John F. Russell: The Crawfords will be missed, and their contributions will last for generations

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— For the past 23 years, the name Gary Crawford has held a special place on my contact list.

John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

If I needed Nordic combined results, if I needed to know what was happening in the sport or if a local skier was competing almost anywhere in the world, he was one of the guys I would call first. And he was one of the first guys to call me.

He is a great advocate, a great promoter and a great role model. When he loads up his car early next month to travel to his new home in Florida, he will be missed by many people, but his contributions to our community will live for generations.

I can’t argue about his reasons for leaving — nobody can — but I will miss his energy and dedication. I’ve only met a few people who display his level of love for the sport of Nordic combined and his dedication to the athletes who pursue the sport. For years, he has passed that on to the young ski jumpers and Nordic combined athletes in our community. I’ve spent many hours standing on the side of a freezing-cold ski jump, and the guy's attitude always is positive, his smile never fades.

But Gary was about more than Nordic combined, golf and coaching.

I really can’t remember the details of the first time I met Gary, but I’m pretty sure I was introduced to him in the pro shop at the Sheraton golf course (now Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club) where he worked as an assistant professional while I was covering a golf tournament. Later, I learned who he was. I also learned that once you meet Gary, you never again will be a stranger to him.

His warm personality, his inviting smile and his awareness of other people represents the type of character that has built this town’s reputation around the world. I didn’t know his father well, but I can’t image he was very different from Gary. Gary’s personality is the kind that is passed down from generation to generation, the type of personality that is based on a strong desire to help other people, to make the world a little better place to live.

In a couple of weeks, Gary and his wife, Kim, plan to leave Steamboat. Kim is battling health problems, and doctors think Florida’s warm climate and lower altitude will improve her symptoms. Those who know this terrific couple will be sad to see them leave, but we are also hopeful that the doctors are right and she will feel better — much better.

I will be pulling for them because they are great people who made Steamboat Springs a better place to live. They both contributed in their own ways and made a difference that has reserved their legacy in this corner of Northwest Colorado.

Because of that, Gary always will have a special place on my contact list, and I always will look forward to getting a call from him — even if it’s just to say hello.

I hope the Crawfords will return to Steamboat Springs someday, even if it’s just to visit. But more importantly, I hope their journey will take them to a place where they can experience the same joy they have brought to our mountain valley.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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