Friday, July 01, 2005

Clyde Leroy Crawford, Jr., 1919-2005

My grandfather passed away last week after a long, happy, and interesting life. This is the obituary my uncle wrote, which was published in last Sunday's Seattle Times:

Clyde Leroy CRAWFORD, Jr. Clyde was born November 1st, 1919 in Chester, Montana and died June 23rd, 2005 in Seattle. He grew up in Havre, Montana, and attended school there through Junior College. Clyde came west to attend the UW and earned a degree in Chemistry and met his wife Ursula of 61 years. He remained a strong supporter of the UW School of Engineering throughout his life. During World War II he joined the Navy, but was sent to oceanless Tennessee to work at Oak Ridge. After completing his work there he was transferred to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for the remainder of the war. After the war Clyde and Ursula (Sue) returned to Seattle and he ended up working for James Brinkley Company as a mechanical engineer designing pulp and paper mill machinery until retirement. Clyde enjoyed reading, hiking and skiing and the family built a cabin at Alpental to further these activities. Even in his later years Clyde enjoyed going for walks of several miles. Clyde and Sue raised a family of three children (Clyde, Anne and Bruce) and have four grandchildren and one great grandchild so far.

Justin and I have been blessed to have all our grandparents alive, healthy, and happily married to each other well into our adulthood, and I'm glad that the inevitable losses we face are ones we can share. They all have been a model for what we hope our marriage will be.

My dad's parents have always been the epitome of Northwestern WASP-ish reserve, but even into their old age, they were always demonstrably affectionate with one another, making smooching to each other from across the room, calling each other "hon," and sharing everday tasks such as preparing salad for dinner. Our family is small but deeply loyal. All of my grandparents' children settled down within a few miles of the home where they grew up, and all the family rallied together through difficult times such as my father's illness in 1991. My dad and uncle ate breakfast at their parents' house every Friday morning. Each generation greets the other with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of the cabin at Alpental, which my grandparents built when my dad was a kid and sold ten or fifteen years ago when the family wasn't using it as much as we used to. Alpental is one of the ski arees near Snoqualmie pass, about 90 miles east of Seattle. I never got into skiing, but I did enjoy the surroundings. The windows of the cabin faced Mt. Denny, where you could sometimes see mountain goats with a good set of binoculars. In the summer we could wander down to the crick (one of my very early memories, I think I was about three, is of wading around down there while Grandpa sat on a rock in the middle of the stream), pick huckleberries, search for tadpoles, and take long walks. In the winter we could go snowshoing, sledding, or cross-country skiing or sit inside and read old National Geographics or books about the old West while the cabin heated up and the snow slid with huge creaks off the roof. Or we could help with the necessary task of shoveling snow off the porch so it didn't collapse from the weight. Whatever appreciation I have of the Northwest's natural beauty began at Alpental.

There was also my grandparents' house in Seattle, which they lived in from 1949, when they built it uphill from the Sand Point Naval Base, until the end of May this year. The entire east side of the house was windows with a sweeping view of Lake Washington and the Cascades; on a clear day you can see Mt. Rainier. They lived across the street from Charles Royer, who was mayor of Seattle for most of my childhood. His municipal duties required him to spend time away from his big fluffy Samoyed, Mishko, who trotted over to my grandparents' house every day with a leaf or pinecone to trade for a milk bone. He hid in their basement during thunderstorms, was extraordinarily camera-shy, and tolerated nearly every expression of affection I had for him, except when I tried to sit on him. In more recent years the Samoyeds howling their greetings at the threshold of my grandparents' house belong to my Uncle Bruce and Aunt Bess. My grandparents never had pets of their own, but they welcomed the Samoyeds.

I lived in their house for a quarter in college and remember gazing out my bedroom window late in the evening, listening to the faint sound of traffic down on Sand Point Way, the occasional padding of cats' feet in the yard, and not much else. Across the lake, five miles away, you can see traffic lights all the way over in Kirkland. We'll be staying there for the last time in August when we visit Seattle; my sister, her boyfriend, and my nephew are preparing the house now for the market. Since it was built the neighborhood around it has become one of the poshest in Seattle.

My grandfather used to tell lots of stories about the early years of their marriage. They had a small ceremony at a church in Memphis right as Grandpa began his naval service at Oak Ridge. When I went to UVA, they told me how the winter they moved from Tennessee to Philadelphia, they drove through Charlottesville in the middle of a blizzard and decided to visit Monticello (which, now that I've been there, I know must have been a heck of a drive in the snow). Nobody was there, but the house was unlocked, so they did their own self-guided tour. There is something romantic and admirable about a generation that married and began their adult lives at one of the most important moments in modern history (this is also true of my mother's parents, who married at the very beginning of WWII). Justin and I might have a smidgen of their sense of adventure, but not their sense of purpose.

Grandpa had a stroke in May and his health declined more quickly than anyone had anticipated; his death was not surprising, but we'd expected it to be more gradual, so I would have time to see him again. The last time I was in Seattle was for Thanksgiving, and maybe it's best I remember him when he was still walking a couple miles a day down by the lake and living contentedly with my grandmother in the house where they raised their family and grew old together. Justin and I had our Seattle wedding reception there, and on our refrigerator is a picture of my grandparents with their great-grandson, my nephew. I am glad he lived long enough that I can treasure that memory also.

We will be in Seattle next week to attend my grandfather's memorial service.

2 comments:

Laura said...

Lovely. It's great that you have such good memories. (hug)!

Justin said...

erratum - Clyde and Sue were married in Knoxville, not Memphis. We have pictures of the church now.