Times founder and president L. Alan Cruikshank passes away

Dec 1, 2022

L. Alan Cruikshank was born in Oklahoma July 18, 1947, to Leslie and Joyce Cruikshank. He passed away on Oct. 30, 2022, in Las Vegas. Between those dates, he lived nearly all his life in the Phoenix area. He graduated from West High School in Phoenix in 1965, where he was an athlete, winning numerous ribbons for participation in relay events.

Alan graduated from Arizona State University, and his first professional venture was starting a state-wide sports magazine, Arizona Sports Digest. He was hired on as a copy writer for an advertising agency where McCulloch Properties was a client. McCulloch was just beginning a new residential development venture in the Phoenix area, Fountain Hills, and Alan was assigned to that job.

He recalled his first day on the job for the 45th Anniversary edition of The Fountain Hills Times in 2019.

“Randy Wood, son of the community’s co-founder C.V. Wood, drove me out here to see the initial work going on,” Alan wrote. “They were grading the Fountain Park and roughing in the roads. Roughing it was right. I was glad he was driving a four-wheel drive Jeep. We stopped at the old ranch house, which was used by Trico engineering as their office for that early site work. I went to walk through the doorway when the sight of four dead rattlesnakes stopped me dead in my tracks.

“‘That’s how many we found today,’ said one of the grader drivers.

“‘Welcome to Fountain Hills,’ I thought.”

That was his indoctrination to the community that would shape the rest of his life. Over the next couple of years, Alan would travel around the West to other McCulloch communities for the ad agency — Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and Pueblo West in Colorado among those — and he would see newspapers telling the story of these new communities and thought, why not for Fountain Hills?

Alan and Arthur Hewitt, an old-school newspaper editor in Los Angeles turned executive for the advertising agency, left the agency and started The Times of Fountain Hills (later becoming The Fountain Hills Times). The first edition was June 27, 1974.


Alan had a very specific philosophy for his local newspaper. He would refer to it as “refrigerator journalism,” the type of local news parents and grandparents would clip out and hang on the refrigerator, kind of like a large scrapbook in the kitchen. It would feature the local sports achievements, club news, activity calendars and of course photos of the kids and families, which Alan loved to feature large on the front page.

He would feature the ideas and aspirations of local residents, with many turning into community traditions that have stood the test of time. Local residents came up with the idea of an art show in Fountain Park, an idea the Chamber of Commerce would eventually turn into not just one, but two annual Fountain Festivals of Fine Arts and Crafts events that now draw hundreds of artists from all over the country and hundreds of thousands of visitors over three-day runs in November and February.

For the 10th anniversary of the community, the idea was presented for White Castle Day, a celebration of a favorite fast-food franchise in the Midwest where many Fountain Hills residents originated. It resulted in the world’s largest take-out order of burgers to the world’s tallest fountain.

Alan loved Fountain Park and the people and events it would attract, like Clayton Moore, TV’s Lone Ranger, who accompanied the White Castle order into town.

The park featured many performances in the early years, and some of Alan’s favorites were Count Basie, Arthur Fiedler and the “most trusted man in America,” Walter Cronkite, performing a Lincoln reading to patriotic music performed by the Phoenix Symphony with the late Andre Kostelanetz as guest conductor. Alan himself had the opportunity to conduct the Phoenix Symphony in the park at a later time.

“There are all the good things you accomplish with a newspaper, like finding lost pets for people or running a story about a family in need of help and watching the outpouring of generosity by the town’s people,” Alan said.

Alan has said he never really enjoys covering controversy, but The Times has never shied away from it, either.

“It really bothers me when people get personal with their negative comments over some public issue,” he wrote.

Alan recalled that in 1986, a group of residents approached him about running for Congress. He said he thought about it over a long weekend and gave them a hard pass. He felt the time it would take to do the proper job would take away too much from his family.

Alan would lose sleep over concern about the right way to handle coverage of some sensitive stories. The crumbling of the road districts and the town take-over of the fire district, along with the gaming stand-off at Fort McDowell, were among the most contentious stories The Times has covered, but Alan made sure the coverage was complete and fair.

There has been some violence in the community, and that was difficult for Alan. A young woman stood trial and was convicted of murdering her boyfriend over a love triangle. And one of the most difficult was the murder of Julie Patterson, a vivacious young woman who had become a force in civic activity in Fountain Hills. She was killed in her home just a couple of doors away from where Alan and his family lived. Her murder, over 30 years ago, was never solved.

“I’m still sick that the investigations have turned up virtually nothing in the [Patterson] case,” Alan wrote.


“Through the years, I have been very involved on a volunteer basis, and my company has contributed financially to many clubs, organizations and causes,” Alan wrote in 2019. “I feel my volunteer efforts are one way in which I can give something back to the community that has provided me and my family a comfortable lifestyle.”

Alan had fun doing his popular Elvis Presley impersonation for fundraisers over a number of years. His Elvis had quite a local following and is something people still miss.

For eight years, Alan would dress up as Santa Claus, climb into a helicopter the day after Thanksgiving and be dropped off at the Village Bazaar to greet children and listen to their Christmas wishes.

Alan became an icon in the community, taking an active role in civic engagement. His volunteer efforts led to the establishment of the River of Time Museum, which now bears his name as the L. Alan Cruikshank River of Time Museum & Exploration Center. The museum’s efforts led to the Fountain Hills & Lower Verde Valley Historical Society.

Cherie Koss, executive director for the museum, issued a statement regarding Alan’s passing.

“We at the L. Alan Cruikshank River of Time Museum & Exploration Center are saddened to hear of the passing of our founder and namesake.

“We are so very proud to be a part of this great man’s legacy, and we will continue to follow his dreams of growing the River of Time into a premier Fountain Hills destination.

“It has been an honor to have Mr. Cruikshank’s guidance and support from the founding of the organization in 1991 to just last week when we met to design a new exhibit. We know that he will be an angel on our shoulder continuing to guide us.”

Alan was active in the early Chamber of Commerce, serving three terms as president.

“On behalf of the board, staff and Chamber community, our deepest sympathy and unwavering support for Brent Cruikshank, the Cruikshank family and the staff at The Times for the loss of Alan Cruikshank,” Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Betsy LaVoie said. “We all wish you peace, comfort and courage during this time of sorrow. Our hearts go out to you during this very difficult time.

“Alan was the driving force for many of the entities that are in place in our Town today and will be greatly missed. His service to the Chamber's Board of Directors was an invaluable asset during the mid to late ‘80s to build the solid infrastructure of our organization. Alan was always a supporter of the Chamber of Commerce, with The Times being one of the founding first 15 businesses to create the Chamber in 1974. We are very saddened for the loss, and Alan's legacy will live on in our town.”

Alan led the committee to establish Fountain Hills Sister Cities at the request of then Mayor Jerry Miles. He was honored as Fountain Hills Citizen of the Year, Fountain Hills Businessperson of the Year on more than one occasion, and was recipient of the Fountain Hills Humanitarian Award, Fountain Hills Champions Award and Commitment to Community Award. He was inducted into the Lower Verde Valley Hall of Fame with the initial class in 2004.

Alan was always willing to help out in the kitchen if it was for a worthy cause. Fountain Hills’ original Town Clerk/Director of Administration and former Council member Cassie Hansen remembers this aspect of Alan.

“When Bruce and I moved to Fountain Hills in 1989, Alan was one of the first people we met — most likely because he was everywhere we went! It soon became clear that there was a common denominator between Alan and Bruce — commitment to the community, finding solutions to challenges and the apparent inability to say no,” Hansen said. “One of the early 1990 examples that comes to mind is when another community-minded business owner, Joyce Szeliga from Que Bueno, thought it would be a worthy effort to provide and prepare a holiday dinner for the kids from the Thomas Pappas School for homeless kids. She and husband, Jim, provided the meal featuring prime rib, but needed a location and volunteers to prepare the dinner. Enter Alan and Bruce, who filled that need. Because of his affiliation with the Men’s Club, Alan secured that facility and their great kitchen. Bruce, who never shied away from preparing food for large groups, was ready to roll. The two of them in that kitchen made epicurean magic for a group of very appreciative kids and a bond that lasted through the years.

“I was lucky enough to be a part of the ‘guys,’ always behind the scenes to serve the pasta, slop the sauce, serve the kids, take pictures and fill in the holes. One of my greatest honors was to be asked to provide a tribute to Alan at the first major fundraiser in the new Community Center’s four ballrooms for the newly bond-approved museum.”

Alan was also honored by his professional peers through his career. He served on the board of directors for both the Arizona Newspaper Association (ANA) and the National Newspaper Association (NNA) and served as president of the state organization. He was inducted into the Arizona Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2003, and the NNA established the Cruikshank Scholars program at the University of Missouri School of Mass Communications (2004).

In 2013, Alan received the James O. Amos Award from the NNA. It is the association’s highest award to a community newspaper person who has provided distinguished service and leadership in the community press industry.

Mayor Ginny Dickey, a resident almost as long as Alan, remembers his impact in guiding the town toward the family community it is today.

“A pioneer in every sense, Alan Cruikshank leaves a legacy forming the very foundation of our community,” Dickey said. “It’s easy to remember his contributions with The Times — the journalistic awards and how he presented our beautiful hometown — and the fun of Elvis complete with tossing scarves to swooning fans! But imagine the behind-the-scenes late nights, errands and meetings in all manner of service to others. Sharing his own health journey so that readers could learn more, and fear less, was generous and helpful.

“I wish for peace and comfort to Alan’s family, with gratitude from The Town of Fountain Hills.”

Alan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1995, and it never once slowed him down with his civic and professional efforts. He shared his journey with the disease with readers and found common ground with many on the same path.

He willingly, even enthusiastically, underwent a relatively new procedure at the time for treatment — deep brain stimulation. It improved his life and allowed him to continue sharing up until the time he passed.

Alan is survived by his wife, Diane; son, Brent, and his wife, Gina, and their son, Michael; daughter, Holly Ireland and husband, Bruce, their children, Brooke and Addy; daughter, Tammy LaBanca and her husband, Brandon, and their children, Brandon, Brody, Brylee, Brielle; daughter, Dani Cordaro and her son, Hunter; daughter Toni Yenglin and her husband, Jason and their son, Camden; his mother, Joyce Cruikshank; and sister-in-law, Linda Cruikshank. He was predeceased by his father, Leslie, and brother, Steve.

The family is planning a celebration of life to honor Alan at a later date, to be announced.