Robert Lucas Crouch, an obituary


Sub-Lieutenant Crouch
Sub-Lieutenant Crouch, 1954 or 1955

Robert L. Crouch, April 5, 1935 to June 11, 2014

The middle of five brothers raised in the East End of London, Robert Crouch was of the generation that didn’t fight World War II, but was defined by it. As a six-year old boy in the summer of 1940, he stared up in awe at the dogfights raging over London. Refusing to kowtow to the Nazis, the family rode out the Blitz in a bomb shelter dug into their small garden rather than evacuate. Young Robert spent two years’ worth of nights in that bomb shelter early in the war, then another year in it during the V1 and V2 attacks of 1944-1945. Robert’s lifelong regret was not being old enough to have been one of Churchill’s “Few” scourging the Luftwaffe from the skies of England during the Battle of Britain. His cocksure aggressiveness would have perfectly suited the exigencies of single-engine combat.

Vampire Cockpit
Leaving the cockpit of his Vampire

To complete his national service, Robert Crouch joined the Royal Navy as a Jack Tar in 1954, completed basic training, obtained a commission, transferred into the elite flyers of the Fleet Air Arm, and became the only “grammar school boy” to complete the Fleet Air Arm’s first jet training school – a significant accomplishment in the class-conscious Royal Navy. While in the service, he flew the Provost Trainer, the De Havilland Vampire, the Fairey Firefly and Gannet, and the Hawker Sea Fury and won a trophy for flying skill.

Planning a mission in the de Havilland Vampire
Synchronized start
Synchronized start, Fairey Gannet
dad in gannet
Taking off in his Fairey Gannet

After the Navy, Robert competed degrees at the London School of Economics, Northwestern, and UCLA. Back in England in 1966, he ran for Parliament, and immigrated to the United States in the aftermath of defeat. He arrived in Santa Barbara in 1967 and spent the rest of his professional career as a Professor in UCSB’s Department of Economics, where he served for forty years. In economics, Crouch made significant contributions to both academic research and public policy. Notably, he designed the model for the environmental impact report, investigated monetary theory, led a team that evaluated the economic benefits of nationwide groundwater monitoring, and proposed ground-breaking insights into economic theories of human behavior. However, he took far more professional pride in having introduced more than 30,000 students to the principles of economics—and that he taught them as it was, not as proponents of various “-isms” thought it ought to be.

An extraordinarily well-read man of many contradictions with a tremendous breadth of knowledge, Robert Crouch could somehow manage to be simultaneously offensive and generous, and he gleefully shared his encyclopedic knowledge of current affairs, politics, and history. Crouch also never missed the opportunity for a drink. He “held court” in many local watering holes through the years and claimed to value excitement over all other things. He loved risk, would wager on any sport, game, or proposition, and he took great delight in pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior.

As his own mother had said, “My Robert’s not wicked, he’s just naughty.”

And he had a good time doing it.

In recent years

From 1960 to 1979, Robert was married to the late Janet Crouch, and from 1989 to 1997 to Samantha Carrington. He is survived by his brothers Alan, Colin, and Gordon, six nieces and nephews, his son Gregory, and his grandson, Ryan.

A public memorial service will be held in his honor at the Goleta Elks Lodge (150 North Kellogg Avenue, Santa Barbara, CA 93111), where he was a longtime member, on Friday, July 18, at 12 o’clock, noon. His ashes will be interned at the Fleet Air Arm Cemetery in Yeovilton, England, at a private family ceremony. In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to the Smile Train.


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