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Jack Crawford Contemplative Garden Dedicated
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Saturday, June 25, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

A few dozen people gathered Tuesday night to honor a former Sun Valley ski instructor and tennis pro as the Community Library unveiled the new Jack Crawford Contemplative Garden on the 4th Street side of the library.

Jack Crawford stories abounded as Caterer David Fox and his wife Mindy passed barbecued shrimp and chicken skewers doused in Thai peanut sauce.

Jack Crawford passed away Feb. 14, 2020, at age 88. And he left his small fortune to two of his favorite charities: The Community Library and the Senior Connection.

“Jack told me he didn’t want a memorial,” Crawford’s attorney Ed Simon told those gathered in the garden shade. “Thank you for being the fine man you are!” he added, raising a glass of wine in Crawford’s honor.

A ski instructor for 30 years, Crawford has been credited with putting Sun Valley Resort’s tennis program on the map as he taught tennis to a variety of stars, including Robert Kennedy and Candice Bergen.

His father was a telegraph operator for Union Pacific so as a 5-year-old Jack spent one winter in a railroad car near the turnaround near what is now the YMCA, his mother cooking meals over a coal-fired stove. He graduated from high school in Pocatello and came to Sun Valley to work for the resort, using his Union Pacific employee rail pass to explore the West Coast on the Streamliner during his time off.

A stellar athlete, he played in Sun Valley’s resort league during the 1950s while working as a busboy at Trail Creek Cabin. There he caught the attention of a talent scout and parlayed his skills as an outfielder with a dynamite RBI into a full-ride baseball scholarship at Stanford University.

At Stanford he studied literature and philosophy, becoming particularly enamored with existentialism,  according to Laura Musbach, who with her husband Brad helped take care of Crawford in his final days.

But the scholarship didn’t include room and board and, so, Crawford sometimes slept in a nearby hayfield, one time waking up to find a hay thresher coming right at him, according to Ketchum resident Ed LaGrande.

Crawford was an ardent fan of Ernest Hemingway and he attempted to follow for a while in the writer’s footsteps. He had Ernest Hemingway sign his copy of “Death in the Afternoon” then headed to Mexico to study bullfighting. He volunteered for the French Ambulance Corps to get a taste of Hemingway’s own World War I experience in “A Farewell to Arms.”

And he even went on an African safari where, he often recounted, he was chased by a silverback gorilla.

Crawford got a role as a stand-in for the movie “Bus Stop,” which was filmed just north of Ketchum. And he had the opportunity to date Marilyn Monroe while she was filming the movie.

“He noted they were both Geminis,” recounted Laura Musbach.

Crawford was also reputed to have dated the first Playboy bunny.

One of those he taught to ski was Herbert Allen Jr., who took a shine to Crawford and flew him on  adventures around the world. Allen not only shared stock tips with Crawford but paid him handsomely to stroll from event to event at the annual Allen & Company conference in Sun Valley, to ensure things were going good.

The Musbachs bought a two-foot-tall sculpture of a howling coyote to the gathering that one of Crawford’s friends had brought him from Mexico.

“He called himself the lone wolf so this fit him perfectly,” said Laura Musbach.

An avid reader, Crawford could often be found in front of The Community Library’s fireplace in his latter years.

Simon said he often participated in mixed doubles tennis that Crawford organized.

“He’d often put me with the ex-wife of a man I’d defended in their divorce trial so I learned to say simply, ‘Hi, I’m Ed,’ and ‘No, I don’t have a last name’ when they asked who I was,” he said. “But, as a tennis pro, Jack was patient and kind. He never told me I was a lousy tennis player.”

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