Many in the development and civic communities of Los Angeles and the state of California were saddened to learn of the November passing of Douglas Ring, a local developer, lobbyist, and philanthropist. To acknowledge his lifetime commitment to the betterment of metropolitan Los Angeles, TPR presents the following eulogy, delivered by L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky at the memorial service for Doug.
Los Angeles has lost a great and valued citizen, and each of us has lost a true and valued friend. For Barbara and me, like for all of you, this is a painful and personal loss. Because, we didn't just love Doug; we liked him. We enjoyed the times we spent with him and Cindy. We relished the sparring and political argument that always accompanied an outing with him. It's hard to accept, and impossible to believe, that Doug Ring is no longer with us.
I know that it is conventional at moments like these to say that there is a reason for everything; or that God has his plan, and it's not for us to question it. In this case no rationalization suffices. Let's face it: we've been robbed-robbed of someone who was truly special.
Doug was a man of passion. He never did anything half-way. Whether it was politics, public policy, the arts, collecting art, or in his business-when Doug undertook a project, he did it with passion. When he threw himself into a cause-whether it was his client or your civil liberties; whether it was promoting affordable housing in Marina del Rey or building a museum in downtown-he did it with zeal and commitment.
I knew Doug for nearly 40 years, and Barbara knew him even longer. I first got to know him in the world of politics. And, oh how he loved politics. He relished the game and he enjoyed the contests. He offered both his financial support and his strategic acumen to the candidates and officeholders he liked. I said the ones he liked, not necessarily the ones he agreed with. Because as much as anyone I knew, Doug judged you on who you were. If he like and respected you, even if he didn't agree with you on everything, he would go to the mat for you.
As cynical as he was about politics, and cynical he was, Doug saw politics as a way to move people to move governments; and he though government, in partnership with private philanthropy, could be used, in turn, as an instrument to help people and make our society a better place. Employing that philosophy, Doug promoted a host of civic projects that changed or enhanced the face of Los Angeles, including the Central Library in Downtown, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Childrens' Museum, and many many more.
Even as a renowned lobbyist, Doug promoted civic good. Such was the case when he took on the Grand Central Market in downtown as a client. This historic market, run largely by immigrants and frequented largely by immigrants (including my father when we lived in Boyle Heights) was in danger of shutting down. Doug and Ira Yellin, the moving force behind the Grand Central project, were a passionate tag team in City Hall as they worked to save the market, which they ultimately did.
As a lobbyist he had a delicious sense of humor. Cindy reminded me yesterday of the time I, as a city councilman, had proposed to reduce development rights on Hilgard Avenue along sorority row next to UCLA. Doug's strategy to get to me was to attack my legislation as discriminatory, since I hadn't proposed a similar reduction of development rights on Gayley Avenue along fraternity row on the other side of campus. Between the efforts of Doug and the sorority sisters, the legislation never saw the light of day.
Doug knew the most effective was to work City Hall. Unlike every other lawyer/advocate in town, who showers every elected official with candy, wine, or fruit baskets during the holiday season, Doug waited until Valentine's Day and sent the elected officials' secretaries a dozen chocolate roses-something none of them ever forgot. So, it wasn't his political campaign of contributions that got him through the door in his lobbying heyday; it was the secretaries.
When I think of Doug Ring, I think of one of the most generous-hearted people I know. I am not referring to his financial generosity, though that was legendary and forthcoming to virtually every worthy philanthropy in our community. I'm talking about his heart.
No one had a bigger heart than Doug. Without fanfare and without seeking any credit or thank you in return, time and again he was there for people in their time of need. When our mutual friends, Ron Deaton, took ill while on vacation in Costa Rica a couple of years ago, Doug put his life on hold in order to help save Ron's. He turned his own doctor loose to do whatever it took to get Ron stabilized so that he could be returned home to recover; which, thankfully, he did. Doug literally engaged in hundreds of similar acts of kindness for people he knew and many he didn't.
No matter how hard he tried, Doug's cynical and curmudgeonly façade was unable to mask his basic goodness and humanity. All of you here today are a testament to that.
You can't talk about Doug without talking about Cindy. The late Councilman Marvin Braude, Cindy's old boss, and I may have inadvertently had something to do with sparking the romance between Doug and Cindy. We had qualified a ballot measure in the city of Los Angeles to cut commercial development rights in half-Proposition U-and one day one day we dispatched Cindy to debate this real estate industry representative, Doug Ring. Marvin and I couldn't understand what Cindy saw in this representative of the other side, but as is usually the case, Cindy saw something we didn't. She was able to look deeper into Doug's soul, and it turned out to be a match made in heaven. They were married less than two years later.
For the last 21 years, Doug and Cindy presided in our town. The two of them were greater than the sum of their parts. In their impact on public policy, on politics, on the arts and humanities, and on their friends-Doug and Cindy presided. They were a power couple in the most complimentary sense of that phrase. Cindy, while all of us will miss Doug, know that we are all there for you in the same way that you and Doug have been there for so many of us.
Doug had so much more to give. His passing is a profound loss to Los Angeles and all who inhabit it. Doug had plans to do so much more, and we were all looking forward to being drafted into his army of doers. For me, this sentiment is captured best by the poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik, the national poet of Israel, in his poem, "After My Death":
"After my death, mourn for me this way: There was a man, and see-he is no more.
This man died before his time. His life's song was stopped in mid-refrain.
It is so very sad; for one more song he had...And see now, the song has perished, His song is lost, gone for good."
Doug you left us many songs, and by them we will always remember you. May your memory be a blessing.