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Jean Hartman Crawley

Obituary for Jean Hartman Crawley

February 1, 1921 - September 28, 2021
Solebury, Pennsylvania | Age 100


Jean Hartman Crawley, of Solebury, PA, left this life on September 28th, serenely and on her own terms, at home. She was 100 years old and lived a life of service; her love of books and rocks, gardening and community work were woven throughout her life. Her cousin, Walter Coats, captured her essence - "she is a woman of sterling character".

Born at home on February 1,1921 in Wilkes-Barre, PA, she was shaped by both the Great Depression and WWII. In her nineties and sharing a house with her daughter, she was asked to leave the night light on for safety. She would smile and later (thriftily), turn it off. As her daughter installed increasingly sophisticated motion detection lights, she would unplug, unscrew, and finally just dismantle the lights; pieces neatly laid out for reassembly in the morning. Her engineer/physical therapist grandson, Jahan, inherited her mechanical bend of mind and interest in helping others.

She grew up in Kingston, PA where, in kindergarten, she met Marjorie York (Maran), with whom she shared 94 years of friendship. After graduating from Kingston High School, she attended the School of Horticulture for Women at Ambler, which sparked a love of trees and gardens. She was particularly delighted when her granddaughter and namesake, Leila Jean, married an arborist, Andy.

During WWII, when many jobs opened to women after men were drafted, she became a supervisor at a dairy at the Long Lane School for Girls in Middletown, CT. She carried an interest in milk cows throughout her life and educated her children on common milk cow breeds. Before enlisting in the Marine Corps during WWII, she sent balloons aloft and tracked data for the U.S. Weather Bureau.

As part of the Marine Corps' Women's Aviation Reserve, she trained as a mechanic and truck driver in the Mojave Desert in California. Late in admitting women to their ranks, the Corps was initially not always sure how to treat women recruits. She would recount an incident when she inadvertently backed her truck into a parked airplane. "I was not going very fast and didn't do any real damage, but this officer came running up and was about to let me have it. He was so mad he was about to pop, but then he saw I was woman and suddenly just stopped and waved his hand and walked away." She carried her love for the Corps and service to country for the rest of her life. As children, her three daughters sang the Marine Corps hymn and played with the trenching tool she brought home after discharge. When she left her house for the last time, the mixture of rose petals on the pathway and the Marine's Hymn captured her gentle but fierce spirit.

After the war she attended college on the GI bill and earned a BA cum laude from Wilkes College (then part of Bucknell University) followed by graduate work in social work at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland Ohio. She directed programs at Neighborhood House in Louisville Kentucky while her husband attended law school; worked for the American Red Cross as the Service to Military Families counselor in Langhorne, PA; and later served on the board of the Emergency Relief Association Food Pantry of Lower Bucks County. Like many women of her era, she learned to type and take shorthand. To this day, family still find notes to herself in a weird mix of Gregg shorthand notation and English.

In 1949, she married John J. Crawley, Jr. of Wilkes-Barre, PA with whom she shared her heart and home in Levittown, PA until his death in 2016. Together they had three daughters. Much to the bemusement of her young daughters, her house had a trail of little children who came over to garden with her, bake bread, make grape jelly, or just work around the house. It was a mystery to her daughters why other kids would come over to visit their mother. But come they did, just to do whatever she was doing for the day; to be with Mrs. Crawley. She enjoyed organizing family events, such as a birthday party for her granddaughter, Leila, where she taught them to make homemade ice cream. Meeting her great grandson, Cyrus, selecting books and restoring her typewriter for him brought her great joy.

When faced with the problem of too many little Brownies in a post-war baby boom suburb, one of whom was her oldest daughter who had to be a Junior Girl Scout to ever be happy in her life, Jean went on to be the first leader for Troop # 537 based at Faith Reformed Church, where she was a charter member. She led her troop long after all three of her daughters moved on to other endeavors. At her 90th birthday party, volunteer Brownies skipped around the room shyly handing out the desserts and beverages.

The obituary she wrote for herself was mostly a list of the places she had worked, at the end of which she noted "what a checkered career!" As a founding member of the Friends of the Levittown Library she knew her way around a library - read mysteries and science fiction; she cared for her grandfather, Russell Coats, in his late nineties; when with the Red Cross she helped families find places to live after fires or other disasters; she sewed a trunk of fantasy dress up clothes for her children; she worked with the U.S. Geological Survey in Mercer County, NJ where her son-in-law, John, followed her into a public service career; and she created small gifts for every holiday imaginable until her children were well into their 40s. She was not without a sense of irony. When one very adult daughter inquired about her Easter basket, she looked at her carefully and said, "Don't you think it is time to stop?"

Brought up in the Presbyterian church, Jean took a practical and broad view of religion. She was an active and valued member of any congregation she joined. Her pastor at St Paul's Episcopal on the Parkway in Levittown, Father Wood, recalls how he would see her from the window of his office and thinking, "This is going to be a good day." as he saw her come through the bushes at the back of her property heading toward the church with her church budget books in one hand and garden tools in the other. During summers when her children were young, she would take them to services at a range of churches and temples. Toward the end of her life, she joined the Penns Park United Methodist Church because "they do good work and are right across the street."

Those who assisted her at her Solebury home during her last months, universally described her as brave. She was brave in her approach to life – always ready to go on an adventure whether chasing a purse thief during a college Spanish club trip to Havana, Cuba; traveling anywhere and everywhere someone asked her to go; hunting geocaches with her grandchildren; marching for the Equal Rights Amendment; taking up belly dancing in her 50s; or riding with her son-in-law, Hossein, on his motorcycle in her 90s.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 67 years, John J. Crawley, Jr, beloved older brother, Russell Coats Hartman, and her parents, Merrill John and Gertrude Inez (Coats) Hartman.

She is deeply missed by her three daughters, Ayn Hartman Crawley, Barbara Jean Halliday Crawley, and Ruth Lorraine Crawley; her grandchildren Jahan H. Shiekhy, Leila Jean Shiekhy and husband, Andrew D. Driscoll; her great grandchild, Cyrus S. Driscoll; her sons-in-law, Hossein Shiekhy and John Peter Nawyn; as well as her extended family and the many people whose lives she touched with her grace, beauty, and sterling character. Farewell until we meet again.

Semper Fi

Her interment and the party she wanted everyone to attend will be at a location and time to be decided by the family. If you wish to honor her memory she would be pleased if you made a donation to the Friends of the Levittown Library, planted a tree, or volunteered in your community.

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Swartz-Givnish Funeral Home, Inc.

323 East Washington Avenue
Newtown, PA 18940
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