Ronnie Walker, manager of CLARE Foundation’s Detox/Primary Program in Santa Monica and a CLARE employee for five years, died in a motorcycle accident on Tuesday, July 4th.
Walker, 41, was killed at 3:19 p.m. at Slauson and Shenandoah Avenue in Los Angeles, near his home. His 25-year-old passenger was fatally injured as well.
Though Walker did not live in Santa Monica, where CLARE is located, it seemed to be his home, as so much of his time was spent there, said a CLARE official.
“He poured his soul into working here,” said Lacey Von Deak, communications and donor relations coordinator at CLARE.
“You can’t replace a guy like Ronnie,” said David Rolston, director of programs for CLARE.
CLARE — a nonprofit organization started in the late 1960s — provides services to people seeking recovery from alcohol and substance abuse in the area.
Today, CLARE has 11 residential, outpatient and community-based programs in Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City and Los Angeles, and provides services to all those seeking recovery from alcoholism and substance abuse.
As manager of the Detox/Primary Program at CLARE, Walker had personally trained as many as a third of CLARE’s counselors over the past two years.
“He had a tremendous amount of integrity,” Rolston said. “He was one of the most honest people I’ve met. He had a way of really listening to what people were saying. When you were talking to him, you felt like the only person in the room.”
Walker had an understanding of the issues that faced many walking through CLARE’s doors, as he had had his own personal history and struggle with drug abuse.
At the time of his death, Walker had been sober from drugs for a little over ten years, Rolston said.
“He had transformed his own life from one filled with the despair of drug abuse to one brimming with a mission of healing,” Von Deak said. “He then dedicated his life to helping others transform theirs.”
Walker believed that no one should be punished for a life of bad choices and he had a joyful disposition, Von Deak said.
“He was always so happy and pleasant,” Rolston said. “He was just a wonderful person and one of the happiest people I’ve ever met.”
When Walker first came on board with CLARE in 2001, he was a counselor in the Detox/Primary Program. When he got the job, he simultaneously enrolled in the UCLA Drug and Alcohol Counseling Certification program, Von Deak said.
After a year as a counselor in the Detox/Primary program, Walker became a counselor at CLARE’s Men’s Recovery Home, where he handled a permanent caseload of 12 to 15 clients.
Two years ago, Walker was asked to take on the management responsibilities for the Detox/Primary Program, but “never lost sight of who he was” or his past struggles with drug addiction, Rolston said.
Of Walker’s passing, Rolston said it gets a little bit better every day.
“We’re always going to miss him,” Rolston said. “I’m going to miss him terribly.”
“It’s no exaggeration to say that Ronnie’s encouragement and example touched thousands of lives here on the Westside,” Von Deak said.
Ronnie is survived by his mother and stepfather, Philip and Judy Xanthos; a son, Ronald Walker Jr.; brother, Raymond Walker; stepbrother and stepsister, Darren Xanthos and Deanna Brauer; and his fiancÈe, Sheila Monsod.
Memorial donations may be made to CLARE Foundation, 909 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica 90404. Information, (310) 314-6246 or http://www.clarefoun dation.org/