OSWEGO, NY – Michael Thomas Crawford, beloved native son of Oswego, passed away peacefully on Tuesday July 12, 2016, at home in Kingston, NY.
A loving family, friends and many of his own works of art surrounded him.
This gentle giant in the realms of creativity and humanity itself was sadly felled by cancer.
Michael was the only son of the late Justice Edward F. Crawford Jr. and the late Margaret (Conlin) Crawford, and brother to Mary Kathryn (Katie).
He is survived by his wife, Carolita Johnson; a daughter, Farley Hannah Crawford Bliss (Breon); a son, Miles Lazarus Crawford (Reshma Gajjar), both of Los Angeles; and his sister, Kate (Doug Briscoe) of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He is also survived by an uncle, Robert Daly; and four aunts, Joan Crawford Daly, Rosemary Conlin McCabe, Sister Josephine Conlin and Frances Conlin.
Michael was deeply loved by his partner of nearly three decades, Meg (Lazarus) Crawford of Rhinebeck, NY.
He will be dearly missed by cousins, cousins-in-law, nieces and nephews comprising the Crawford-Conlin-Lazarus clans.
Growing up on West Fifth and Sixth streets, Mike was a parishioner of Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, where he served as an altar boy, and was a pupil at the parochial school.
Baseball was a lifelong passion of Mike’s. As a Little Leaguer, he played second base on the Huron Cement team.
He was an all-round athlete during his Oswego Catholic High School years, as a member of the track and cross-country squads, and playing intramural baseball and basketball.
Mike was also actively involved in student affairs, serving on the student council and, in his junior year, as class president; and was president of the County Association of Student Councils in his senior year.
Also in his junior year, he achieved the Paladin Award for demonstrating the goals of the Catholic Students Mission Crusade, and attended its national convention at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.
Mike was a civil defense warden, a member of the debate club, and the Latin and French clubs. He was on the school yearbook advertising staff and attended Empire Boys State.
His winning personality and handsome good looks made him a popular young man on campus. One of his summer jobs as a student was working as a painter on the Barge Canal in Oswego County, his sister recalls.
Post-graduation from high school in 1963, Mike pursued a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Toronto. He then attended first year law school there, and subsequently held teaching positions at Maria Regina College in Syracuse and at a private school in Vermont. Mike then worked briefly as a pollster in Washington, D.C.
After meeting Meg, Mike discovered his creative potential and his career path took a sharp turn in the direction of visual arts. While living first in Cambridge, then in Watertown, Massachusetts, he drew satirical cartoons that appeared in The Washington Post, New York Times and Boston Globe, and made the cover of The Harvard Business Review. Self-taught, he created wire sculptures and humorous greeting cards featuring line drawings. He sold his first cartoon to the New Yorker in 1981. The rest, as we say, is history. It was the first of 600 drawings he would contribute to the magazine.
Mike also exercised his painterly skills with watercolors and oils. He leaves a large body of work that attests to his wonderful gifts.
The paintings surrounding Mike at the time of his passing were mainly scenes of his beloved summer retreat at Bobs Lake, Ontario, where he and his family enjoyed more than 35 seasons of fun and relaxation. Mike loved having a crowd around and welcomed all and sundry, who would visit in droves.
Michael’s legacy will endure for generations to come in the form of vibrant expressions of his amazing artistry. Significantly, he also spawned legions of admirers that include his family, friends and colleagues, and countless others who may never have met him in person, but whose lives were nonetheless touched and enriched by his genius.
The most generous gifts his life has given us are those of his two devoted children. Farley and Miles each possess their own striking brands of creativity, which were clearly inspired and nurtured by their parents, Meg and Michael.
“Mike will always be my big brother and my hero,” said his sister, Kate.
A celebration of Michael’s life is being planned for New York City in the early fall.
For more on the later life and work of Michael Crawford, and to read tributes appearing in The New York Times and The New Yorker, please visit: