Ron Rogers, a public relations executive who was influential in L.A. civic affairs, died Friday from respiratory complications related to cancer. He was 72.
A Los Angeles native and the son of Hollywood public relations giant Henry Rogers, the younger Rogers formed his own firm in 1978 and built it into a prominent force in corporate branding and behind-the-scenes crisis management. He helped shape the images of well-known brands including Coca-Cola, Honda and Kellogg's.
Outside of work, Rogers was involved in several organizations, using his influence and understanding of the news media to bring attention and raise funds for their issues.
"He felt everyone has an obligation to give back something, to contribute to their community. It sounds trite, but that's how he really felt," said Mickey Kantor, a prominent attorney and friend.
Shortly after he opened his firm, for example, the little-known Rape Treatment Center at UCLA-Santa Monica Hospital turned to Rogers for public relations help. It was the start of a decades-long relationship for the group and Rogers, who sat on its board of directors.
Gail Abarbanel, the center's founder and director, credited Rogers with having a significant hand in drawing the nation's attention to the realities of rape, beginning at a time when the crime and its victims were rarely discussed or acknowledged. National media campaigns orchestrated by Rogers spotlighted, among other issues, outdated rape laws that required victims to prove they resisted their attackers and how common it was for victims to know the person who raped them.
"He realized early on that the secrecy surrounding rape was helping to perpetuate it," Abarbanel said. "He was instrumental in giving victims a voice."
Rogers was also interested in police work. He helped launch the Los Angeles Police Foundation, which raises funds for the LAPD. After seeing what the foundation did for the Police Department, LAFD officials persuaded him to help start a similar group for firefighters.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Rogers was a longtime friend and sometime professional advisor. He called him "unique" and credited him with building the police foundation from scratch.
"He was probably the most genteel and generous person that I know," Beck said. "I meet a lot of people, and ... you know, he was real genuine."
Rogers was, at heart, a cowboy, said his wife, Lisa Specht.
Rogers was born Sept. 19, 1943. He rode in rodeos in his late teens. He and Specht bought a 1,500-acre cattle ranch along the western slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. He led the yearly drives of his large herd of cattle until the cancer made it too arduous. He also built chicken coops and landscaped the expanse, helping to plant hundreds of trees — cottonwood, aspens, pines. Rogers died at the ranch.
"This is the place he loved," Specht said.
Times staff writer Jill Leovy contributed to this report.