Ron McCrea, 1943 – 2019

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2019

2015 Wright Birthday Taliesin 038.jpgRon could not resist playing the piano in the living room at Taliesin each year when he helped celebrate Wright’s birthday in early June. This was in 2015.

My friend Ron McCrea died of cancer this afternoon – December 14, 2019. He was a great journalist – my profession – but I got to know him as a luminary in the world of Frank Lloyd Wright. Ron, the longtime survivor of a liver transplant, was in hospice care near his home in Madison. In late November he told his friends that he had decided to forego any further chemotherapy because of the low expectation of success. His goal was to finish his latest book about Wright in the 10 – 12 months he had been told was his life expectancy. The book would have been published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, publisher of his landmark 2012 study of Wright’s beloved home and his life with Mamah Borthwick, “Building Taliesin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home of Love and Loss.”

Book cover.jpg

2008 at Taliesin garden.JPGI was honored that Ron included a photo I took of he and his beloved Elaine at Taliesin in 2008 in the book. I next photographed him when he presented his book in a talk at the Golden Rondelle at SC Johnson in Racine in December 2012:Ron McCrea SCJ 039.jpg

Ron McCrea SCJ 035.jpg

Ron McCrea SCJ 022.jpg

Ron McCrea SCJ 024.jpg

Ron McCrea SCJ 056.jpg

Ron McCrea SCJ 060.jpgElaine’s son, Ben DeSmidt, center, joined us for dinner after.

2014 Bday Dinner.jpgRon and Elaine at the 2014 Wright birthday dinner at Taliesin.

Ron returned to Racine in September 2014 to give a talk about the book at the Racine Public Library for the Wisconsin Historical Society and Racine Heritage Museum:McCrea Racine WHS 001.jpg

McCrea Racine WHS 008.jpg

McCrea Racine WHS 014.jpg

McCrea Racine WHS 020.jpg

Ron at the 2015 and 2016  Wright birthday celebrations at Taliesin:2015 Wright Birthday Taliesin 010.jpg

2015 Wright Birthday Taliesin 025.jpg

2016 Wright Birthday Taliesin 005.jpg

Cindy and I returned to our car at the 2011 birthday celebration to find flowers that Ron and Elaine had left for us:

Mr. Wright's Birthday 2011 013.jpg

A month ago I asked Dave Zweifel, who was Ron’s editor at the (Madison) Capital Times to summarize Ron’s career in journalism for me. A portion of Dave’s email follows:

“He had been a copy editor at the Boston Globe, I believe, when he came to Madison for grad school at the UW in the mid-60s. He secured a part-time job as a copy editor with us while in school and then after graduation decided to stay, soon becoming the “wire editor,” responsible for all the news wire content of the daily paper. He, of course, was an active member of the Newspaper Guild, which represented the newsroom of The Capital Times, and when the printers struck Madison Newspapers in 1977, he was among the Guild leaders to call for the union to honor the strike.  Within a few weeks, he helped organize the strike paper, the Press Connection, and was named its editor. The paper survived for roughly three years, but then folded. He wound up taking a job with the San Jose Mercury-News, but when Tony Earl was elected governor, he came back to Madison to serve as his press secretary. When Earl lost to Tommy four years later, Ron got a job with the Long Island edition of Newsday, editing luminaries like Jimmy Breslin.

“When Newsday folded the edition in 1995, I made it clear to Ron that we’d welcome him back in our newsroom. He accepted and I named him the city editor. He was a damn good one, but started having health problems, including cancer of the liver. Fortunately, he became the beneficiary of a transplant, recovered, and continued to work until he took retirement when we went from daily print to digital back in 2008.

“He’s a terrific journalist and extremely talented. He became a FLW enthusiast, as you know, and is currently working on a book about Wright’s women., those who made and unmade him during his lifetime.”

Ron, rest in piece, my friend.

 

Celebrating Wright’s Birthday

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 148th birthday was celebrated at a traditional gathering at Taliesin Saturday June 6 and a day later at SC Johnson in Racine, Wisconsin. Wright designed the company’s Administration Building in 1936 and Research Tower in 1943/44.

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark HertzbergSean Malone chats with Minerva Montooth during the reception at Taliesin.

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Ron McCrea enjoys playing the living room piano when he visits Taliesin.

The reception at Taliesin was followed by dinner – including a birthday cake – and music at Hillside School:

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Frank Lloyd Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin and Hillside School, Spring Green, Wis., Saturday June 6, 2015.  /  (c) Mark Hertzberg

Prairie 50th Graduation

SC Johnson’s celebration was held in Fortaleza Hall, designed by Lord Norman Foster and partners. There were two sheet cakes and a large cake modeled after Wright’s buildings. The base below the model building was made from compressed Rice Krispie treats and chocolate mix.

Children played with Lincoln Logs, a toy invented by John Lloyd Wright

Bob and Jeanne Maushammer wanted their picture taken with a life-size cutout photo of Wright. The Maushammers, who have seen several hundred of Wright’s buildings, were in their hometown of Racine to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Ron McCrea at SCJohnson

Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg. Photos used with permission of SC Johnson

Ron McCrea had a full house at SC Johnson Saturday for his presentation about his book “Building Taliesin.” His scholarship is first-rate, and he is an engaging speaker. The event was co-sponsored by SCJ and Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin (www.wrightinwisconsin.org).

Image

ImageImage

ImageImage

Ron McCrea to speak in Racine

Wright in Wisconsin in partnership with SC Johnson invite you to hear Ron McCrea talk about his new book, “Building Taliesin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home of Love and Loss” on Saturday, December 15, 2012 from 11:00 a.m. until noon. A book signing will follow. In addition, pre and post talk tours of the SC Johnson Administration building, Fortaleza Hall and the SC Johnson Gallery are available. This is a free event but pre-registration is appreciated. Visit the SCJ website:http://www.scjohnson.com/en/company/visiting.aspx and schedule your free tour.

ImageBelow, Elane Demidt and Ron McCrea at Taliesin garden, 2011:

Image

Photo (c) Mark Hertzberg