I don’t think anyone loved Fountain Hills as much as L. Alan Cruikshank.
Obviously a very subjective statement and perhaps open to debate among the many folks who have devoted so much of their time to this community, but Alan saw it from the very beginning and never questioned his own loyalty.
He clearly bought into a vision of making Fountain Hills a gleaming beacon on the hill, lighting the way for residents and businesspeople to enjoy life at any level – from newborn infants to the frail elderly. He saw Fountain Hills as a true “home” to all walks of life.
Alan did this in two ways – personally and professionally.
He believed in citizens pitching in where they could. He personally chaired more committees and helped organize more efforts in Fountain Hills than virtually anyone else I can think of (and I’ve worked/lived here for nearly four decades). From the Chamber of Commerce to dressing as Santa and landing in a helicopter, he never stopped giving back to the town he loved until the effects of Parkinson’s disease forced him to cut back. And we can’t forget the River of Time Museum, of course, named in his honor due to his leadership, vision and ambition.
His other passion was the newspaper and using that instrument as a means to connect people, to create community and to spread goodwill. He loved nothing more than running great feature stories about people and their passions, about the business community, about Johnny making the honor roll and Sally earning a sports trophy. Long before the internet, there was “refrigerator art” – people clipping stories and photos from the paper and putting them on the fridge.
While he knew it was a newspaperman’s responsibility to publish the negative news as well, it tore him up inside to report on the political bickering, the bad stuff happening, the trauma and drama of everyday life. He didn’t wear rose-colored glasses, but he sure tried hard to get along with everyone while fostering an atmosphere of respect and positivity. He wanted Fountain Hills to be excellent in all areas – education, growth, the business community, families, sports, self-government, etc. He rarely turned anyone away who was seeking a donation of some type for a good cause.
Having worked alongside him for 32 years, I can’t say we always agreed on all the issues and how everything was handled with the paper. Can’t say he always gave me great reviews. But hey, we always seemed to work it out and he didn’t fire me in those 32 years, so I must have been doing a few things right! He truly served as an inspiration, however, for me to get involved over the decades with such diverse things as coaching youth sports, to Sister Cities and Kiwanis, to the drug prevention coalition and even to winning a seat on the Town Council. Neither of us liked those folks who complained about everything but never did anything to make it better. He was a “doer” and a man of action.
I was so nervous that day I strode into his office late on a Tuesday afternoon (the paper was already put to bed) and told him I was leaving the paper to start a second career. After working alongside someone for that long, it’s difficult to take a different direction in life. And of course we had shared so much of our lives together – the good, the bad and the ugly. The happy (and sad) travails of life and work cannot be escaped in a small office…
Back in the ‘80s, after I first started as a young reporter totally green around the ears, sometimes I’d stop by Alan’s house after a contentious Road District meeting late on a Monday night to share a beer and update him on all the BS that went on at the meeting. He was always encouraging and positive, steering me in the right direction on how to write it all up. Seems like eons ago!
Besides his passion for all things Fountain Hills and the newspaper, his true bravery shined when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He fought it to the bitter end – doing everything in his power and even outside of his power to stave off the terrible and debilitating effects of this disease. One might even dare say he was a stubborn guy, but that stubbornness proved beneficial as he dutifully did exercises, cupping, medications, massages, voice exercises, acupuncture, brain implants and who knows what else to fight the disease that has no cure.
After word got out about his passing, a quick perusal of Facebook showed how much he was loved and admired by many. Accolades included such words as great, pillar of the community, legend, amazing, legacy, gentle wisdom, kind, generous, incredible, dear friend, Elvis, treasure, leader and on and on…
So, it was truly an honor and an inspiration to work, play and live alongside the man. And the legend. Fountain Hills is assuredly a much better place today because of L. Alan Cruikshank and all that he did for the community. Elvis will always be in the house!