John Francis Crawford passed away at home on April 29, 2019, at the age of 74. He was born on July 13, 1944, to John and Marion Crawford.
John enjoyed spending summers at his uncle’s ranch in Reed Point at a young age. He graduated from Billings Senior High School in 1962 with high honors in English and math. John was a member of the debate team and honor society. He worked on the construction of Yellowtail Dam in Fort Smith in 1964. He also worked in Mammoth at Yellowstone Park, cooking for two summers, which was one of the much-talked-about experiences of his life. He attended many concerts and hit the road in his hippie van with his close friends.
He went to college at MSU Bozeman after high school and majored in history. He was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity – Bozeman, social fraternity and activities chairman; president of the Scholastic Debate team from 1964 to 1966; and was also an official member of the Student Government.
John enlisted in the United States Army in 1967. He departed Korea in 1969 and served the rest of his term in the Presidio of San Francisco. He left with an honorable discharge. He was lucky enough to attend Woodstock Altamont Speedway Free Festival in 1969. After the Army, he returned to MSU. He traveled a great deal, playing contract bridge, and earned many trophies and talked about his experiences and the interesting people he met along the way.
In 1972, he campaigned for Senator George McGovern.
John married Tonia on Sept. 14, 1984.
John was very active in his children’s lives. He coached girls’ Little League softball for nine years for Central Giants while his daughter Nicole was on the team for six of those years. He was player agent and, at times, umpired. He enjoyed spending many hours in good conversation with Josh on history and his years of experiences. Josh would be in charge with fix-up projects, which John carefully assigned to him around the house. His four grandchildren held a very special place in John’s heart.
John enjoyed cooking for his family, and retired from the Billings Gazette after 25 years. He had also managed Sambos, Army Navy Surplus Store and the kitchen of the Muzzleloader.
His hobbies were watching his favorite baseball team, the Dodgers; football, the Colts; cooking; reading; working crossword puzzles; going to concerts and movies; and he loved to attend street dances. John and Tonia have attended the Red Ants Pants festival in White Sulphur Springs every year since its opening in 2011. Other highlights were trips to Wendover and fine dining. John had an unbelievably big heart. But through his gruff exterior, he would say: “Don’t tell anyone.” His three cats were also a very important part of his life. They were a great comfort to him.
He is survived by his wife, Tonia; his children, Joshua and Nicole Lease; grandchildren Garrett Black, Tysen Ellery, Moziah and Jericho Lease; sister-in-law Sandra Huffman of Billings; niece Angela Huffman (and Dani, Hazel and Augusta); Dan and Lorna Barney of Sparks, Nevada; and his three cats, Sassy, Tygger and Blackie. He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Marion Crawford; sister Judith Richey; brother-in-law Daniel Huffman; dog Shadow “the Chow”; and cat Sammie.
Small family services are pending.