Eulogy for my Father, Robert D. Craig

Dan Craig

Delivered at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Edmond, Oklahoma on June 15, 2017. Robert Craig passed away in Oklahoma City on June 9, 2017.

Thank you all for coming. It means a great deal to our family to see all of the people who knew and loved Dad all together. He would have appreciated it.

Thank you, too, to those of you who visited him over the last few months. He wasn’t always feeling good enough to talk, but he was certainly never lonely. We can all hope to be so lucky at the end of our lives.

You have heard much about the Craig family, but Dad had effectively become a member of the Thompson family, too, even if not legally. Sandy loved my Dad very much and took good care of him. When he moved into Bellevue, quite literally the entire Thompson family took care of him. For that I am forever grateful.

Bob Craig was a special man. He wasn’t particularly successful or even ambitions, but he found his place and thrived. He came from a close knit family, and brought that same closeness to the family he and Mom created.

People often think of lawyers as workaholics, but Dad couldn’t be further from one. He worked a gentleman lawyer’s schedule, always the last one to leave home in the morning and always home in time for dinner. We didn’t travel much as a family, but we had the lake and Dad always had time to take us skiing. Lake Hiwassee was a special place. Mom and Dad could see that as clear as day, which is why they wanted to raise their family there. So they did.

Dad was a modest and humble man. He cared little for flashy displays. He worked his way through college and law school. Though he worked a sedentary profession, he had more of a blue collar sensibility than a white collar one. When it came time to repair his home or build his new office, he was there hard at work, sweating away.

Dad was a cautious man. He worried about everything, especially money. Mom drove him crazy wanting to spend money on things because they were “worth it”. He always worried about how to pay for it. But he didn’t simply give up. He was not ashamed to ask for help for an admirable goal.

He did just that in law school so he would work at Legal Aid where he could represent those who could not afford to represent themselves. He was very proud of his time there, especially his having helped strike down Oklahoma City’s anti-loitering ordinance, which he would tell me was vaguely defined as “wandering about without lawful purpose.” He could see how such a law could be used to harass undesirables or less powerful people and he was proud to have done something about it.

He again asked for help to send me and Steve to Heritage Hall. Mom and Dad had just lost everything, right in time for us to start school. But as with the lake, they could see that Heritage Hall was a special place and they wanted their family to be there. Thanks to their willingness to ask and the willingness of others to give, we were there.

There are a few contrasts to Dad’s cautiousness that have always stuck out to me. First, Dad was generally not a gambler. When he played the real estate or stock markets, he lost. Yet he loved going to the casinos with Sandy and somehow managed to win at the slot machines all the time. He even won a couple hundred bucks during a layover at the Las Vegas airport on his way home from visiting us in California last year. I go to the casinos and lose my shirt in minutes. He walks in and consistently hits it big on the penny slots. I guess he was lucky in his own way.

The second thing was his love of Corvettes. I count at least three Corvettes that Dad owned in his lifetime and he always remembered them fondly. Yet he never drove remotely close to the speed limit, let alone over it. He loved those cars, but he clearly did not have a need for speed.

And, of course, he loved flying. I don’t actually know why he loved flying. Perhaps none of us actually do. It may have been, as Saint-Exupery wrote, “I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things.” Maybe it was is the perspective one gets of the world seen from above. Or the exhilaration of movement in space about all six degrees of freedom.

Whatever the cause, he had the love and he passed it on, taking us to air shows each summer in the many years he was not flying. When he took off on the maiden flight of the kitplane he and Uncle Steve built, he said it was one of the scariest things he had ever done. Yes he was cautious, but he had the right stuff.

Dad lived at a human scale. Some people lead great nations or command grand armies or organizations. Such people think and act at a vast scale. Dad was the opposite. To him, each individual was worth his undivided care and attention. I think that’s one of the reasons Dad loved Luther so much. Luther operates at a human scale. There are no anonymous masses there, everyone stands out on their own.

Dad took his care for people as individuals to his work both in law and on the school board. He gave each of his clients his entire attention. He had no secretary or paralegal. When you sought Bob Craig’s help, you got Bob Craig’s work.

On the school board, Dad could see how the schools of Luther were critical to the town’s present and to its future. But more so than their successful building projects, what stood out most to me was how much he cared about doing right by each and every student, especially the most vulnerable and those with special needs. He didn’t care about aggregate test scores or popularity rankings. He cared about ensuring that every student got the education they deserved.

When Mom died twelve years ago, her last request of Dad was to take care of her boys. At the time, Steve and I were both just out of school and beginning our lives as adults. As scared as he was then at the task, Dad kept his promise. Now, their boys number five, counting the three grandsons whom Dad loves so much.

It breaks my heart that they will not grow up with their Craig grandparents, but the boys will certainly feel their impact long after their deaths. Steve and I both had a the best example of a father we could ask for. I strive each day to be for my son what my father was to me.

Thank you Dad. I love you.