Father Crews – one of the most remarkable men I’ve met
I have been a member of the board of directors of Hanna Boys Center since 1984. In recent years, I have served as secretary of the trustees and chair of the Board of Regents. Hanna Boys Center is part of my heart and soul and I live to uphold our mission statement to its fullest.
The statement declares, “Hanna Boys Center changes the lives of troubled, motivated youth through faith, education and caring, helping them to grow into productive members of society.” Financially, Hanna does this only from funds supplied by our generous donors. Hanna accepts no funds from any governmental source, or from the Catholic Church.
The board of regents and the trustees do their best to support the center with the best guidance possible in every facet of the program. Our investments are guided by some of the finest money managers available, and all our board members are volunteers. Every aspect of the program, including education, faith, caring, scholarship programs, facility maintenance, development, psychological guidance, follow-on and every other aspect of the boy’s care, is assigned to the various committees that the volunteer board populate.
That being said, the major part of everyday living for the boys is taken care of by one of the most dedicated and committed staff ever assembled. I have been blessed to see all of these wonderful people in action and observe their true concern for each and every boy on the campus. They know each of them by name and care for them as if they were their own children. The only word that I can use to describe the staff of Hanna Boys Center is “amazing.”
Sadly, the glue that kept the staff, the boys and the board together has resigned, due to an allegation of abuse from more than 40 years ago that will never be able to be proven and is second hand in nature. The very core of the last 29 years at Hanna Boys Center has been Father John Crews. He was omnipresent on the campus and was involved in every aspect of the lives of thousands of what he referred to as “the most courageous young men” he knew.
He interviewed each and every boy and had them write to him explaining why they should become a Hanna boy. He also knew each of the 100 to 120 boys by name, as well as the names of about 100 staff. When the boys were out of school at the end of the day, you knew where Father Crews was by the line of young men following him around the campus – I saw it every time I was there.
He could see through all of the bluster of some of them, but could always see the basic good in each of them. Yes, he could come down on them when needed, but never without an explanation. Will Hanna ever have another like Father Crews? This remains to be seen, but I have witnessed his proficiency and uncanny ability to lead our boys and staff in a way that would be difficult to replace. I can only wish for someone who is as fine a person as him.
I would like everyone who reads this to also know that I (along with so many more) consider Father Crews my friend. We have had some very nice meals together, with conversation that ranged from (of course) Hanna Center to his life as a military “brat” (my wife was an Army “brat”), and his observations about choosing the priesthood as a Catholic when being raised as a Protestant.
There were times at his campus home when he was gracious enough to play the piano for those present, from classical music to Scott Joplin. He continuously talked about the alumni from Hanna and how they were doing in life – it was one of his favorite topics.
Recently, he flew to Florida for a ceremony honoring one of our alumni who served in the Army as a captain, with his own helicopter crew, in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was being promoted to lieutenant colonel and Father Crews brought his own father’s insignias to pin on one of his boys.
There are so many of these stories that I would need to write the proverbial book to tell them all. Suffice it to say that Father Crews is one of the most remarkable men that I have met in my 75 years on this planet.
It is very disheartening to know that someone has taken a man of his dedication away from a place that so dearly needed him. I went to the campus last week to visit the dental clinic and, after leaving, my wife and I drove up to his living quarters. As we passed by, we both had tears in our eyes and very heavy hearts knowing that Father Crews is gone. He meant that much to us and to many hundreds of others.
All we can do now is wish him the best and hope that he can find peace in this time of turmoil. We pray for that on a daily basis.
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Richard O. Caselli, D.D.S., is a retired Sonoma Valley dentist and longtime Hanna board member.