A Stunned Goodbye to Jon Moncrief

The game goes on. The Bruins and Lightning are playing right now, in fact.

But sometimes, that just doesn’t make any sense. Like now.

I just learned that my fellow writer, LA Examiner writer Jon Moncrief, died on Thursday of a coronary embolism.

Jon had an episode of ill health late in the regular season, a blot clot in the lung that put him in the hospital for most of a week. He got back to it, though, attending the last few games of the season, and the Kings’ playoff contests.

Part of what we did up there during intermission was give him the gears, awarding him a goalie mask (he’d fallen and busted his nose in the blood clot incident) and my invention, an “airbag shirt.” I’m proud to say that he loved these barbs, his huge smiles and hearty laughs telling us that he knew we loved him, too, and were worried about him.

You can see pictures of that day, and read a really lovely tribute by Gann Matsuda, here…

Moncrief has been an important part of the local sports scene, and my life. I’m happy to think back to the day he came to a college creative writing class I was teaching, last fall. ┬áIt was to be a one-hour appearance in a three-hour class. But my students so took to Jon that they asked him questions all afternoon. He told them about the life of the writer, the ups and downs, the truth.

And he made them love him, because he also asked about them, and he listened to their stories before complementing them on their writing ability. Afterwards, he and I had pizza and Cokes. That latter was a staple of his diet, almost an addiction. It gave his friends something else to tease him about.

As a result of his visit, two of the students got jobs at the Examiner themselves, their first steps into the world of professional writing. They will forever owe him this, and a part of whatever careers they forge with their words.

All of that personal stuff aside, Jon was a smart man and an accomplished one. He had a degree from Notre Dame, and he’d written for many outlets, forging a career out of nothing, as writers must.

A true bohemian, though, Moncrief also knew what it was to sacrifice for his craft. He didn’t make a ton of money. He didn’t have the fancy clothes.That didn’t matter to him.

What mattered was telling the story, and he did that well. His work on the Kings (laexaminer.com) was stellar, always researched and detailed. In fact, it’s no stretch to say that in the past two-plus years since he’s been in LA (it seems, happily, like much longer), his stories have put those of every other local writer to shame for the detail and depth of their coverage. Why? Because he cared, about the Kings, about hockey, about his own work.

Without him, we’re all going to have to work harder to inform local fans about the Kings. It’s an example that we will have to sacrifice to follow, but that’s OK — it’s his legacy to the local hockey culture.

And in case you’re wondering — Jon was just 42, hardly old enough to say goodbye.

Jon asked near the end of the regular season whether he could come visit my class again. I’m not teaching that course this semester, but I promised we’d have him out again in the fall.

“Yeah, in the fall,” he’d agreed.

We both took it for granted that it would come. Now I know different. I’m sad. I’m mad. I’m stunned.

LA has lost a luminary. God give you rest, my dear, dear friend.


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