Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2019
Ron 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.”
I 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:
Elaine’s son, Ben DeSmidt, center, joined us for dinner after.
Ron 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:
Ron at the 2015 and 2016 Wright birthday celebrations at Taliesin:
Cindy and I returned to our car at the 2011 birthday celebration to find flowers that Ron and Elaine had left for us:
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.