Sharpe wrote that after his diagnosis he “quickly concluded that being sad, disappointed, bitter, or worried was unproductive. ... I realized that I had everything to gain by spending the remaining days of my life having an optimistic, positive and grateful attitude, being thoughtful and encouraging, and doing things that bring joy happiness and fulfillment to others.

“Improving the lives of others is inspirational and makes my life more productive and meaningful,” wrote Sharpe.

Murphy said Sharpe’s motto was: “Today is a good day.” Murphy said his friend “had a gift about connecting with people, be it helping those with cancer or those living in Sahuarita or those attending Sahuarita school district.”

“His presence will be missed,” Murphy said.

He is survived by his wife, Deborah Newman Sharpe; daughters, Sarah Weireter and Jennifer Ridley; and son, Jeremy Sharpe.

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at or 573-4104. On Twitter: @cduartestar


Carmen started at the Star in 1981 and covers the aging population. She wrote “Mama’s Santos: An Arizona Life”, a book about the Mexican and Mexican-American experience in the Southwest through stories about her family. It won 11 awards.