James Starling Crane was born in Brumley, Missouri on January 29 1922 to parents Alta Zara Thompson and David Theodore Crane. His mother was a loving homemaker who was a wonderful cook. She was known for her baking, especially her pies, cakes and biscuits. She made the best and biggest breakfasts in the whole world. His father was known as D.T. He was an insurance salesman. Jim is the youngest of seven brothers, Dennis, John, Darrel, Lee, Rex, Bruel, Jim, and one sister. Lottie.
He has many fond memories of his beloved grandfather, whom he was named after, Jim Thompson. His grandfather was a Christian minister who used to ride his mule to all his churches every Sunday to minister to his flock. Jim remembers his last special time with him, they were on the front porch. Grandfather in his rocking chair and Jim on the porch swing, as Jim was told the following. "I'm an old, old man - unhappy about many things - but most of them never happened." He lived to be 100 years of age and made a great and lasting impression on Jim as a young man.
His older siblings all helped raise him. He learned many, many things from them all. Some good and some..... He named his oldest son Dennis Lee for two of his brothers. When he was still in elementary school some of his brothers once told him to wear 3 bow ties to school to impress his favorite teacher and he did. His brother John also had a great love of horses. He spent his life training and showing Tennessee Walkers.
Jim graduated from Camdenton High School in Camdenton, Missouri in 1940. His senior year he was on the basketball team as a guard, the yearbook has the following quote; "James Crane-The fastest guard of 'em all--a dribbler that no one could stop--a clean boy and a good scout. Jim was the Circulating Manager for the annual yearbook, The Tiger. The annual also said of Jim, "At first you may think he's a prank, but you'll find he's only frank." During his high school years he was part of the following activities: Basketball, Baseball, Table Tennis, Volley Ball, Echo Paper Staff, Junior Play, Senior Play, Annual Staff Carnival, Glee Club, Mixed Chorus, Boys Chorus, All School Play, Intramurals, Class Officer and Letter Club. And finally he was quoted as joking, "And will you love me, dear in the daze to come?"
The United States Navy was a big part of his life. He joined in the early 1940's and was a fighter pilot. He was an Ensign and was active with the Navy for 5 years. He was known as "Ace" because he was such a daredevil, he would try just about anything. There was an incident where he 'buzzed' the local church and the plaster fell off the walls. After he worked for the Navy at Chincoteague Naval Air Base in Virginia. He was in charge of the equipment for the base.
While he was stationed there he met his future wife and mother of his children, Dorothy Elizabeth Matthews. He has four grown children, Beverly Roszin, Dennis Crane, Chet Crane and Donna Fitzgerald. All of whom have at one time or another been in the harness horse racing industry just like their father. He also is the grandfather of Misti Lynn Kekevian born to his daughter Bev and her then husband, trainer driver Roger Hammer.
After his Navy days he became one of the leading sales managers for the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner Co. He lived in Baltimore, Maryland during this time. He had a large office of salesmen working for him and was always on the go. After a time he moved to the eastern shore of Maryland, to Salisbury. He met a man named Bobby Cherrix, who introduced Jim to harness horses and he fell in love fast. At first he just became a part owner, then a trainer and eventually a driver as well.
His first horse was named, Dark Satin. For several years he trained at his farm south of Salisbury, in Princess Anne, MD where he built a regulation half-mile training track. He raced at many of the east coast tracks, including Ocean Down, Liberty Bell, Rosecroft, Laurel Raceway, Brandywine, The Meadows, Yonkers, Monticello, Roosevelt and more. After some success he accepted a position training and driving for a stable in California. There he had a lot of success and many good horses. He later would return to the east coast and have the most success of his career.
He has owned, trained and driven many good and many great horses. To name just a few of the more memorable ones: Judge, Hobby Horse Lupe, Nero, Black Ace, Andrel, Radiant Ruler, and Royce. He has said that Black Ace was a nice horse, Andrel could go the faster for a short distance, Royce was a great, beautiful, black horse who could do everything. And he said Nero was the BEST.
Jim lives with his lovely wife, Jan in Pawley's Island, SC and is now finally retired. Well, sort of, he still goes to the annual harness horses sales and is often asked for his expert advise and opinion on the yearlings. He always was an expert on the bloodlines and the confirmation of the colts and he would also factor in the colt's manners and attitude. Many people have said that he was the best at picking out a great yearling and developing him with tender loving care.
This information is supplied with lots of love and prejudice by his children, who think he is the BEST.
James ''Jim'' Starling Crane, 82, died peacefully at home Friday, Jan. 21, 2005 after an illness.
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