PWEC recently lost an integral piece of our organization; Gary Crawford passed away on March 5th, 2020. He was a faithful supporter, an original board member, a friend, a sounding board, a critiquer, a wealth of knowledge, a joke teller... I could go on and on.
We would often have long and animated conversations about travel, language and cultures. He would regale me with stories from his time in the Peace Corps. He spoke fondly of his time spent teaching English on the island of Yap. One day we had a whole conversation about speech and he taught me about glottal stops. Yes, I know it's quite random but you would never know what kind of conversation topic we were going to have or what one might learn when speaking to him.
Another favorite topic of his was Tilghman. I was thankful for that because he often shared his love for this island with me and with others. He would always show me old pictures he found like the hollyhocks that my great great grandmother Pearl planted around the old Tilghman Bridge when she was the tender, or of my great grandmother Hazel that he dug up while delving into the Tilghman Packing Company. And although it was sad to read his incredible article that he wrote about the Hayruss IV and the loss of my grandfather and 4 uncles while winter fishing, I am happy that he put together a record of first hand accounts on paper so that their loss would not be forgotten no matter how painful.
Gary was a perennial favorite presenter at Sip & Socialize Saturdays our winter lecture series. He actually started the lecture series years before and called it Winter Wednesdays. He loved to research and every year when I asked him to present we would discuss possible topics. He compiled and brought to us “The 75 Ton Catch”, “The Bridges of Tilghman Island”, “Playing Bridge”, and “A Brief History of Sharp’s Island.” We always knew to set up extra chairs when he spoke because it would always be a packed house. Even with the extra chairs it was never enough and usually turned out to be standing room only.
We could always rely on him to be at every event and he always volunteered his time. Whether it was manning the welcome desk at Oyster Jam, Bay Day, and Critter Release or driving his truck around collecting/ delivering oyster cages for TIGO and collecting trash for Tidy Up Tilghman we always knew he would be there to support Phillips Wharf. I will miss his emails that I received after every event. The emails always started with how nice the event was and what we did well and then he would list all the things we needed to do better. His lists would frustrate the daylights out of me but at the end of the day I knew his messages were out of love and that he just wanted our organization to learn, grow, and do better every day.
As I said in the beginning of this post "I could go on and on" but then we would be here all day! I hope he would love this article and that it would do him proud. I wonder what edits he would send me in red font 🙂 I won't ramble on anymore but leave you with this sentiment.
You will forever be in our hearts and minds. We will miss you dearly. We can never thank you enough for your guidance, dedication, and countless hours spent making our mission possible. We hope that you will shine down on our organization and our community. Until we meet again, rest easy friend!
Missy Cannon Helgason
Phillips Wharf Executive Assistant
Missy is the niece and right hand woman to the founder and Executive Director, Kelley Phillips Cox. She shares in Kelley's passion for preserving the heritage of the watermen, the industry, the island and the legacy of Garland Phillips the namesake of Phillips Wharf.