by Mitch Lehman
It was, as many would later say, “just as Paul would have liked it.”
Orchestrated to accommodate the particular characteristics of the late ‘Mr. San Marino,’ last Sunday’s ‘Notes on Paul – Closing the Crowley File’ memorial service for former Mayor Paul Crowley ran the gamut from comic to poignant to painful, with five hundred of his closest friends, family members and associates shivering in a January chill at Southwestern Academy.
As was the entirety of the proceedings, the choice of location was symbolic of Crowley’s fervent love for the place.
“Southwestern met dad’s three most important criteria for anything,” son Jon Crowley said during his moving eulogy. “It’s located in San Marino, it’s very old, and dad knew the owner personally – so he could try to wield his influence over all management decisions.”
Likewise, the main course served at the reception which followed the ninety-plus minute ceremony was Paul’s favorite entree – chocolate chip cookies – prehistoric crumbs of which could be found in pockets of the several jackets that hung on the gymnasium wall, each memorializing a chapter of the elder Crowley’s rich life.
One by one, community members representing just a few of the dozens of organizations Crowley captained came forth to “praise Crowley, not to bury him” as it was decreed. Former Rotary President Steve Talt spin a hilarious of Crowley’s travails involving a donated fire truck and the engineer’s natural curiosity that almost cost him his life as he peered into firework canisters that were about to explode.
City Club President Andrew Yip, who is also a local Boy Scout leader, praised Crowley for his dedication to the many civic causes he supported, including the Hill Harbison House, where the community’s Girl Scouts assemble.
Mayor Richard Sun presented a proclamation from the city council highlighting a handful of his predecessor’s achievements and former Mayor Suzy Crowell explained how Crowley frequently declared the two to be “best friends.”
And though he is among the least likely to seek the spotlight, former San Marino High school baseball and football Coach Mickey McNamee provided the most pulse-pounding moment of the day. After touting Crowley as ‘Mr. San Marino,’ ‘Mr. Education’ and ‘Mr. Titan,’ McNamee proceeded to explain how he got to know ‘The Real Paul Crowley.’
“Under eerily similar circumstances, we both lost daughters, in automobile accidents, while driving home from college,” McNamee said, steeling himself against the onset of emotion as the winter wind whipped through the silent hollow. “He and Marie reached out to my wife and I at the most difficult time of our lives and I offer thanks to them – every single day.”
As the amphitheatre flooded with applause, McNamee walked directly to Mrs. Marie Crowley and the two shared a long, tender embrace.
Representing the San Marino Historical Society, Ave Bortz spoke of Crowley’s belief in the importance of history, love of maps and ability to deliver a moving graduation speech.
There is an old Hollywood adage that says ‘Never work with children or animals’ for fear of being upstaged, so if you see the name Kelly Crowley on the same program, run and hide. Representing her brothers Chip and Patrick, the fifteen-year-old granddaughter of her dear ‘Grand-Paul’ brought down the house with, among other exceptional remembrances, a story about when – as an eight year old – Kelly was treated to a drive in her ‘Grand-Paul’s car. The journey turned out to be a less-than-covert effort to have Kelly tear down all those “code-violating signs” that had been illegally affixed to San Marino’s telephone poles advertising local garage sales.
In summing up a touching homage to his father, Jon Crowley said his father “tried to live to a code of simple, virtuous values each day. I believe that he was successful.”
Guests were then afforded the opportunity to view a veritable treasure trove of Crowley Family and local memorabilia. And to pick through the jacket pockets for some crumbs.
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