Friends like these

It was Editor-at-large Melinda Welsh who came up with our simple send-off for Ralph Brave. For those who missed it, last week’s News section opened with a photo of our dearly departed staff writer, a brief but heartfelt introduction and a sampling of SN&R covers representing the feature stories this remarkably brilliant journalist cranked out in recent years. The thinking was to let Ralph’s work speak for his life.

But I do admit having feared we weren’t adequately informing people to what a complex seeker of truth, justice, knowledge and spirituality Ralph really was.

Fortunately, his fans and friends around the globe have stepped in to do that for us.

On our online Ralph Brave memorial page——SN&R’s crack techie team added a reader-commenting feature so anyone and everyone can share their feelings and remembrances. As I type this, 31 people have done just that. Among their ranks are scientists, journalists, environmentalists, anti-war activists, social-justice advocates or some combination of any or all of these.

The loving comments reveal Ralph was fair, sweet, gentle, witty, genuine, brilliant, penetrating, committed, passionate, good-hearted, tortured and vulnerable. He led everything from great campaigns to intimate meditation groups with the same vim and vigor.

What’s ironic is I get the feeling Ralph—like a lot of us salty-haired, ink-stained wretches—had misgivings about this Internet “fad” when it first infected our newsrooms. Then you get a wonderful picture of a great man thanks to an online memorial page, and you think a little harder to recall Ralph, in his final reporting days, excitedly carrying on about the “Web extras” he wanted to post with his stories. See, Ralph had a rep for being the type of reporter who was never done with a story; just ask the page designers he hovered over on (and past) deadline. To have a tool that would allow him to fine tune, complement and expand on his print-only reporting had to be like manna from cyberspace.

Check out the online memorial page if you haven’t already. Then you’ll know what a huge loss we’ve suffered around here.