‘He was a very humble man’

Crawford remembered for business success, commitment to community

Leader File Photo Pat Crawford was known for working behind the scenes and giving to many local organizations. Crawford passed away Sunday at 92, leaving Shawano and surrounding communities in mourning.

If it had been up to Pat Crawford, the Crawford Center in Shawano that he funded and that bears his name would be called something else.

He finally relented after he was assured that at least his first name wouldn’t appear on the building.

“He was a very humble man,” said Jeff Huntington, president of the Shawano Hockey League, which operates out of the center.

“That was one thing with him, he always was willing to donate, but he was a very humble person and he didn’t want that recognition,” Huntington said. “He just wanted to help out.”

The hockey league was just one of many groups and organizations that Crawford, his wife Ruth and the Crawford family foundation donated to over the years.

Pat Crawford passed away Sunday at the age of 92.

“Pat was a man with a big heart,” Huntington said. “He always felt that especially in youth athletics like hockey that kids should never have to sit out playing games because of financial situations. He was always very adamant that all kids play hockey if they want to.”

Huntington said Crawford was always there, ready to donate and help out.

“His family foundation donated a lot of money to the hockey league over the years to help, whether it was buying equipment that we needed or other situations that arose to help us out financially,” he said.

Huntington said the Crawford family’s help enabled the hockey league to offer hockey at a rate that normal families could afford.

‘The building itself, the Crawford Center, was pretty much donated by Pat to give us a place to play,” Huntington said.

A number of area groups and organizations benefited from the largess of the Crawford Foundation, including Red River Riders Therapeutic Riding for the Disabled.

“They’ve been wonderful supporters for quite a few years,” said Chris Baldwin, executive director of Red River Riders.

“They have enabled us to update our indoor arena, which has made riding much more comfortable for the riders and horses and volunteers,” she said.

“They’re just on top of wanting to help,” Baldwin said. “They contact us and say, ‘What do you need?’ and its been such a godsend for us. They’re wonderful people. I’ve enjoyed knowing them immensely. They’ve helped so much and we appreciate everything they do for us and everyone in the community.”

Tim Ewing, director of the Navarino Nature Center, said Crawford and the family foundation have been very supportive of the nature center.

“In recent years, they’ve been doing a donation of scholarships that allowed any Shawano County, or any school in the area that needed assistance, to attend the nature center and the programs down here,” he said.

“It basically waived the fees for the classes to be able to come out here and do the programs,” Ewing said.

He said a lot of the teachers and parents that came out with the kids didn’t know at first that the foundation was responsible for their field trips.

“Without the scholarships, the way the situations are at the schools, many of them may not be able to participate,” Ewing said. “The foundation has been very supportive in getting the kids into the outdoors and I know that’s what Pat liked to do is get outside and active in the woods.”

When parents and teachers learned who was responsible for their visit to the nature center, they sent along their thanks.

“I’ve heard through the grapevine that Ruth really appreciates getting all those thank-you letters the kids send her,” Ewing said. “They definitely left a big impact.”

The Safe Haven Domestic Abuse Support Center was also a recipient of the foundation’s generosity.

“Pat was just such a kind and generous man and a good steward of the community,” said Stacey Cicero, executive director of Safe Haven.

“Just this past year, the Crawford Family Foundation supported our capital campaign,” she said.

The shelter has sought funding for an expansion of its facility to accommodate a growing need for support services for domestic violence.

Cicero has also done fundraising for Leadership Shawano County, which is managed by Pat Crawford’s daughter-in-law, Wendy, and in which Pat has been active.

“He would go into the schools and do presentations in the kids’ classrooms,” Cicero said.

Some of the Leadership sessions have also been held at Crawford’s company, Timbco.

“Pat would be there and he would have given a presentation on Timbco and the things that the company does,” Cicero said.

It was more than just nonprofit and charitable groups that Crawford was involved in.

“People don’t realize he had quite an impact on many other businesses going and financing them so they could get established, and they’ve been very successful,” said former Shawano mayor Russ Schmidt, who was a friend of Crawford’s.

Schmidt said that as a businessman Crawford was dedicated to his customers.

“He was quite unique in that he had a very personal contact with all of his customers,” Schmidt said.

“I remember one time that a part broke down on one of their machines in Canada, and Pat puts that part in his car and drives all the way up there and back so they can keep their machine running,” he said.

Schmidt said Crawford was highly respected in the logging industry.

“When he’d go to these logging shows and so forth, all kinds of people would gather around him,” Schmidt said.

“He started out with a very humble beginning when he came to town and started,” Schmidt said. “He was a poor man, but he was very ambitious.”

Another longtime friend of the family is Nancy Syndergaard.

“He and Ruth were some of the nicest people I’ve ever known,” she said. “I was always amazed at the work ethic that both of them had. Most of the time, up until shortly before he passed, they both were at work all the time out at the plant. They’re just a wonderful family and very dedicated to this community.”

Nancy Smith, executive director of the Shawano Area Chamber of Commerce, said Crawford played a vital role for the area’s business community.

“Our chamber and community have benefited in so many ways from Pat’s generosity and the example he set for other entrepreneurs,” she said. “He lived his life with integrity and shared his success with many — quietly supporting individuals, organizations, and other business people. He was one of the most generous, authentic, creative, and hard working individuals I have had the privilege of knowing. He will be greatly missed.”

In November 2016 with Thanksgiving Day approaching, The Shawano Leader sought essays from local community leaders on what they were thankful for.

Here is an excerpt from Pat Crawford’s response:

“I’m thankful for finding a vocation that I love, starting a company that I’m proud of and having it thrive in Shawano. I often say that I’ve never worked a day in my life. I’m thankful for all of my employees, past and present, who have helped make it a reality.

“I’m most thankful for marrying the right woman and having eight wonderful kids. They have enhanced my life in immeasurable ways. They are a source of joy and pride. I could not have done it without them.”