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John Irvin Crews

John Irvin Crews died peacefully Dec. 17, 2012 at age 97.  Born Aug. 24, 1915 in the hamlet of Saxe to Walter Henry Crews and Mabel Jeremy Crews, John I., as he was affectionately called, was married to the late Jane Wilkinson Crews of South Boston.

He is survived by his brother, Ralph Crews, (Betty) of Minnesota; and sister-in-law Clarice Crews of South Boston.  His brothers, Lewis, David, and Arthur Gray Crews; and his sister, Elizabeth C. Lawson, preceded him in death.  

Also surviving are his children, Jerry C. Williams (Mike) of Henderson, N.C., Corbin C. Harwood (John) of Washington, D.C., and Jack Crews (Meg) of Richmond; seven grandchildren, Jennifer W. Rudolph (Rohan), Wake Forest, N.C., Lawson Williams (Katie), Wake Forest, Mary Kathryn Wood (Henry), Boulder, Colo., Margaret C. Bond (Sam), Atlanta, Ga., John Crews, Washington, D.C., Clare Harwood, New Orleans, La.; and Tim Harwood, Washington, D.C.; and 11 great-grandchildren, Will, Olivia, Ella Rudolph, Patrick, David, Colin, Hayes Williams, Miller, Lucy Gray, Bridger Wood and Ellie Bond.

Companions Kenneth and Carolyn Wilmoth and caregivers Edna Fields, Phillias Carrington and Claudine Royster held a special place in his heart.

John I. graduated from the University of Richmond where he joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity.  A member of The Greatest Generation, he enlisted in the Coast Guard during WWII.  Lieutenant Crews served his country with distinction and was one of the last crewmembers to vacate his burning ship, the Wakefield, as it was evacuating civilians from Europe.  He was stationed in Greenland for much of the war and, at age 88, enjoyed revisiting his former base.

John I. grew up during the Depression, which taught him the value of a dollar and the importance of a positive outlook on life.  He developed a flair for business as a child while helping at his father’s country store.  After WWII, he owned and operated Wyatt and Crews wholesale grocery in South Boston.  At age 65, he retired from that business and moved to his beloved farm on the Staunton River in Mt. Laurel.  There he founded Camp Staunton Meadows, a summer youth camp with an international reputation.  He remained active in every aspect of the camp until he was 88 years old.

As much as he loved his work, John I. loved even more to tell a good story, to learn a new word each day and to take advantage of the good things in life.  But he loved his children most.  He always encouraged them to push a little harder……and in return,  they knew he would be there for them when needed.  He was an exemplary father.  His days in the Coast Guard showed him a world he had never before seen.  He wanted to make sure his children saw it, as well.

A civic leader, John I. was the last surviving charter member of the Rotary Club of South Boston.  He also served on the boards of the South Boston Bank and Trust Co., First Federal Savings and Loan, the Halifax Regional Hospital and the South Boston School Board. He particularly enjoyed lunches at Ernie’s and monthly dinners with the DunRoamin supper club among friends who, like him, were dun roamin.’

John I. was a lifelong member of the Southall Memorial United Methodist Church in Saxe. 

Interment will be private.   Friends are invited to a reception Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at 5 p.m. at The Prizery where memories can be shared while celebrating the life of this extraordinary man. Nobody liked a party better than John I.  He would approve.

In lieu of flowers, those wishing to make memorial donations are asked to consider the South Boston-Halifax County Museum, 1540 Wilborn Avenue, South Boston, VA 24592; the Prizery, 700 Bruce Street, South Boston, VA 24592 or the Southall Memorial United Methodist Church, 6220 Saxkey Road, Saxe, VA 23967.

Powell Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.