Anyone who knows the Pasadena Weekly staff knows that it has an unusually strong connection among its members, with many people working here for more than a decade. But the bond formed between former employees Greg Critser and Antoinette Mongelli was particularly strong.
They married in 1985 and remained together until Critser’s death Saturday at age 63 from gioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. One of the founding members of the Weekly, Critser later became a successful writer of nonfiction books on a wide variety of medical issues — a skill tied to his innate curiosity about life.
“He was the smartest, funniest person I know with wide ranging interests from music to art to travel, cooking, family, friends,” said Mongelli. “He had just an insatiable appetite for almost everything. He spoke three languages — German, Japanese and Italian— which he called the Axis of Evil equivalent for World War II.
“He started a lot of writers’ careers, but being a magazine editor in Los Angeles is a hard life since it’s not sustainable,” added Mongelli. “He loved writing, he was born to write, was writing since he was 5 years old because it gave him an option to be curious about almost anything.”
Mongelli also noted that Critser loved finding “the quirkiest things to do whenever we traveled,” and played drums, guitar and mandolin in addition to being “an amazing cook.” His award-winning bestsellers about medical issues included “Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World,” which explored the relationship between the rise of fast food corporations and increasing portion sizes in the American diet, along with misguided government policies and poor nutritional education in schools.
Critser was born in 1954 in Steubenville, Ohio. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Occidental College in Eagle Rock in 1980 and a master’s degree in history from UCLA in 1982.
Critser also authored “Generation Rx: How Prescription Drugs Are Altering American Minds, Lives and Bodies,” about the pharmaceutical industry and its interaction with the American public. He later collaborated with personal trainer Bob Harper on a series of weight-loss and exercise books, including “The Skinny Rules” (2012), “Jumpstart to Skinny” (2013) and “Skinny Habits” (2015).
A prominent reporter and editor for several Southern California publications, Critser’s work also regularly graced the pages of such national publications as The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harper’s. He helped launch the careers of many California writers, including Sandra Tsing Loh, Richard Street and Jessica Yu, and recently taught science writing at Caltech and USC.
“He was one of the original team of staff writers when the paper was founded, staff from the beginning, and was integral to the hard news side of the early Pasadena Weekly,” recalled Larry Wilson, a fellow founding staff member who now is editor of the Pasadena Star-News. “Greg was a wonderful reporter first and then a writer, and in later life was one of the few people I know of who had a really successful career writing nonfiction books for a general audience about medicine and health-related issues came out of personal experiences.
“He was one of the few generalist reporters in LA who out of his own curiosity developed his own body of scientific knowledge from a liberal arts perspective about how the body works, gets fat and undepressed and how gerontologists extend the lifespan in his books,” Wilson continued. “He was a wonderful person and a wonderful journalist.”
A memorial service will be held at Occidental College at a later date.