Monday, February 18, 2002

Pasadena gadfly Roy Begley dies
Council's constant critic will be missed
By Becky Oskin
Staff Writer

PASADENA -- Roy Begley, the city's most well-known gadfly, died of a heart attack Saturday night. He was 74.

Begley attended Pasadena City Council meetings for 18 years and ran for mayor in 1999. A conservative Republican, his weekly rants against the Gold Line light rail system, taxation and other perceived government follies earned him the Doo Dah Parade's "Thorny Rose Award" in November, which honors those who have "mastered the art of public annoyance."

Councilman Paul Little, who often disagreed with Begley, said the council's most constant critic will be missed.

"The thing about Roy was he was articulate and good-natured and never personalized things. He was also a nice guy, easy to talk to and friendly," Little said.

Tall and slender, with white hair, Begley was often seen bicycling around town. An advocate for privatizing public transportation, his 1992 44th Assembly District campaign fliers read: "A Vote for Roy Is a Vote for Jitneys," referring to privately owned taxis or mini-buses.

Friends remember Begley for his kind heart, helpfulness and dedication to Pasadena.

Begley and best friend Ray Dashner tackled an ongoing Arroyo Seco cleanup project just last week, Dashner said. Begley also led tours at the Pasadena Historical Museum and was coordinator for the Pasadena Republican Central Committee.

"He was a retired businessman, but in his retirement he was busier than ever," Dashner said.

Known for a strong singing voice, Begley would sometimes break into song or recite original poetry during his council comments. He regaled Historical Museum visitors with "Over the Rainbow" during tours and created a humorous impersonation of Gen. George Patton.

Dashner said Begley was also a history and literature expert with an amazing memory.

"One day while we were on the freeway I said 'Roy, I'm going to give you two words and you tell me what's next.' The two words were 'Twas brillig.' He then recited everything that follows as it's written in the book, 'Alice in Wonderland.' The man was a genius," Dashner said.

Begley's supporters hope to observe a three-minute silence at the next council meeting. Friend Robin Salzer also wants an honorary plaque on the council chamber podium.

"Nobody has ever been in front of that podium more than Roy Begley. It is fitting and just that they name it the 'Roy Begley podium'," Salzer said.

Born in Halifax, England, Begley served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, flying Spitfires over central Africa. He left England in the early 1950s for Canada, then moved to Pasadena in 1959. In a 1989 Star-News interview, Begley said he sold cars for a living, earning $700 a week in 1962 and "living the life of Riley."

Begley is survived by several children. His nearest son, Dermot Begley of Altadena, could not be reached for comment.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

-- Becky Oskin can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4451, or by e-mail at