Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007 | As a member of a small, but highly appreciative group of readers of Lionel Van Deerlin’s Union-Tribune columns here in the East, I would like to join others in rallying round this veteran pundit while current concern is being widely expressed about reports of pending staff layoffs. Van’s weekly column consistently dispenses stories drawn from his inexhaustible memory of colorful California public figures and events. Although he can be a gadfly, delivering barbs with wry wit, he always writes with a civil pen. Recently we found he can also wield a gentle pen eloquently. Van’s light-hearted and lovely paean to his late wife resonated strongly with fellow members of a bereavement group with whom I shared it. I am convinced that this sensitive essay should endure in archives of journalistic prose as a model obituary. I hope his words, gentle or edgy, continue to flow.