Walter Crockrel Jr., 1944-2012: Inkjet refill owner was a Sears retiree


Walter Crockrel, Jr., a Sears store manager in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan whose postretirement business venture was the brainchild of necessity, died Tuesday in Regency Hospital, Sylvania. He was 68.

He suffered a stroke Sept. 17 and did not recover, his wife, Phyllis, said.

In 2007, he started Inkjet Express 1 Hour Refill, on Monroe Street in Toledo, which became a family enterprise.

After years in the corporate world, “it was like being master of your own ship,” his wife said. “He was so driven. So, so driven. You did what you felt was right.”

He retired from Sears at age 55, yet as a creature of habit still arose at 4:30 or 5 a.m. and began his day at the computer, his wife said. He soon learned how quickly printer ink runs out. Buying new ink cartridges grew expensive. Filling spent cartridges at home was messy and impractical. Then he found out about a refilling machine and researched the process.

“He thought, ‘Hmm, I don’t think there’s anything like this in Toledo. I’m going to do that,’” said his wife, who works at Inkjet Express. The business has become “a legacy left for our kids,” she said.

Mr. Crockrel had a long record as a community volunteer. In May, he became board chairman of the Better Business Bureau in Northwestern Ohio and Southeastern Michigan. He also served on the agency’s foundation board.

“He was always dedicated to doing the right thing, which of course is what we want at the Better Business Bureau,” said Dick Eppstein, Better Business Bureau president. “You can’t replace a person like Walt Crockrel. Walt was a down-to-earth guy, but people gravitated to him because of his integrity and common sense.”

Mr. Crockrel was to be honored as a volunteer of the year later this month for his work with the BBB.

As a businessman and as a volunteer, he knew the balance between a focus on details and a global perspective, said Jay Black, president of the Toledo African-American Chamber of Commerce, of which Mr. Crockrel was vice president.

“He didn’t take surface answers for the answer,” Mr. Black said. “He had to know why we were taking a particular action or position on an issue, and it had to make sense. He challenged you so it did make sense.”

Mr. Crockrel was treasurer of 50 Men and Women of Toledo Inc., which awards college scholarships to minority students.

His Sears career began at 18, when he left Detroit, his childhood home, for Chicago, where his mother lived. He worked in a Sears stockroom while attending Malcolm X Junior College, from which he received an associate’s degree. His wife, who was a Sears executive secretary, told him of a management training program, which he completed successfully.

“From there, he just flew,” his wife said.

He worked in the personnel department of Sears stores in suburban Chicago; at Westgate store in Toledo, and at the Westland Mall in suburban Detroit. He was store manager in Adrian and at the Woodville Mall. He was a buyer working from Sears’ executive offices in Troy, Mich. He closed his career as manager of the Sears store at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor.

“He had a good rapport with his employees and his bosses,” his wife said. “He was a good mentor.”

He was a former chairman of United Way in the Ann Arbor area and was a member of Rotary clubs in Adrian and Toledo, but he attended Rotary meetings wherever he traveled.

He was born Aug. 3, 1944, in Hattiesburg, Miss., to Bernice and Walter Crockrel. He grew up on the east side of Detroit with his father and stepmother, Mary Crockrel. He was a 1962 graduate of Eastern High School.

Surviving are his wife, Phyllis Crockrel, whom he married July 29, 1968; sons, Walter III and Kevan Crockrel; sisters, Myrtis Hawthorne and Jacquelyn Reddick, and two grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 3-6 p.m. Sunday in the Dale-Riggs Funeral Home. Services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Third Baptist Church, where a family hour will begin at 10 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to the Third Baptist Church building fund.

Contact Blade staff writer Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.