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Life Story / Obituary
Tom Crabiel was a man of integrity and honor. He lived by the golden rule, and treated others as he wished to be treated. His love of youth and learning went hand-in-hand throughout Tom’s life. Always an educator, he challenged and encouraged those around him, including his family whom he loved dearly. Gone but never to be forgotten are the memories he leaves behind and the way he touched the lives of so many with ways all his own.
By 1947, the end of World War II found the baby boom well on its way as families faced a housing shortage. Many young couples beginning families of their own lived with family for a time while newly developed suburban neighborhoods were being built, and in high demand. The post war economy boomed as the need for consumer goods rose, and manufacturing jobs were plentiful. Through these changing times, Wesley and Catharine (Biehler) Crabiel added to the boom with the birth of their little boy, Thomas Edward Crabiel, born on September 17, 1947, in Findlay, Ohio. The third of the four Crabiel sons, Tom grew up alongside his brothers, Carl, Wesley, and Steven. Tom’s father worked as an engineer and designer for a large equipment company while his mother remained at home as a homemaker with her four strapping boys. Raised in a home filled with respect and honor, Tom had his share of adventures with his brothers and friends which made for fond memories.
Tom and his siblings attended the local schools and he excelled in his studies. He took part in Boy Scouts and made his way to Eagle Scout, carrying these life skills and learning with him throughout his days. As a member of the school band, he played the trumpet. He graduated from Findlay High School with the Class of 1965. From high school, Tom went on to further his education at Bowling Green State University where he received his Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Biology. With degree in hand, he soon moved to the Comstock area of Michigan where he began his teaching career.
When Tom was introduced to Colleen Waggoner by mutual friends, he knew she was the one for him. Also a teacher, they dated for two years before sharing vows of marriage on May 21, 1977 at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. For their wedding night they traveled to Battle Creek only to discover their room had been given away and ended up staying at a hotel in Kalamazoo. After school was out that spring, Tom took his new bride to Maine for a memorable honeymoon which became just one of their many trips there.
Before long, the blessing of three sons, Mike, Ken, and Jeff added much to the lives of Tom and Colleen. He taught his boys to respect and honor their mother, and in all ways Tom continued to live by the Boy Scout code serving as a wonderful example for his sons. Family trips were always historical, educational trips to destinations within the U.S.
Tom’s career in education really took off when he went on to earn two Master’s degrees at Western Michigan University, one in administration and one in Biology. For 35 years he taught at Comstock Public Schools which included ten years teaching high school biology, ten years at the elementary and middle school level and serving 15 years as principal of Green Meadow Elementary School. To say Tom loved kids would be an understatement. He truly loved kids, his job, and the staff he worked with, many of whom became good friends. Tom always considered himself an educator and loved every minute of it.
Having a great love for the outdoors, Tom enjoyed and developed an appreciation for all it had to offer. He particularly enjoyed fishing so much they even had to schedule their wedding around the opening of bass season! As a dedicated Boy Scout troop #205 leader, Tom helped to grow the group to become one of the largest troops in Michigan at one point. They met at the First Presbyterian Church in Kalamazoo and he enjoyed doing this for many years. A high adventure troop, they went on exciting excursions to places such as Alaska, New Mexico, and the Caribbean. They’d hike, camp, canoe, cross-country ski, winter camp and just enjoy the outdoors. Tom didn’t mind winter camping one bit. In fact, he even had a reading challenge for his students; if they read a certain number of books he’d camp outside for 24 hours in the winter! An avid reader himself, Tom could spend hours in Barnes and Noble. He read a variety of topics, but mainly adventures and reality books like sailing around the world or hiking a mountain. In addition to teaching and scouts, Tom was also a devoted soccer coach and helped to organize the high school soccer club.
Tom had an aunt who lived in Maine and later, his dad retired there. At first, for several years he worked at a boy’s camp in Maine but eventually, 27 years ago in fact, he and Colleen bought a cottage there. They loved the area and the East coast. Tom liked being rugged on their little piece of heaven on a beautiful lake and in the woods. While in Maine, he enjoyed climbing up Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park. Through the years Tom and Colleen shared their love for travel. He loved exploring new places with his strong sense of adventure. This past February they enjoyed a wonderful trip to Hawaii. When it came to music, Tom liked country, especially the sounds of George Strait. He really enjoyed cooking and baking, and often over the years he and Colleen traded their time in the kitchen.
A man of many talents and interests, Tom became an excellent woodcarver and painter. Quite an artist, he was nothing but a perfectionist and included a lot of details in his work. He met with a weekly carving group and often gave his carvings away. He truly enjoyed making Christmas ornaments for his grandkids which they will treasure. He loved his grandchildren dearly and loved playing with them. He enjoyed getting right down on the floor to play with the younger ones. Hand and Foot was a favorite card game that he played with the older ones. He was always tracking their progress in school and loved to attend their sporting events. Tom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two and a half years ago. He usually got up around 4:30 AM, bright and early, and for five days a week he put in some hard workouts at Borgess Health and Fitness Center. Over the past several years he became an even earlier riser.
Just as diverse as he was devoted, Tom Crabiel was a man of many talents. He held the greatest love for his family, and his love for teaching remained at the center of his heart. Having touched the lives of many with his remarkable ways, Tom will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by all who came to know and love him.
Thomas Edward Crabiel, age 70, of Galesburg, died Saturday, April 14, 2018 in Kalamazoo. Surviving are his wife of 41 years, Colleen Crabiel; three sons: Michael (Jennifer) Crabiel, Ken (Nicole) Crabiel and Jeff Crabiel; eight grandchildren: Cathryn, Zachary, Elizabeth, Hazel, Evelyn, Sydney, Cash Thomas, and Tyler; brothers: Carl (Norma) Crabiel, Wesley (Shari) Crabiel and Steven (Don) Crabiel; many nieces and nephews. Cremation will take place. Services for Tom will be held Saturday, April 21, 2018, 11:00 am at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 followed by a reception in the Life Story Center. Please visit Tom’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance www.belgradelakes.org