Major Ricardo Antonio Crocker, USMC



1966 to 2005

[EDITOR’S NOTE: All too soon those who gave their lives for our country vanish in a sea of casualty statistics, their character, bravery and humanity lost to all but family, friends and battle companions. To honor the fallen heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan, Précis will occasionally revisit those who have paid the ultimate price and recall some of the faces, dreams and hopes for the future that extended far beyond war.]

A lean, mean fighting machine

crocker.jpgMost knew Marine Corps Major Ricardo A. Crocker – a tall, buff, likeable guy who loved spicy food and played ball like a pro – as Rick. Legendary in Al Anbar province for his winning way with Iraqi locals, the 39-year-old Marine Reservist was equally famous in Santa Monica, CA for his work with youth through the Police Activities League (PAL). When he left for Iraq in 2004, a life-size cutout photograph of Crocker – a lean, mean fighting machine in full combat gear – stood in the detective squad bureau of the Santa Monica Police Department where he had worked for ten years.

His fellow SWAT team members, even Police Chief James T. Butts, talked to him “as if he were there,” Chief Butts said in 2005. Email, Face Book and letters kept them all in contact, Crocker’s SMPD pals, his family and friends sending so many extravagant care packages that one Marine compared Crocker’s CAG (Civil Affairs Group) house in Iraq to a “supermarket.”

Swamped with an outpouring of support from folks back home, according to Maj. Scott Kinner of Twenty-nine Palms, CA, who served with Crocker in Western Al Anbar in 2005, “Major Crocker went out of his way to be generous with all the things he received. To anyone [out there] who sent him anything-thanks! I undoubtedly ate, read, or watched some of it!”

‘I hesitate to write about this’

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Gary Gygax

Gary Gygax


July 27, 1928 to March 4, 2008

By Bill Jordan

Hundreds of millions know his name

A legendary character, whose name will forever ring out in hearty toasts in the festive mead halls of the imagination, joins other demigods in having his image raised into a constellation to inspire future generations. The hand he played in shaping modern culture was as powerful as it was invisible. Most who were not part of a particular subculture will not recognize his name without his creation also being mentioned. Who, for example, knows Charles Darrow—The creator of Monopoly? Who knows Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin—The inventors of the Hula Hoop? Who knows all the other creators of cultural phenomenon? Well hundreds of millions know the name Gary Gygax—The creator of Dungeons & Dragons.

It’s hard to write a tribute to a man who I only saw through the lens of his brainchild. Like legions of others, I was part of that lost generation that spent not hours, but tens and hundreds and probably thousands of hours role-playing. How not to sound like a gushing fan-boy? How not to reduce a man of parts to a single vision? Get the vision out of the way first. Though this is not a passing for the game, it is a moment to mark its importance to many people since it would never have come to be without Gary Gygax.

Make of yourself a hero like Aragorn or Frodo

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Heath Andrew Ledger

Heath Ledger


April 4, 1979 to January 22, 2008

By Katharine Blossom Lowrie

heath-and-jake-in-brokeback.jpgHe had a somewhat lumpy face, a bit of a goofy smile and an undistinguished nose.  Yet, something transformative happened when he spoke in that rich baritone, when those young/old brown eyes communicated his complex inner life–a connection happened. No, Heath Ledger was never about surface or superficiality. He came from a deeper place. That depth, which crystallized with restrained brilliance in his Oscar-nominated role as the laconic, gay cowboy Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain (2005), was not plumbed without great peril to his psyche.  (Jake Gyllenhaal, shown in still above left, costars as Jack Twist, Del Mar’s love interest in the film.)

He fought to keep the private man private

Unlike many of today’s publicity-hungry young stars, Heath Ledger detested notoriety and fought to keep the private man private. Even friends encountered no trespassing signs, many say, and interviewers found him fidgety and walled off. Esteemed in the industry, innately likable on screen, the blond, 6’1″ Australian-born actor, who sought to play against his sex-symbol image, had his demons. Appeasing them with drugs, partying and alcohol spelled his end. Still, the startling details that dribbled out following the shocking news that he had died of an overdose at age 28 in his SoHo loft on January 22nd didn’t seem to fit. The combination of sedatives and painkillers with long generic names that made his heart forget to beat, his lungs forget to breathe, his brain forget to function, seemed no more Heath Ledger than his parting from his wife, nixing rehab and running around with notorious party-girls Lindsay Lohan and Mary Kate Olsen.

His absence is experienced on a different level

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Irv Letofsky

Irv Letofsky


1931 to 2007

By Katharine Blossom Lowrie

In the company of an apostle at the LA Times

Journalists who worked for Irv Letofsky during his fifteen years as editor of the Los Angeles Times Sunday Calendar were forever changed—in their personal lives as well as their careers. His piquant personality, the expletive-littered asides, the mood-elevating spirit that made you feel you were in the company of an apostle, well, that was Letofsky, a man who loved writers and never worried about political correctness. He died just before Christmas.

1letofsky1225.jpgSince all the usual suspects have been eloquently presented in a myriad of obits, I’ll touch on just a few statistics here. Born a Taurus in Fargo, North Dakota on April 26, 1931, he graduated with a degree in philosophy from the University of North Dakota in 1954; served as assistant city editor at the Minneapolis Tribune from 1963 to 1976; editor of the arts and entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times until 1991; TV critic for the Hollywood Reporter until 2007, and, in 2003, he co-produced the documentary “All the Presidents’ Movies.”  Married since 1978 to beauteous actress Brian Ann Zoccola; father of four children: Laurie, PJ, Cara and Polly (who walked around the world on behalf of breast cancer, a four-year trek her father championed every step of the way), and grandfather of Rosie and Eamon.

Take two aspirin and call me in the morning

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F.W. Stark, Jr.


September 4, 1935 to May 24, 2007

by Katharine Blossom Lowrie

He drew so many, especially “the chicks”

Stark & GoobersAn unparalleled mentor and friend, Frederick William Stark, Jr. (“Willie” or “Bill” to most) departed this earth on May 24, 2007—in his single-engine Diamond Star, no doubt—to see “what life is like on Jupiter and Mars.” He was 72. Legendary for his verbal shorthand, tireless research and racy wit, Bill enjoyed no greater honor than to serve those seeking and maintaining the sobriety he prized for 25 years. Whether offering encouragement, a flight to some distant meeting, or the “even-keel” approach that drew so many (especially “the chicks,” said one), he availed himself to others with utter confidence and enthusiasm 24/7. “He would drop anything if you needed him,” said longtime pal Christine Peterson, one of hundreds of friends who packed an airplane hangar at Palomar Airport in Carlsbad by the Sea in early June.

Two things came easily: flying and entrepreneurship

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