Ray Patricio. 1999 file photo. (Daily Breeze staff photo)


Dubbed a "longshoreman philosopher" by one of his daughters, Ray Patricio loved kids and animals, and long championed the cause of preserving San Pedro's Peck Park Canyon. 

Patricio died Monday, a month after his 89th birthday, while sitting on the porch of his home on the canyon's rim. 

"He was the salt of the earth," said his daughter Frances Thurston. "You always knew what he thought. He had no hidden agenda."
A big man who could bring the house down with his sometimes cutting comments at public meetings, Patricio spent his childhood wandering the wilderness ravines of northwest San Pedro. 

In his later years, the canyon would become Patricio's passion as he fought city hall to bring in herds of goats for grazing and pushed for trail improvements. 

The goat program was ended over Patricio's protests, earning him the nickname of San Pedro's "Goat Man." 

But last year, Patricio presided over the opening of a $4.8 million hiking-trails upgrade that grew out of a proposal he'd been pushing through petition signatures since 1999 after the canyon had fallen into disrepair and was even considered dangerous. 

"To hell with computers, come down to nature," Patricio said at the May 7, 2011, opening attended by city officials. 

Thanks to Patricio's vision and determination, the canyon now offers residents and their children three miles of cultivated hiking trails, foot bridges, benches and educational signs. 

Born July 1, 1923, in Sausalito, Patricio was 6 years old when his family moved south to San Pedro. 

He grew up playing in the chaparral-covered canyons, then teeming with wildlife and even cattle from the nearby dairies. 

Patricio attended Barton Hill Elementary School, Dana Junior High and San Pedro High School. He fought in the Pacific front as part of the 389th AAA Battalion in World War II, receiving numerous medals, including the Soldier's Medal for saving the life of a fellow soldier. 

When he returned to San Pedro, Patricio met and married Lola Christina Thomas in 1947 and raised six children during their 53-year marriage. She died in 2000. 

He began working as a longshoreman in 1948, retiring in 1988, and he also coached at Holy Trinity School for 28 years. 

"He mentored countless kids at Holy Trinity," Thurston said. "He worked as a longshoreman at night and coached at Holy Trinity during the day. We used to wonder how he got so much done."
Patricio also knew San Pedro history like few others.
"People would call him up to settle arguments" about the town's past, Thurston said. 

In recent years, Patricio was active with the Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council and the Peck Park Advisory Board.
When Patricio rose to speak during some of the community's public meetings, everyone listened. His remarks were often met with laughter. 

At a January 2007 meeting that rolled out a much scaled-back - and almost universally unpopular - version of the port's waterfront plans, Patricio had this to say: "Some people have dreams, but it looks like someone had a nightmare here." 

"He wouldn't hold back," Thurston said. "He would say what he thought. I'd try to clue him in on politically correct speech, but I gave up. He could get away with things because everyone knew he had a good heart." 

In his spare time since retiring, he loved to shoot the breeze with friends at Canetti's Seafood Grotto before it closed and, most recently, at the Sacred Grounds coffee house in downtown San Pedro. 

A "macho man," Patricio was "a sweetheart of a father," Thurston said, the kind of guy who easily got away with calling waitresses "honey." 

His primary motivation, she said, was in making life better for children and making sure a piece of San Pedro's rural past survived for future generations. 

"He's always loved animals and he'd tell me that children in San Pedro don't have the opportunity to be involved in nature," said Thurston, who came from Santa Cruz to help care for her father at home in his last year of life. 

He'd hoped to someday see a resident herd of goats grazing in the canyon - and perhaps a petting zoo, as well.
Patricio shattered his femur in a fall last October and had been confined to a wheelchair since then, she said. 

But he was able to return to his home, shaded by eucalyptus trees where visitors were hard-pressed to remember they were still in the city of Los Angeles. 

The day before he died, Patricio enjoyed the scenery one last time from where he sat out on the porch, his daughter said. The area now is frequently visited by schoolchildren on class field trips.
"It was nice for him to sit on the porch and see people using the trails," Thurston said. "A lot of people use it now." 

He will be buried at Green Hills Memorial Park, where Patricio once tended dairy cattle herds as a youngster.
In addition to Thurston, Patricio is survived by a sister, Lucille Davis; two sons, James and Paul; daughters Catherine Patricio and Raeann Patricio; four grandchildren, and two great-granddaughters.

Services are 1 p.m. Monday at Green Hills Memorial Chapel, 27501 S. Western Ave., Rancho Palos Verdes. Donations in Patricio's memory can be made to the Southern California ILWU Pensioners Fund, 231 W. "C" St., Wilmington, CA 90744.