It’s an unanswered question: who could replace Van Craddock Jr. and the influence he had as a local historian and longtime columnist and author of a local newspaper?
Craddock, whose signature graced the pages of the Longview News-Journal for more than 40 years, died on New Years Eve after battling Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
âOf course his loss as a local historian, as a field historian is enormous, because that would take his place,â said Bill O’Neal, of Carthage, who was the state historian of Texas. from 2012 to 2018. âWho else is a gifted writer and has the experience and knowledge they have?
âI don’t know how he would be replaced,â and he hasn’t been in over a year since he retired from writing his column in September 2020, O’Neal said.
Craddock’s funeral service is at 11 a.m. Tuesday at First United Methodist Church in downtown Longview, with Rev. Jay Jackson officiating. Visitations will follow in the Church’s Cook Foyer.
People his life touched over the years remembered Craddock as more than a writer and a historian. He was a “gracious gentleman,” O’Neal said. At First Methodist, the church Craddock attended with his 51-year-old wife, Bettye, Jackson described him as “a servant’s heart” and a “faithful Christian in the truest sense.”
It wasn’t just that he was going to church, Jackson said. Craddock always served as best he could. He was once the church’s communications director and helped determine the direction of the church’s television ministry, Jackson said.
The Craddocks also coordinated the Pioneer Fellowship for seniors. The monthly lunch would draw up to 100 people, Jackson said, and Craddock would serve as the emcee.
âHe did it with the same kind of attention he paid to his writing and his work,â Jackson said, bringing in pages of notes and using his wit and charm to make people feel special then. that he recognized birthdays and anniversaries.
âVan was someone who always offered words of encouragement to others,â Jackson said, recalling how Craddock would never leave a service without telling him that he appreciated or learned from his message to the congregation.
Craddock was humble, he said, with a witty yet cheesy sense of humor.
âThere was intensity behind that soft-spoken exterior,â Jackson said. “He was a very determined person who held himself to high standards.”
Craddock was known for his love for the Longview Lobos, the city, and east Texas.
Janis Canion, a longtime retired Longview ISD teacher and administrator, invited Craddock to be the first man to speak on Women’s Day in Longview.
âInstead of story, he talked about ‘his story’ and put his own spin on it,â Canion said. âAs you know from reading it, he was a supporter of women, probably because he and Bettye were such allies in everything. They shared the love of their family, of course, but also of Longview, of writing, of journalism. I loved and admired him a lot. â¦ I have many friends who share our sadness (at his death) and he will, of course, be missed not only by his close friends, but by the whole city and perhaps the state. His humor and writing skills extended beyond east Texas.
Craddock graduated from Longview High School in 1966, attended Kilgore College, and graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University. It was there that he met his wife, and they had a son, Chris, and a daughter, Cathy. They also have two granddaughters.
The Vietnam veteran held several positions with the Longview News-Journal during the early years, most notably in the sports department, as a reporter, city editor and entertainment editor.
Gem Meacham, a member of the Gregg County Historical Commission, described Craddock as a âmentorâ and a âresourceâ in all matters of local history. She recalled the latter example when he helped the county with the historical research needed to lay a historical marker for the Longview Cannibals, a baseball team that played here in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
âHe’s always been so knowledgeable about history and so interested in bringing it to life with his stories,â Meacham said. âMany historians do the research and the writing. He made me feel like they were real people to me.
He wrote six books that either collated his chronicles or focused on the history of East Texas. He also volunteered at the Historical Museum, helping to organize and write the script used at the museum’s annual Dalton Days event, relating to an 1894 bank robbery in downtown Longview.
Jackson said an oft-cited Craddock verse from the Bible will be featured on Tuesday’s funeral program, taken from the Psalms: âThis is the day the Lord has made. We will be happy about it and we will be happy about it.
âHe truly appreciated each day that the Lord gave him,â said Jackson, describing how he would comfort others about his diagnosis of dementia.
âIt was so much who Van was,â Jackson said.