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Published: Sunday, 2/10/2013

William F. Craig, 1918-2013: Macomber teacher led dance bands, lived onboard ship

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
William Craig. William Craig.
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William F. Craig, a tool-and-die maker, bandleader, grocer, teacher, and even a ship’s captain, died Jan. 16 at the home of his son, William, in Valencia, Venezuela. He was 95.

He was bed-bound and in declining health after a fall while visiting his son in 2011, his daughter, Bev Martin, said.

He and his wife, Alice, retired to St. Marys, Ga., from their longtime home at Reno Beach in Jerusalem Township.

Mr. Craig was the brother of Army Lt. Robert Craig, the World War II hero who was fatally wounded in Sicily when he drew enemy fire to himself so that his comrades could escape. Lieutenant Craig was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. In 1957, a new bridge across the Maumee River was dedicated in Lieutenant Craig’s memory.

“My brother brought a lot of honor to the city of Toledo,” Mr. Craig told The Blade in 1998.

An inner ear balance problem kept Mr. Craig from military service, his daughter said.

He was a skilled tradesman and brought his decades of industrial experience to the former Macomber Vocational-Technical High School, where he taught drafting for 15 years. He knew the standards of his trade and of his former employers — the Electric Auto-Lite Co. and Toledo Scale — and so in class, “he was very strict,” his daughter said.

“Now he would have been an engineer. He did work that was pretty exact. He had a good mind for math.”

He retired in 1980.

He was born Jan. 13, 1918, near Glasgow, the eldest of Jane and William Craig’s three children. The young family moved to Toledo, where relatives had settled, and his father worked at the Libbey-Owens-Ford Co. in Rossford.

Mr. Craig grew up in South Toledo and was a graduate of Libbey High School. He took instrumental music lessons as a child — he played bass and saxophone — and received a scholarship in music from the University of Toledo that covered tuition, but not books.

“His parents were very frugal, and they felt even that was too much to pay,” his daughter said. “He went to work.”

For decades, though, he was known in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan for his music. He formed a dance band and played regularly at leading nightspots, including the Trianon Ballroom and Kin Wa Low, and dance pavilions on Lake Erie. Into the mid-1960s, Bill Craig and His Society Orchestra played for school and country club dances and had engagements at Centennial Terrace and supper clubs.

He and his wife had a summer cottage with a Lake Erie view, but in the late 1940s, they built a structure that included a grocery and a grill, with three apartments and living quarters for the family.

“It was a family-type of business,” his daughter said. In 1954, when President Dwight Eisenhower paid the first of what would be two duck-hunting visits to the exclusive Cedar Point Club in Jerusalem Township, the Craig family grocery was selected to provide food for the stay.

Eventually, workload and overhead outpaced revenue. The family closed the grill by the late 1950s and the market in the early 1960s. He’d been an officer in the independent grocers’ association, his daughter said.

Mr. Craig owned three boats in succession. He had to be certified as a captain to operate his last vessel, a 142-foot-long former minesweeper named Miss Juanita. He bought the minesweeper in Nova Scotia and sailed it down the St. Lawrence Seaway and across Lake Ontario and Lake Erie and docked it in Port Clinton. For several years, he and his wife lived onboard.

The couple bought property near the Georgia-Florida border on which to retire. They sailed the minesweeper down the Atlantic coast to their property and sold it after they completed a home there.

“He was very industrious. His mind was always working,” their daughter said. “Fortunately, my mother was very easy-going and let him do his thing.”

Mr. Craig’s wife of more than 65 years died in September, 2007.

Surviving are his son, William Craig; daughter, Beverly Martin; seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Mr. Craig was cremated and there will be no services, his daughter said.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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