Sunday, May 22, 2022

Scot Crawford, 77

| November 28, 2021 7:05 AM

In the cabin that he built long ago, with his family and his old dog by his side, Scot Crawford headed off for his first day in Heaven. He had made sure to show us all a card of a painting that he loved — an image of a woman being welcomed into the arms of Jesus. Scot was a notorious hugger, and was ready for his embrace.

Scot had a way of letting you know he loved you. He often wrote about it, he often talked about it, and when he felt like it, he told you; which was often. He was the kind of guy people crossed the gym to shake hands with. He made sure kids knew he saw them and appreciated what they had to offer.

Scot loved deep conversations, and family members testified: “He was wise with his words, was honestly spoken and written, and always through love.”

“I feel so lucky to have been loved by your Dad. He had an uncommon capacity for that.”

When the troubles of life could have swallowed him, he chose to forgive, he worked hard to accept, and excelled at never leaving us alone in our own pain.

His family was his pride and joy. We know because he told us that he was proud of us, and he told us that we gave him his greatest joy. He said he felt rich, loving us and knowing we loved him and each other. We know that wealth because he taught it to us. Scot was married to his wonderful wife, Philippa, for 30 years. Richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, theirs was a devoted marriage; an example to us all. Scot had three sons, Simon, Duncan and Nicholas. Two decades younger than his brothers, Nick came as a blessing to his blended family. Scot really loved to watch kids play sports. When a good play was made or a pitch froze a batter for a called third strike, there would come Scot’s signature single syllable whistle of approval, loud in a gym and at perfect volume from a dugout. You could hear it on the field even with a football helmet on.

All over western Montana it seems like you meet someone who knows Scot. “Crawford? Yeah, I know your dad.” They know him because of baseball. He was an instrumental part of the creation of and coaching of several baseball teams in the Jocko and Mission valleys. In the mid-’80s there was no baseball in Arlee so with the help of some players’ parents and a friend in the Tribal Council, Scot carved out a field and gathered the bare necessities of gear. The first teams were scraped together so Scot’s sons could play ball with their friends. With barely enough boys to field a team and knapweed in the infield, Arlee quickly became a force to be reckoned with. Farm kids, town kids, kids recruited off their bikes in Mission so there could be nine batters — Scot honed them into tournament and season trophy winners.

Warm RC Cola at practice and Dairy Queen full meal deals after games in Ronan were the highlights of summers. Scot often paid for half the team to eat and then had a small cone to make sure he had enough gas to haul his team home in the bed of his Nissan pickup.

Scot’s coaching style was unique, sometimes a hot word in challenge to a questionable call, but mostly just encouragement for his players. This style was complimented after a hard-fought championship game in which his Arlee boys finally dethroned the Plains powerhouse. After the last out, the Plains dugout emptied and their boys swarmed Scot, imploring him to be the coach for the All-Star team.

Twenty years later, when Nick began to play, baseball really came into focus. Nick played and pitched beyond his years, hurling double-digit strikeout games and going on to the Mission Valley Mariners and college ball. A college player himself, Scot was a catcher, and he knew pitchers. How many pitches had Scot caught over the years? Thousands, hundreds of thousands. Sons and grandkids coached and caught for in the yard at home, on the field, and on the road. Even into his late 60s, Scot was willing to get into a crouch and insist you show him what you had. When a stroke took the function of his mitt hand, he remained an encourager, ready with praise and a new grip technique.

As the years progressed, Scot became additionally enamored with girls fastpitch softball, enjoying the skill and success of his granddaughters Haley, Rheid and Jerny; he passed on wisdom pertinent to both sports.

Scot had specific instructions on what he wanted done after his death. We followed those instructions and added a couple things to comfort ourselves. Scot wanted to be laid to rest at home, like his father, with a minimum of accoutrements. We decided he needed to wear a catcher’s mask and on his left hand, the worn-out glove his sons had drilled into oblivion. Inside the glove is his last championship. A used Babe Ruth league baseball signed by his family, generations of players of his own bloodline, with their messages and their respect. We buried him in the yard at midnight, in a wind storm that had knocked out the power to half the valley. Beneath the light of the waxing moon and in the headlights of two pickups, his family bundled against the wind, shovels sparking against the abundant rocks, he was carefully covered. The event was quiet, efficient, and sad, but left us relieved and strengthened by it all. Our way — not typical, but neither was he. He would have loved it, just like he loved us.

Scot’s life yielded him many loved ones: little brother and sidekick Larry; the love of his life, Philippa, and their son Nicholas (Kayla); sons Simon (Jennifer) and Duncan (Jana); a host of grandkids: Jake, Mychael, Cortney, Rylan, Haley, Colt, Rheid, Jerny, Charley and Lilliana; and great-grandsons Kade, Kase and Jaxson.

Scot had lifelong best friends in Frank White and Bruce Johnson. He was close with Simon and Duncan’s blended-family siblings, Jay, Jordy, Romy and Hilly, and remained friends with ex-wife Janet and her husband, Jerry. Scot’s community were devoted neighbors and a town of people who rallied for him. Somehow, he always managed to have an old dog. The last in line, his hefty, aging, faithful, black-and-white pal, Joey. Joey knew at the end. He was confused, yet somehow keenly aware of what was happening.

We hope we said all we needed to say; we probably didn’t, but we were able to see in his eyes that he knew this: “Our memories are a blur of moments of exquisite clarity, all of which have transformed us into the men we are. We are so glad we got to do life with and because of you. We are so proud to be your sons and brothers to each other. As fathers and men, you have been our inspiration and always will be. Thank you for teaching us so honestly, and by steadfast example. We promise to always let our families know that we love them as you have loved us. Know that and be proud. You will always be within us, and all of ours. We’re sure gonna miss you. We love you, Dad.”