Harry (“Tad”) Clement Crawford III

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Harry Clement Crawford III, known to all as “Tad,” born on Jan. 8, 1940, in Boston, died peacefully on Oct. 6, 2023, at his home in West Tisbury, with his beloved wife Judy at his side. He was 83. 

He was nicknamed “Tad” at birth by his grandfather, who thought his fat little belly and short legs made him look like a tadpole … and the name stuck! Tad always greeted people with a warm smile, and he had a way of actively listening that brought out the best in everyone. Warmth and caring came easily to Tad. His 46-year marriage to Judy was filled with outdoor adventures: hiking, camping, technical mountain climbing with ropes, carabiners, crampons, and ice axes, and Class 5 whitewater rafting. In later years they turned to kayaking and sailing in Vineyard waters and hiking the back hills and ancient trails of the Vineyard, until Parkinson’s disease took its toll on Tad’s physical strength and stamina. 

Tad grew up in Weston, where he earned his Eagle Scout Award. He was the first exchange student to Rombas, France, in Weston High School’s junior year abroad program. 

He graduated with honors from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. After graduation, and fluent in French, he joined the summer-abroad program with Mobil Oil Corp. in Paris. Returning to the U.S., he began his long career with Mobil, based first in Manhattan, but soon back in France. 

While working in France, Tad received correspondence from his draft board, and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. Mobil flew him home from France for monthly training exercises. It was later learned that there was toxic water at Camp Lejeune during his basic training and service in the 1960s, and this was the suspected cause of his 20-year battle with Parkinson’s disease in later life. Nevertheless, Tad was proud to be a Marine, and was quick to say “Semper Fi” when encountering a fellow Marine. 

Mobil sent him to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he became the youngest general manager in Mobil’s history, evolving from supervising a shared secretary in Manhattan to being responsible for more than 200 employees in a foreign country, and in a foreign language. That was Tad! No challenge was too daunting. 

Returning to Mobil’s headquarters in Manhattan, he managed its economic analysis unit, and lived the next 20 years in Westport, Conn. When Mobil moved its headquarters to Alexandria, Va., Tad moved to Bethesda, Md., where he was an executive in the human resources division of Mobil Chemical. 

Tad retired to the Vineyard in 1995, quickly sinking taproots into the Island community. He helped found the Island Health Council, and chaired the organization for several years. His passion for conservation led him to the board of the Vineyard Conservation Society. He also served on the West Tisbury personnel board. He was a lifelong Unitarian, and an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard for almost 30 years. On the denominational level, he served on the UUA president’s council under two presidents. He also served on the Star Island Corporation board. 

Tad was a sailor, and loved both racing and recreational sailing. His beloved Moon Shadow, which won several races on the Vineyard, is still being sailed and raced in Vineyard waters by its current owner.

The way Tad lived with his Parkinson’s was an inspiration to others. He trained for months so he could march in Princeton’s “P-rade” at his 60th class reunion. The only person using a walker, he was cheered loudly by hundreds of bystanders. He was widely known for his determination and courage. A week before his final medevac flight to Boston, he walked 2½ miles using his upright walker. 

In the end, Tad’s fervent wish was to leave the hospital in Boston and return home to the Island he loved so much, and to the home where he had spent so many happy years. His wish was fulfilled. He lived his life as he ended it, with courage, grace, and love. 

Tad was predeceased by his father, Harry Clement Crawford Jr., and his mother, Mary Oellgaard Crawford of Weston. He is survived by a large, extended family: his wife, Judy Crawford of West Tisbury; five children and their spouses, Debi Keller Wood (Pete) of Carver; Rebecca Keller Scholl (Craig) of Needham; Daniel John Keller (Lara) of Clarksdale, Ariz.; Tara Crawford Sideleau (Dave) of Bethel, Conn., and David Harrison Crawford (Amy) of Edgartown. Tad is also survived by three brothers: Frederik Oellgaard Crawford, John Aiken Crawford, and Peter Clay Crawford, as well as 15 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. 

Tad’s family will host a celebration of his life in the spring, date and location to be determined. 

In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to one of the following organizations: Unitarian Universalist Society at uusmv.org/donate, Vineyard Conservation Society at bit.ly/VCS/donation, or Star Island Corp. at starisland.thankyou4caring.org/donate.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Tad was a kind, generous man with a great spirit and love of life. He will be greatly missed. ♥️

  2. I had the privilege of succeeding Tad as owner of his immaculate Marshall 18 catboat Moon Shadow. I kept the name and created a sail graphic to represent it. I’ll miss his enthusiasm and expertise as I sail on without him.

  3. Tad was one of my most admired Star Island friends, and I will always feel his presence when I am there in the future.

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