Gary Crawford

Obituary of Gary B Crawford

Gary B Crawford, born 21 Dec 1934, gave up the life he so loved 23 Oct 2023, after six months of home hospice. Gary was born in Cornell, WI to Nellie Mae and Boyd Crawford. He grew up in a loving home with four siblings, and worked against odds to earn bachelor’s and law degrees from UW-Madison. He moved to Minneapolis, MN in 1960 with his new wife, Linda, to launch a law career (Fredrikson & Byron) and start a family.  

Gary was creative and generous. He used his legal expertise to create, protect and support: non-profit status for MN Dance Theater, Midwest Health Center for Women (MN’s first abortion clinic), Linda’s innovative education organization (The Origins Program), and others. He crafted succession plans for family-owned business clients in inventive ways that preserved families.  

Gary couldn’t suppress his artistic soul. He took classes at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Soon, he left the law. Gary and Linda took their young daughters Jessica and Elizabeth to their 80-acre farm near Cannon Falls. New neighbor Peter Leach introduced Gary to pottery, and his life as an artist took off. He built a studio and gas kiln in the barn, and made pots. Those wonderfully fulfilling years were marked by special joys: pottery, the natural world, night skies, changes of seasons, trees and wildflowers, gardening, nurturing his daughters’ explorations and delights, making bread, riding horses, hunting morels and taking life slowly. He returned to law part-time, enlivened by his artistic life.  

His marriage ended and eventually Gary sold the farm, but never gave up pottery. Along the way, Gary and Bonnie Janda started their match-made-in-heaven. Bonnie and her daughter Maya joined Gary in 1992. This marriage ushered in new adventures for the next 31 exuberant years.  

Bonnie pitched in as Gary helped expand fine crafts in MN. A cadre of potters, lawyers and civic leaders had a vision of a ceramic arts center: Northern Clay Center grew from a teaching pottery into a model regional ceramic art center with studio space, galleries, classes and nationally-recognized artists. Gary chaired the Minnesota Craft Council, donated pots to myriad fundraisers, taught children to make “empty bowls,” hosted workshops for uninitiated folks in his studio, joined and eventually co-led the Sogn Valley Craft Fair. Every one of Gary’s pots was unique. He cradled each on the wheel until it “sang,” as he loved to say.  

Gary was a good, attentive friend. He loved his family and supported them. With age, Gary lost two siblings and many dear friends, yet never lost his love of life. As long as he could experience nature; grow a tomato; watch basketball or a sunset; eat ice cream; or sip a little tequila, he looked forward to another day. In 2023, those pleasures eroded and he gave in to the call to rest. Bonnie, Jessica, Elizabeth, and Maya were blessed to hold him as he passed. 

Gary was predeceased by his first baby Matthew; brother Bill (Chalene) Crawford of CA; sister Mary Kay Crawford of TX; and sister-in-law Kathy Crawford of GA. He is celebrated by his surviving brother Tom Crawford of GA; sister Sue (Bob) Schenck of WI; wife Bonita Janda; daughters Jessica Crawford, Elizabeth Crawford (Todd Bartholomay), and Maya Sutton; grandchildren Sylvia, Phoebe, Tuli, Georgia, Lilah, Anna (Andrew) and Neil (Paula); great grandchildren Basil and Ulysses; first wife Linda Crawford (Jo Devlin); and many adoring nieces and nephews.   

A memorial celebration will be Fri, Nov 10, 2:00 pm at Plymouth Congregational Church (1919 LaSalle Avenue, Minneapolis 55403). Reception following. During the service, guests are invited to share briefly. Also, if you’d like, bring a small pot of Gary’s to display (label it as yours on the bottom).  Memorial gifts are welcome to American Civil Liberties Union, A Tree to Remember, Penumbra or donor’s choice.  

A Memorial Tree was planted for Gary
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Cremation Society of Minnesota
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