John Croan, a distinguished United States military veteran devoted to service in the community, died Friday, Nov. 8, in hospice care in Gold Beach. He was 94 years old.
His pastor, Leigh Weber, said his health was declining and that he was surrounded by family at the time of his death.
Croan’s sweeping range of involvement and volunteerism across the island was known and admired by many. Known as Olde John since his days in the military when he gave himself the honorific to be taken more seriously, he was a fixture of life at Vashon Community Care where he led a weekly prayer group for several years. Croan would travel to the care center by way of the access bus, taking a full day to complete the trip, Weber said.
Croan helped deliver food to homebound seniors and residents and presided over the annual Memorial Day veterans’ services at the Vashon Cemetery. But his reach also extended to the island’s youth. In past years he coordinated an essay contest in the Vashon School District where students wrote about patriotic themes. Their work, evaluated by a panel of judges, won cash prizes for each age group.
An invested member of the Presbyterian church, Croan told The Beachcomber in 2011 that he became deeply spiritual after a battle with alcoholism in his 60s which caused him to have two aneurysms and wiped away his entire memory of a 17-year career at Boeing. Weber said his kindness and presence in church shone bright and his harrowing stories about his service during World War II encapsulated what she called “a resilient spirit.”
“His enthusiasm not only for the church but for the community as a whole was absolutely remarkable,” she said, adding that he was one of the first islanders to make her feel welcomed to Vashon when she took her place as pastor of the Presbyterian church in 2017.
“[He was] an amazing man who spent more time encouraging me than anything,” she said. “He … went around to each person to make them feel special.”
A service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17 at the Presbyterian Church, 17708 Vashon Hwy SW. A full news obituary will appear in next week’s issue of The Beachcomber.