Wagner's Point remained close to the heart of a dying man Thomas H. Crook Jr., 74, had organized own wake

February 22, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Thomas H. Crook Jr., a retired shipyard rigger, organized his ** own wake last month for his Wagner's Point friends and neighbors, and had every intention of attending it.

Told by doctors that he was terminally ill from cancer, Mr. Crook decided to gather his former neighbors for an afternoon of food and conversation at Jerry and Jethro's Tavern in Wagner's Point. When the day came, he was too ill to attend, but his friends met anyway.

Mr. Crook died of cancer Wednesday at his Stevensville home in Queen Anne's County, where he had lived about a year. He was 74.

"This point, Wagner's Point, belongs to the people," Mr. Crook told The Sun in an interview last month. "I wanted to see a big party, an Irish wake, to give everybody a chance to get together."

Mr. Crook's wife of 54 years, the former Helen Hunter, attended the wake at her husband's insistence.

Fifty or so neighbors gathered to swap tales and memories while dining on Swedish meatballs, sauerkraut, Polish sausage, green beans, homemade baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw and cake.

"Everyone was there, and we videotaped the gathering so Tom could see it and in his own way participate," Mrs. Crook said yesterday.

"He made me write down and promise that when he died, I JTC would include the following in his obituary: 'He lived in Wagner's Point for 34 years and loved every minute of it.' So I'm carrying out his wishes," she said.

In 1960, Mr. Crook and his wife purchased their house at 3825 Fourth Ave. in the southern Baltimore neighborhood for $4,300, where they raised seven children.

Outside the house that was surrounded by tank farms, chemical plants and a sewage treatment plant, Mr. Crook planted an annual vegetable garden and grew roses, which he gave to neighbors.

He was a familiar fixture, often seen sitting on his front steps waving to neighbors, or helping in neighborhood cleanup efforts.

Born in Cincinnati, the son of a flour merchant, Mr. Crook as a young man survived being struck by lightning.

After graduation from high school, he joined the Merchant Marine and met his future wife when the training vessel he was serving aboard as a judo instructor docked in Baltimore.

During World War II, he served as a bosun and participated in numerous North Atlantic convoys, including the historic Murmansk run aboard Liberty ships.

After the war, he stayed in the Merchant Marine until 1955 when he left to take a job as a rigger in the Bethlehem Steel Corp. shipyard. After leaving there and working for FMC Corp. for several years, he returned to the shipyard and retired in the early 1980s.

Mr. Crook, a recovering alcoholic, celebrated 42 years of sobriety Jan. 21.

"It was his great desire to die sober, and it became his great mission. The best thing is that he made it," said Mrs. Crook, a retired alcoholism counselor.

"He lived his life by the Alcoholics Anonymous serenity prayer which says, 'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,'" she said.

In his spare time, he liked to fish on the Susquehanna River and do a little hunting, she said.

"Although we moved away, he never forgot the people in Wagner's Point. He really loved it and we had a great life there," she said.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. today at McCully Funeral Home of Brooklyn, 237 E. Patapsco Ave., Brooklyn.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Crook is survived by four sons, Louis H. Crook of Preston, Joseph P. Crook of College Park, William R. Crook of Stevensville and Thomas H. Crook III of Phoenix, Ariz.; three daughters, Marjorie E. Gross of Stevensville, Trudy Roles of Brooklyn and Helen Kopec of Lawrenceville, Ga.; 25 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to Queen Anne's County Hospice Inc., P.O. Box 179, Centreville 21617.

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Pub Date: 2/22/97

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