Commentary: We've lost a piece of California gold

A deep sadness has shadowed me concerning the death of Huell Howser.

I am so grateful that Huell was able to hear what I wrote about him a month ago. His assistant called me and said that when he read the piece to Huell, it moved him to tears, and that if he could have talked to me and said so himself, he would have. Hopefully, he was made aware of the tributes to his fine work from others as well.

I knew then that it was only a matter of time before his obituary appeared. Still, the sad news came as a blow to the heart.

I'm heartened by all the people who have written kindly about Huell. It's remarkable how many comments online his death has generated. He touched so many people for so many years.

He was an institution in Los Angeles, as much as Vin Scully is, and Chick Hearn and Ralph Story were.

He is one of those famous people who while you may never have known him personally, you felt that you did know him. That's why his death is like a death in one's family. It is difficult to imagine life without him.

And what a shame that he wasn't able to say "goodbye" to his audience in a way that he wanted to.

The only good that comes out of a death like this is that it serves as a reminder to all of us that life is fragile. None of us knows how many days we have to live. The cliché of living each day fully, as a gift, resonates strongly.

How ironic that the man who would end each "California's Gold" introduction with the words "in search of California's Gold" was as precious as the people and places he invited viewers to get to know.

In a time when ugliness permeates the airwaves, Huell brought us real stories about real people, mainly because he was a real person himself. Yes, we can still watch his programs, and, in that regard, his legacy lives on. Still, a piece of California's gold has forever been lost.

BRIAN CROSBY, who writes a regular column for Times Community News, North, is the author of "Smart Kids, Bad Schools and the $100,000 Teacher." He can be reached at

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