One of the goals on my bucket list was to live longer than my Grandfather. I’ve just
recently succeeded in doing that. He didn’t make it to his 77th birthday, I did. And I didn’t live
this long because I took better care of my body than Grandpa did, because I didn’t. Both
Grandpa and Dad took much better care of their bodies than I have with mine. Neither ever
smoked, drank, or mistreated their body in any way. (Like racing karts and motorcycles, for
example.) They both ate healthy food, and of course there was no “fast food” in those days. I
doubt either would have eaten junk food, even if it was available. The credit for me living this
long all goes to the advancements in modern medicine. But enough about me, now I’ll tell
you about my grandfather.
My Grandfather, Willard Evering Crawford, (aka Grandpa) was born on July 20th, 1873
in Gas City, Indiana, and died on June 27th 1950 in his bedroom at 1539 1st N.E. Massillon,
Ohio at the age of 76, less than a month before his 77th birthday. He died from leukemia, and
he was in great pain during his final days. Grandpa owned his own coal business, and didn’t
have health insurance, so he didn’t have access to pain medication at the end of his life. I
recall seeing him writhing in pain during the final week of his life, while my father (Willard

James Crawford I ) and my mother (Roine Fern {Freeman) Crawford), struggled to make him
feel as comfortable as possible, under those extremely unfortunate circumstances.
Grandpa’s wife, Clara Leota (Stetch) died early in life, at the age of 62, in 1942. I was
five years old when she died, but I don’t remember her. My mother told me I used to call her
“big” grandma, and her mother (my great- grandmother) who also lived there for awhile, “little”
grandma. Grandpa never remarried, but otherwise, he led a pretty good and pleasant life. He
owned a very nice house in Massillon, (see photo on page 3) had a dog named Duchess,
owned two dump trucks (see photo of one of them on page 3) and a pickup truck for his
business. In addition to his three trucks, he also owned a 1936 Dodge business coupe, a car
that I’ve always admired. (see the 1936 Dodge on page 3) He lived on about 2 ½ acres with
his 2 sons, Willard and Walter, and his daughter Mildred. His property bordered on the old
Ohio-Erie Canal, which was great for his sons, and great for his grandsons (my brother and I)

in later years. My brother and I fished at some of the same spots that my dad and his brother
fished, 35 years earlier.
Grandpa’s favorite sport (I guess it could be called a sport) was coon hunting.
(Racoons.) He used to take his hound dogs (not “Duchess, she was his “house” dog) out into
the woods and turn them loose. Eventually, they would “tree” a raccoon, and grandpa would
shoot it with his 16 gauge shotgun. I don’t know what he would do with them. I don’t think he
ate them, although some people do eat racoons. Fortunately, I was never invited on any of
his coon hunting trips. As a dedicated animal lover, I would have probably freaked out. I
think I mentioned in “Our Lives” that I have his shotgun hidden away in my closet.
Sometimes, on weekends, when mom and dad wanted to be alone, I stayed at my
grandfather’s house, and rode with him on his trips down south to New Philadelphia or Dover
to get a load of coal for one of his coal customers. While coal was being loaded in his truck, I
was allowed to watch the coal separating screens, which I thought were pretty cool. All coal
was conveyed over different sized shaking screens. The small, fine coal dropped out first,
through small holes, then as the coal continued down the conveyer, the next larger sized coal
dropped through the larger holes, then the next size, etc. I’m guessing here, but I think the
different sizes of coal was because of the different types of coal stokers and/or furnaces.
There was also a guy that stood near the shaking screens whose only job all day long was to
grab large pieces of slag out of the coal and throw them in the slag bunker. The slag was
burned in coke ovens. Grandpa shoveled coal in his own furnace by hand with a coal shovel,
until coal stokers were invented, at which time he had one installed. The coal stoker had a
huge screw drive that moved coal from the coal bunker in the basement of the house to the
furnace. The size of the fire in the furnace was controlled by the speed of the screw, which
was adjustable, depending how warm it was in the house. No thermostat controlled heat in
those days.
Grandpa’s daughter, Mildred, lived with her father because she had had a stroke at a
young age (in her 30’s, or maybe 40’s) that left her left arm paralyzed. It was nearly
impossible for a female to get a job in the 1930’s and 1940’s with only one good arm. My
aunt Mildred took care of the house, and prepared all of grandpa’s meals for him in exchange
for free room and board. Mildred died 3 years after grandpa, in 1953. I remember Mildred as
being a quite, sad, depressed lady, but it was quite understandable because of her
unfortunate circumstances. She constantly supported her paralyzed arm with her good arm.I don’t ever remember seeing her with her arm hanging down, or in a sling. I remember my
mother telling me that Mildred had a serious boyfriend until she had the stroke. Then he
dumped her. She never dated again, and devoted all of her time taking care of her father’s
house. Mildred was the oldest of grandpa’s three children. Her two brothers were Willard
James and Walter Bry Crawford. Although she was not a happy person, Mildred was always
kind to me, and kind to her pet canary that she had caged in the living room. Mildred had to
spend some time at a mental hospital, and (I’m guessing again here) she had a nervous
breakdown when her father died. The hospital was the Massillon State Hospital, (for patients
with mental problems) and it was located south of Massillon, between Massillon and Navarre.
I don’t think she was there too long, and after she was discharged, my father and his brother
Walter, bought a small house trailer for her, and parked it on Walter’s property near Massillon.
She stayed there until she died in1953.  Walter was Grandpa’s 3rd and last child. Walter was a pleasant guy, he had two boys,

Allen and Tad, and worked at the Massillon post office for most of his life. He was the
assistant post master when he retired from the Massillon post office, and soon built a small,
but successful lawn mower sales/repair business in his barn. He was the local Toro dealer,
and his business did well until he became ill with a liver disease. He died in the Massillon City
hospital in 1997. Walter’s wife Ora had passed away a few years before him. Walter’s oldest
son Allen was born with a bone deficiency problem that effected his mobility. He went to a
Christian college in Canton, Ohio, and is currently a school teacher. Brother Tad was a
pharmacy technician, and has a successful part time business as a Taxidermist, the last I
knew. My two cousins and I have had very little contact over the years.
My Grandfather was still hauling coal within weeks of his death. Probably, more out of
necessity than desire, because, as I mentioned earlier, he didn’t have health insurance. After
he passed away, he was placed in a casket in his living room to be on display for his friends
and relatives for two or three days, an archaic practice that I abhor, but that’s the way they did
it in those days, and I was required to attend. Grandpa, Grandma, Mildred and Walter are
interned at Rose Hill Memorial Park near Massillon. Dad was cremated at Clinton, Maryland.
There are two letters that my Dad wrote to his brother late in life in “Our Ethical Will 2”
that you may find interesting. He wrote about the “good old days,” when Grandpa’s 3 children
were young, and still living with him. I have included some photos below that are germane to
“Remembering Willard E. Crawford, my Grandfather.”

Willard James Crawford II



I am a 77 year old retired Northrop-Grumman Corp. Facilities Engineer. I worked at Northrop's Pico Rivera and Palmdale facilities for a total of 13 years, and retired 1n 1995. I have been married to my high school sweetheart for over 54 fantastic years, and we have 3 excellent children (all boys) 7 wonderful grandchildren, and 1 great grandchild. My hobbies are playing the piano (actually, more like learning HOW to play the piano) and restoring a 1937 Plymouth, although sadly, I have made very little progress on it in recent years. I drove road race go-karts until the age of 71. I never grew up, I just got old.
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  1. Jim Naylor says:

    Found your story on internet searching for your uncle. I grew up living close to his house and use to spend time with him in his lawn mower shop as a young kid. We use to to jump his fence and run from his bull. He was a hard worker and his sons were closer to my older brother’s age.

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