JOSEPH LUDDINGTON CRENSHAW, II
04/01/38 - 10/23/02
SPEAKER: ANNE ELIZABETH CRENSHAW (LAFRENIERE) MORIN
I'm here today to honor and to fondly remember my brother, Joe. He was a man of complexity. I used to say to him, "Joe,
you are a mystery. You know that?" He'd laugh, wiggle as if he were being petted, and reply with a catch in his voice, "You
know it, Annie; you know it."
If you look at the family pictures in the book I brought, you'll find a few that show my brother staring with adoration
at his little sister, Anne (me). Our mom, Ruth, remembers him as being just thrilled with my appearance on this earth. I
think that, for Joe, I was kind of like a new puppy might have been to other kids. He wasn't so thrilled, however, with the
next version (my sister, Lucy): One of his most famous escapades involved his being poised at the top of a very long hill
in front of our house in Evansville, Indiana, with Lucy-in-baby-carriage in hand, and letting go at just the right moment
so that she missed hitting a Greyhound bus traveling by at the bottom of that hill - ". . . by inches!" he used to crow!"
"By inches!" He always loved telling that story.
Joe could talk just about anybody, especially Lucy, into doing almost anything, even when it was clear that at least some
of his ideas were bound to end in tragedy. One Christmas, my sister Lucy and I were the recipients of these wonderful, relatively
large, brown wicker baby buggies. We lived in a big house in Marion, Ohio, that boasted what seemed to us children to be
a very long and winding staircase. Joe convinced Lucy that it would be great fun to have the carriages travel from the top
of those steps to the bottom, with the ultimate thrill of experiencing the ride ourselves (meaning Lucy and me)! I was reluctant,
but Lucy really wanted to do it, so I finally agreed. It was a bumpy ride. The buggies did not survive, but we girls did
- over and over and over again, until the carriages had to be trashed for good. But Joe was greatly entertained while Lucy
pouted, vowing to get revenge!
Joe was a smart kid. He's the one who, somewhere between my third and fourth birthday, taught me to read. Oh, it wasn't
because he was being altruistic or because he was interested in becoming the world's most creative teacher; that was to become
my itch in life. He just wanted to find a way to keep me from constantly bugging him to read his comic books to me. He set
the motivational fire going in his pesky little sister by promising that he had discovered a way for me to read his comics
any time I wanted, all by myself. (Of course - he did not also tell me that I would then have the problem of getting those
comic books into my possession or discovering where he'd hidden them.) He patiently taught me the rudiments of phonics, and
pretty soon, I was reading! So we were both happy. Joe used to love to remember seeing the shock on my dad's face upon discovering
that his three year old daughter could actually read the morning newspaper. But Joe never did truly understand, I don't believe,
that it was HE who had demonstrated a great deal of creativity and intelligence by figuring out how to motivate and then teach
such a little kid how to read; he always used the telling of this story to show what a smart sister I was!
One summer when we were in Cleveland with my father, the Reverent Claire T. Crenshaw, who had moved there after his separation
from my mother, Ruth, we were instructed to be very, very quiet while my father met with the Bishop. One of our most favorite
games while living at the church was to play "Wedding." We'd get dressed up in bed sheets and traipse down the aisle of the
beautiful church, while the "preacher" (always one of the three of us - usually Joe - and always the most desired part) wearing
one of Daddy's old clerical collars, intoned mystical sayings as we played the part with gusto. Depending on how many victims
we could find in the neighborhood to observe our "events," we'd have sobbing mothers wearing high heels and hats with tattered
veils that we had scrounged from a box of old donated clothes, proud fathers standing with chests puffed out, and admiring
visitors sprinkled all over the church as we three main characters (Preacher, bride and groom) performed our ceremonies.
So we begged our daddy to please, please let us play "Wedding" in the church while he and the Bishop were meeting that day.
Daddy finally agreed, with the promise from the three of us that we'd be very quiet, for his office was adjacent to the church
nave, and our voices could be heard unless we kept things subdued. So Daddy and the Bishop had their meeting, and things
were just going swimmingly until, at about the end of the meeting, Lucy, who felt that eleven-year-old Joe was always bossing
us around too much, was herd to screech at the very top of her lungs, "God Damn It!" It's MY turn to be the preacher!!!"
I remember our setting off firecrackers in the closet of the church. (Joe's idea, of course.) We lit sparklers,
too, but it was the firecrackers that got us into trouble because Joe didn't take into consideration the fact that there was
a baptismal service going on in the nave at that very same time. Boy! Did that baby cry!
I remember how Joe loved to play with his trains. He and my mother's father, an engineer on the RF&P (Richmond, Fredericksburg
and Potomac), used to spend hours in the basement of our white stucco house in Richmond, Virginia where we moved after our
mother and father separated. Joe and Grandpa set up a great big board on a table and built a village surrounded by a Lionel
train set that seemed to constantly need repair. Maybe that's why Joe ended up being a crackerjack of a mechanic; his talent
as a marine mechanic was legendary in several towns along the Oregon coast, and we was always tinkering with cars and trucks,
as well as the many train sets he acquired throughout his life. Maybe his love for our grandpa and of the basement travels
they so enjoyed when he was a boy explained why Joe chose trucking as his profession. He absolutely loved trucks and the
trucker's life. Like a number of people in our family, Joe was a wanderer at heart, so trucking was a match for his true
spirit - it was his obsession.
Although Joe was usually a pretty good brother to me, I often felt like the oldest kid. Joe liked to see himself asthe
Black Sheep of the family; sometimes he had to be rescued from this perception, and I often stepped in. He never once faulted
me for my decisions in his behalf. He always listened carefully to my opinions - although he rarely ever followed my advice
- and he usually treated me with with respect, although he could be counted on to extract money just about every time we met.
Joe wanted to be a good person. He loved women, and he liked fulfilling their dreams of romance. After a lifetime of
looking and practice (11 total marriages), he finally found a partner he could live with in Patrice, and he learned how to
reciprocate the love she modeled. Joe was a loving father to his youngest son, Joey. He adored Joey and wanted so much for
him to not have to learn the hard lessons he had had to bear in his life. Joe was proud of his son's accomplishments, and
we all enjoy Joey's partner, Tori. My brother's discovery of his first and oldest son, also named Joseph, was one of the
great joys of his life, and Joseph's wife, Gay, has added extra sparkle to our strange little family.
Joe tried to be a good uncle to his niece, Nico, of whom he was very proud. He loved to dance to the sound of her voice
- with the ladies, sometimes his sister, and, often, with his momma, Ruth, who, although she couldn't always adequately express
it, loved him very, very much. Her presence at this celebration of Joe's life today is a testament to that love.
Joe was, basically, a good man, especially as he aged. We loved his sense of humor, his ability to laugh at himself,
most of his tall, tall tales, his intelligence, his perseverance, his endurance, his wry smile and infectious laughter, and
his desire to be seen as a strong and hard-working person. I will miss him more than I can express, but I know that he would
agree with the words of this song that will now be sung by his niece, Nico Wind, at his request. Please hold hands with the
person beside you and move in your own unique way to the words of one of Joe's favorites: "I Hope You Dance." It was Joe's
wish for all of you.