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Jonathan Aurthur, 56; Wrote Book on Son's Suicide, Later Took His Own Life

December 11, 2004|Martha Groves | Times Staff Writer

An initial search turned up nothing, but on Nov. 29 searchers found Aurthur's body on rocky ground amid shrubbery in or near the San Gabriel River. He had plunged about 500 feet, sustaining massive head injuries and fractures.

Tom Rankin of Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center in Culver City, which offers a program for friends and relatives of people who die by suicide, said each person who commits suicide leaves behind about six "survivors." Those survivors are "certainly at increased risk for suicide" themselves, he said.

"We had so many resources available to Jonathan if he had been able to reach out," Rankin said.

Jonathan Aurthur was born in New York City on June 15, 1948. He was the son of the late Robert Alan Aurthur and Virginia Aurthur, former residents of East Hampton, Long Island. His father, a television and film screenwriter who was coauthor and producer of the 1979 film "All That Jazz," died of lung cancer, also at 56.

Aurthur attended St. John's College in Annapolis, Md., and UCLA, where he studied film. From the late 1960s through the early 1980s, he worked as a community organizer and documentary filmmaker. His ex-wife, Elinor, said they met in 1969 at a planning meeting for a group seeking to prevent the overdevelopment of Venice. Together, they got involved in Los Angeles Newsreel, a group that produced and showed political documentary films about the Black Panthers, Vietnam and Cuba.

Known for his leftist leanings, Aurthur also edited a journal of political theory called Appeal to Reason and wrote a book on political economy called "Socialism in the Soviet Union."

In a 2001 paper, he criticized the city and state governments for providing hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to Playa Vista even though its developers were providing what he considered a paltry amount of truly affordable family housing.

He is survived by his daughter, Jenny; a brother, Tim; and two sisters, Gretchen and Kate. Donations in Aurthur's memory may be made to the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, Box 5623, Playa del Rey, CA 90296.

The trust plans to hold a memorial at 10 a.m. today along the Ballona Creek bike path just east of Lincoln Boulevard. The family has scheduled a memorial service for 6 p.m. Sunday at Unitarian Universalist Community Church, 1260 18th St., Santa Monica.

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