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Orlando people who died in 2011

Local notables we lost

Photo: Illustrations by Andew Spear, License: N/A

Illustrations by Andew Spear

He was filling in as bassist for Thomas Wynn & the Believers that night – a pick-up gig. During a set break, Ralph and other members of the group were approached outside the club by an armed thug bent on robbery. A shot was fired; Ralph was killed.

As a bassist, guitarist, producer and all-around artist, Ralph had few equals. The man was a catalyst for some of the best music to ever come out of Central Florida. He was the sort of artist who elevated those that played with him – you didn’t want to fuck up when you played with Ralph, didn’t want to disappoint him. His sly smile and approving nod were tokens of validation for other musicians. If Ralph dug what you were doing, you knew it was good.

When musicians die young, it’s often due to their own misadventures and we’re allowed to ease our grief by harboring some anger towards them, but with Ralph, we didn’t even get that small consolation. He was simply taken from us – abruptly and inexplicably. Four months later, it still doesn’t seem real.

In life, Ralph brought out the best in his fellow musicians, but in death he galvanized the entire music scene. The RalphFest tribute concert was easily the musical highlight of the year. More than 2,000 people crowded onto Pine Street to play, eat, drink, laugh and share stories of the quick-witted and charming man who had touched many of our lives. Farewell, Ralph. The pain of your loss is only surpassed by the joy of having known you. – Jeff Nolan

Kelly Fitzpatrick

Orlando Sentinel nightlife columnist

The hip peg in the Orlando Sentinel’s square hole, nightlife columnist Kelly Fitzpatrick died suddenly at age 36 on September 23. Her career in journalism spanned 15 years; starting as a copy clerk she rose to become one of the most recognizable voices at the paper.

One of her most under-appreciated roles was as an advocate for the future of journalism. A passionate writer from a young age, Fitzpatrick helped push the Sentinel into modernity, fighting for more online content and becoming an editor for the paper’s entertainment website, Orlando CityBeat, which earned two EPPY awards from Editor & Publisher magazine (for media-affiliated websites) in its first year.

Kelly was instrumental in shepherding original voices and topics. She served as editor to both this writer and OW’s Bao Le-Huu before CityBeat became Orlando Metromix. She believed strongly in the written word’s power to persuade and engage, and thought that newspapers should be a forum for their communities, rather than a stodgy formality.

And it was as much this belief as it was her love of quality boozing that led to her most prominent post as spokesperson for good times in Orlando. At a paper eager to Disney-fy this whole town, she stood for the reality of what Orlando is and could be. Her column in the paper’s calendar section and her blog, Last Call, was frequently a coded lament for the days of innovative, independent bars and clubs the likes of the Kit Kat Club and Go Lounge. Her writing on the closing of the first Will’s Pub was as passionate as coverage of a shuttle disaster.

More a social animal than party girl, Fitzpatrick was able to accurately identify the audience for every gin joint she visited, whether it was her speed or not. Just as accurately, her praise and criticisms could often predict the likely success of a venture within a rent payment or two. She wasn’t above vociferously attacking inattentive waitstaff and overpriced anything. Alternately, she was vocal and generous in her support of the places she did enjoy. Chances are, if you’ve set foot in any of the watering holes that have survived in the last 10 years, you’ve heard her laugh and that last fading trace of the Bronx/New Jersey accent she carried from childhood. It’s a sound whose absence will be missed for years to come. – Trevor Fraser

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