Matthew McGuire Eulogy
John P. Craven Memorial Service
Central Union Church, Honolulu
April 9, 2015
Good afternoon. My name is Matthew McGuire, and I'm John Craven's son-in-law.
I'm confronted today with the enormous challenge of trying to summarize in a few minutes a man whose remarkable professional achievements already have been documented so thoroughly and recently.
Rather than repeating what already has been said, I instead want to share with you some insights into John that are perhaps not as public. Insights derived from scores of late night discussions on the Craven's lanai - and over dozens of games of golf with John over the past 20 or so years that I have known him.
On golf - and though I hesitate to start with a humorous story at the expense of the deceased - John really did enjoy this story. John and I played several of Hawaii's best courses over the years - and we also played the Ala Wai. About 5 or 6 years ago, we were paired up on the Ala Wai with an elderly Japanese man and his nephew - the nephew perhaps in his mid-30s. John is - well, he's being John. We're not even at the first tee and he's simultaneously interrogating the pair as well as telling them all about his current interests. He wants to learn all about them - where they're from, what brought their family to Hawaii, what they do, and so on. And, of course he wants to tell them all about his family, about his theories on golf, about cold water agriculture. The nephew is polite but reserved, but the older gentleman is having none of this. He's a man of few words - almost the anti-John. "Play! Play!" he would bark whenever he sensed that John's loquaciousness was slowing us down (which it was). By the time we're playing the 13th hole, our group is holding things up considerably. There's a foursome of big local guys behind, and they decide to express their displeasure essentially by dropping their tee shots on us before we finish the hole. John is furious - he throws down his club and storms off to have some words with these guys about this breach of golf etiquette. On the other hand, the elderly man is mortified. He turns to me and manages to get out his first complete sentence: "Is he your father?" I respond, "No, father-in-law." "Oh," he says, ". . . My condolences."
I think that this story likely resonates with anyone has spent any amount of time with John. John was always looking to establish connections, understand and empathize with people around him - as well as share whatever was on his own mind. Around the world, there are undoubtedly thousands of taxi drivers, flight attendants, students, bellhops, waiters and cashiers who remember an interesting and loquacious gentlemen who took a genuine interest in them - and they would be correct.
And, John's interest in others extended beyond the individual and to their communities. He was a true anthropologist at heart - a lifelong student of what he liked to call "tribes." John saw tribes everywhere. The tribe of the Navy, the tribe of UH, the tribe of Punahou School, the tribe of Central Union Church, the tribe of the Polaris Marching and Chowder Society. Each with unique hierarchy, rituals and customs. But John's study of tribes was not an academic exercise. He wanted to understand people, define communities and to draw connections. This is what truly humanized John.
Not surprisingly, John's original tribe was his nuclear family. He had three siblings: Ken, Connie and Mabel - all sharing a bedroom and a Damon Runyon-like childhood in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn. His father, James, was a strict Presbyterian, as well as an accomplished musician. The family spent hours every Sunday afternoon reading Bible verses aloud. John also learned every hymn in the Presbyterian Hymnal by heart. Balancing all of this was his loving Spanish mother, Consuelo - allegedly of Moorish pirate ancestry.
With this background, it is not surprising that music became a central and fundamental aspect of who John was. Music brought John and Dorothy together. Attending a choral competition in Iowa with her sister, Lucille, Dorothy noted on the program that one of the competitors was the handsome young musician and graduate student that she had met previously in passing. When John won the competition, Dorothy used his victory as an opportunity to reintroduce herself.
Music continued as a thread throughout John's life: playing the organ on the USS New Mexico, singing in University of Iowa a Capella group, Four Quarts and a Fifth, conducting the New York Avenue Children's Choir in Washington, and singing in the Central Union Church Choir. And, John also dabbled in composition - or at least adaptation, including today's arrangement of the Navy Hymn as a quartet, which he originally put together in connection with a multimedia lecture series that he called "Image, Art, Music and Poetry of the Sea." John was an ardent supporter of the Honolulu Symphony and the Hawaii Opera Theater. And, anyone who spent any period of time with John knows of his penchant to break into song at any opportunity.
John also was a dedicated athlete. For decades, he was a daily visitor to the University of Hawaii pool, swimming laps and participating in master's level swim competitions. He swam the Honolulu Rough Water Swim numerous times, and completed several Honolulu Marathons. His final marathon was in 2003 at age 78. He kept a certificate announcing that he finished 60th - out of 61 runners in his category. As John was famous to say on many occasions, "anything worth doing is worth doing badly."
Although John's Cold War exploits contributed significantly to his notoriety, his work as an educator may have been the greatest source of his professional and personal satisfaction. John was a natural teacher, and I believe that he would want most to be remembered for the generations of students that he motivated and inspired. Simple conversations with John often turned into Socratic dialogues. He was always pushing his students - or whomever he was addressing - to understand more and leading them to reach their own answers. And, John was a great believer in hand's-on education experiences. By conservative estimate, there are probably at least 250 people who could say that John taught them how to snorkel in Hanauma Bay. For his UH students, real life supplements to the classroom often proved the most educational - and challenging - components of the curriculum. UH lore includes an anecdote of John leading a group of 25 students on a day-long ocean field trip. All 25 students got sea sick, which led John to remark, "But they all had a great ocean experience."
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Anyone who spent even a small amount of time with John would quickly appreciate that he did not think in conventional ways. The list of outside-the-box ideas John implemented professionally is remarkable, and his achievements during his Navy career and in sustainable development of course have been well-chronicled. However, John's unconventional thinking also extended to his life philosophies, his writing, his family and parenting - sometimes with mixed results.
Sarah reminds me that John insisted that the best way to teach her to drive a car was first to learn how to drive backwards - a technique leading to considerable concern among UH security as they saw a car that was reversing in circles for no apparent reason in an empty parking lot.
John even celebrated birthdays unconventionally. About the time he turned 50, John decided that he had reached what he called his "Zenith Day" and that he would then begin "living life in reverse." This meant that with each successive year, he would adopt the behaviors and interests of someone who was one year younger rather than one year older. This created a quandary for the family when he turned 75 - should we give him an age-appropriate present for a 75-year-old, such as a fine bottle of single malt scotch, or should we give him an appropriate gift for a 25-year-old, such as a six-pack of cheap beer. We let him decide and, true to his philosophy, John chose the beer.
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In his final years, John suffered a debilitating illness that left his mind sharp but caused his body to fail him - a source of immense frustration to him. During these difficult last years, there have been many dear friends who have provided both John and Dorothy with much welcome support and assistance. And, characteristically, John created another tribe of friends and community in his last years. Our family particularly wants to thank several people who were daily sources of support. In particular, Gigi Abel served as John's editor, confidant and biographer, and Ruth Chang has been a neighbor beyond compare and great friend to both John and Dorothy. And, there have numerous loving caregivers from Arcadia and the Wilson Center, including Lena Rueppel, Arnold Andres, and Michael Hong. And finally, Jerry Manina has been John's physical trainer and good friend.
In the end, John's most important tribe was again his nuclear family. He was immensely proud of his son David, daughter-in-law Gwyn and their children - the namesakes - Dorothy and Johnny. His daughter Sarah and our children, Anna, Jack and Grace. And of course his beloved wife of 64 years, Dorothy. There is a passage in Kahil Gabran's The Prophet that John frequently recited:
And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
This was John and Dorothy - the oak tree and the cypress - both independent, following their own paths and careers, never growing in each other's shadow, but standing together.
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John lived his life with enthusiasm, compassion and humor, and was motivated by a genuine desire to use his extraordinary talents to improve the world. All of us gathered to celebrate John today, who knew him as dad, grandpa, husband, uncle, mentor and friend, and yes, as father in law will miss him greatly. My condolences.