By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
Ric Rickles has never let age interfere with living; when he decided to become a psychotherapist he simply did it, despite being 50 years old at the time. West Hollywood’s civic lion soon afterward jumped into cityhood with both feet to protect WeHo’s tenants, and gained a reputation for being an effective voice on tenants’ and senior rights.
No one can beat the Dark Angel, however, and Ric succumbed to age (89) and illness early in the morning on Monday, April 7, 2014.
Marcy Norton, a good friend of Ric’s, said of his passing, “Ric had a long, very rich and full life in which he got to do everything he wanted to do — he went to the theater and movies frequently; he ate good food at nice restaurants; he had a wonderful relationship with our beloved Rae Mitchell for 37 years; he had children, “step”-children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews whom he adored and who loved him dearly; he had good friends with whom he engaged in spirited discussions; he was active and admired in his community.
“Really, what more could one want?!? We were all blessed to have had him in our lives.”
Ric cared deeply about the community in which he lived; according to Marcy’s mother, Rita, “He was truly an icon, always vital and interested in the city, showing up for everything to see he could lend a hand.”
We first profiled Ric in December, 2005, as he had just embarked upon an effort to block the Bush Administration’s attack on Social Security using his bona fides as a county and state senior legislator.
Ric came late to senior advocacy, but that, he claims, is only because he came into his senior-ship recently. “I noticed about five years ago that unless you had a lot of money, if you were a senior activist, you were almost invisible,” he told WeHo News
Before then, he had been long involved in community affairs and seldom invisible by all accounts, especially to fellow rent control or mental-health movement activists during his 27 years living and working in West Hollywood. “I even considered running for council, but I hate raising money,” he confided. “I have always volunteered my activism, and worked through church or community groups…”
Or city commissions, boards or advisory groups. Ric has, in the past 20 years, chaired the city’s Housing Commission and served on the Transportation and Employment Commissions. In fact, through sheer force of intellect, will and perseverance, Mr. Rickles has become one of the most respected voices for senior issues in West Hollywood and Los Angeles County.
He joined the Los Angeles County Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council, which operates under the County’s Department of Community and Senior Services, and was subsequently appointed twice and elected once to the California Senior Assembly. His position in the California Senior Legislature, where he holds an Assembly seat “Representing Older Californians in Los Angeles County,” according to his business card, gives him some sway over legislative thinking in Sacramento affecting seniors.
It is through the California Senior Assembly that bills of interest to seniors are first shepherded into the California State Assembly and eventually into state law. “I sit on the legislative committee, which takes bills passed by the senior assembly to legislators for introduction to the State Assembly legislative agenda,” he said. “We try to find an assemblyman who will carry bills that will improve our lives.”
More recently, at the city’s 25th Birthday bash, Ric offered up another hint into his personality. “I’m remembering Ron Stone and his vision of the boulevard with the sidewalk cafes and the left bank environment, however,” he said, “I was more involved with the idea of rent control.”
Politically, he helped turn the tide of public opinion over the Tara, or Laurel Place, senior housing project. A previously vigorous supporter of senior housing on the site, Ric, a member of the Senior Advisory Board, took umbrage to the Heilman/Land/Winderman shills who called opponents of the project “senior haters.” He expressed his doubts about the project after the California Supreme Court decided the Tara case against the city.
“I don’t know how practical the whole proposition is now that we lost the HUD grant,” he said. “Now, all that matter[s] is that the council and the court come to an agreement as to whether it is still a practical project for housing.”
A memorial is being planned.