James Albert Crawford, born in St. Joseph’s Hospital, Paterson, N.J., on February 19, 1940, died peacefully on October 17, 2020, at his home in Placida.
Jim grew up in Hawthorne, N.J., attended Lincoln Elementary School and graduated from Hawthorne HS in 1957.
After receiving his degree from Montclair State and serving in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, he taught for three years at River Dell HS in northern N.J., where he met Eleanor DeRienzo, a fellow teacher, who would become his wife for 57 years.
His completion of a J.D. degree from New York University School of Law allowed him to fulfill his avidly sought dream of practicing law, an occupation that never ceased to fascinate and engage him wholeheartedly.
He especially enjoyed the fact that people sought his advice, which he willingly shared, not only professionally, but from the front porch, at the dinner table, at the dock, and on the telephone. He welcomed the challenges of courtroom (and social) confrontation and the civility of the process when he entered the arena, but became very disappointed when rudeness and lack of decorum became the norm. As President of the Bergen County Bar Association, one of his major aims was to return the atmosphere of the courts to its former standards.
Jim also enthusiastically served many years as the judge in Alpine, N.J., where he and his family lived. His civic activities included his presidency of the Tenafly Lions Club, acting as coach of Glen’s little league team and participating in local organizations relating to his role as a small business owner employing local people.
An adventurer at heart, Jim pursued hobbies that allowed him to experience the world “up close and personal.” He piloted small planes, drove motorcycles, captained boats and maneuvered RVs with joyful abandon, accompanied (sometimes reluctantly) by Ellie. He knew how to draw the most from what life presented him.
Because of a shrewd knowledge of the value of cars, he routinely had a small fleet of desirable vehicles passing through his driveway, some for as little as weeks, some for several years. He cherished every aspect of their presence … the negotiation of the purchase, the driving, and even the selling. For him, it was a joyous engagement.
Having been raised in the Episcopal Church, Jim later became active in the Alpine Methodist Church, serving on its board and, in later life, participated in many activities of the Boca Grande Lighthouse Church.
From his first visit to Green Pond, N.J. with a boyhood friend, Jim knew it to be the most special of places and vowed to have a home there for him and his family, a goal he achieved with the purchase of 18 Sunnyside Lane, with his sister and her husband. That led many years later to obtaining the historical house at 9 Dawson Drive, which was then and has always remained “Palmer Murphy’s” or “Curmudgeons’ Corner.”
In addition to catching for a softball team in the unforgettable GP league, he played volleyball, waterskiied, swam and boated incessantly and shared all of this with a myriad of guests who flocked to be with him. Ever concerned with maintaining the pristine quality of The Lake, he was a primary initiator of the Green Pond Environmental Foundation, which functioned for many years as a monitor. A serious regret was never being able to be a Rinky Dink, an error corrected recently by his initiation at age 78!
At the time of his death, he was in the presence of his wife Eleanor (nee DeRienzo), his daughter Kelly Strange Crawford, his granddaughter Sydney Marie Hammer (GD1) and two of his favorite granddogs.
He is survived by a son, Dr. Glen Howard Crawford; a daughter-in-law, Karin Hedy (nee Fairbanks); a son-in-law, Hon. Michael A. Hammer; three other granddaughters – Emma Josephine Crawford, Elisabeth Ann Crawford, and Alexandra Grace Crawford; and a sister and brother-in-law, Patricia and Robert Hill.
By whatever name anyone knew him, Jim touched and impacted for the better everyone he met. His caring, bigger-than-life presence will be unfathomably missed.
A memorial service will be held in Green Pond at a later date.