Former Mayor Paul Crowley, one of the city’s most recognizable and influential citizens who was often referred to as ‘Mr. San Marino,’ died early Monday morning. He was 84 years old.
Mr. Crowley had been in failing health for several months and had relocated to Monte Vista Grove Homes, a Pasadena care center. His son, Jon Crowley, was by his father’s bedside when he passed away at 3:15 a.m. Monday morning, ending an unprecedented local legacy of public service and volunteerism.
A three-term city councilman, Paul Crowley served on virtually every board, committee or commission in San Marino and was a longtime Rotarian and member of City Club.
At one time or another, Crowley served as president of the Rotary Club of San Marino, San Marino City Club, San Marino Historical Society, San Marino Tennis Club, San Marino National Little League, and San Marino Saints Junior All-American Football. He was a board trustee at Southwestern Academy and was awarded the Golden Apple Award by the San Marino Unified School District for exceptional service.
Crowley served as assistant scoutmaster of San Marino Boy Scout Troop 355 and was awarded the San Gabriel Valley Council Boy Scouting award. He also was actively involved with the San Marino Girl Scouts, helping to lead a renovation of the Hill Harbison House – formerly the Girl Scout House. He was a parishioner of Sts. Felicitas & Perpetua Catholic Church in San Marino, and was a member of the Valley Hunt Club and San Gabriel Country Club.
Charles Paul Crowley, Jr. is survived by his wife of sixty-one years, Marie, son Jon and daughter-in-law Carolyn (Wagner) Crowley of San Marino, grandsons Charles Paul “Chip” Crowley III and Patrick Leahy Crowley, and granddaughter Kelly Claire Crowley.
Crowley’s passing was met by an outpouring of love from friends and family members.
“Paul shared his energies, his humor, his love with not just his beautiful Marie and family but with all the community,” said Kenneth Veronda, headmaster of Southwestern Academy, who added he is “privileged to be among Paul’s many friends.”
“His caring, all-American spirit enriched and enhanced San Marino. Each of us who knew him have grand memories to cherish.”
“Paul, an icon of San Marino, longtime resident, friend, civic leader, student of history, humorist, kind and caring man and loving husband, father, and grandfather, devoted to his city and maintaining the standards that kept it great, has left his world a better place,” said Winnie and former Mayor Lynn Reitnouer in a statement to The Tribune. “Whether serving as service club president, planning commissioner, or councilman and mayor, Paul charted a steady and law-abiding course and never deviated from it. In a legendary interview with a reporter, Paul – with all sincerity – declared ‘everything is illegal in San Marino.’ One cannot remember Paul without a smile.”
“Paul embodied the spirit of San Marino,” said fellow Rotarian and San Marino resident Len Therrien. “He cared deeply for the city and her residents. I fondly remember Paul always using a pencil to write something down – never a pen. The story around our Rotary Club was that if you needed something, it was probably in Paul’s car trunk. When he introduced me to City Club, he walked to his car, opened the trunk and handed me a membership application. We’ll all miss him dearly.”
San Marino’s strict building and planning standards – some have gone as far as to say “draconian” – exist at least in part due to Crowley’s effort and influence.
“You know, people want to move to San Marino and then complain when they find out about our building standards,” Crowley once proudly told this reporter. “We just tell them, ‘if you don’t like it, you can just move somewhere else.’”
With equal aplomb, Crowley often displayed a rebel spirit when relating another local zinger.
“We used to joke on the [city] council; ‘the answer is ‘no’ – now what was the question?’”
“San Marino – a city fifty years behind the times – and fighting hard to stay that way,” he once quipped.
Though some in town weren’t laughing, the joke might be on surrounding communities as San Marino property values have steadily risen over the decades while neighboring cities battle overdevelopment and the particularly millennial phenomenon known as the ‘McMansion.’
Former San Marino Fire Chief John Penido was well-versed in that mindset.
“Paul was a member of the city council when I was hired to be the fire chief,” said Penido. “Of the many notable things about Paul, I was most impressed by his attention to detail and his penchant for asking tough questions. One did not appear ill-prepared before the Crowley-era city council without risking certain exposure. The people were well-served, because he took his responsibility to the community seriously and did his homework diligently.”
“During my tenure on the San Marino School Board and as one of the leaders on the school renovations, we often faced difficult choices relating to selecting the scope of renovations, dealing with substandard cost estimates, surprising bid openings, contractor qualifications and the politics of bond and parcel tax elections,” Scott Jenkins told The Tribune. “With Paul’s experience in working with the schools, the local government and the community as a whole, he had a very unique perspective on the importance of quality schools for San Marino and how our focus should be on the long run. His support was instrumental in allowing us to modernize the school facilities. His wisdom and good judgment has led to the outstanding community that we currently enjoy. We will be hard-pressed to find such broad shoulders on which to stand in the future.”
A lifelong lover of high school football, Crowley was the public address announcer at SMHS from 1975 until 2006. He attended every rivalry football game between San Marino and South Pasadena High Schools from the inaugural contest between the two teams in 1955 through the most recent game held last month – an uninterrupted streak of 58 games. In 2010, the perpetual trophy for the game’s winner was renamed the ‘Crowley Cup,’ which was actually a reconditioned bucket from Crowley’s oft-neglected garage.
Crowley was born on January12, 1928 in Long Beach as an only child to Charles P. Crowley, Sr., of Springfield, MA and Agnes (Leary) Crowley of Lexington, MA. Crowley grew up in the cities of Long Beach, San Gabriel, and Alhambra, attending Washington School in San Gabriel, St. Therese Catholic School in Alhambra, South Pasadena Junior High School, and South Pasadena-San Marino High School (Class of 1945). Crowley played junior varsity tennis and “B” football – treasuring his orange letter sweater until his final days. He was an Eagle Scout in Boy Scout Troop 15 in Alhambra.
In 1949, Crowley graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He was a member of the US Army ROTC and the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity. He served in the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir, VA from 1950-52. He married the former Marie Kreuper of Alhambra in 1951. The couple returned to Alhambra in 1952, moved to San Gabriel in 1955, then to San Marino in 1961.
Professionally, Crowley was the president of the Charles P. Crowley Company of Irwindale from 1962 until his retirement in 1995.
Informally known as ‘Mr. San Marino,’ Crowley served on the City of San Marino Planning Commission for two terms, the San Marino City Council for three terms and was mayor of San Marino in 1988-89. The City of San Marino’s 2013 centennial book is dedicated to Crowley’s memory.
A private Catholic funeral Mass will be held for family with burial on Avalon. A salute to Crowley’s life will be held on Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. at Southwestern Academy, 2800 Monterey Road, San Marino. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Claire Crowley Memorial Art Fund at San Marino HS, 750 Winston Ave., San Marino, 91108. Claire Crowley preceded her father in death in 1979 at the age of twenty-two.
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