Casualties, Natural

Santa Monica Promenade Mourns Loss of Beloved Regular

Santa Monica Lookout

December 5, 2014 – A public memorial service for Brandon Cramer, an autistic Santa Monica resident who was a beloved fixture on the Third Street Promenade, will be held this Sunday at 10 a.m. in front of Barney’s Beanery.

Cramer, who touched countless lives with a helping hand and ready smile, died in his sleep November 24 at his residence at the age of 41. No cause of death has been given.

Brandon Cramer was a popular patron of the Third Street Promenade, beloved by merchants, police, firefighters and visitors alike. Photo provided by Jerry Rubin.
“He tried so hard in many ways to help people and befriended so many people,” said peace activist Jerry Rubin, a close friend who runs a business selling activist stickers on the Promenade. “He helped out and pitched in any way he could.

“He was almost like an honorary deputy,” Rubin, who organized the memorial, said. “For the last few days, I look down the street and expect him to walk up to my table.”

As a youth, Cramer was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with limited and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. He also suffered from epilepsy.

An emotional Rubin described Cramer as having a great sense of humor, always helpful and respectful and one of the biggest Clippers fans in the world.

“He always wore a Clippers hat,” Rubin said. “He loved the Clippers and despised (ousted owner) Donald Sterling. You could not have a more ardent Clippers fan than Brandon Cramer.”

Cramer loved the Promenade, befriending and running errands for many of the shop owners, cart vendors and street performers, those who knew him said.

“He’s always been a ray of sunshine, always glad to talk about the Clippers and always happy,” said Adrian Campos, manager of the Barney’s Beanery. “Everyone here is just saddened by his loss.

“He wasn’t an employee, but he loved to help out by collecting all the menus and bringing them back to the hostess,” Campos added. “He was a great person, and we will all miss him.”

Cramer also frequented the neighboring Jewel Shop, run by longtime owner Tony Ayoub.

“I’m still in shock: I can’t believe he just vanished just like that,” said Ayoub, who was a close friend of Cramer. “It was sad news. That kid had a special place in my heart and the heart of my family and the merchants of Third Street Promenade.

“I knew Brandon for some years and he grew on our family,” Ayoud added. “He was an adorable kid and lovable and was a fixture here in Third Street Promenade.”

Cramer was not only known to Promenade regulars, but to those who visited the popular outdoor venue.

“The vendors we deal with all knew him on a personal level, and they would always talk to him and say hi,” Ayoub said. “A couple of days ago, one of the salespeople came and when he heard the news, almost burst into tears. When his boss from New Jersey heard the news, he personally called to offer his condolences.

“I think he’s in a better world now,” Ayoub added. “He is with angels because he was an angel. He was a good person, and I will miss him.”

The national news agency Al Jazeera America plans to cover the memorial for Cramer, who was the subject of one of its news reports on the growing number of autistic adults living on their own.

Cramer is survived by his brother Matt, his mother Amalia Starr — a motivational speaker who wrote a book about her son’s Asperger syndrome diagnosis and the challenges of raising a child with the disorder — and the entire Third Street Promenade family.

“The promenade was Brandon’s world, and that’s where he always was” Rubin said. “He loved it; he loved talking to people, he loved going to the shop and he just loved being a part of the Promenade.”

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